15 Stars That Seemed to Have No Future, but a Special Role Got Them Back in the Spotlight
The life paths of stars are really unpredictable: today you are on the top and tomorrow nobody remembers your name. Most of the time, these things happen after scandals, bad roles, or when viewers just get tired of your image on the screen. Some actors and actresses can’t handle these situations and disappear from the spotlight but others find enough power to keep going and prove they are still worth our attention. Sometimes, all it takes is just one role that can get you back to the top of your game.
We at Bright Side decided to remember the films that gave a second life to our favorite actors and actresses.
1. Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Today, Phoenix is the winner of an Oscar and an idol for the public, but not so long ago, he was almost out of the Hollywood world completely. In 2009, Joaquin and Casey Affleck decided to make a pretty controversial movie called I’m Still Here. The idea was that for one year, Phoenix was supposed to act like an actor who was going crazy. And nobody was supposed to know about it. He stopped getting haircuts, started behaving in a really weird way, and said he was going to start to compose rap songs. People started laughing at him and then everyone found out that it was an unusual project. Nobody actually liked the joke and the film was a failure.
For one year, the actor didn’t have a job, but then he appeared in the leading role in The Master and things started to improve for him. He did the role in such an amazing way, that nobody doubted his talent. Since then, his career has been on the upswing.
2. Renée Zellweger, Judy
Most people know Renée Zellweger for her role in the comedy movie Bridget Jones’s Diary. But then the actress appeared in the musical Chicago and everyone found out that Renée was also a great singer. Then, she got the Oscar for her role in Cold Mountain. And then, something went wrong: Zellweger had a ton of plastic surgery and became almost impossible to recognize. It seemed that she had ended her career by herself.
But in 2019, Renée made a comeback as a dramatic actress when she portrayed the role of the legendary Judy Garland in the biographical film, Judy. It seems that she did really well in this role. Critics already called this project a rebirth of the star and a big triumph.
3. Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
What did we know about Matthew McConaughey before the 2010s? Only that he had a great body and a beautiful smile. So, he got similar roles: usually, he played attractive men in romantic comedies. At some point, producers and directors decided that this was the best he could do, so McConaughey didn’t get offered any serious roles for a long time. The only exception was The Lincoln Lawyer but it wasn’t a huge success.
The situation suddenly changed in 2013 when Matthew played one of the main roles in Dallas Buyers Club, that won him an Oscar. After this triumph, everyone realized that he was back in the spotlight. After that, he appeared in The Wolf of Wall Street, Interstellar, and of course, True Detective.
4. Robin Wright, House of Cards
Robin Wright became widely famous for the role of Kelly in Santa Barbara. Later, she appeared in the iconic film Forrest Gump, where she played Jenny, the love interest of the main character. It seemed like this was just the beginning of a long path to success, but it wasn’t. For several years, Robin appeared in average-quality films and disappeared from the focus of attention.
But in 2013, Netflix producers offered Wright one of the leading roles in the TV series House of Cards. By that time, Robin didn’t have her long blonde hair, and her new haircut was even a great match for the strict and smart woman she would be playing. The series was incredibly successful and the role of Claire won Wright her Golden Globe.
5. Tom Hardy, Bronson
This is hard to believe now, but at the beginning of the 2000s, Tom Hardy was not a star. He mostly appeared in B-movies or in supporting roles. Everything changed in 2008 when he played the main part in Bronson. In the film, Tom showed off his talent: he didn’t just transform by gaining more than 30 pounds, but he also did a great job acting too. He spent a long time communicating with the dangerous criminal Bronson, that he was going to portray.
His efforts were not for nothing and soon he appeared in 3 important movies: Inception, Warrior, and The Dark Knight Rises.
6. Winona Ryder, Black Swan
Winona Ryder’s career had been going up since the end of the 80s. She played roles in very different movies. In 2000, she appeared in the drama Autumn in New York, together with Richard Gere and it was a huge success for her. But one year later, the actress was arrested and charged with shoplifting in Beverly Hills. The court sentenced her to pay a huge fine, do community service, and take classes. Of course, her career didn’t benefit from any of these things.
Director Darren Aronofsky helped Winona by offering her a small role in his Oscar-winning drama Black Swan. Despite the fact that she only appeared for about 20 minutes, it was this film that made producers pay attention to the actress. Now, Winona is the star of Stranger Things.
7. Daniel Radcliffe, Swiss Army Man
When we think about Daniel Radcliffe, we instantly think about Harry Potter. It is not surprising because the young actor got the role of the wizard when he was only 11 years old. And since then, Radcliffe had been trapped in this image. Neither the fans nor the producers could see him as anyone but Harry Potter. At some point, because of all the fame and attention, Radcliffe was stressed and started drinking. Many people even thought that nothing good was going to become of his career — after 8 Harry Potter movies, Daniel appeared in very average roles.
Fortunately, in 2016, the actor got a role in a very unusual film — Swiss Army Man. This project discovered his dramatic acting potential.
8. Mandy Moore, This Is Us
Mandy Moore started her career as a singer and she got her first role in a movie in 2001. It was the teenage comedy The Princess Diaries. Then, she had the main roles in A Walk to Remember and American Dreamz. Even though she did a great job in these roles, her career wasn’t not progressing much. For years, Mandy only appeared in small roles in movies and series.
2016 was a breakthrough for the actress. NBC started a new series called This Is Us and Mandy got the main role. She showed both her acting and her singing skills in the series. She got her first nomination for the Golden Globe and got her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
9. Robert Pattinson, The Lost City of Z
Robert Pattinson didn’t become successful right away — it was really hard for him to stop being so shy. It was a problem in his early projects. But at some point, Pattinson decided to fight this problem: he became a model, started acting in the theater, and went to different auditions. Then, he got a role in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. And his true success was when he appeared in Twilight. But Pattinson didn’t want to get stuck in the role of Edward the vampire.
The actor spent several years trying to shake off the image of the perfect man. The adventure film The Lost City of Z really helped him with that. In the film, Pattinson played a very new role for him that the critics really loved and after that, he was offered a lot of different roles.
10. Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Steve Carell is a great comedian. During his entire career, he’s played pretty typical comedy roles. Some films got bad reviews, some got pretty good ones (Steve even won a Golden Globe) but producers still didn’t believe that he was good enough to play in more serious films.
But everything changed in 2014 when Carell was offered a chance to change directions and take part in the drama Foxcatcher. Everyone was so amazed when the actor did his job perfectly and played the cold millionaire, John du Pont. He was even nominated for an Oscar for this.
11. Drew Barrymore, Charlie’s Angels
Drew Barrymore became popular back when she was a child: she played the main role in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Unfortunately, being popular at such a young age didn’t make her very happy — Drew was in rehab twice when she was 15 years old. It is no wonder that this story tainted the reputation of the actress and producers were not very eager to give her a job. But she wasn’t going to give up and she decided to show everyone that she could still be famous and successful.
The film The Wedding Singer helped her get back to the cinema world, but she became truly successful after the action film Charlie’s Angels was released. Since then, Barrymore has always been in the spotlight. Now, she is the star of Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet.
12. Shia LaBeouf, Lawless
Shia LaBeouf also became famous when he was a child. He appeared in the film Holes. Then, he became really popular thanks to his role in the blockbuster Transformers. But then, he must have taken a wrong turn: the press was full of news about his drug and alcohol problems. The name LaBeouf became a synonym for “catastrophe”: he did some really weird stuff and was involved in some extremely controversial performances. Some people even thought he had lost his mind.
But then, Shia LaBeouf pulled himself together and, in 2012, he appeared in the criminal drama Lawless, together with Tom Hardy and Jessica Chastain. The movie got very good reviews and his reputation was restored. Since then, the actor has appeared in very good films. And in 2019, he had 3 big projects: The Peanut Butter Falcon, The Tax Collector, and Honey Boy.
13. Gillian Anderson, Hannibal
Gillian Anderson, famous for her role as Scully in The X-Files, didn’t actually like this role. According to her, it took a lot of her energy and time. Yes, it was Scully that made her incredibly popular, but it was this same role that almost ruined her career. She even had to eventually leave the US and go to the UK to act in the theater and enjoy more serious projects.
It was her role in the TV series Hannibal that got her back on the screen. She played the role of a psychotherapist. She was different and way more elegant, making her the perfect choice for this role. By season 3, her character was one of the leads in the series. Now, Anderson is actively taking part in movies and series.
14. Michael Keaton, Birdman
At the end of the ’80s, Keaton became famous for his iconic role as Batman in Tim Burton’s films. But after that, his career went into a slump: he very rarely appeared in movies and they were not really successful. It is no wonder that he disappeared from the spotlight and developed a reputation as the actor of one role.
But in 2014, he made a comeback to the world of big movies in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman. Interestingly, in Birdman, he basically played himself. He was an actor that got trapped in one role. This is probably why he did such a great job. After this success, Michael was invited to be in the film Spotlight and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming.
15. Reese Witherspoon, Wild
The comedy film Legally Blonde made Reese Witherspoon famous and successful. She got her Golden Globe for this film and Elle Woods became her iconic role. Soon after that, a sequel was released that was also very successful in the box-office and this meant that Witherspoon was doomed to play the same role over and over again. It’s not that she didn’t have any other offers, but she just had a hard time discovering her full potential for a long time.
In 2014, she agreed to appear in the film Wild based on the autobiographical book by Cheryl Strayed. In the film, she decides to walk more than 1,000 miles alone in order to heal her trauma after a divorce and the death of her mother. It was this project that allowed the world to see Reese Witherspoon as a great dramatic actress. Since then, she has appeared in very powerful projects, like Big Little Lies and, most recently, Apple’s new release The Morning Show.
Which of these comebacks seems to be the most impressive for you? Maybe you have some other similar examples?