The world of Hollywood is fickle, and it’s certainly not an exact science. There are some struggling actors and actresses who take small roles their whole lives and never reach super stardom, while others get catapulted onto the A-List courtesy of one significant role. There’s no proven formula to achieving front row, A-List status.
Regardless, most A-List celebrities do put in the time, they take small roles, slowly earn larger roles, begin to impress audiences until finally they’re at the top and in demand for nearly every big movie that passes the casting agent’s desk.
Then, there are the wasted talents. Hollywood is a land of big promises – it’s likely that every actor or actress is promised they’ll be the next big thing. In some cases, it seems like an inevitability. A young actor or actress gets a role in a successful television series, or lands the starring role in a big box office hit, and their future is predicted to be bright. Sometimes this is the case. Other times, however, their talent is wasted. How or why, exactly? It varies – a lot of the time it’s issues with substance abuse or some kind of personal issue of that nature. Regardless of one’s talent level, increasingly erratic behaviour and failure to do one’s job can quickly get a star black-listed from any projects. Other times, it’s because the star was taken too early due to these issues, and never got the opportunity to fully realize their talent.
While some stars achieve fame seemingly randomly, there are others whose respective stars could have shone much brighter had circumstances been different. Here are 12 of the richest wasted talents in Hollywood.
12 12. Mel Gibson
While his divorce from former wife Oksana ate up a tremendous amount of his riches, Gibson is currently worth an estimated $425 million dollars – not too shabby. He’s been involved in numerous aspects of the Hollywood world as an actor, film maker, and screenwriter. His acclaimed roles include everything from the Mad Max series to Lethal Weapon, historical films such as Braveheart and The Patriot and romantic comedies like What Women Want. Even films for which he served as merely producer and writer, not an actor, such as The Passion of the Christ, were smash hits. However, in the past few years he’s been more known for his abysmal behaviour. Whether he’s making racially offensive comments or yelling on speaker phones, he’s not ageing into a successful and well regarded actor and producer.
11 Heath Ledger
At the time of his death, Australian actor Heath Ledger had a net worth estimated to be around $16 million, all of which is going to his daughter Matilda Rose. He started his rise to fame with lighter romantic comedies such as 10 Things I Hate About You and A Knight’s Tale, before taking on meatier roles such as Ennis Del Ma in Brokeback Mountain. The big feather in his cap, however, was his role as The Joker in The Dark Knight. His portrayal of the damaged character was heralded as breath-taking, chilling, awe-inspiring, and more. He died at the young age of 28. As his portrayal of The Joker foreshadows, had he not passed away so early, he would have shot to meteoric levels of fame after showing his talent in The Dark Knight.
10 Amy Winehouse
9 9. Lindsay Lohan
Everyone remembers the cheeky, red-haired twins in the remake of The Parent Trap – the Disney movie shot Lohan into stardom. After a few quiet years, a teenage Lohan starred in Freaky Friday followed by the iconic classic Mean Girls, the film for which she is perhaps best remembered today. She became a teen queen, gracing countless magazine covers. However, the paparazzi soon began to focus on her personal issues and her behavior became increasingly erratic. She began to take on roles meatier than her past Disney parts, in films such as Bobby and Chapter 27. She had the potential to become a huge star, however her film roles were interrupted by DUIs and stints in rehab, and she became an absolute liability on set, often delaying production because of her personal problems. While she slowly seems to be regaining her footing recently, her net worth is around $500,000. Not too shabby in comparison to the average American, but definitely low considering the salaries she was commanding in her prime.
8 Katt Williams
Many are familiar with comedian Katt Williams, who has had countless stand up specials. His net worth of $10 million is fairly impressive for a comedian, but his lauded earlier stand-up suggests he could have been even more successful had he not derailed himself. How exactly did he waste his talent? Shouting matches at live shows, arrests for possession of a stolen gun, burglary, criminal trespassing, assault, and more. In 2012, he was seemingly arrested on a monthly basis for his reprehensible behavior.
7 Amanda Bynes
6 Courtney Love
5 Lil’ Kim
Rapper Lil’ Kim has a net worth of approximately $18 million, something that seems mere pocket change when you recall what a force she was in the 90s. For a time, she was the quintessential badass female rapper, and her albums The Notorious K.I.M and La Bella Mafia went platinum. However, her career soon took a turn as she went from platinum to prison, serving a year long sentence for lying to a jury. She clawed her way back into the public eye with a Dancing With The Stars spot, but over the years she’s earned a reputation as someone who feuds with other rappers. She’s still one of the most influential artists in the female rap game due to her earlier career, but it’s nothing comparable to what she could have achieved had circumstances been different.
4 Tara Reid
Blonde haired, blue eyed Tara Reid was the quintessential California beach babe, and she became a superstar thanks to her role in the American Pie film franchise. With her fame came a lot of bad decisions, as she quickly earned and embraced the role of a party girl rather than a working actress. From botched plastic surgeries to a series of broken engagements, she definitely wasted the success that her starring role in the American Pie films earned her.
3 Mischa Barton
Mischa Barton has a net worth of about $3 million. That seems fair, given that she hasn’t been in any films for years, but it’s baffling when you consider where she once was in Hollywood. Her role as Marissa Cooper in the teen television drama The O.C. skyrocketed her to stardom, and when the show concluded, she could have had her pick of virtually any female romantic lead in a Hollywood film. She was a staple of magazine covers and it seemed success was hers for the taking. She instead opted to follow up her O.C. success with small roles in a series of unremarkable films, DUI charges, and time in a psychiatric institution before seemingly retiring from Hollywood altogether.
2 Macauley Culkin
Everyone knows Macauley Culkin as Kevin McCallister in the Home Alone series. Many child stars manage to capitalize on their earlier fame and move into successful careers as actors or actresses, but Culkin is unfortunately not one of them. He reached international superstardom as a child actor, then retired for several years. When he returned, it was in a series of small roles, commercials, voice over roles, etc. While it’s something many struggling actors would kill for, his earlier star status meant he likely could have commanded astronomical salaries if he had worked at his craft. He’s been arrested for drug possession and puts most of his effort into the comic rock ‘band’ The Pizza Underground.
1 Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain, the frontman of rock band Nirvana, has achieved the status of an absolute cultural and musical icon. Everyone knows his name, and his $450 million net worth is an indication of the success his legacy has achieved. Though he was on the way to superstardom, his demons got the better of him as he wrestled with addiction and depression. He died at the age of 27 and hundreds of thousands of fans worldwide mourned. His brief time on earth left the world with countless hit songs that will live on for years. However, no one truly knows what level of success he would have achieved if Nirvana had gone on for five, ten, or fifteen more years. He could have become a producer who mentored other young artists, he could have put his money to good use in charities that addressed his former demons, etc. The possibilities are truly endless, making him undeniably one of the richest wasted talents.