Hollywood has been accused of being a town that eats its young, spits them out and then goes for a fresh course without caring about the waste. To be a major star for decades on end like Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock is rare, as Hollywood too often goes for the idea of the new blood and leaves others behind. Far too many starlets have found themselves hit with the label of “It Girl” only to see that fade, sometimes with age, other times bad projects to fall the wayside. Some ladies keep trying and it’s sometimes sad to see a former A-list talent reduced to some cheap direct-to-video or cable TV movie. The new rise of cable dramas has given a chance for some to bounce back but others seem to fade further.
Some actresses choose to get out of the game. Shirley Temple was famous for quitting once she grew out of being a child star and lived her life happy outside of Hollywood. A more recent case is Mara Wilson, a major kid star in the 1990s but happily retired from acting today although doing some popular online columns. Of course, most aren’t doing this out of choice, more out of basically no longer welcomed as too many let their egos and personal issues be their undoing. Some can still make a comeback but others unlikely, their later works so off the grid that it seems they vanished off the face of the Earth. Here are 15 hot Hollywood ladies of the past whose stars faded to the point they could never be seen and how fleeting fame can truly be.
15 Kelly McGillis
In the mid-1980s, McGillis appeared primed for stardom. She broke out as an Amish woman aiding Harrison Ford’s cop in the hit Witness. She followed it up with her role in Top Gun as the love interest for Tom Cruise, her incredible sex appeal on full display in a great love scene and shining well. She followed it up with a great turn against Jodie Foster’s Oscar-winning role in The Accused but somehow, her star faded fast after that. In truth, McGillis seemed less inclined to movies than the stage, doing turns in various Broadway productions and while she would work in things like a turn on The L Word, doesn’t seem inclined to get into major movies again. Coming out as gay in 2009, McGillis has been noted as not as attractive as she once was, sticking to advocating causes and teaching acting rather than continue with the star power she shone with in 1986.
14 Kathleen Turner
The sultry and sexy-voiced Turner exploded onto the scene in 1981 with Body Heat as a femme fatale with incredible love scenes, a true star born. She added to it with more hits like Romancing the Stone, Prizzi’s Honor, Peggy Sue Got Married and voicing Jessica Rabbit. However, while her talent was unquestionable, Turner soon got a reputation as an incredible diva on set with arguments with co-stars constant. Another blow was when she developed arthritis in the early 1990s, limiting her acting majorly and Turner turned to alcohol to dull the pain, leading to more trouble on set and her age soon leading to her basically leaving Hollywood. She has seen a comeback on Broadway with several acclaimed performances and an attempt to come back on TV but the mix of health problems and her own temper sadly ended Turner’s fantastic career just as it was taking off.
13 Sean Young
With a sultry smile and wicked drive, Young brought a fantastic femme fatale aspect to roles such as No Way Out (which showed her nude body off nicely) and ready to rise up more. Things took a turn when she was cast as Vikki Vale in Batman but broke her arm in rehearsals and replaced by Kim Basinger. In 1991, her efforts to land the role of Catwoman included showing up on talk shows in full costume in something Young herself today calls a total embarrassment. She soon became infamous for her on-set tempers, claiming her firing from Dick Tracy was for refusing Warren Beatty’s advances and added to it with flops like A Kiss Before Dying. She did get a hit with Ace Ventura but as the 1990s went on, she withdrew, mostly TV appearances and stuff like a demolition derby racer. She would get some infamy for run-ins with the law, such as arrested for hitting a guard at a 2012 Oscar party and Celebrity Rehab. Young has talked in interviews of how the bad luck and her own ego cost her what could have been a great career (she once told Entertainment Weekly “I could have been Julia Roberts”) and while still hot today, one wonders what could have been.
12 Mary Stuart Masterson
A bright star among the wave of newbie actresses coming in the early 1990s, Masterson broke out with Fried Green Tomatoes and added to it with roles in Benny & Joon and Bad Girls. While she had great talent and a great body often on display, real stardom eluded her, her standing fading as the decade drew on. She would move to independent movies but last acted in 2005’s Whiskey School although she did direct 2007’s The Cake Eaters. She has done some stuff on TV and spending time on Broadway but Masterson never saw her star rise in Hollywood as expected and mostly out of the acting game on film, a shame given her real promise and good talent along with a surprisingly sexy side to herself.
11 Mischa Barton
When The O.C. debuted in 2003, it became a sensation with tween audiences and an instant hit to boost its actors to stars. Barton was a standout early as Marissa, the main female lead and fans loved seeing her handle the great plot lines. She left after the third season with many citing the death of her character as the show’s downfall. Barton was hailed as an “It Girl” but her plans for movie stardom faded after one little-seen flop after another. Her attempt at a TV comeback with The Beautiful Life ended when the show was canceled after just five episodes. Not helping were her issues on set with drug addictions and arrested for possession and DUI. That was added onto by a psychiatric stay and suing her own mother for breach of contract. She has made a few appearances in Dancing With the Stars and others but while co-stars like Rachel Bilson have gone on to success, Barton is sadly better known as a classic case of “train wreck” rather than a famed actress.
10 Kate Capshaw
It’s hard to imagine a bigger breakout than working on a George Lucas/Steven Spielberg movie. After work in soap operas and the movie Dreamscape, Capshaw won the role of Willie Scott, the singer dragged on an adventure in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. While some of her role could be annoying, she also brought nice humor while looking terrific in various dresses and some good sexy comedy chops. One would think this would make her a major star but aside from a few films (Spacecamp, The Quick and the Dead, Black Rain), Capshaw never became a major deal. She hasn’t acted since the 2001 cable movie It’s a Girl Thing that had her in love scenes with Elle Macpherson. Of course, there’s a great reason for that; Capshaw and Spielberg were married in 1991 and raise a nice family (including daughter Jessica, now a star of Grey’s Anatomy) so she hardly needs to worry about working much. It’s rare how one movie can truly change your life but Temple gave Capshaw both her biggest role and her husband so hard to feel sorry for a lost career.
9 Thora Birch
In the early 1990s, Birch was a pretty in demand child actress, appearing in films like Hocus Pocus, Now and Then and more. It’s ironic given her parents just happen to be the stars of the legendary adult movie Deep Throat. In 1999, Birch made a major move to adult roles as the put-upon teenager in American Beauty that included doffing her top for a memorable scene. She had a good follow-up of the acclaimed Ghost World with a young Scarlett Johansson but true stardom seemed to elude her. She would be featured in some independent horror movies yet nothing of major note and 2012’s Petunia was her last major role for some time with rumors of her father/manager acting up on her behalf hurting several offers. Birch does seem to be trying to come back with a small role in the TV show Colony yet still notable how a lady on the brink of stardom couldn’t break through.
8 Julie Strain
“Six foot one and worth the climb” was the constant remark made for Julie Strain in her prime. Strain’s background is unique as much of her memory was wiped out thanks to an honest-to-God case of amnesia from falling off a horse. A Penthouse Pet of the Year in 1993, Strain was a true stunner with her height, long curly hair and an amazingly sizeable chest. She used that to become the undisputed queen of the 1990s straight-to-video softcore market, appearing in nearly 100 movies, almost all of which involved showing that great body off in full. Strain was in constant demand, up to six movies a year and also popular in various public appearances with a nice humor to herself. She finally retired in 2008 and today has settled into some blogging and the occasional calendar appearance but still regarded as one of the best knockouts of her time and still looking fantastic today.
7 Nikki Cox
One of the first shows for the WB, Unhappily Ever After was a raunchy sitcom about a nutty family that involved the dad having talks with a talking bunny doll. Cox was the breakout star as Tiffany, the sexpot who also happened to be the smartest person in her family. The show made sure to feature her in tight dresses to accent her great bust and curves with lush red hair to make her an instant star. Cox moved on to her own sitcom Nikki and then a starring role in the NBC hit Las Vegas that showed her off more. Her marriage to Jay Mohr did lower her profile more as she raised their son and her career got a blow when she got a bad dose of collagen that blew her lips up way more than needed. The former sexpot is now a happy mom and helping her husband’s career while reminding some folks of how hot she once was.
6 Bridget Fonda
For a while, it looked like Bridget was going to follow the Fonda family legacy. After all, her grandfather (Peter,) father (Henry) and aunt (Jane) are all acclaimed actors, two Oscar winners. After a few so-so roles, she got attention with The Godfather Part III that began to boost her profile. Hits like Doc Hollywood, Point of No Return and Single White Female added to it as her star looked to be rising high. However, as the 90s drew on, her push began to fade, less-known movies on her resume and not as much drive as was promised. 2001’s Kiss of the Dragon was her last major movie as in 2003, she was involved in a bad car accident that injured her neck and made her cut back on acting. She would marry composer Danny Elfman that year and now has settled into raising their son and out of the limelight, showing one Fonda who didn’t quite have the same major fame as the rest of the family.
5 Phoebe Cates
Cates will always be remembered for what remains one of the single most iconic nude scenes of all time. In Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Cates was shown rising out of a pool, undoing her red bikini to show off her stunning chest, the most memorable part of the movie. She would add to it with the hit Gremlins and others, wonderfully funny and talented while looking stunningly hot when she could. However, a major change came when Cates began to take up with actor Kevin Kline, the two married in 1989 just weeks before Kline won an Oscar. The two would have two children and Cates moved to the background, deciding to spend more time as a mother than an actress. A long gap between movies ensued with 2001’s The Anniversary Party her last acting role. It’s a bit sad she decided to give it up just as she was rising but Cates did ensure one scene to always be remembered for, something many actresses would love to have.
4 Amanda Bynes
If there’s a teenage star who seemed the least likely to turn into a train wreck, it was Bynes. She rose up as a great comic talent on the Nick sketch show All That and led to her own The Amanda Show to become highly popular. Bynes soon added to it with the hit sitcom What I Like About You that showed her growing into a nice sexy presence. There were also movies like What a Girl Wants and Hairspray, showcasing her wonderful talent, nice presence and seemed ready to continue on a great career. And seemingly overnight in 2012, it came apart. Bynes was pulled over for a DUI and then a hit and run, followed by another arrest for drug possession. This coincided with some rants online and her claim she was quitting acting. Bynes’ behavior was so out of left field that there was concern of her having serious mental issues. Another arrest for a DUI led to her ranting about her father implanting a microchip in her brain, leading to another psychiatric ward visit. Today, Bynes seems to try to get back on track by studying fashion design but nowhere near her fame level and sadly better known as a “crash and burn” that puts Lindsay Lohan to shame rather than the hot starlet she was.
3 Linda Fiorentino
In 1994, Fiorentino came out of seemingly nowhere (despite being a veteran for a decade) with her role in The Last Seduction, playing a ruthless femme fatale on a fantastic con game. The role won massive raves with many saying Fiorentino should have been nominated for an Oscar but as the movie had debuted on HBO first, it was called ineligible to a huge outcry. With that push, one would think Fiorentino could continue on her great work and rise up more in Hollywood as she would add more movies like Men in Black and Dogma. Fiorentino’s fall isn’t due to drugs or other issues but pretty much due to how word was soon getting around that was one of the worst people in the business to work with. Already outspoken, she became difficult on set, arguing with directors and demanding more money for roles despite how she wasn’t the A-list star she thought she was. This soon led to things drying up and her last role was in 2009’s Once More With Feeling. Her own web site only shows photos of homeless people as Fiorentino has apparently truly vanished, a sad show of how one’s ego can crush their talent.
2 Yasmine Bleeth
Through the run of the mega-hit Baywatch, Bleeth was a standout in a few ways. First, a brunette among the various blonde gals. Secondly, while hot, not quite as surgically stacked as Pamela Anderson and others. And third, she was pretty much the one star of the show who didn’t do a Playboy spread. She had amazing looks and talent, moving to roles on Nash Bridges and Titans and an incredibly sexy air to herself that promised more success. But Bleeth’s career took a downturn in 2001 when she was pulled over for drug use and had to enter rehab. It affected her majorly, Bleeth talking in interviews of how her addictions were out of control and needing to concentrate on getting healthy. That’s meant giving up acting as her only major credit since was a Baywatch reunion movie. Now living in Arizona, Bleeth is perfectly happy leaving her former fame in the past and that a clean break from Hollywood was best for her life.
1 Jennifer Grey
Jennifer Grey likes to joke that people in the Witness Protection Program should vanish as effectively as she did. She became a star with Dirty Dancing, very sexy yet also relatable with her lovely looks, winning personality and great dance moves. Grey looked to have a good career ahead of her, a few rough movies here and there but still potential. But in 1992, she underwent the knife for a nose job that went badly to the point where it altered her entire face to being almost unrecognizable. Grey’s star fell hard as casting directors were wary of putting her on screen when she looked nothing like what fans expected and Grey even considered changing her name. She even poked fun at it by playing herself in the sitcom It’s Like You Know and taking shots at her fallen career. She did return to the limelight in 2010 by winning Dancing With the Stars but nothing more than a few minor TV movies and Grey is up front on how that bad surgery ended up cutting her entire career short.