Fame changes a person. They can claim it doesn’t, but it does. To go from a nobody to well-regarded around the world, famous, rich and such, a person just isn’t the same afterward. Some folks are able to handle the pressures but others aren’t, because with the fame comes temptation and that’s hard to fight back against. Hollywood is sadly filled with far too many promising stars who couldn’t cope with it and collapsed, some fatally. Some are able to bounce back from lows; Robert Downey Jr. was just a tabloid joke a decade ago but rebounded majorly as Iron Man to achieve more stardom than ever. Sadly, he’s an exception as too many others falter and never recover.
Drugs are an obvious reason but often, it’s the decisions they make regarding projects as a hot career can be ended fast thanks to a terrible slew of movies. There’s also how their egos can drive them on, causing them bad will, annoying folks and a few bad moves (many outright criminal) that will cost them even more. Sometimes it can be just bad luck but other times, it’s as if the person involved deliberately wants this to happen to them. There’s their behavior as well, doing or saying things with no realization how they can be taken by others. Slews of examples abound, but here are some of the biggest stars who seemed to go out of their way to ruin their own careers, and some sinking a lot worse than others to prove fame isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.
15 Charlie Sheen
Sheen rose to fame in the late 80s and early 90s with various movie roles like Major League and seemed primed for a good career before hitting his infamous rough patch. Slews of arrests for drinking and drug use, car crashes, sleeping with numerous women, hiring plenty of sex workers... the man was a walking gift for tabloids. In 2000, he seemed to redeem himself with Spin City and then his run on the smash hit Two and a Half Men, playing with his former “bad boy” image for huge success, earning nearly $2 million an episode. Then in 2011, Sheen underwent his third stint in rehab during the show’s run and bad-mouthed creator Chuck Lorre, demanding a 50% raise to come back. He was dismissed and proceeded to go on rants including “winning” and “tiger blood” in one of the most epic public meltdowns of modern times. Amazingly, Sheen was able to get FX to give him a new comedy called Anger Management that ran for 100 episodes. He has gotten a bit of sympathy with the revelation of having HIV yet it’s astounding how Sheen’s star maintained itself despite numerous attempts by him to crush it.
14 Joaquin Phoenix
Breaking out with his acclaimed turn as the villain in Gladiator, Phoenix won an Oscar nomination and immediately boosted to the Hollywood limelight. He was a great actor with turns in dramas and blockbusters, receiving a further Oscar nomination for Walk the Line and seemed to have a great career set. Then in 2008, Phoenix suddenly announced he was quitting acting and pursuing a rap career. Showing up on David Letterman with bushy hair and beard and sunglasses, Phoenix proceeded to do a bizarre interview rambling about and seeming totally out of it. He kept it up in various other appearances leading to serious concerns of either drug abuse or a full-scale breakdown. As it turned out, the whole thing was an act for a documentary I’m Still Here, which failed with critics and audiences. Phoenix would earn another Oscar nomination for The Master but his earlier statements of the Oscars “being full of crap” undoubtedly cost him votes and while he continues to act, Phoenix’s wild attempt to do performance art backfired on him big time.
13 Shelley Long
She’s not the first and she’s not the last, but Shelley Long is the poster child for actors to never leave a hit TV show. In 1982, Long joined the cast of the new sitcom Cheers as Diane, the put-upon lady in charge and soon starring in one of the biggest hits on TV. She and Ted Danson got along great with chemistry, Long winning an Emmy for her performance and the show a certified smash. She also had some good movie success like The Money Pit and Outrageous Fortune and so Long decided movies were more for her and quit the show. She was offered the lead in Working Girl but turned down a hit film and instead embarked on a series of progressively larger flops that made her star fade. Cheers continued onward with Kristie Alley joining and Long would return for the series finale. However, various attempts at comebacks in both movies and TV never worked out. Long claims she doesn’t regret the decision, spending more time with her family and such but it can’t be denied that her career suffered badly from leaving one of the biggest hits on TV for a movie career that faded fast.
12 Shia LaBeouf
In the 2000s, LaBeouf got attention as the goofball Louis on the hit Disney Channel show Even Stevens. He was soon graduating to Hollywood from major franchises like Transformers and Indiana Jones to Fury and seemed ready to rise as a dependable character actor. Right at that period, LaBeouf suddenly began to embark on a series of crazy incidents that seemed to go out of their way to ruin his stardom. In 2005, he attacked a neighbor and in 2007 arrested for shoplifting a Walmart, which he claimed was research for a role. He was soon arrested a few times for drinking and driving, a crash and in 2014, making an outburst at a club, arrested while hurling racist slurs at the cops. That’s been added onto by accusation of plagiarizing the work of others in his short films which LaBeouf responded by claiming copyright laws “stifled creativity.” Then came his “living art” exhibit at a museum that he claimed led to a woman assaulting him and showing up at a red carpet event with a bag over his head saying “I am not famous anymore.” Sadly, LaBeouf is famous as a guy who seemed to have a good career ahead and chose to toss it all away.
11 Mel Gibson
Throughout the late 1980s and 90s, Mel Gibson was one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood, a good actor with a flair for everything from the Lethal Weapon movies to Maverick and more. His handsome looks made him a winner with female fans and he also enjoyed great critical success with Braveheart winning him Oscars for Best Picture and Director. While there were stories of some rough bits on set, most still cited Gibson as a guy who could always win over audiences. However, in 2006, Gibson was arrested on a DUI with reports surfacing of him calling the female office “sugar t---s” and some slams against Jewish people. This fuelled talk of Gibson as an anti-Semite that had already come up with The Passion of the Christ and Gibson’s frank interviews. He may have come back from that but in 2010, tape surfaced of Gibson going into a tirade against his wife that used multiple racist slams and painted Gibson as basically a lunatic. His good will has faded, you don’t see him as much at award shows and his attempts at comeback vehicles have actually just gone straight to video. There might be time to turn it around but Gibson sadly showed an ugly side under “the Sexiest Man Alive” that has tarnished a lot of his past work and standing in Hollywood.
10 Jennifer Grey
Breaking out in the mid-1980s, Grey got attention for Red Dawn and then her great performance in Dirty Dancing, the movie smash-hit status turning Patrick Swayze into a star. But in 1991, Grey underwent some cosmetic surgery that caused some problems, requiring a second surgery to correct it. The result was a face so drastically altered that even good friends didn’t recognize her at first. While surgery is nothing new in Hollywood, few have altered to the point Grey did and thus, casting agents were wary of someone who looked nothing like the star fans knew. It got to the point of Grey considering changing her name to go with her looks but tried to keep at it. A notable bit was her playing herself in the short-lived sitcom It’s Like, You Know where she took shots at her looks and fallen stardom, showing she had a good sense of humor about it. She did make a return by winning season 10 of Dancing With the Stars but Grey would admit that the surgery cost her what could have been a great Hollywood career and her most regretful decision.
9 Michael Cimino
His recent passing has only marked how no director in history has self-destructed so spectacularly thanks to his own work than Cimino. As part of the wave of new styled directors in the 1970s, Cimino got his break with Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, a crime hit. He followed it up with The Deer Hunter, an acclaimed drama about the Vietnam War that won five Oscars, including Best Picture, Director and Supporting Actor (Christopher Walken). Cimino had Hollywood eager to give him whatever he wanted for his next film and chose a script that would become Heaven’s Gate. The stories have become legend from celebrating setting the record for the most feet of film ever shot (due to roughly 50 retakes of a single scene) to wasting four hours a day driving cast and crew to locations. Cimino’s ego was out of control, pushed by his success and the result was a film that is the epitome of self-indulgent filmmaking (As United Artists executive Stephen Bach put it “It’s all beautiful. It’s also unwatchable.”) The film was savaged by critics and thanks to its $44 million budget (a massive sum back then), it ranked among the biggest flops in history. Cimino’s career never recovered and while some claim Gate isn’t that bad a movie today, the failure hung around his neck for the rest of his life and a sad fall for not only him but the other directors of his time.
8 Eddie Murphy
When Will Smith was still in grammar school, Eddie Murphy was ruling the box office. After becoming a star with Saturday Night Live, Murphy added to it with major smashes like Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop, known for his great comedy style and his name meaning big business. But starting in 1993, Murphy began to hit a steady stream of flops, several reviled like Vampire in Brooklyn, each one robbing him of more of his credibility. It reached its height in the horrible Adventures of Pluto Nash, one of the biggest bombs in Hollywood history and the only real success he enjoyed was as a voice for the Shrek movies. In 2006, Murphy appeared to be ready to bounce back with his role in Dreamgirls, considered a front-runner for the Oscar. But right in the middle of voting, he released Norbit, a movie featuring Murphy as a horribly obese woman. The movie was a success but the critical backlash was so huge that many claim it cost Murphy the goodwill and the Oscar. More flops followed and Murphy had a chance to bounce back by hosting the Oscars but quit out of a misguided loyalty to fired director Brett Ratner. Murphy was once among the biggest players in Hollywood but his choice of films sadly led to his decline as a forgotten face of the past.
7 Michael Richards
For a while after its ending, there was talk of a “Seinfeld curse” in that the stars of the iconic comedy couldn’t find much success afterward. That has faded with Julia Louis-Dreyfus finding massive success with Veep and Jerry Seinfeld himself doing well. But you can sure put the “curse” label onto Michael Richards. As Kramer, he was a great part of the show, playing a man with wild behavior, winning an Emmy and looked ready for his own stardom. But his self-titled NBC comedy was a disaster so Richards moved back to stand-up. This led to a bit in 2006 when Richards launched into a tirade at some audience members, dropping various racist insults and when the video of it went viral, the storm was huge. Richards’ attempts to apologize came off very bad and weren’t accepted by black leaders. It basically made him toxic to executives, minor shows here and there but nothing like the stardom he once enjoyed. One bad night was all it took to derail Richards’ career and show there might be something to a “Curse” after all.
6 Lindsay Lohan
Many a child star has fallen on hard times later in life but few did so as wildly and in the public eye as Lohan. She became a star with her role as twins in The Parent Trap and followed it up with Freaky Friday and Mean Girls, both box office hits that made her the next “it girl” of Hollywood. She was growing in the public eye (especially in her chest) and seemed ready to make the jump to the big leagues in a huge way. And then in 2007 came the collapse. First, stories circulated about her hard partying that she chalked up to “exhaustion” that interrupted filming of Georgia Rule. Then DUI arrests made her an instant tabloid favorite and an appendix surgery that halted many offers. That was followed by a slew of major flops like I Know Who Killed Me and more arrests with Lohan spending more time in rehab and even jail than on red carpet events. Her attempts at comebacks are mixed, including showing off her nude body a few times but nothing of major note. Today, Lohan has moved to London and trying to get back on track but still sad how a career of a young, promising and quite beautiful woman could go off the tracks so much.
5 Bill Cosby
It’s still hard to believe. After breaking out as a talented comedian and star of shows like I Spy, Cosby ingratiated himself into the public forever as the loveable Bill Huxtable on The Cosby Show. His warm humor, his great acting, it all made him the perfect TV dad and a true icon not just for television but American life. Sure, you had a few rough stories over the years but nothing too major, he was Cos and that was enough. But while the stories had circulated here and there, it took until 2014 for it to finally come out that over the course of his life, Cosby had drugged and sexually assaulted over 30 women. It became a massive deal, bigger when 30 of the victims posed for a magazine cover to call out Cosby on his actions. The effects have been huge with Cosby’s star falling majorly, honors revoked, his TV show reruns yanked and his reputation forever shattered. He now faces trial for his actions and it’s sad to think of a man so beloved ending up in jail but it would be for his own decisions and crimes that proved behind the face of a great TV dad lurked a sexual predator of the highest order who has tainted his entire career for good.
4 Michael Jackson
It’s a brutal thing to say but also true: Dying in 2009 was the best thing to happen to Michael Jackson’s legacy. From 1983 to 1992, no one on the face of the planet was a bigger star than Jackson. He pioneered music videos as big-budget art, his dancing stunning and his singing huge as he was a massive star. It was in the late 1980s that things started to change with talk of Jackson’s strange ways with surgery and his skin lightening majorly to the point of looking like an albino and thus becoming more of a tabloid fixture. In 1993, it came crashing down with Jackson accused of molestation charges of young boys and a major backlash against him and his music. Attempts at comebacks faltered as Jackson added to it with more crazy stuff from his marriage to Lisa Marie Presley to dangling his newborn baby over a balcony and more. More legal problems followed as the man became more a recluse before announcing his 2009 “This Is It” tour as his grand farewell. He died during rehearsals and in his passing, many have noted the good he did and how iconic a figure he is in modern music. However, it still showcases how Jackson’s strange choices helped bring him down to the point where death was the only way to remind folks how important his work had been.
3 Paula Deen
With her white hair and down-home charm, Deen was tailor-made for the Food Network, breaking out in the late 1990s with her various cooking books promoting a menu of Southern cooking. Soon, Deen got her own show on the Network and was among their more popular faces, fans loving her charm and humor. The first issue were the complaints about Deen’s cooking being too fatty and her trying to brush aside any health concerns. That was added onto when she revealed she had diabetes and naturally a backlash about still promoting such cooking. But that was nothing compared to the outrage in 2013 when Deen was slapped with a lawsuit accusing her of using racial epitaphs at black people. Deen did herself no favors when she openly admitted to using the N-word a few times but never meant as an insult. That didn’t go over well with viewers as Food Network canceled her show and she lost numerous sponsorships like Walmart, Target and QVC. She’s tried a comeback with her own TV show but it’s nothing like it was as folks can forgive a lot but a racism viewpoint is not among them.
2 Axl Rose
When Guns n' Roses burst onto the scene in 1988, it was an epic event. These hard rockers helped lead the new age of heavy metal music and Axl Rose was hailed for his vocals that made “Sweet Child O Mine” and “Welcome to the Jungle” modern classics. But Rose also became infamous for his backstage behavior of hard drinking and drug use that got into major problems, including full-scale brawls with people. He famously walked out on a major concert tour mid-show, leaving thousands of fans outraged and also ticked off bandmates by demanding full ownership of their name. His lateness was also an issue and despite the band’s success, it wasn’t enough to overcome these issues. It reached its height as he walked off stage after just an hour, instigating a full-scale riot. In 1996, the band basically came apart with Rose soon taking a long hiatus from the music business. The band reunited earlier this year for a much anticipated tour but there’s no denying how many years they lost to Rose’s behavior that sadly rendered one of the biggest musical acts of all time to an almost joke.
1 Sinead O’Connor
As the 1990s dawned, O’Connor looked to be a fantastic rising star. Her hit “Nothing Compares 2 U” had won critics and topped the charts, she had several awards and a huge following. She was outspoken but still notable for her bald head and beautiful face as well as a wonderfully soulful voice and looked to have a long career of hits ahead of her. Then, in 1992, O’Connor was the musical guest for Saturday Night Live, her second number the anthem “War” which was nicely delivered. At the end of the song, with no warning, O’Connor held up a photo of Pope John Paul II, announced “Fight the real enemy!” and tore it in half. Had the Internet existed in 1992, it would have exploded as NBC was instantly flooded with angry phone calls and sponsors threatening to pull their ads. Needless to say, the Catholic Church was not pleased with this and the backlash on O’Connor was huge, more as she refused to apologize for it, citing the Catholic Church covering up the abuse of priests. While she would continue to work, her career never regained that same fame and respect and while she may be proud of her stance, it cost O’Connor a slew of goodwill that’s never come back.