Don’t call it a comeback! Movie star careers that bounced back and some that just didn’t…

We take a look back at some resilient movie careers, and a few which are still waiting to spring back
Yes, you've got your Depps and your Pitts and your Jolies, those stars whose careers have risen steadily from role to role taking them to the top of the Hollywood heap, but then there's also your Rourkes, your Travoltas and your Downey Jrs, actors whose career trajectories have experienced a few violent swerves and crash-landed into a skip along the way. Let's see what history has taught us about whether there's ever life for former stars after TV films and movies about talking dogs...

John Travolta

This has to be one of the greatest comebacks of all time. Travolta’s fall from the glittery 70s pedestal he clambered up to with Saturday Night Fever and Grease led to a lengthy Kirstie Alley-related slump.
After not two but three Look Who’s Talking movies (including that one with a dog), the dimple-chinned former king of the dance floor was about ready to take an early bath. Enter a plucky former video shop clerk with a similarly impressive chin and a taste for kitsch iconography, and
Travolta was reborn as an icon.
When Quentin Tarantino signed John Travolta up to play hit man Vincent Vega for his follow-up to Reservoir Dogs, many people couldn’t understand his logic.  But Travolta’s performance in Pulp Fiction put him back on the Hollywood map and specifically, back on the dance floor. The role then paved the way for a few more box office successes including Get Shorty andFace Off, and next year sees Mr Vincent Vega attached to a bunch of roles including Oliver Stone’s The Savages and Sly Stallone’s testosterone-fest The Expendables 2. Bravo Mr Tarantino, we’ll never question you again.

Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr. was, for a big portion of his career, better known for his antics off-screen than on. After a promising start with a great performance in Chaplin, and cult 80s roles including Weird Science, Downey Jr. may have got a bit too method when he took on the role of addict Julian in the film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero.
After being arrested for drug possession repeatedly during the late 90s and serving time in prison during 2000, Downey Jr. seemed like another young talent lost to banal Hollywood cliché. Things began to turn around, weirdly enough following a stint in Ally McBeal (it’s the first time we’ve heard that an actor came out of that cast healthier than when they went in), after which he appeared in a number of films that showcased his talents including The Singing Detective and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
But it was Downey Jr.’s role as Tony Stark in Iron Man that pushed him back into the limelight, followed up almost as quickly by taking the lead in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. He’s set to reprise both of those roles in coming months with next year’s massively anticipated The Avengers and this winter’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

Mickey Rourke

Oh Mickey Rourke, with your face like a deflated circus tent, whither your career in the years between 1990 and 2000? This formerly hot star who sizzled his way through the incredibly rude Nine ½ Weeks (tip: don’t watch it with your mum) went the way of so many actors after his initial burst of fame, piddling it all away in a strange cocktail of booze and professional boxing.
There was a time when you’d have been more likely to find Rourke on the cutting room floor or the bathroom floor than on the big screen. After a string of straight to video releases, TV movies and personal strife, it was Tarantino’s pal Robert Rodriguez who gave the gnarled, beefcake actor a role. And then another one, as Marv in 2005’s Frank Miller adaptation Sin City.
It was Darren Aronofsky though, who had the vision to make what was essentially a version of Rourke’s real-life career on screen in The Wrestler. As we’ve learned from experience, even Eminem can play himself, and the movie was a massive hit. A newly cleaned-up Rourke was nominated for an Academy Award, landed himself the villain’s part in Iron Man 2 opposite fellow comeback kid Robert Downey Jr. Now happily ensconced back in the fold, we’re about to see Rourke literally playing a God in Tarsem Singh’s Immortals, out later this year.

Sandra Bullock 

Technically, Sandra Bullock never really went away, having ticked up a steady list of IMDB credits over the last 20-odd years, but the last few years have seen her make a huge comeback in the ‘being taken seriously’ stakes.
It’s never a good sign for a career when the actor’s the last remaining member of a franchise to stick around. Like those folk who insist on getting out Twister during the death throes of a party, dogged in their belief that everyone’s still having fun, hanging on while your co-stars have jumped ship just isn’t a good look. Sandra Bullock signed on for Speed 2: Cruise Control in 1997, just about the time Keanu Reeves received a script for some movie called The Matrix. It didn’t really make for a flattering comparison.
Known and loved primarily for rom-coms, after a few years of peddling out the likes of Miss Congeniality 2 (not a patch on the first), it was Bullock’s performance in race/class drama Crash that pegged her as someone to be taken more seriously. She cemented that impression with a stand-out role in The Blind Side, going on to win Best Actress at the Academy Awards. In your face Reeves!
So now to the careers that are still waiting for their comeback to arrive… Some of them might be waiting for a long time.

Lindsay Lohan 

Ah, poor Lindsay. Not a day goes by without some celebrity mag dishing new dirt on the girl, it doesn’t of course help that she has constant run-ins with the law. So when it was announced she would have a small part in Robert Rodriguez’s Machete,many people thought this would be the turn around her career desperately needed which had a promising start with Mean Girls and her previous Disney work (let’s not forget this is where Anne Hathaway started too). Sadly, the film didn’t do so well and Lindsay’s performance received a lukewarm reception, it seems we’re going to have to wait for that comeback film she has in her.

Mel Gibson

The jury’s still very much out on whether Gibson can ever be welcomed back into the Hollywood fold after saying and doing some truly reprehensible things (and no, we don’t mean that M. Night Shyamalan film).
Gibson’s decision to return to the big screen after a number of high profile clashes with the law, his wife and some ill choice statements was always going to cause a stir. The fact the chosen film was about a man who uses a puppet of a beaver to communicate with others made it even more interesting. The film debuted at Cannes this year and opened to some very positive reviews, however, the box office was not so kind and it only pulled in $104,000 (£63,000) in its first week of release in the US. Whether this poor turnout at the box office was due to the subject matter of the film or Mel Gibson’s failing acting career remains to be seen. Gibson is currently working on How I Spent My Summer Vacation a film he has written and plans to star in. It will be interesting to see how this next venture of his fares with the cinema-going audience.

Sylvester Stallone 

On paper, everything about The Expendables sounded great. A bunch of ‘80s action heroes teaming up again with some newer faces was every action nerd’s wet dream. It seemed set to revive one career in particular, Sylvester Stallone’s. But with everything the film promised, it didn’t deliver as much as was expected and received pretty mixed reviews, even hard-core action fans had trouble with the end product. It hasn’t stopped a sequel pressing on though, which is currently in the works and starring comeback King Mickey Rourke, but still, this was not the bright return for Stallone people were expecting.

Winona Ryder

After landing the part of kooky Lydia in Tim Burton’s debut feature, Beetlejuice in 1988, things looked peachy for Winona Ryder. With a lead role in cult 80s high school flick Heathers, then a reunion with Burton for Edward Scissorhands, the petite brunette was on top of the pile. It was a couple of period roles though, which started the slow unravelling of things. Forced as unnaturally into her corsets as she was her English accent, Ryder’s performances in Dracula and The Age of Innocence asked a little too much, and the results weren’t flattering.
Still, the parts came Ryder’s way, including an action role in Alien: Resurrection and the lead in ‘crazy girls are hot’ feature, Girl, Interrupted. Unfortunately for the lead, Angelina Jolie walked away with that movie, and went on to enjoy the career previously pegged out for Ryder. What followed were a series of smaller roles, some personal scandals and a whole lot of unfulfilled expectations.
Aronofsky, brilliantly, yet in an act of cruel accuracy, cast Ryder as a has-been prima ballerina in his masterwork Black Swan. Ryder plays Beth, a character now too old and too damaged to be the star she once was, driven to madness and replaced by young ingénue Nina (Natalie Portman). Can Ryder climb her way back up to the top with a series of similarly mature parts? Watch this space.
By Charlotte Stear and Movie Reviews

on Thu, 09/01/2011 - 08:50