Fame and fortune are fleeting. One day a celebrity could be on top of the world, and the next one of Hollywood’s biggest stars could be all washed up. It’s happened countless times before and it will certainly happen again.
Some celebrities have managed to turn their careers around and achieve stardom once again. John Travolta did it with the help of Quentin Tarantino. Before Pulp Fiction, many thought Grease would remain the high point of Travolta’s career and the Look Who’s Talking franchise was set to be his unfortunate lasting legacy. There was a time when everyone’s favourite Avenger Robert Downey Jr. was in a shambles and it looked as if his career would be over. Of course, thanks to his hit Marvel movies, he’s one of the most successful and powerful movie stars on the planet today. The same can be said for Ben Affleck whose promising career became rocky after what many viewed as poor performances in a string of bad movies from Daredevil to Gigli. Now, Affleck is widely considered to be one of the best actors working today, and one of the most important directors.
Sure, there are a whole string of heartwarming comeback stories. But what about the brave attempts at a comeback that weren’t so smooth? Unfortunately for the actors who attempted it, there are a plethora of these sorry tales too. These ten celebrities made a valiant effort to rekindle their former greatness, but it never quite went to plan…
10. Paris Hilton
Paris Hilton once hit the jackpot when it came to fame. She achieved a relatively high level of stardom simply thanks to her family’s money and famous last name, along with a well-timed sex tape ‘leak’. With little talent to speak of she managed to star in a few movies, showed up in commercials and even starred in a popular reality show with frenemy Nicole Richie.
Nowadays, nobody is using (or remembers) her catchphrase “that’s hot”. In fact, nobody’s even talking about her for that matter. She has tried pop music and attempted to become a DJ, but neither venture has been very successful for her. She may have wanted 20 minutes of fame, but she didn’t make it past her 15.
The most face-palm worthy moment of Paris’ attempts to scrape back her fame was her attempt at revisiting reality TV. Her 2011 show the World According To Paris was slammed by critics, and crawled along for one season before it was canned. In response to Paris’ comeback attempt, the New York Times cleverly observed that the former star was ‘a Sony walkman in an iPod era’.
9. Mel Gibson
Even a turn playing a villain in Expendables 3 could not save Mel Gibson’s career. After his sexist and anti-Semitic rant in 2006 his career took a nosedive like Hollywood had never seen. At the height of his career he starred in blockbuster franchises like Lethal Weapon and Mad Max. Just a couple years before his tirade he directed the hugely successful and controversial Passion of the Christ.
In recent years, his attempts to regain the spotlight have included a string of flops like Get the Gringo and Machete Kills. The most painful attempt at winning back audiences was Gibson’s turn in the hit-or-miss drama comedy The Beaver. Gibson plays a man who develops an alter ego, who communicates through a beaver hand puppet. The vulnerability of the role seemed to be a whimsical attempt to win back audiences’ hearts, but it came off as desperate and somewhat implausible. Financially, the movie flopped – it barely scraped $1 million at the box office.
8. Demi Moore
Everyone fondly remembers Moore’s hits like G.I. Jane and Striptease. Who could forget A Few Good Men, the Juror or Ghost ? In the 90s Demi Moore was one of the biggest movie stars around. Today she is known more for being the ex-wife of Bruce Willis and Ashton Kutcher.
Her controversial marriage to Kutcher coincided with Demi’s fading star. Now that she and Kutcher have split, InTouch reported that Moore is looking to make another comeback attempt. But if her previous endeavours are anything to go by, it won’t be a success.
Demi’s biggest achievement since the 90s was the critically acclaimed Margin Call, but the following year she botched her potential revival with the ill-fated LOL with Miley Cyrus. It’s too early to count Moore out yet, however: She is too big of a talent not to be able to make an exceptional comeback.
7. Sharon Stone
A 2006 sequel to the 1992 classic Basic Instinct was definitely not the right move for Sharon Stone if she was hoping to make a comeback in Hollywood. Rather than recapturing Stone’s star quality, the film failed to make a dent at the box office and it was unforgivingly slammed by critics almost universally.
The halcyon days of Stone’s 90s’ success are long behind her. Since her failed comeback attempt, Stone spent the rest of the noughties starring in TV movies, direct to video films or theatrical releases that have found little critical or financial success. Stone seems doomed to be relegated to B-movies and TV appearances from now on.
6. Paul Reiser
At one time Paul Reiser was one of the biggest stars on TV thanks to the NBC sitcom Mad About You. He starred on the program about married life alongside Helen Hunt, and while Hunt found success on the big screen Reiser wasn’t quite as successful after the TV show.
He is still an extremely successful stand up comedian, but his attempt to return to the screen was an unsuccessful sitcom which barely even got off the ground.
2011’s The Paul Reiser Show was cancelled after just a few episodes. It aired on NBC, but failed to capture much of an audience during its short run. Some viewed it as a Curb Your Enthusiasm ripoff without the edginess. Now, Reiser has a recurring role on the FX sitcom Married, so he managed to return to TV – but not in a starring role.
5. Charlie Sheen
After a bizarre and very public apparent mental breakdown, he landed a sitcom on FX, Anger Management, and signed a multi-episode deal worth millions of dollars.
For a while his comeback was on the right track. Now, however, things don’t look quite so good. Anger Management was recently cancelled, and Sheen was desperate to come back to Two and a Half Men for the sitcom’s finale. He even wanted to star in a Two and a Half Men spinoff. However, Sheen didn’t end up being in the Two and a Half Men finale – because Lorre was reportedly going to agree to allow Sheen to appear, but would have used the guest spot to further humiliate the former star.
4. Macaulay Culkin
Even if Culkin now manages a surprising string of acting hits, he’ll probably never achieve the type of stardom he had as a child actor when he starred in Home Alone, Home Alone 2, My Girl and Richie Rich.
Culkin made some half-hearted attempts to regain the limelight after he lost the cute factor. He has starred in just four films since 1994, and none of them were successes. His talent is still there; he just can’t seem to pull in an audience.
The actor received critical acclaim for his role in the movie Saved! but it was still a financial failure. It seems Culkin has given up any attempt at a Hollywood comeback, and is now focusing on his rock music. He currently performs in a comedy rock group called the Pizza Undergound.
3. Bill Cosby
Early last year everything looked very promising for Bill Cosby. He was poised to make a TV comeback with a brand new stand up special and even had a new sitcom lined up with NBC. Then, things took a very dark turn.
Disturbing secrets from Cosby’s murky private life began to come to light. After a shockingly high number of women accused him of sexual assault over the decades, Cosby’s career fell apart at the seams. His planned comeback was rendered impossible, and NBC put the kibosh on their anticipated Cosby sitcom.
He will likely never be judged in a court of law because of the statute of limitations, but the court of public opinion has found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Cosby’s days of stardom are pretty much behind him, and even his stand up career – consistent even when he kept a low on-screen profile – is in jeopardy. He has been forced to cancel performance after performance due to protests and waning ticket sales.
2. Lindsay Lohan
It wasn’t very long ago when Lindsay Lohan seemed destined to be a huge star. After an incredibly successful career as a child actor, Lohan starred in the wildly successful comedy, Mean Girls. However, it didn’t take long for her life to take a dark turn.
A string of DUIs, shoplifting charges and highly publicised troubles with drugs and family issues left her career in shambles. There have been a number of botched comeback attempts from the former star. Notable failures included the campy horror I Know Who Killed Me in 2007, and the exploitation film Machete wherein she appears naked for much of the movie. For the latter, Lohan was unable to participate in post-production publicity as she was in rehabilitation.
Despite Lohan’s claims that she’s ‘a damn good actress’, the elusive successful career comeback she so badly wants, as expressed to Vanity Fair in 2010, has failed to materialise.
1. Milli Vanilli
The German pop duo Milli Vanilli was plagued by a lip-synching scandal that was their ruination. Fab and Rob were stripped of their Grammy for Best New Artist after it was revealed they didn’t sing any of the songs on the Milli Vanilli’s first album.
In 1998, the pair planned to make a comeback album. However, before they could recapture their former fame, Milli Vanilli member Rob Pilatus went off the rails. He served three months in prison for a series of robberies, and was later found dead from a suspected prescription drug overdose.
Fab Morvan, the other member of Milli Vanilli, made a few attempts later on as a solo artist, but he found very little success with the general public. His album Love Revolution received positive reviews when it was released – but no one bought it. He tried again by releasing a single on iTunes in 2011, but that didn’t work out for him either.
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