No matter how famous a person becomes, a simple bad decision or involuntary scandal can taint their reputation in a heartbeat. While sometimes a scandalous headline can help someone’s career, many times it can ruin it as well. The ones who have survived often find themselves always associated with their mistakes while others faced serious downfalls. Some of the biggest legends of film, television and music have fallen victims to unflattering and unwanted publicity. These big names worked hard for their success and have built careers that many can only dream of. But in a matter of moments, it can all come crashing down. From drug abuse, sex scandals, racist rants and physical violence, here are a few heavy hitters whose achievements are often overshadowed by scandal.
12 Charlie Sheen
A descendant of Hollywood royalty, Charlie Sheen proved that he had his own unique talent that stood him apart from his father, legendary actor Martin Sheen and his brother, Emilio Estevez. Sheen has shown his acting abilities in a variety of projects- from serious films such as Platoon and Wall Street to comedies Hot Shots and Major League. He’s also appeared on the small screen with roles on Spin City and eventually landed his own successful sitcom Two and Half Men (loosely based on his own life) and became one of the highest paid actors on television. However Sheen has had his fair share of demons. He’s battled with drug abuse for several years and been arrested multiple times. His personal life has also made front-page news. With 3 divorces, bitter custody battles and assault charges, his very public meltdown in 2011, which led to him being dismissed from his show, certainly did not help. He went on to star in the series Anger Management. The show was cancelled after two seasons. With his recent HIV diagnosis, Sheen simply cannot escape bad press and his past always comes back to haunt him.
11 Lindsay Lohan
Former Disney child star Lindsay Lohan proved that she had a talent and comedic chops in the films The Parent Trap, Freaky Friday and Mean Girls. Lohan quickly became the new IT girl and was on her way to a long and promising career. Her ongoing success was halted thanks to reports of unruly and unprofessional on-set behaviour, continuous film flops, a failed music career, intense partying, rehab stints and getting arrested for drug possession in 2007. Lohan went from studios flocking to work with her to dropping her in moments. While she’s tried several times to re-vamp her career, no one can seem to take the former starlet seriously. Lohan sadly falls into the category of former child stars gone badly.
10 Woody Allen
Legendary actor/director Woody Allen has produced some of the greatest and most memorable films for over six decades. Annie Hall, Blue Jasmine and Midnight in Paris are just a few of his award winning and acclaimed films. His originality and talent is untouched and never duplicated. Unfortunately over the years people have talked more about Allen’s personal life than his celebrated career. Known for getting romantically involved with underage women, it was his relationship with Soon-Yi Previn that caused the biggest scandal. Previn was the adopted daughter of Allen’s former partner Mia Farrow. Their affair was discovered after Farrow found naked pictures of her. This led to an ugly split between Allen and Farrow and the press had a field day at their expense. Previn and Allen are still together and have since married and had two daughters.
9 Mel Gibson
One of the biggest talents from Australia, Gibson starred in massive blockbusters such as the Lethal Weapon and Mad Max franchises. He’s also tackled directing with the controversial The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto. Gibson has also had his fair share of controversy, which started when offensive homophobic and antisemitic comments were made public. On top of this, in July 2010 a recording was released of Gibson saying some violent and aggressive statements to his then partner Oksana Di Gregorio which led to domestic violence charges being thrown at the star. The charges were eventually dropped but Gibson’s reputation has since been scarred.
8 Michael Richards
If you’re a die-hard Seinfeld fan, then you know who Michael Richards is! He played the iconic role of Cosmo Kramer on the legendary show and won several awards for his portrayal of Jerry’s freeloading neighbour. With his crazy antics, physical comedy and infamous sayings, Kramer was often the scene-stealer! After Seinfeld ended in 1998, Richards' success on television did not continue. His show The Michael Richards Show was short lived and he appeared to have disappeared from the scene. That is until an unfortunate incident in 2006 during a live performance at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles. Richards was heckled by a black audience member, which led him to go on a racist and offensive rant that was caught on camera. Richards made a public apology but this wasn’t enough to prevent him from being the butt of several jokes over the years. Richards has kept a pretty low profile and was recently seen on the television show Kristie- which has also been cancelled.
7 Robert Downey Jr.
One of the biggest comeback stories in Hollywood is definitely Robert Downey Jr. A talented actor since he came on to the scene almost 30 years ago, Downey has had his fair share of tough times. He was arrested numerous times due to drug charges and has had several stints in rehab. Now clean and sober, Downey Jr. made a comeback in the early 2000s thanks to blockbusters such as Tropic Thunder, Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes.. But even with all this success, he just can’t seem to escape his bad-boy past. Often still asked about his past issues with drugs and alcohol, it’s clear that Downey Jr. wants to put those days behind him. While promoting his film Avengers: Age of Ultron, he infamously walked out on interview conducted by a British reporter when his past was brought up. Thankfully, this didn’t do any harm to his career and he will next be seen in Captain America: Civil War.
6 Bill Cosby
The latest comedic legend caught in the middle of a scandal, Bill Cosby was part of the most loved television families in The Bill Cosby Show. His other successes include Kids Say the Darndest Things, Fat Albert, Ghost Dad and Jack. Cosby has been a legend in comedy and an inspiration for several African American comedians and actors. Sadly his legacy is slowly fading - over 50 women have come forward accusing Cosby of sexual abuse and battery. Several of his projects have now been cancelled due to this scandal and Cosby has spent more time in court than on camera. He was officially charged in December 2015 and his reputation will be forever tarnished. Cosby is no longer seen as one of television's favorite father figures and instead viewed as a sexual predator.
One of the best voices in the world of R&B, singer R. Kelly is known for belting out smooth ballads such as “I Believe I Can Fly” (which scored him 3 Grammy awards) and catchy tunes such as “Ignition”. However R. Kelly has become more known for his illegal marriage to the then underage singer Aaliyah (she was 15 at the time) and a video of him urinating on an underage girl. Though the charges were dropped and he continues to record and release music, Kelly’s career was never the same and much media scrutiny followed. His biggest success post scandal is his smash hit duet “Do What You Want" with Lady Gaga.
4 Marilyn Monroe
No doubt one of the biggest female icons in the world, Marilyn Monroe is the ultimate and original sex symbol. Not just known for her beauty and curvy figure, Monroe was a very talented actress and has starred in memorable films such as Gentleman Prefer Blondes and The Seven Year Itch. Though she was famous way before the social media age, Monroe’s personal life was still widely publicized and scrutinized. Three failed marriages, mental health issues and not so private relationships with John F. and Robert Kennedy, you can’t talk about Marilyn Monroe without bringing up her personal struggles. Her untimely death in 1962 still remains one of the biggest mysteries in Hollywood, Monroe is still often talked about and probably will be for generations to come.
3 Chris Brown
When he broke out into the music scene in 2005, Chris Brown showed the talent and potential to be the next Michael Jackson or Usher. His debut album was a commercial success and Brown even landed roles in the television series The OC and made his feature film debut in Stomp the Yard. Along with his success, Brown became part of music’s favourite IT couples when he began a relationship with superstar Rihanna. Unfortunately the fairy tale would soon come to end when in 2009, Brown physically assaulted Rihanna after a heated argument. Photos of Rihanna were leaked with visible scars and bruises and a domestic violence case was launched against Brown. He’s also had public brawls with Drake and Frank Ocean and has failed to remain on good terms with the law. Brown was even turned away in Canada in 2015 due to all his legal troubles. Though he’s tried to rebuild his career and has had some success in doing so, you just can’t talk about Chris Brown without bringing up his abusive behaviour.
2 Roman Polanski
Polish director, writer and producer Roman Polanski has had an impressive film career since the 1950s. He first received fame in Europe then reached the US with memorable films Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown and The Pianist (which earned 3 Academy Awards). Sadly at the height of his career an unthinkable tragedy occurred - his pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate was brutally murdered by the Manson Family in 1969. Polanski was never the same after this horrific event. A few years later in 1977, he was arrested for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl and fled to Europe to avoid jail time. Polanski can still face arrest if he enters the US. He still continues to makes films overseas and lives in France with his wife and children.
1 Michael Jackson
No list of legends in the music industry would be complete without Michael Jackson. Multiple awards, memorable hits such as “Thriller” and “Billie Jean” and record-breaking album sales, Jackson is no doubt one of the most recognized and loved artists. The whole world mourned his sudden death in 2009 but his music is still continuously played and listened to. Fans everywhere were looking forward to his comeback and never gave up on him. With all his success however in the music business, it’s difficult not to mention his personal struggles and allegations of child sexual abuse. First charged in 1993 then again in 2003, the trials became media circuses. He was acquitted on both counts. With his questionable actions such as dangling his newborn baby from a window and childlike attitude, Jackson’s fans still continued to support him through tough times.