It’s no surprise that celebrity life has its perks. From wealth and riches to red carpet events to admiration from peers and fans, life in the spotlight can be a delight. But celebrity life is also incredibly fickle. There are a finite number of leading roles in Hollywood. At one point or another, everyone dreams of becoming a big star but few are talented, driven, and lucky enough to make those visions a reality. Life as a career actor is so competitive that most end up earning an average salary through commercials and background roles.
The rare talents that do attain some level of stardom have to work incredibly hard to even maintain that position. The current age of fast media and social connectedness means there is more opportunity than ever to create creative content and reach an audience. Gifted writers, actors, and comedians all over the world can be found with a quick web-based search. One look at the current cast of Saturday Night Live reveals three former YouTube stars. Careers that historically lead to fame are more flooded than ever.
As fans, we expect actors to remain at the top once they’ve “made it.” We become attached to our favorite actors and want to see them succeed. Below is a list of 11 actors that once had it all but are now in dire need of a career resuscitation.
11. Josh Hartnett
In the late ’90s and early 2000s, no one seemed more poised to become Hollywood’s next biggest star than Josh Hartnett. Known for his rugged good looks and solid acting chops, Hartnett was on a seemingly clear path to superstardom, following in the footsteps of George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Brad Pitt, to name a few. He graduated from some teenage roles to starring in big-budget war epics like Black Hawk Down and Pearl Harbor. Like any good rising star, Hartnett mixed in a rom-com with 40 Days and 40 Nights and an indie love story with the underrated Wicker Park.
In 2002, Hartnett made an ultimately career defining choice, turning down the opportunity to play Clark Kent/Superman. That role would have included a 10-year contract and yielded numerous blockbuster films. Since the mid 2000s, Hartnett’s stardom has faded as he has worked mainly in indie films and even produced some television. Josh Hartnett is one star that we’d love to see back on the big screen.
10. Dave Chappelle
At first glance, Dave Chappelle and his massive celebrity aura might not seem to fit on this list. Chappelle certainly doesn’t need a comeback in the same sense as the other people listed, but his fans are clamoring for him to make a comeback.
With a net worth of $16 million, Chappelle is one of the most commercially successful comedians of all time. Dave made a name for himself on the New York comedy circuit in the mid-1990s. He quickly established himself as the best of a new breed of observational sketch comics, following in the footsteps of idols like Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, and Eddie Murphy, and dominating the New York circuit along with Chris Rock. Chappelle starred in the cult classic stoner flick Half Baked, filmed a wildly successful HBO comedy special, Dave Chappelle: Killing Them Softly, and then gained international fame in 2003 with his simply-named sketch comedy show, The Chappelle Show, on Comedy Central. The Chappelle Show was syndicated with re-runs showing all around the world, and is consistently regarded as one of the best sketch comedy shows of all time.
With all his success, Chappelle proved to be a bit of a recluse. He has said that he values freedom, creativity, and happiness over money and that he grew increasingly uncomfortable with fame. In 2007, Chappelle left Comedy Central to travel to South Africa and stayed out of the limelight for several years. He has been known to make impromptu performances at comedy clubs in Los Angeles and New York and just completed his first film role in 15 years with an appearance in Spike Lee‘s new movie Chi-Raq. Fans of the all time great comic can only hope that this is the beginning of a career renaissance.
9. Adrian Grenier
Adrian Grenier is a clear example of an actor who has become typecast. The actor, producer, musician extraordinaire is known worldwide for his portrayal of Vincent Chase on HBO’s smash hit Entourage. Grenier has been a working actor since 1997 – starring in films such as Drive Me Crazy and Harvard Man – but he found mainstream success with the 2004 launch of Entourage. The series ran for eight years, was nominated for countless awards, and also led to Grenier landing bigger movie roles, like his spot alongside Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada.
Since the end of Entourage in 2011, Grenier has failed to reach anything even close to the same level of success. That’s not a knock on Grenier. He is involved in many passionate projects – like the launch of a Brooklyn music studio and production of a few indie documentaries – and according to our stats at TheRichest, he doesn’t need the money. But those projects rarely draw the eyes of Grenier’s old fans. It would be nice to see Adrian land another leading role and reclaim a spot on the list of Hollywood’s elite.
8. Alfonso Ribeiro
Alfonso Ribeiro – the man known worldwide as Carlton Banks – must be dying for another big role. As Carlton, Alfonso played one of the most beloved characters on one of the most beloved shows in television history. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air aired originally from 1990-1996, but has since been syndicated all over the world and can still be found on Viacom Media Network channels today.
Although he never achieved a sliver of the post-Prince success as his former costar Will Smith, Ribeiro is still recognized wherever he goes and is loved by generations of television fans. Alfonso has maintained a visible media presence as of late, transitioning into more entertainment roles than acting. He currently hosts ABC’s America’s Funniest Home Videos, a show that still goes on, and even won the 19th season of Dancing With The Stars. One thing’s for sure, Ribeiro need’s another big acting role if for no other reason than treating the masses to his signature Carlton dance.
7. Amanda Bynes
Amanda Bynes has become the latest child celebrity to go completely off the rails. Bynes was a massive child star in the 1990s and early 2000s, rising to prominence with starring roles on Nickelodeon’s All That and The Amanda Show. From 2002 to 2006 she played the lead in the WB sitcom What I Like About You, and she starred in several successful young adult comedies, like What A Girl Wants and She’s The Man. She even starred in the critically acclaimed film Hairspray in 2007.
After a late-2000s hiatus from acting, Bynes seemed to be working on a comeback until several run-ins with the law and a string of public displays of bizarre behavior threw her off track for good. Between 2012 and 2014, Bynes track record included a DUI, hit-and-run, drug arrest, and a couple of stays in mental health facilities, along with some bizarre Twitter rants and racy photo leaks.
If anything can help Bynes return to normalcy, it might be getting back to work with a big film or TV role. In no way can Bynes be considered a great actress, but her portfolio includes some solid comedic roles and there’s no question that she is beautiful. Those two factors alone are enough to warrant a career jumpstart and endear her to the teenage crowd. Given the right situation and supporting cast both on and off set, Bynes has the goods to reclaim some level of success.
6. Macaulay Culkin
Macaulay Culkin was arguably the biggest child actor that the world has ever known. From the late 1980s to early ’90s, Culkin starred in some of the biggest and best kids movies in history. One look at his IMDB page will take anyone under 40 on a trip down “Memory Lane.” Home Alone, Richie Rich, My Girl, The Good Son, Uncle Buck – these aren’t just simple kid flicks, they are legitimately good movies displaying depth and range not typically scene by a child star. In the early 1990s, at the height of Macaulay’s career, he was considered to be the biggest child star since Shirley Temple.
Family drama – including his divorced parents battling for control of his money – caused Culkin’s love of acting to fade, and at the age of 14 he retired from Hollywood. At the time, he was worth about $12 million and decided to live his life in pursuit of other passions. What followed was a bizarre stretch of teenage matrimony (and divorce at age 19), an eight-year relationship with actress Mila Kunis, an arrest for drug possession, and a much speculated struggle with drug addiction.
Since 2006, Culkin has published a semi-autobiographical novel, voiced characters on Cartoon Network’s Robot Chicken, made some cameos in commercials and a few appearances in independent films. He currently performs as the lead singer for Pizza Underground, a pizza-themed comedy rock band known for parodying the works of Velvet Underground. Pizza is definitely worthy of musical praise, but it’s safe to say that the Home Alone actor’s career is in need of a jump-start.
5. Michael Richards
The argument could be made that there is no character in the history of television more iconic than Cosmo Kramer. Michael Richards‘ infamous portrayal of Kramer was one of the driving factors to Seinfeld becoming one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful programs of all time. Seinfeld was the brainchild of Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, but Richards’ comedic genius – along with costars Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus – are what kept viewers coming back for more. As of 2010, Seinfeld had grossed over $2.6 billion.
Richards, however, was so successful as Kramer that he has not been able to hold down another on-screen role since. Some actors play characters. Richards is Kramer. If Adrian Grenier has been typecast since Entourage, Richards takes that to another level. Immediately following Seinfeld, Richards starred in The Michael Richards Show but that was soon cancelled. In 2006, Richards also went off on a racist tirade while on stage during a stand-up comedy set. It’s impossible to ever match the success of Seinfeld, but a new role for Richards would do wonders for a career in need of a hit of the refresh button.
4. Wesley Snipes
Wesley Snipes is the definition of an actor who desperately needs a career rebound. Snipes is one of the most recognizable and famous actors of the last 30 years, but legal troubles – including tax evasion and fraud – derailed a career so promising that he earned nearly $40 million during an eight year span.
Snipes began acting in the late ’80s and achieved stardom with films like Major League, New Jack City, and White Men Can’t Jump. Snipes’ career peaked in 1998 when he starred in Blade, the cult-classic vampire action thriller that grossed $150 million worldwide and birthed the Blade trilogy. In 2006, however, he was charged with conspiracy to commit fraud and tax evasion. Snipes was sentenced to three years in prison for failure to file tax returns, serving from 2010-2013. Upon his release, Snipes has starred in Expendables 3 and Chi-Raq and is countersuing the IRS in hopes of avoiding $18 million in back-tax payments. If anyone in Hollywood needs a comeback, it’s Wesley Snipes.
3. Lindsay Lohan
At just 29 years of age, Lindsay Lohan seems like she’s been around for more than two decades. In many ways, Lohan has done more in her 20-year-plus career than other actors have in a lifetime. Lohan began working as a child model at age three and by age 11 she was starring in a major motion picture in Disney’s The Parent Trap. Lohan became a teenage sensation, starring in Freaky Friday, Mean Girls, and Herbie: Fully Loaded.
Huge success and a wildly famous lifestyle became the norm for Lohan by the mid-2000s, but a string of commercial and critical failures closed out the latter half of the decade. Lohan also tried her hand at music around this time. She released one album that achieved gold status in 2004. Two DUI arrests in 2007 and a trip to a drug rehab center, along with her struggling films, sent Lindsay into a downward spiral from which her acting career has still not recovered. Lately, Lohan has made several television cameos and starred in the 2013 independent film The Canyons.
2. Rider Strong
No list of actors in need of a career rebound would be complete without at least one of the key members of a show that defined countless childhoods in the 1990s, teenage sitcom Boy Meets World. Rider Strong‘s co-stars Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel have recently teamed up for Disney’s BMW sequel, Girl Meets World, so the jury’s still out on their respective career comebacks. This leads us to Strong, who starred in the original sitcom as Shawn Hunter, the troubled best friend and lovable sidekick to Savage’s Cory Matthews.
Strong began acting at just nine years of age. After Boy Meets World‘s eight-year run ended in 2000, Strong graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University and then starred in 2006’s successful indie horror film Cabin Fever. Since Cabin Fever, however, Strong’s acting career has been incredibly quiet. He recently reprised his role as Hunter on a holiday episode of Girl Meets World and has been added to the cast in a directorial role. Strong was great in the creepy Cabin Fever, so perhaps there is still hope for a comeback in the thriller genre.
1. Haley Joel Osment
Remember Haley Joel Osment, the precocious little toe-head famous for uttering the chilling “I see dead people” line in Sixth Sense, as well as starring roles in Pay It Forward and Artificial Intelligence: AI? By the age of 11, Osment had appeared in 15 films, won or been nominated for countless awards, and worked alongside the biggest names in showbiz. But then he kind of disappeared.
Osment went to college at NYU (graduating in 2011) and only appeared in two films between 2003 and 2012. Osment did make his Broadway debut in 2008, and lately it seems like he is on the up and up. Since 2013, he has appeared in 13 film or television roles including Drunk History, the Entourage movie, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The long-haired, bearded, chunky 27-year-old is rarely recognized as his younger self, something that is probably good, career-wise. With several upcoming films on the horizon, Osment seems to be moving further away from his child star image and closer to a breakthrough in Hollywood.
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