Hollywood always wants the next big thing. It’s been that way since the old studio days as there was literally an entire industry designed to crank out new starlets with publicity rushes. However, too often these starlets faded, as you can design and present someone all you want but it’s the public who decides who stays and who goes.
That rule remains today, as too many starlets are presented as 'hot' but fail to make it. Yes, some do, like Emma Stone, Jennifer Lawrence and more. And there are those who look to fade but then come roaring back better than ever (Sandra Bullock) to remain on top.
Usually, drugs are the biggest reason these stars see their careers fall apart. Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes are obviously the biggest cases of starlets with great careers ahead of them who epically self-destructed. The fact is, some ladies just can’t make it no matter how much promise they have.
It’s interesting to see that it’s not even a case of being “totally out of work”. It’s women who are still out there, still acting yet have faded from the spotlight majorly. In some cases, they really were hot, even award winners in major movies, but it faded anyway. In other cases, they had the promise but lacked that key role to put them truly over the top. They are talented, beautiful and still have promise. And who knows, one or two may surprise us down the road to make a huge comeback and pay off on their promise. But as it stands, they were supposed to be the major A-list go-to starlets and it didn’t work out.
Here are 15 faded actresses who failed at being the next big thing in Hollywood, proving that it takes more than a studio push to be a true star.
15 Kate Hudson
At the 2001 Oscars, most thought Kate Hudson was a near lock for Best Supporting Actress. Her role as a goofy groupie in Almost Famous had won over critics, she was a sharp and beautiful talent and being the daughter of Goldie Hawn just cemented it. Instead, the award went to Marcia Gay Harden and most now see it as a smart move by the Academy. While talented, Hudson has sadly wasted it on way too many romantic comedies such as How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, Fool’s Gold, Bride Wars and more. While her frequent co-star, Matthew McConaughey, has managed to redeem himself as an Oscar winner, Hudson hasn’t met the same success. Even a turn on Glee was derided as a major slump for her.
If anything, Hudson has become more famous for her line of yoga pants and health items and while she attracts attention on the red carpet, she’s never been the A-lister most expected her to be. While not as “faded” as some others on this list, given all her potential, Hudson should be a lot higher on the Hollywood ranks.
14 Ashley Judd
While her mother, Naomi, and sister, Wynonna, were country music superstars, Ashley Judd stuck to acting such as her role as a daughter on the long-running NBC drama Sisters. She got attention for her role as a thief’s wife in the acclaimed crime drama Heat and then A Time to Kill. Her turn as a young Marilyn Monroe in Norma Jean & Marilyn showed off (in every way) to get her more attention. Then came Kiss the Girls that got her name up there followed by her first leading role in the thriller Double Jeopardy that was a hit. Judd was known for her sass and humor and carried herself well with a variety of roles.
However, Twisted was the worst-reviewed movie of 2014 and that hit her career hard. Things went lower for Judd like her clothing line going under and more flops like the woeful Flypaper. Judd was known for her outspoken manner on feminist issues and humanitarian work which may have worked against her in Hollywood. Her last major role was in Divergent and has recently claimed Harvey Weinstein worked against her for ignoring his advances years ago. While she’s proud of her life, Judd doesn’t have the hot career some might have expected at its start.
13 Estella Warren
As a former model and swimmer, Estella Warren sure had the looks and the body to take off in Hollywood. In 2001, they seemed intent on making her the next huge deal. They had her in Driven, a major Sylvester Stallone race car film to show some nice form off. Then she was in Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes remake showing off in a loincloth and despite some notably large front teeth, still a sexy presence. But then she starred in Kangaroo Jack, the infamously bad comedy that got her career hit badly.
In 2005, she got another push, including a role in Mr. & Mrs. Smith only for it to get cut out. She got attention for her role as a con artist on some episodes of Law& Order. That became ironic when, in 2017, she was arrested herself for a DUI after hitting some parked cars. This has pretty much ended her career, a shame given how hot she was but left adrift in the Hollywood game.
12 Rachael Leigh Cook
Unlike others on this list, Rachael Leigh Cook didn’t rise to fame in a movie or TV show but rather a TV commercial. In 1997, she appeared in a take on the “this is your brain on drugs” ads, showing a pan with an egg, then proceeded to smash the hell out of a kitchen to show the damage of drugs. In 1999, Cook broke out bigger as the star of the hit She’s All That and looked on the rise with her beauty and charm.
However, the failure of Josie and the Pussycats hit her hard and she failed to really connect as much as hoped on the big screen. Soon, she was stuck in direct-to-video work and the occasional TV role such as the TNT procedural Perception. These days, Cook’s biggest claim to fame is reprising her iconic TV ad and a variety of Hallmark Channel romance movies. She seems happy with her family and such yet it’s amazing how Cook failed to make as much impact in Hollywood as that one ad did.
11 Jessica Biel
Some may argue with this but there’s no denying Jessica Biel has seen her star power fading in Hollywood. At first known as the tomboy on 7th Heaven, Biel took everyone by storm by going nude in a magazine to get her attention. This led to a new edge and soon pushed in movies like Blade Trinity with her great form and talent. Then Stealth ended up being a huge mega flop that hurt her bad. She seemed to bounce back with some comedies like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry but while her role in Powder Blue got attention for her nude scenes, it was a flop.
Further failures included The A-Team and Total Recall, which cost the studio over $200 million and her roles are mostly off her looks than real talent. Biel did get major acclaim for the USA series The Sinner which showcased how talented she can be. But that she had to go to cable TV to get some respect shows how much her star has faltered in Hollywood. Sadly, Biel is still best known for a couple hot magazine spreads and married to Justin Timberlake than a movie star by any means.
10 Alicia Silverstone
Usually, “one-hit wonders” are for music. But Alicia Silverstone is a clear example of how that can happen in movies as well. She got attention as the psycho in the cult thriller The Crush and some Aerosmith videos. In 1995, she broke out huge with Clueless, her turn as Cher winning over audiences and making her an instant A-list star. Silverstone had Hollywood at her feet and even starting her own production company, any role for the asking. She chose to play Batgirl in Batman & Robin, and that movie’s horrible reputation pretty much crushed her career right off.
She was soon in forgettable films like Blast From the Past and the poorly received Vamps, and her act got a little tiresome for audiences. She seemed poised for a comeback in 2003 with the NBC comedy Miss Match but that was a quickly canceled flop and she’s seen no less than five pilots passed over. She does get attention for her activism but the sad fact is that Silverstone is only remembered for that one near-perfect role over twenty years ago than anything since.
9 Kate Bosworth
The lovely blonde made her debut in The Horse Whisperer that got her attention and then Remember the Titans. But Kate Bosworth truly rose up with the 2002 surfer film Blue Crush that landed her on Hollywood’s radar. This led to more roles like Beyond the Sea and then playing Lois Lane in Superman Returns. That was meant to elevate her to the ranks of mega-star and huge power player. But the movie was a disappointment financially and many cited Bosworth as a weak link in the cast and fans regularly name her among the worst castings in a superhero movie ever. That worked to lower her power in Hollywood and she’s still out there in everything from low budget movies to tries at TV.
Sadly, Bosworth has yet to find the vehicle that can boost her back up majorly and prove she can carry a film on her own. That surfer role was intended to make her a huge deal but Bosworth hasn’t ridden the wave to fame.
8 Mena Suvari
1999 was a fantastic year for Mena Suvari. The young and nubile blonde broke out huge first as a wholesome girl with an edge in the comedy American Pie. Just months later came American Beauty with her as the cheerleader and center of the film. The image of Suvari lying nude on a bed of roses become an iconic image for the film and launched her majorly. Soon, she was adding in movies like Loser, The Musketeer and the cult comedy Sugar & Spice. But somehow, true fame just didn’t happen as Suvari seemed overlooked among the various other hot blonde ladies in Hollywood. She didn’t have personal issues or arrests, it just didn’t seem to click over for her. It doesn’t make sense as her appearances on Psych, Six Feet Under and other TV shows showcases her great talent and one can hope for a change yet Suvari never achieved close to the fame most expected on her debut.
7 Shannon Elizabeth
Her first role was a bit…offbeat, a woman attacked by a mutant snowman in the nutty horror movie Jack Frost. But in 1999, Shannon Elizabeth took off huge with her showcase part as foreign exchange student Nadia in American Pie. Her nude scene was spectacular and got huge attention along with her humor and beauty. She appeared in the sequels as well as Scary Movie, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and more to show her great humor off. But Elizabeth never quite got as big as some expected her to be, showcased by some notable flops and a bad TV show called Cuts.
She had the talent and beauty but ignored for more high profile roles. If anything, Elizabeth has found a much better career as a professional poker player and her charity work. She even says she regrets doffing it all in the past although many of her fans will claim otherwise. While she had a memorable turn, Elizabeth never quite rose to the fame some thought she would.
6 Thora Birch
In the early 1990s, Thora Birch was a popular child actress in movies like Patriot Games, Now and Then and the beloved Halloween film Hocus Pocus. In 1999, she showed she grew up nicely with her performance as the teen daughter in American Beauty. The acclaimed Oscar-winning drama won her huge praise for her performance, including a memorable topless scene. But she took a hit with her follow-up, Dungeons & Dragons, a notable flop. Birch got back in the limelight with the acclaimed drama Ghost World, but once more hit a slump.
A key factor was her refusal to break away from her agent father, a true stage dad type who controlled her career and reportedly turned down several prime offers without even consulting his daughter first. Birch is making a bit of a comeback with several indie movies in 2017. However, given her child fame and the promise of Beauty, the woman should have been a lot more busy, showing how listening to your dad doesn’t always work out.
5 Mira Sorvino
Winning an Oscar is supposed to be the highlight of a career. However, if you get it early, it can be a burden, a huge level of expectations that sadly some can’t reach. Mira Sorvino fits into that category well. In 1995, she got attention for her role as a hooker in Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite which earned major acclaim. In a tough race, Sorvino won the Oscar, dedicating the win to her father, Paul, who broke down crying on camera. He should have been crying for how his daughter’s career would turn out as Sorvino never came close to matching that height.
She did score with the beloved comedy Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion but it was downhill from there. Her attempts at action (Mimic), drama (Summer of Sam) and more failed to make an impact and her career stalled majorly. She’s done some stuff like the sci-fi drama Falling Skies and the upcoming Condors. However, Sorvino is high on the list of Oscar winners whose careers are pretty much garbage and how some might deserve those awards revoked.
4 Elizabeth Berkley
It was a role meant to make her a huge star. Instead, it turned into a curse. Elizabeth Berkley won over teenage males as the brainy but beautiful Jessie on Saved By the Bell, very attractive with good talent (even the infamous “I’m so excited!” scene) and looked ready for more. In 1995, she was cast in the lead of Showgirls, Paul Verhooven’s highly anticipated look into the lives of strippers in Vegas. The idea of Berkley going nude was something impressive and led to anticipation of a major hit.
Instead, the film was ravaged by critics, mostly for Berkley’s nutty performance of dancing like she was having spasms, bad acting and one of the most laughable love scenes ever filmed. The movie was a flop and Berkley has openly compared it to “having a scarlet letter on my chest.” She’s landed a few parts here and there but nothing like what most believed she was going to be capable of as Showgirls continues to follow her around and a reason she’s not taken seriously in Hollywood.
3 Gretchen Mol
Folks love to joke about the “Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx” where a team is shown on a cover and then suffers a serious loss. Vanity Fair showed they may have had their own version as well. In late 1998, they featured Gretchen Mol with the line “Hollywood’s Next It Girl”. At the time, the lovely blonde was about to star in a pair of very anticipated movies, Rounders (with Matt Damon) and Celebrity and poised for more. But both movies failed to take off as anticipated by critics and audiences and Mol suffered for it.
Her roles followed in films like The Thirteenth Floor and 3:10 to Yuma but she still didn’t get recognition and any “It Girl” flavor ran out very fast. Mol eventually found her way to television, finally getting some attention with her part on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and the current series Chance. She openly admits the early hype might have been too much to help her succeed and this VF was pretty off on their pick of her as the next starlet.
2 Linda Fiorentino
Linda Fiorentino had been bouncing around in Hollywood for a while, such as 1985’s Vision Quest. In 1994, she took things by storm with her role as a twisted femme fatale in The Last Seduction. It earned her a huge wave of acclaim, including several awards and the best female performance of the year. But since the movie had aired on HBO first, the Academy deemed her ineligible for the Oscar which caused a big outcry. Still, it led to further roles such as Jade and Men in Black. In 1999, she starred in Dogma but by this point, word had gotten around that Fiorentino was one of the worst people in the business to work with.
She was hot-tempered, egotistical and threw herself around as if she was an A-list star when she really wasn’t. Fiorentino’s career soon slumped big time as she hasn’t done a movie since 2002. She’s been mostly forgotten to the point that her website now shows images of homeless people. Most cite Fiorentino as a sad case of a woman with the beauty and talent to be a star but her own ego has led her to be a forgotten name in Hollywood.
1 Sean Young
“I could have been Julia Roberts,” Sean Young claimed in an interview, and her filmography shows she had the chance. In the 1980s, she rose up mostly with her role in the acclaimed sci-fi film Blade Runner that made her famous with her cool beauty. She showed off (in more ways than one) in the likes of Stripes, Dune, and No Way Out and looked to be on the rise. She landed the role of Vicki Vale in Batman but an injury riding a horse caused her to have to bow out.
Then her attempts to get the part of Catwoman involved stalking Tim Burton in costume, a move Young herself admits was a terrible idea. Also, her reputation grew as someone very demanding and egotistical, something she claims has been massively overblown. The actress continues to work but mostly in lower-rung stuff, her biggest “credit” being her 1982-self used again in Blade Runner 2049. Young continues to claim she was denied chances by not playing the typical “Hollywood game” and such and one can wonder how things might have been with a few different turns.