It’s become almost a cliché in Hollywood. A young actor or actress (occasionally singer) comes out of nowhere to be a huge hit. They have a hot TV show or movie, they’re amazingly popular, millions adore them and they rise up fast. Then, as soon as they get to adulthood, things change. Their fans find new stars to like and their heat dies down. They’re deemed too old for their usual parts but too young for better fare. Soon, many fall into drinking and drugs and slump badly. Before long, they’re reduced to, at best, reality TV or some lame game show. At worse, they end up in rehab, jail or the grave. It’s an old story, one that’s been around for decades as many a teen star who seemed to have a great future has had it all vanish.
But every now and then someone is able to buck those odds. They hit the slow patches, the hard times and even jail or rehab, but rather than have it ruin their careers, they manage to return and sometimes they’re better than ever. Hollywood can be amazingly forgiving and loves a comeback. Many a celebrity has been able to use that. Some are downright inspirational with how they sunk so low but roared back to amazing prominence. It’s not just ones who had slow patches, but some who really and truly hit bottom (or close to it) and managed to survive. It’s amazing to see how some can come back from situations that have sunk others and prove you can’t truly write anyone off.
16. Jason Bateman
True, he didn’t hit as bad as others in terms of addictions and such. But it can’t be denied that for a very long period, Jason Bateman was basically a C-lister at best. He was 13 when he broke out as the best friend on the hit comedy Silver Spoons. He so charmed producers that they gave him his own comedy, It’s Your Move which lasted one season but garnered a cult audience. He found bigger success with The Hogan Family and soon making several movies like Teen Wolf Too. However, as the 1990s drew, Bateman’s stock fell majorly. He was soon doing one season TV shows and forgettable appearances in little-seen movies. Bateman has acknowledged it was a rough time and that he got badly into cocaine which cost him his marriage.
In 2003, a now sober Bateman was cast in the Fox comedy Arrested Development. Hailed by critics as the funniest show on TV, the series won an Emmy for Best Comedy and Bateman earned a Golden Globe. By that point, Bateman had become a certified movie star with Juno, Horrible Bosses and Identity Thief showing his great comic talent.
15. Miley Cyrus
Some might say she didn’t sink as far as others but it can’t be denied there was a time not that long ago when it looked like Miley Cyrus was going to come apart. The daughter of country star Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley had her life changed when she was cast as Hannah Montana. The Disney Channel show was not just a hit but a full-fledged phenomenon with a concert tour that made Cyrus famous. As the show ended, she seemed ready to embrace a good pop style and continue being a role model to young girls. But then Cyrus transformed into a sexpot with her now infamous VMA performance and wild behavior. From multiple nude spreads in magazines to seen smoking and drinking, Cyrus looked like an ugly picture forming and drove away many fans, putting her career in jeopardy.
But just as it looked like Cyrus was about to have a huge breakdown, she smartly remade herself again. Becoming a judge on The Voice, Cyrus cleaned herself up, dropping the more sexy outfits and wild antics. Her tenure was well accepted for her smarts and good style. Also, her latest album has a stripped-down style that seems much more authentic and a hit with critics and fans alike.
14. Selena Gomez
The Disney machine has given quite a few starlets, some who have had better success as adults than others. Selena Gomez was marked for success early with appearances on Hannah Montana and other shows. She came to fame on Wizards of Waverly Place and some Disney Channel movies. Soon with hit albums and touring, Gomez also became prominent with her relationship with Justin Bieber to push her up.
But behind the scenes, Gomez had problems dealing with lupus as well as depression. In 2014, she checked herself into rehab to try and recover to get herself back on track. Even bigger was that Gomez’s health was shakier than most believed. In fall of 2017, she rocked fans by revealing she had needed a kidney transplant to try and recover fully from her illness. Thankfully, her good friend Francia Raisa was willing to give one up to let Gomez recover. Gomez is now back touring and singing and proving herself a star overcoming most anything to show she really has some magic to her.
13. Demi Lovato
Many a Disney Channel starlet has grown up in the public eye. But few have done so like Demi Lovato. A lovely brunette, she rose up starring in the hit movie Camp Rock and showed both singing talent and drive. This led to her own hit comedy Sonny With a Chance and Lovato helped with her friendship with Selena Gomez (including the Channel movie Princess Protection Program) and a good singing career. Without warning, Lovato canceled a tour in 2010 as she entered rehab for issues involving depression, weight loss, cutting and drug use. It was shocking as most thought her put together but she confessed she’d been a total wreck under the pressure of fame and was on a downward spiral.
Thankfully, Lovato not only emerged from this but came out stronger than ever. She has stated she found a new confidence facing her issues as shown by a hotter and sexier image (including going nude for a Vanity Fair shoot). She’s also become a role model for teens facing their own issues and her songs speak about being yourself. Lovato has continued with several hit albums and awards and proven that the dark times can lead to a brighter future.
12. Natasha Lyonne
With her dazzling red hair and great smile, Natasha Lyonne stood out well when she broke out in the late 1990s with the American Pie movies. She was great and charming and with so much going for her, it looked like her career was going to be great. But Lyonne fell into addictions to drugs and drinking that got her arrested and even evicted. In 2005, she was in the hospital for hepatitis C, a heart infection and a collapsed lung on top of a heroin addiction. That was rock bottom for her but Lyonne managed to build herself back up. After taking a few years to get clean and sober, Lyonne worked her way back up in theater to build up a bit more cred and win back favors. In 2013, she was cast in Orange is the New Black with many citing her as a great part of the series. Lyonne is open about her past problems and shown she’s recovered well from that terrible skid she was on.
Stacy Ferguson had her start voicing Sally Brown on the old Peanuts cartoon specials. That led to the kid singing show Kids Incorporated which showed off her fine voice. She seemed promising but her first attempts at rock stardom faltered with her band ignored. Not helping was Ferguson’s attitude as she was deeply into crystal meth use and sleeping around with both men and women alike.
It took a few years before she could finally sober herself up and get back on track. That led to her helping form the Black Eyed Peas and soon a Grammy-winning songstress. A hit solo album followed as Fergie was known for her great beauty and drive with performances from movies to the Super Bowl. She took a break due to marriage to Josh Duhamel which recently ended. Fergie is back in the spotlight with a new solo album and ready to take off well with her great drive and talent. Thus, Fergie showed leaving behind her rough past leads to a good future.
10. Britney Spears
This may be argued but there’s no denying Britney Spears has hit the skids a lot. A former Mouseketeer, Spears built herself up with a few singing gigs here and there. In 1999, she exploded onto the scene with her hit songs and her amazing sex appeal. With her dancing, her moves and her charisma, Britney was a hit and gracing everything from TV to movies to posters and magazine spreads. However, in the 2000s, Britney hit a very bad patch. There was a quickie marriage-divorce in Vegas; her troubled relationship with Kevin Federline; shaving her head bald and attacking a reporter with an umbrella, and her disastrous performance at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards. It all combined to transform Spears into a tabloid joke.
But give her credit, Britney didn’t back down. She kept at it, taking a break before going around rebuilding herself, concentrating on her music. The result was a couple of successful albums that showed a more mature side to herself. Spears also landed a gig in Las Vegas which became a sellout show and has placed Spears eighth on the list of highest earning female performers. Thus, while some may still crack about her, Spears has the last laugh as she’s rebounded from being a joke to a star all over again.
9. Jodie Sweetin
Like so many of the cast of Full House, Jodie Sweetin had little idea the small comedy was going to become not just a hit but the cornerstone of the ABC TGIF line-up. She started off as Stephanie, the middle child whose “how rude!” line became a catchphrase. Sweetin grew up with the show from a little girl to a teenager and seemed to be handling it well. But behind the scenes, she was having issues, drinking as the show ended at only 14. Over the next 15 years, Sweetin was doing drugs regularly and is open today on how deep in denial she was over her obvious problems. This included how she addressed a college class while coming off a two-day bender of cocaine and ecstasy.
Thankfully, Sweetin has managed to kick the habit and talked of her struggles in a book. The series Hollywood Darlings has Sweetin playing a fictional version of herself who reflects on her drug use days with some humor as well as her past fame. Things have come full circle as Sweetin is back playing Stephanie on Fuller House and charming as ever to show she’s grown up in more ways than one.
8. Kirsten Dunst
Kirsten Dunst had a terrific debut as the vampire Claudia in Interview With the Vampire, critics raving about her amazing talent and depth. She worked her way in other movies like Jumanji, The Virgin Suicides and hit major box office success with Bring It On. Her role as Mary Jane Watson in the Spider-Man movies made her a major box office name and raves for her turn in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Dunst seemed to be going great but in 2008, suddenly checked herself into rehab for issues involving depression and rumored substance abuse. That made her a bit hard to touch by producers and thus written off as another young burnout. In 2011, Dunst starred in the acclaimed drama Melancholia, winning massive raves for her performance. She’s kept it up with an appearance on the TV show Fargo and The Beguiled and back on track as a rising starlet, showing that some actresses truly have the talent to survive what could have been a career come down.
7. Alyssa Milano
Only seven when she started acting, Alyssa Milano had bit parts in some theater stuff and a breakout as the imperiled daughter in the action classic Commando. She got famous as Samantha, the tomboy daughter on the hit comedy Who’s the Boss? For its eight seasons, Milano grew up from a gal downplaying her looks into a truly beautiful young woman. After the show ended, Milano saw a slump in roles offered to her and even a few issues involving a bit too much partying. She tried to shed her “kid” image by going nude in direct-to-video fare like Embrace of the Vampire but that didn’t seem to do much. However, in 1996, Milano got a role on Melrose Place and was fun in it. That led to her landing a lead role in the hit Charmed that made her more popular than ever. Milano has kept busy with acting and motherhood and projects such as Mistresses and remains a hot lady to see rebound from a rough stint.
6. Drew Barrymore
She really is the poster girl for a woman who seemed a mess but bounced back nicely. Drew Barrymore was a breakout in the early 1980s as the adorable little girl in E.T. That monster success led to more hits like Firestarter and Irreconcilable Differences. But in her teen years, Barrymore hit the bad part of addictions big time. She was into hardcore drinking and drug use as well as sleeping around worse than most adults, sent to rehab at just 14. By the early 1990s, she was regularly cited as an example of a once good star fallen into crap like Poison Ivy.
However, Barrymore began to slowly but surely build herself up as a dependable actress in the likes of Boys on the Side, Scream and the Wedding Singer. 1999’s Never Been Kissed was a hit as Barrymore then helped produce and star in the smash Charlie’s Angels. Barrymore stands tall amid the ranks of a gal who looked like a teen washout but rebuilt her career big time.
5. Mickey Rooney
In 1983, Mickey Rooney was given an honorary Academy Award at the ceremony. In his speech, he was up front on how “When I was 19 years old, I was the number one star in the world. When I was 40, nobody wanted me.” Rooney broke out in the 1930s as a child star in various movies and a hit with audiences. He and Judy Garland came together for a series of musicals that were huge hits and made Rooney box office gold. Rooney then spent time with the military in World War II, earning a Bronze medal and mixing entertaining the troops with combat stops. However, when he returned, he was deemed no longer young enough for juvenile roles but also not old enough for dramatic parts.
Thus, Rooney spent several decades on the lower skids of Hollywood, the occasional TV appearance and low-budget movie and while he had the odd good part (Requiem of a Heavyweight), he was considered a has-been. In 1979, Rooney was cast in the Broadway revue Sugar Babies, a hit that ran for three years. At the same time, he starred in The Black Stallion, which earned him a Golden Globe and an Oscar nod. Rooney later won an Emmy for a TV movie and soon was popular again for roles playing into his legendary comedic status.
4. Christina Ricci
A rising starlet in a few minor projects, Christina Ricci came to fame as Wednesday Addams in 1991’s The Addams Family. Her cool portrayal of a total sociopath won over audiences and made the movie a hit. Ricci was soon in demand for a sequel as well as films like Casper, Now & Then and then proved herself able to move into adult roles with The Opposite of Sex. She earned raves for her role in Monster that promised more success to come.
Yet Ricci was struck by issues involving her weight, troubled by it and fluctuated between overweight and nearly skeletal which made her seem unreliable. Thus, she entered a shallow period in roles with the odd blockbuster (Speed Racer was a flop) and some indies but not really any breakouts. However, Ricci did manage to get herself under control and handle her problems before they got worse. She moved to television like Pan Am, The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, and Z and has gotten good attention there. Ricci prefers indies to mainstream Hollywood to challenge her more and has discussed her dislike of the politics of the major studios. Thus, she seems happier in a smaller limelight to avoid the troubles that led to problems in the past.
3. Alisan Porter
In the early 1990s, John Hughes had created a method of boosting young actors to fame such as with Home Alone. Curly Sue centered around the title character, a young girl working with her con artist father who gets a shot at the good life. The posters showed the cute girl with a tough attitude on display and Alisan Porter was charming in the part. This looked to open huge doors in Hollywood but somehow it didn’t happen. Instead, Porter was lost amid the other cute actresses of the time and that led to a downward spiral. Sadly, Porter soon fell into drinking and drug use, in and out of rehab and quite a few bad relationships. In 2007, she finally decided to get sober and rebuild her life, getting married with some kids. In 2016, Porter made a return on The Voice with both audiences and the judges surprised to realize who she was. She ended up winning the competition and moving to a singing career, showing the former Curly Sue still has some good pipes on her.
2. Danny Bonaduce
For years, he was the poster child for teen stars gone wild. Danny Bonaduce was eleven when cast in The Partridge Family, the classic comedy of a family touring as a band. His character was the sneaky one who had some scheming but still worked with the family to succeed. Bonaduce was a hit with audiences and led to some success as a singing star. But when the show ended, Bonaduce sunk and sunk badly, using drugs and drinking to excess. He was soon known as too poisonous to touch and his career dried up to the point he was actually homeless. Not helping was a few arrests for DUIs and assaults that made him a tabloid favorite.
In the 1990s, a now sober Bonaduce got a job as a radio host which soon led to success nationwide. He also began to play off his reputation, often appearing as himself on TV shows where he acted like a loon but in real life was known for a nice demeanor. Bonaduce has been open on his problems and even explained life for child stars to try and help some avoid his issues. Bonaduce has been cited as a guy who bounced back nicely from being at rock bottom and stronger than he once was.
1. Jackie Earle Haley
Born in California, Jackie Earle Haley first came to prominence as Leak in the hit The Bad News Bears. He reprised the role in two sequels, a fun actor with a good charm. He kept it up afterward, including 1979’s acclaimed Breaking Away that seemed to signal a new career. But Haley couldn’t quite make that transition, roles drying up from him. A major rumor is that he auditioned for a part in A Nightmare on Elm Street on behalf of friend Johnny Depp only for Depp to get the part instead. Haley was soon reduced to delivering pizzas and his career seemed over.
In 2006, Haley was encouraged by friends to give acting a try again. In Little Children, Haley’s performance as a pardoned molester moving to a small town was met with massive critical acclaim and earned him an Oscar nomination. He followed it up by playing Rorschach in Watchmen with many citing him as the best part of the movie. Haley has been busy since with various TV shows and movies and proving himself a great character actor, making many wonder how big a star he might have been without that career slump.
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