Ever since Hollywood has been in existence, it has tried to make new stars. A new big star can sell a movie, and once they're proven a success, they can sell many other movies. This is especially handy when the fickle viewing audience turns on a big-name actor with star power, or Real Life Writes the Plot and they do somethingscandalous. Having a long line of replacements always pays off, and you can never have too many major stars.
The Hollywood Hype Machine refers to the massive set-up that is in place to create said new stars, or new TV shows, books or movies. An aspiring, good-looking young actor, after getting a few noteworthy roles in indie films, TV shows, or their home country under his or her belt, will be chosen by a studio to be the "Next Big Thing" (or "It Girl" if female) and will thus get a major headlining role. They'll immediately appear in celebrity magazines and on entertainment programs and be touted as the Next Big Thing, and they'll give interviews in every medium possible. Several new roles will be announced at once. Tabloids will start following them around. Men's/women's interest magazines will be lining up to offer them a sexy photo shoot. They'll show up to host Saturday Night Live. They'll make People's list of the 50 Most Beautiful People and, if they're female, the "Top 100 Hottest Women" list of any men's magazine. Meanwhile, failed stars will suddenly drop off these lists. Did they suddenly become less good-looking? No, they're just not worth pushing any more.
If the resulting push succeeds, great. If it bombs...? Well, the star will linger for a year or two before disappearing, as people wonder "what the hell ever happened to...?". At best, they will continue working in indie flicks, low-key studio pictures, and television, and may even be able to mount a comeback later. At worst, they will be in rehab, unemployment lines, and "Where Are They Now?" specials (orworse). Sometimes, even if they're successful, the actors may get overwhelmed and suffer public burn-outs, become typecast or too associated with a particular role, or simply reject Hollywood for a normal life.
The Hollywood Hype Machine is very fickle, but has a never-ending supply of willing young stars and starlets ready to take the place of the old one. The reason that magazines, tabloids and TV shows (even ones unaffiliated with Hollywood studios) get into it is because, by pushing these new big stars, they can have big headlines and have paparazzi follow them around, thus selling more magazines and getting higher ratings.
Not even the might of the Hype Machine can determine what the public's tastes are going to be and while it can be powerful, it requires a certain delicacy of touch; trying too hard to make someone the Next Big Thing is a very good way of making the public sick of them very quickly. Still, The very existence of Hollywood and the television industry depends on fresh young talent. It's likely that every major star of today, good and bad, has at one point benefited from this.
Women seem more affected by this than men, perhaps as a result of roles and stardom coming to the most recent pretty new girl on the scene. As the female stars age, Hollywood decides they aren't pretty enough anymore, and casts the new young thing. Male stars, meanwhile, are offered a lot more leeway with their looks, and can even be downright unattractive (and can therefore get known for things besides their bodies), so they are less affected and are generally less replaceable. The main exceptions are, of course, young bishonen actors whose main purpose is to make young women squee their way to the theater. For every Leonardo DiCaprio who makes it to the top, there are countless young studs off of The WB or The CW who don't.
Compare Deader than Disco, Hype Aversion, Hype Backlash, Music Is Politics. Also compare it to the "star system" employed by the studios during the Golden Age of Hollywood, which this is effectively a modernized version of. A related term in Professional Wrestling is referred to by fans as "pushed to the moon." Basically, when the people backstage take a particular shine to a new wrestler, they're hyped ("pushed" in wrestling slang) and promoted well beyond their current skill set (both wrestling ability and characterization and ability to cut promos, known as "mic work.") Some can catch up and become superstars, others sadly can't.
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Examples that didn't hold up (try to keep to the particularly glaring examples)
Silent film actress Clara Bow was the original "It Girl" (because she starred in a movie calledIt). Natural charisma and an earthy sexuality uncommon for that era made her a huge star in the latter 1920s. She was able to overcome a thick Brooklyn accent and transition to talkies, but an exceedingly fragile psyche combined with an adversarial relationship with Paramount Pictures led to a nervous breakdown in 1931. Paramount fired her, and after an abortive comeback attempt she retired from movies at the age of 28.
Matthew McConaughey is a defining example. When A Time to Kill and Lone Star came out in 1996, he was called the "next Brad Pitt" and given a ton of new major roles. People covers soon followed, and he was expected to become the next A-list star. What ended up happening was a major string of box-office disappointments and minor roles over the course of the '00s, and he became instead known for appearing shirtless in "Celebrity Beach Body" specials, showing up in Direct-to-Video indie films, and being the romantic male lead in Chick Flicks. Not quite what was expected. It was only in the early '10s when he had a Career Resurrection as a "mature" leading man, with his acclaimed performances in The Lincoln Lawyer, Killer Joe, Magic Mike, and Mud.
Kate Hudson had a huge star-making role as a drugged-out groupie in Almost Famous. Immediately, she was given major role after major role in romantic comedies, all of which did middling business and resulted in critics (including Roger Ebert) hemming and hawing over how far she had fallen. Years of magazine covers, bikini shots, and other big movie roles haven't done much for her career, though that certainly hasn't stopped her from trying.
Alicia Silverstone wound up getting her career (built on the strength of Clueless) kicked out from under her by Batman & Robin.
Gretchen Mol was touted as another "It Girl" when she debuted in Rounders. It didn't pan out, with Rounders doing middling business, and even she (with newfound indie-cred from playing the lead role in The Notorious Bettie Page) admits that it was a particularly bad example of the Hollywood Hype Machine building up an unprepared starlet. She is doing quite well with films and a recurring role on critical favourite Boardwalk Empire.
Most of the "New Brat Pack" (a pun on the Brat Pack of The Eighties) that emerged from the American Pie movies ended up like this. Many of them got star pushes of different levels, but in the end, only Alyson Hannigan went on to bigger fame — and this most likely had more to do with her pre-Pie exposure on Buffy than anything else. Examples:
Shannon Elizabeth became a sex sensation after Pie came out. She showed up in countless men's magazines (including an all-nude shoot in Playboy) and got a half-dozen roles in films like Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Thir13en Ghosts, and Tomcats. Just a couple of years later, she was a bit player and was essentially gone from any mainstream Hollywood attention. This may or may not have to do with her decision to no longer do nudity in film, even though that was what made her a star in the first place. She's since become more famous as a professional poker player and as a Dancing With The Stars contestant, and though she does still act, most of her films now go Direct-to-Video and it's unlikely she'll do anything noteworthy anytime soon.
Mena Suvari, between Pie and American Beauty, got a decent push, but slowly vanished from the spotlight and is now best known for indie films.
Jason Biggs tried playing the same down-on-his-luck regular guy character (especially in The Loser) a bit too much, and he now mostly plays supporting roles in films like "My Best Friend's Girl" and "Over Her Dead Body"
Similar to Biggs, Seann William Scott did mostly the same kind of "big dumb happy guy" roles and mostly vanished from the limelight after the Hotter and SexierThe Dukes of Hazzard film came out. He now mostly plays supporting roles in films like Cop Out, however his roles in the Ice Age franchise has made him the most financially successful of his former cast mates.
Tara Reid had one of the better shots, but problems with drugs and alcohol, botched plastic surgery, and a penchant for carrying the Idiot Ball (though she claimed that she was only"acting" dumb, most people aren't sure of whether that's true or not) derailed her into a mess, though that still hasn't stopped her from doing DTV films.
Eddie Kaye Thomas (Finch) went from Pie to a series of "dorky, lovable loser" roles in films like the infamous flops Freddy Got Fingered and Dirty Love, as well as a string of DTV films rebranded under the "National Lampoon" banner. However, he has at least attempted to restore his cred in recent years with appearances in the Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle film series, as well as a starring voice on American Dad and the HBO series How To Make It In America. Only time will tell whether he can bring his star back.
Natasha Lyonne is an especially unhappy case. She got even more cred with But Im A Cheerleader, but a serious problem with drugs and alcohol, as well as health problems and extreme mental illness, have all but destroyed her career. There was even a period where she was living homeless on the streets of New York after being evicted from her apartment for her behavior. While she eventually managed to pull herself back together enough to return to acting (and make a cameo appearance in American Reunion), nowadays she's more likely to be discussed as the butt of jokes than for her talents.
Lindsay Lohan. This one wasn't related to any lack of talent — Meryl Streep, of all people, vouched for her acting ability, as did her Mean Girls co-star Tina Fey. Instead, her problems came from a combination of a disastrous relationship with her parents, chronic partying and drug/alcohol abuse (which eventually led to legal troubles), and a reputation for being a diva who often showed up to set late and hung over. Attempts to revitalize her career — most recently, the Lifetime biopic Liz And Dick — haven't been too successful to say the least. An awful case of What Could Have Been.
Paris Hilton. There's really too many to name in this topic... but we're gonna name them anyway. Unlike the other people on this list, this heiress and socialite did not earn her fame through "legitimate" routes (film, TV, music), but through a Home Porn Movie that was "leaked" online in advance of the debut of her Reality ShowThe Simple Life. Not only did the video turn her into a mega-star virtually overnight, it also established the home sex tape as a viable route for would-be celebrities and fading stars to boost their careers. She went on to channel her fame into careers in music and (non-pornographic) film, both of which have been non-starters, and the latter notable only for producing her performance in Repo! The Genetic Opera. Lately, she seems to have settled back into modeling and reality TV with her new show The World According To Paris — though unlike The Simple Life, this was cancelled after one season.
Marion Davies is a famous historical example, since it was William Randolph Hearst who financed her bid for movie stardom. While her looks were as good as people expected from a former Ziegfeld girl, and she was far more talented and off-screen amiable than her Roman à Clef opera singer counterpart in Citizen Kane, Hearst kept pushing for her to be cast in heavy-duty "respectable" dramatic roles when she was much better at comedy.
Jessica Biel seems to be headed this way, much to her fans' chagrin. Despite a lot of hype early on from 7th Heaven, an amazing fitness-girl body that still frequently shows up in magazines, having a high-profile marriage to Justin Timberlake, and several potential break-out roles, she has had a string of critically trashed box-office bombs like Blade: Trinity and Stealth (a massive dud that also sank Jamie Foxx's post-Ray hype and, along with Poseidon, halted Josh Lucas's career in its tracks). When she finally got naked in a "serious" movie (hoping for the extra career boost that it usually provides hot, young, fading actresses), it was a straight-to-video stripper role (Powder Blue) that earned her zero legit cred — and sadly for all concerned, is more likely to be remembered as Patrick Swayze's final film. The bombing of the Total Recall 2012 remake, which reportedly cost Sony over $200 million in losses, seems to cement her even further into this. To date, despite being on tons of magazine covers, she's still just a minor star.
Denise Richards started out with mostly mediocre movies, but got breast implants and an all-star nude role in Wild Things, making her a household name (amongst men) overnight. A bit of the Hype Machine got underway, but most of her subsequent films were trashed by critics and weren't too successful at the box-office (with the exception of The World Is Not Enough, and that was hardly down to her), she stopped doing nudity and basically vanished from Hollywood within the year. A failed marriage to Charlie Sheen later, and she's now more tabloid-bait than an actual star.
Kate Bosworth had bit parts and a cancelled-after-one-season TV show on The WB called Young Americans before her starring role in Blue Crush. Once that hit, she was catapulted to the position of It Girl, hyped as the greatest and most beautiful actress of her generation (sometimes this phrase was used pretty much verbatim), and she became a regular tabloid and fashion mag staple because she was dating the premiere heartthrob of the time. Fast forwarding to 2010, and just about every film since Blue Crush, with the exception of Superman Returns, has been a critical and/or commercial failure, though not for lack of trying for that great comeback.
Rachel Bilson was something of a TV It Girl during her days on The OC Once that ended, Bilson did a few underperforming films like Jumper and forgettable TV appearances and, like Bosworth, is now mostly known for attending various Hollywood functions and getting paparazzi photos of herself performing mundane daily tasks.
However, she did score a TV series with Hart Of Dixie, which is setting up for a third season as of May 2013.
Rachael Leigh Cook first came to fame thanks to her role in a famous anti-heroin Public Service Announcementin which she demolishes a kitchen, and became a star proper when Shes All That came out. The flop of 2001's Josie and the Pussycats and, to a lesser extent, Antitrust and Texas Rangers (she had supporting roles in those films, and unluckily for her, they came out the same year as Josie) derailed her career, and she spent the following decade playing bit parts on television and various forgettable straight to DVD flicks. In recent years, however, she has had some success as a voiceover artist and plum guest roles in the likes of Psych and Ghost Whisperer, so a comeback isn't an entirely unrealistic prospect.
She currently stars in Perception, alongside Eric McCormack.
Kevin James rose to become the next top comedy star with the popularity of The King Of Queens and the success of Hitch marking high notes in his career. He then he took a downturn with I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry, which was criticized for for gay stereotyping, though he bounced back with Paul Blart: Mall Cop which became the highest grossing film released in January, then he took another downturn with The Zookeeper which received bad reviews and did mediocre business at the box-office. He isn't gone yet, but he dosen't have anywhere near the mainstream success he used to.
Pia Zadora is a notorious example from The Eighties. After years of bit parts (including a small role in Santa Claus Conquers The Martians as a child), her bid for fame started when she married billionaire Meshulam Riklis in 1977. Her career peaked in 1981, when she won the Golden Globe for Best New Star of the Year for the film Butterfly, which was largely financed by Riklis. However, it has long been rumored that Riklis had "bought" Pia her Golden Globe by financing lavish trips to Vegas for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, allegations not helped by the fact that her performance also won her two Razzies for Worst Actress and Worst New Star. She won the Worst Actress Razzie again the following year for her performance in The Lonely Ladynote She would go on to be named "Worst New Star of the Decade" in 1990 and being nominated for "Worst Actress of the Century" in 2000., a film that essentially killed her acting career and left her doing small parts and cameos. She wound up having far more success as a singer, even earning a Grammy nomination in 1984.
Elizabeth Berkley was supposed to be the Next Big Thing with Showgirls. Too bad that trainwreck of a film completely derailed whatever film career she may have had. The fallout was so bad that when she requested $2,500 to be interviewed for the V.I.P. DVD edition of the film, she was turned down. Ouch.
The CGI actress Aki Ross from Final Fantasy The Spirits Within was supposed to have a long "career". The intention was for the computer model created for the movie to be used in projects unrelated to Final Fantasy and spanning multiple media formats (movies, games, etc.). "She" even got a photo spread in Maxim, including a plot on their "Hottest Women" list, and was promoted as the very first in what would be a long line of virtual actors. The failure of the movie to even recoup its astronomical production costs, and the subsequent collapse of the studio that financed it, resulted in a somewhat shorter career than numerous magazines had been predicting. It also ensured that the trend of "virtual actors" was stillborn, no doubt leading many SAG members to breathe sighs of relief (and ensuring that the Hype Machine would remain necessary for the foreseeable future).
Chris Tucker was actually considered to be "the next Eddie Murphy" after Friday and the first Rush Hour movie in the mid-late '90s. Unfortunately, Tucker wasn't much motivated to branch out and capitalize immediately; he had become born-again during that time, and declined to reprise his role in Next Friday due to its raunchy content. The only movies that Tucker has done since 1998 have been the two sequels to Rush Hour (Tucker was apparently paid $20 million for Rush Hour 2). Tucker has seemed to be more passionate about his charity work, buddying up with the late Michael Jackson, and his stand-up. Rumor has it he was offered the same type roles over and over again, and turned them down out of frustration. However, with a major supporting role in the acclaimed comedy Silver Linings Playbook, he seems to be making a comeback.
Demi Moore has had various ups and downs, but has been hyped a lot. She was the most successful member of the '80s Brat Pack, and went on to some major success in The Eighties, but a string of huge box office bombs in The Nineties completely derailed her star. The Scarlet Letter was universally loathed by critics, and Striptease, a wannabe star-defining role for which she earned the then-highest paycheque of any female in Hollywood history, was another mega-bomb. She vanished for literally a decade, only resurfacing as Ashton Kutcher's new wife, and a storm of hype from her hot body (despite her age) in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle failed to amount to anything. Now, since her breakup with Kutcher and subsequent dating of an even younger man, she's best known as "that older chick who's into younger guys."
Jennifer Garner was promoted as the next big Action Girl after coming to public attention with the TV series Alias. But she turned out to be remarkably unsuccessful in headlining movies. Her big action film debut in Elektra flopped, whereupon she turned to romantic comedies and did only marginally better (13 Going on 30 being a minor hit). These days, she seems stuck in small supporting roles, such as in Juno, Valentines Day (with Jessica Biel, mentioned above), and the Arthur remake.
Shannyn Sossamon was another teen actor who was a media darling, having catapulted herself to the A-List in 2001-2002 with starring roles in A Knights Tale, 40 Days and 40 Nights, and The Rules Of Attraction. Afterwards, she spent the 2000's starring in a long string of DTV and indie films, as well as some TV work (most notably on the short-lived CBS vampire series Moonlight), but it failed to drum up any major following.
Nia Vardalos came out of nowhere to star in and write My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which became the biggest indie film and romantic comedy of all-time. After getting an Academy Award nomination for her script, big things were expected from her. However, her star fell as soon as it rose with a series of flops (the TV spinoff My Big Fat Greek Life, Connie and Carla) and she faded back into obscurity. A couple attempts at a comeback (starring in 2009's My Life in Ruins and writing 2011's Larry Crowne) have resulted in critical drubbing and box office failure (the latter was also a rare misstep for Tom Hanks).
Daniel Stern. While he wasn't much of a big name to begin with, he started off quite well being the epitome of Hey, It's That Guy! with supporting roles in smaller fare in the early 1980s, but then he changed when he co-stared in the 1982 comedy drama Diner, a film that was largely applauded by critics that it gave Stern a shed of light to being the next young comedy star in Hollywood (to the point where the producers of the Back to the Future series offered him the role of Biff Tannen, which he unfortunately turned down), and years later he got a voice part in the largely successful sitcom The Wonder Years, which would last over six seasons. His biggest career pushes, however, came with Home Alone and City Slickers, both of which grossed over the $100 million mark at the box office and renewed Hollywood producers' attention toward Stern. His newfound success, however, did not last long. While he tried to look for main roles in films, he still was degraded to the supporting role he had played in many of his works, and his works after City Slickers suffered heavily as a result. Home Alone 2 ended up grossing less than its predecessor, Rookie of the Year wasn't much of a hit, and City Slickers II nearly floppednote it was presumably made because main star, producer, and writer Billy Crystal suffered a severe Small Name, Big Ego case after the first film was released. After these snags, he was finally given a starring role in the two comedy movies Bushwhacked and Celtic Pride (which he intended to be Star-Making Roles for him), both of which fared so badly with critics that they were massive box office flops that literally obliterated all the hype Stern had built for his entire career. Since then, he's only made television appearances and direct-to-video movies, including turning down offers to reprise his role in the third and fourth Home Alone movies, and his comeback attempt in Whip It was a box office disaster, despite being applauded for his role.
Canadian actress Estella Warren got a huge push in 2001 when she starred as the love interest and femme fatale in two major Hollywood films — the remake of Planet of the Apes and the Sylvester Stallone racing film Driven. That, along with dating her Driven co-star Kip Purdue and landing a spot on Maxim's Hot 100 Babe List before she had a single film out, did a lot to jumpstart her fledgling career in spite of both films' middling box office and scathing reviews. However, Kangaroo Jack killed any momentum she had. What followed were a string of unsuccessful direct-to-video flops and indie films, along with an unsuccessful marketing push in 2005 (features in FHM and a supporting role in Mr And Mrs Smith, which was cut prior to the film's release). These days, she's more well-known for her tabloid antics (including trying to break out of a police station after being arrested) than her film career.
Sophie Marceau was expected by many to have a successful crossover in American films, having found success in her native France and having played major roles in Braveheart and the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough. However, a number of flops and a bizarre, rambling speech she made at the Cannes Film Festival in 1999 fast derailed her in the US. She still makes films, but many of them barely get released outside of France (you would think Ne te retourne pas, a film where she teams up with Monica Bellucci and which they embraced topless on the cover of Paris Match to promote, would have gotten a decent international push).
Edward Burns was heavily hyped as being a future voice in independent film after starring and directing in the acclaimed The Brothers McMullen in 1995. However, numerous attempts at trying to recapture the success of that film and his follow-up She's The One, combined with attempts to break into acting (despite those talents not being as good as his directing skills) and a failed attempt to make his ex-girlfriend a star, failed to catch on and his hype died out fast. He's still around, but most of his films (starring or directing), like A Sound Of Thunder and the One Missed Call remake, were critical and commercial failures and either go Direct-to-Video or get barely released.
Susan Ward was hyped as a potential "next big thing" after marrying one of the heads of Morgan Creek and having a movie built around her (The In Crowd). Then, the movie bombed and her hype fell as fast as it rose. Nowadays, she's known for her numerous plastic surgeries (which began before making the movie) rather than the numerous straight-to-DVD movies she appears in (or her regular role on the first two seasons of Make It Or Break It).
Nikki Blonsky is a rather sad example of this. After being heavily hyped for her role in Hairspray, a lot was expected of her. Sadly, Hollywood didn't know what to do with her and she's been mostly stuck being typecast as the fat girl in little-seen TV movies and the short-lived Huge. Her first post-Hairspray film role wasn't until four years later (a small role in the critically panned Waiting For Forever) and it's since been discovered that she's been working in a salon to pay the bills.
The younger actors in American Beauty, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, and Mena Suvari. The three got huge pushes from the movie but none of them ever really amounted to anything.
Suvari was probably the most successful, as she also got major hype from American Pie (detailed above), but all in all is not that big of a star.
Birch had already established herself before the film, but had a Star Derailing Role in the form of Dungeons & Dragons. She later won acclaim for Ghost World, but threw any momentum away when she refused to part ways with her father, whose Stage Dad tendencies cost her several major roles.
Bentley got some notable roles like the main antagonist in Ghost Rider, but an out-of-control drug habit seemed to have destroyed his career. However, he had no less than six films scheduled for released in 2012, including Seneca Crane in the successful film version of The Hunger Games, so only time will tell if he can make it work or disappear into oblivion.
Dougray Scott got a lot of hype after his role as Prince Charming in Ever After and soon became the front-runner for roles such as Wolverine and James Bond. But after Mission: Impossible II went over schedule, he was forced to give up the Wolverine role to a little-known Australian actor named Hugh Jackman. While Jackman became a huge star, Scott's career fell into a tailspin as he's spent much of his career toiling away in TV movies, short-lived TV series (plus a single season on Desperate Housewives, just as the show was beginning its long descent in ratings and buzz) and little-seen movies (his possible low point being the 2011 film Love's Kitchen, which grossed just £121 at the UK box office).
Emile Hirsch was a rising star who had built up much acclaim from films such as Into The Wild and Alpha Dog. Then the failure of Speed Racer (an attempt to turn him into a big star) more or less led his hype to dry up, as he would not appear in another lead role until the 2011 flop The Darkest Hour. Though he still has the occasional supporting role, Hirsch's time seems to have passed.
After appearing in a number of well-regarded supporting appearances in various films and TV shows, Brandon Routh got a massive push when he was cast in the role made famous by Christopher Reeve in Superman Returns in 2006. His Star-Making Role ended up being a dead end when the film received mixed reviews, general viewer apathy and (despite making $400 million at the box office) negative profit due to prior production costs. Routh then disappeared for two years before landing a pair of cameo roles in a couple of films (Zack And Miri Make A Porno, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) and a guest spot on the third season of Chuck, all of which failed to make much impact with audiences. His intended comeback in Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, based on a bestselling comic series, also flopped at the box office ($4 million against a $20 million budget). Barring a major hit, it seems like he'll be stuck making small indie projects for quite some time.
However, he developed a reputation for being egotistical and tough to work with, walked out of a planned movie adaptation of the SNL "Sprockets" sketches, and the Austin Powers sequels were met with frostier critical reactions (primarily due to vulgarity and Sequelitis) than the original had. A Star Derailing Role came with his critically roasted turn as The Cat In The Hat in 2003, which was so terrible that Dr. Seuss' estate has prohibited any more live-action adaptations of his works, and it was his last live-action leading role for five years. In the interim he continued with the Shrek franchise, but that went into decline with the third installment. 2008's The Love Guru was intended as a comeback vehicle but bombed spectacularly. With the Shrek saga closing out quietly in 2010, and no leading roles in the pipeline, early hopes that he would be the second coming of Peter Sellers have proven unfounded.
Martin Lawrence was one of the fastest rising comedic stars of the '90s. His sitcom, Martin, was incredibly popular, and then in 1995 he starred along with Will Smith in Bad Boys, which was the Star-Making Role for both actors.note For more emphasis on how far he's fallen, he was billed ahead of Will Smith. Unfortunately, real life drug issues and a sexual harassment suit would end the popular sitcom. On the film side, while Smith went on to star in other smashhits, Lawrence stuck with acting in comedies that only produced lukewarm responses (the first Big Mommas House and Wild Hogs arguably being exceptions).
Might come as a surprise, but Kadeem Hardison was actually fairly popular in the early '90s (at least in the black community). It was assumed (perhaps naively) that he was going to become a huge breakout star after A Different World ended. Needless to say, for whatever reason that never happened. It might be a case of both Critical Dissonance and Pop Culture Isolation. Same could be said for Jasmine Guy, and Lisa Bonet.
This actually happens to a lot of up and coming black actors, who ended up with mediocre or stalled careers after a fairly huge beginning. Examples include Nia Long, Larenz Tate, Bokeem Woodbine, Allen Payne, Thandie Newton, Derek Luke, Gabrielle Union, and Lisa Raye. Basically, let's just say every black "it" actor/actress that's not Will Smith, Samuel L. Jackson, or Denzel Washington has faced this. Again, a mix of Pop Culture Isolation, industry politics, and arguably racism play a part.
Anthony Mackie is a weird case. Some of his supporters find it frustrating that Mackie has been touted as one of Hollywood's future A listers (has appeared on the Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair along with Ryan Reynolds, Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Lawrence, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rashida Jones, Jesse Eisenberg, Garrett Hedlund, Noomi Rapace, Mila Kunis, Olivia Wilde, Andrew Garfield, and Jake Gyllenhaal) and yet remains the only male up and comer featured there that has yet to headline a major movie. People started saying he's stuck playing supportive roles as the Black Best Friend. He's been cast as The Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, though, so only time will tell if he will ever break out.
Megan Fox came out of Transformers as the new It Girl sex symbol, and promptly rode it to tons of covers, press coverage, etc. So far, however, it doesn't look good. Jennifer's Body and Jonah Hex were spectacular failures that seem to be sticking to her, her attempt to go indie with Passion Play failed (though her performance itself was praised), and she either left or got booted from the third Transformers film. Though she did get supporting roles in Friends With Kids and This Is 40 and she re-united with Michael Bay for the TMNT reboot, so while she's not quite the hot commodity people were expecting, she's still getting work nonetheless.
After the success of Garden State and the popularity of Scrubs, much was expected from Zach Braff. Then The Last Kiss (which he was given near-complete creative control over in an attempt to create another Garden State) fared so badly with critics and audiences that he more or less disappeared after the cancellation of the latter and little has been heard from him since (his first film project after this one was the little-seen 2011 film The High Cost of Living).
Much was expected from Freddie Highmore after his roles in Finding Neverland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (both of which paired him with megastar Johnny Depp). However, a series of flops (such as Arthur and the Invisibles and August Rush) and criticisms that his acting talent never improved past his earlier successes derailed his chances of a successful career in his teenage and adult years. An attempt to do an edgier role in The Art of Getting By resulted in awful reviews and low box office, signaling a potential end to his career as a leading man. In 2013 he moved to the small screen with Bates Motel, in which he plays a young Norman Bates.
The Sixth Sense got the then-eleven-year-old Haley Joel Osment an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in 1999, making him the hottest child actor since Macaulay Culkin. Unfortunately, his first film role afterward was as the saintly hero of Pay It Forward, a failed piece of Oscar Bait that became Snark Bait instead. He had one more chance to prove himself as a star with A.I.: Artificial Intelligence the following summer, but that film proved to be a divisive box-office underperformer. Afterward he did several films' worth of voiceover work for Disney and Secondhand Lions; his highest-profile gigs since then have been voicing Sora in the Kingdom Hearts video game franchise.
Examples that did hold up
Angelina Jolie. Years of indie-cred roles in Gia, Hackers, and other films paid off with a big push from Girl Interrupted in 1999, which won her the Best Supporting Actress Oscar and resulted in a near-endless push that got her big roles in such films as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Mr And Mrs Smith. When the latter got her together with Brad Pitt, the "Brangelina" media juggernaut was born. Clearly a major success story for everyone involved, as her films do generally well (though she stopped making them so quickly and focused on her home life and activist work), and the magazines get to make money off of her image (proof that being tabloid-bait isn't always a bad thing — only if that's all you're known for). Ironically, Jolie has stated on several occasions that she wants to give up acting for her growing family.
Tom Cruise got a big push in The Eighties, and tons of film roles. Virtually every one proved to be a success. Obviously, he kept on being famous and having huge box office smashes until he royally screwed up and went crazy in the mid-2000s, with the infamous couch-jumping incident on The Oprah Winfrey Show being the telltale sign of his downfall. Twenty years? A pretty good run. Currently, he and the Hype Machine are going into overdrive to re-make him as a successful A-Lister, as he pokes fun at himself with humorous roles, and tries to fit back into the "romantic Action Hero" archetype once again, with Mission: Impossible IV coming out to rave reviews. A Career Resurrection may not have been far away, but the recent divorce blindside has put everything right back into limbo.
Nicole Kidman received a big push after earning critical praise for her role in To Die For, and her career has held up pretty well since then. Though her career didn't really take off until Tom Cruise dumped her and she won an Oscar for her role in The Hours.
Heath Ledger started out as this in a big way, to the point where they even made a joke about it in Josie and the Pussycats. However, the reclusive Ledger went back to having a low profile until Brokeback Mountain established him as an actor to truly be taken seriously. Sadly, he then experienced the greatest career surge of all — a premature death. The Dark Knight helped establish his legacy, and at the very least, he will be more remembered for his latest work than for being a Teen Idol.
Leonardo DiCaprio. Being the romantic, bishonen male lead in Titanic the highest-grossing film (before inflation) of the 20th century will turn anyone into a star. However, while Titanic wound up getting hit hard with Hype Backlash and became Deader than Disco in less than a decade, DiCaprio's career and reputation managed to come out almost fully intact, thanks mainly to his work with Martin Scorsese, as well as the fact that, post-Titanic, he did very few movies to avoid over-exposing himself.
The same goes for his co-star Kate Winslet, who luckily had some cred under her belt before (including an Oscar nomination) and who chose her projects well, making her a critical darling and eventually landing an Oscar.
Sandra Bullock got her big push from Speed much like Keanu Reeves did. However, she has had much better luck channeling that into a long-lasting career. There was initial worry as the "Chick Flick" movement slowed down in the late '90s and she vanished for a while, but with a long string of more recent hit movies running through the Turn of the Millennium, including the two biggesthits of her career (one of which won her an Oscar) in 2009, there's no doubt about her place on the A-List.
Will Smith has had a huge one. Starting out as a comedic rap star, of all things, he had a pretty funny sitcom for years with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and had a decently-sized box office hit with the buddy-cop action movie Bad Boys. Then, starting with Independence Day and never stopping, he was showing up in one guaranteed A-List movie every other year. His comedies and action/explosion movies all make huge money (even his bombs make $100 million), and he has earned legit cred from his more artistic or serious movies. Today, he's an absolute A-Lister, and one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. Proof that the system can still work.
Julia Roberts got her huge push with Pretty Woman in 1990, and Hollywood got behind her as they rarely ever do for a female star not known for nudity. Twenty years later, she's still a bankable A-List star, though with less "legit" cred as she sticks to more mainstream, pedestrian "chick flicks" than serious films. Still, movies like Erin Brockovich gave her some critical acclaim (and in Erin's case, a Best Actress Oscar).
Gwyneth Paltrow got a huge amount of hype right from around Se7en and several high-profile romances with major Hollywood hunks (including Brad Pitt and Ben Affleck). Unlike most flash-in-the-pan hotties with famous boyfriends, she proved her acting chops and won an Oscar for Shakespeare In Love, had several hits (enough to offset the occasional bombs — and she was in her fair share, enough to derail almost any career), and has managed to become a legitimate star in her own right. Her movies are rarely blockbusters (Iron Man notwithstanding), but she has artistic cred and enough of a name to get almost any role (it's unlikely anyone regrets her being on Glee, especially after she won an Emmy).
Robert Downey, Jr. has been a Zig Zag with the Hype Machine. Starting off as a member of the Brat Pack in the 80's, Downey got his big break in the late '80s - early '90s which culminated with him getting an Oscar Nomination for his role as Charlie Chaplin in the biopic Chaplin. Unfortunately he had a real life downward spiral that led to drug abuses and arrests. After gaining sobriety in the mid 2000s, Downey returned to acting in the indie scene. He ended up making his Career Resurrection in 2008 with his starring role in Iron Man and has since then taken off and hasn't looked back since.
Ben Affleck, like Thurman, is an example of both failure and success in the Hype Machine. After Good Will Hunting and Armageddon, there was a period from 1998 through 2003 in which he was the biggest star in Hollywood. Then came Daredevil, Gigli, and the entire Bennifer saga, which derailed his career so badly that he wouldn't do any movies at all in 2005. He became a Hollywood punchline in the mid-'00s. However, he was able to quickly bounce back with "legit cred" in 2006 and after, not only as an actor in films like Hollywoodland, State of Play, and Company Men, but also as a director with the critically acclaimed crime dramas Gone Baby Gone and The Town. He's now comfortably married with kids to Jennifer Garner, and he mostly stays out of the tabloid limelight. In 2012 he topped himself by directing and starring in Argo, which went over big with critics and audiences and won three Academy Awards - although he wasn't nominated either for acting or directing, he still received one for Best Picture (this Oscar is awarded to a film's producers, which in this case included Affleck himself).
Examples on the fence
The entire cast of Friends were given countless movie roles the second that show became a sensation. The results have been mixed — Courteney Cox and Matthew Perry have gone back to TV (the former had a flop with Dirt, and while Cougar Town was initially a hit, declining ratings led to it being put on hiatus in the middle of S2, held for mid-season in S3, and pushed from ABC to TBS for S4; the latter is 0 for 3 with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Mr. Sunshine and Go On, though critics like his recurring appearances on The Good Wife). Matt LeBlanc made a series of hellacious bombs (he did Ed, a movie with a baseball-playing chimp, and Lost In Space... and then there was Joey) and currently starring in the low-rated but critically successful Showtime comedy series Episodes (playing himself, no less), David Schwimmer started directing, and Lisa Kudrow went for indie cred. They're serviceable careers for the most part, but nothing huge. Jennifer Aniston has fared the best so far — while she didn't headline a $100 million hit until 2011's Horrible Bosses (which arguably was helped out by the other heavyweights like Jason Bateman and Kevin Spacey in the film — she's never had a starring role do that well, and is mostly known for Romantic Comedies), she was fortunate enough not to have a major flop during the time in between, and at the very least she's treated like a major star by most of Hollywood.
Jude Law spent years as a bit player as well as earning two Oscar nominations for both The Talented Mr. Ripley and Cold Mountain before receiving his big Hollywood marketing push in 2004, starring in Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow, the remake of Alfie, and half a dozen other films. Chris Rock engaged in some Lampshade Hanging at his expense at the Oscars ceremony, making fun of how this "Tom CruiseLite" was receiving so much hype for what seemed to be no reason. Of course, every film either bombed or was a disappointment, and then he got caught cheating on his then-fiance Sienna Miller with his children's nanny. Oops. Even with his career damaged, however, Law has continued plugging away, with major roles in Sherlock Holmes, Repo Men, and other recent Hollywood films. It's a serviceable career, although not nearly the highly bankable, Cruise-style A-lister that the studios were hoping he would be.
Catherine Zeta-Jones made a major splash with her Fanservice-y role in The Mask Of Zorro, and instantly became a household name (internationally, anyway - she had already been fairly well-known for a while in the UK). Unfortunately, before she could get much work, she hooked up with Michael Douglas and practically vanished for years, only making the occasional movie like Chicago (for which she won an Oscar). She's still a name, but she could have been as A-List as anybody given enough of a push.
Orlando Bloom appeared in The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean trilogies and was one of the biggest stars of the early-mid '00s. Since then, his career has suffered several hits, including critical thrashing and Hype Backlash, but he works steadily in highly regarded (if small) productions, for which he is finally starting to receive positive attention from the critics. His career appears to be thriving, but it's doubtful it will reach its former stratospheric heights. By all accounts, this seems to be his intention (he reportedly turned down Jake Gyllenhaal's role in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time).note It seems fairly obvious that the role was written with him in mind and that Gyllenhaal was basically told "act as much like Orlando Bloom as possible." So he isn't wholly out of the loop...
Disney has started creating an alarming number of Kid Coms in recent years, starting with the success of Lizzie McGuire and Hilary Duff. With Duff, they managed to create a crossover starlet (with movies, TV shows, albums, and clothing lines coming out) of high repute. They immediately created a formula with this, spawning Hannah Montana and others, with all their myriad starlets being built up the exact same way. Most of them (although there are exceptions) have only received minor hype after their Disney shows' runs were finished, and have mostly failed to find real stardom outside of their original shows.
Ironically, Shia LaBeouf - who didn't get the hype machine from Disney like his contemporaries - has had the most post-Disney success due to being the star of the Transformers series. He's now in a similar predicament to Orlando Bloom, whether he'll find success outside of the major franchise that put him in the public eye.
The cast of the MTV reality show Laguna Beach fell under this. When it premiered, Laguna was the first teen-oriented reality series on the network, and rode a wave of commercial acclaim, teen mag appearances and ratings domination. The teenage cast members all attempted to parlay their exposure into different avenues (to various levels of success), with most falling into obscurity after high-profile appearances in series or films. Lauren Conrad made the jump to her own successful spinoff, The Hills, but left the program after several seasons to unsuccessfully try her hand at a fashion line. Kristin Cavallari took up Lauren's spot as the main character of The Hills, but she mostly does DTV films now. Jason Wahler is more well-known for his guest stint on Celebrity Rehab than any of his prior work. Audrina Patridge's self-titled spinoff didn't last long. Only Stephen Colletti from the first season (who parlayed his fame into a long-running role on One Tree Hill) has had a relative degree of success.
Jennifer Lopez practically became an A-list star overnight after her performance in Selena was praised by critics, and she followed it up with several critically acclaimed films such as Out Of Sight and The Cell. She also became noteworthy for being one of the few thespians who was able to successfully juggle both a singing and acting career. Though some critics were disappointed when she later switched over to starring in middling romantic comedies like The Wedding Planner, Monster In Law, and Maid In Manhattan, but her films were still successful box-office wise for the most part, and even the critically mauled Gigli didn't seem to stall her career much. But then she took a four-year break from her film career, and her first film since her break, The Back-Up Plan received worse reviews then any other film she's starred in so far, so while Lopez is still getting work in films (and television), it's pretty likely she'll never return to her former A-list status.
After a long string of appearances in failed pilots and short-lived series, Adrianne Palicki finally broke through the mainstream when she took the role of Tyra Landry in Friday Night Lights, which received significant critical and commercial acclaim. However, her roles after the series ended have been weak at best - she starred in the FOX flop Lone Star (cancelled after two episodes) and had the title role in a pilot for a Wonder Woman reboot, which wasn't picked up and was trashed by critics and fans. The Red Dawn 2012 remake was similarly torn apart by critics and bombed in theatres (32.5 million box office against a 65 million dollar budget), with Palicki's presence in the film barely getting a mention from most critics and viewers. At this point, it seems that any hope she has for a real career rest on G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
Ryan Gosling became a star with The Notebook and a critical darling with Half Nelson, and Hollywood seems intent on selling the idea that he is sexier than sex. It's debatable whether there's widespread audience agreement. His movies have done fairly well financially, but a lot of that could be the result of high-profile co-stars like George Clooney and Steve Carell. Critics still love him, but he has yet to headline a real blockbuster, and given that he tends to choose small-scale dramas over special-effects spectacles, he might never become another Tom Cruise or Will Smith. (It's possible or even probable that he prefers it that way, though.) It should be also noted that he's somewhat becoming typecasted after Drive, with all his upcoming or released projects being bend on giving him similar roles of tough guys in very violent actionesque flicks.
Too early to call
Emma Roberts was heavily hyped as being the next big thing due to her relation to Julia Roberts (she's her niece) and roles in a few high-profile movies. After an adaptation of Nancy Drew in 2007 (among other flops like Wild Child and 18.104.22.168., which both went Direct to DVD in North America), it looked that she was never going to break out. Despite the obvious fact that no one was biting, Hollywood continued to push her, which led to lackluster performances of Scream 4 and The Art of Getting By. Emma's still around, but it will take a major hit film to turn things around for her.
Taylor Lautner parlayed his good looks and fame from playing Jacob into the action movie Abduction, but it was panned by critics and flopped at the box office.
Kellan Lutz seems to be on even shakier ground, since his biggest claim to fame is being shirtless at every available opportunity. He recently dragged out the "I want to be taken seriously" line, but since he has yet to put his shirt back on, some people didn't really believe him. His first post-Twilight work is coming down the pipeline soon, so place your bets.
Gerard Butler. After roles in such films as Dracula 2000 and the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider sequel, People magazine predicted he would become a megastar upon the release of the movie version of the musical The Phantom of the Opera in 2004. However, not only was that film a modest performer at the box-office, but Butler turned out to be a big reason for the fandom's Broken Base. In early 2006, he finally attracted big-time attention via 300, and since then has alternated between action films (Gamer, Law Abiding Citizen) and Chick Flick/Romantic Comedy fare (P.S. I Love You, The Ugly Truth). He's getting plenty of work, but The Onion probably had a point when it joked that saying Butler is starring in a film is just false advertising.
Alexander Skarsgard is getting a lot of attention for True Blood and for dating former starlets, but what his current fans perceive as famewhoring and paparazzi baiting seems to be turning them off. He's on the fence until future efforts succeed in replenishing the ranks. Solid and Ho Yay-riffic work on Generation Kill seems to be doing the trick.
Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Hollywood seems entranced by the both of them, despite their continued failure to gain traction with audiences. The movie Bloom turned down, Prince of Persia, performed under expectations, and even Maggie's presence in The Dark Knight hasn't been enough to bolster her career, with most of the praise she received only being in comparison to Katie Holmes, the woman she replaced. Her unconventional facial appearance (big jowls and looking much older than the current crop of young starlets) is part of it as well. But the suits seem undeterred, so who knows? Maybe someday, one of them will hit it big. Family Guy, naturally, was not above pointing all of this out with a cutaway gag in which the two bickered over which one was "more offputting" and "more unappealing in a lead role."
Scarlett Johansson. An indie darling in the late '90s, she was crowned the new "It Girl" in 2003 on the back of her two acclaimed performances in Lost in Translation and Girl With A Pearl Earring. Her failure to secure an Oscar nomination for either film did a lot to stall her momentum, and her follow-ups were not nearly so well received. Luckily for her, Woody Allen declared her his latest muse and they made three films together, including one of his most popular latter-day films, Match Point. This kept her career on life support until she made a stab at a mainstream comeback with Iron Man 2 and The Avengers. It's too soon to say whether she'll be successful this time around.
Kristen Bell has been pushed heavily by Hollywood in the past few years, but it was her Forgetting Sarah Marshall co-stars, Mila Kunis and Russell Brand (himself in danger of this trope), who became bigger stars out of the deal. So far, she's decently well-known, but is nowhere near what Hollywood was hoping. Being cast in romantic comedies rather than the crime dramas that got her famous hasn't helped her at all.
Katherine Heigl. After several years of TV appearances in stuff like Roswell and Grey's Anatomy, she gained a lot of fans for her starring role in Knocked Up... only to throw them all away within weeks. Not long after Knocked Up came out, she did a very vocal interview where she attacked basically everyone involved in the film, calling director Judd Apatow a sexist and lead actor Seth Rogen a slob, among other things. Despite the backlash, her next two works, 27 Dresses and The Ugly Truth, did very well at the box office despite not-so-great reviews. However, her reputation took another hit when she criticized the writing of Grey's Anatomy publicly on multiple occasions and was eventually Put on a Bus (so bad was the backlash to her behavior that she did an interview with Entertainment Weekly to apologize for her antics). Since 2009, her films have opened under $16m and have grossed less than $60m total domestically, and in 2012, when she expressed interest in doing a return to Grey's Anatomy, the producers responded the very next day they had no intention to ever bring back Izzie. Her work has remained steady, but the diminishing box office returns are suggesting the luster is off her headlining appeal.
The fictional character Batwoman. When the character was announced as appearing in the weekly comic series 52 in 2007 there was a massive media response, even branching into non-comic related formats. The character was a recreation of the classic character from the 1950's, but was written as a lesbian involved with one of the primary characters for the series. Most of the media focus was on her sexuality, and she became regarded as the highest profile gay superhero in The DCU. Dan Didio, Chief Editor of DC Comics, has said that even he was completely unprepared for the massive news fixation on the character, and did not know how to properly respond. Though unconfirmed, rumors circulate that the Batgirl series being published at the time of her introduction was canceled in order to make room for her character. However, the amount of coverage on the character was completely out of proportion to her role in the series, which was a supporting role spread out over a year, and she spent the following two years as a minor and unused character, only appearing in guest spots in other series. However, in 2009 she became the headline character in Detective Comics and received a well-received title-series by Greg Rucka that effectively delved into her backstory.
Justin Bieber, who has enjoyed massive success as a pop music sensation, may or may not be the latest in a series of flash-in-the-pan Teen Idols. It doesn't help that in the first eighteen months of being on the radar, he released the same album three times note a two-part album released in halves four months apart, a compilation of the aforementioned two-parter, and an acoustic re-release with mostly identical content, but focused on vocals and instrumentals, rather than synthetic production and a Christmas album. Thus far, he's garnered most of his fame with media hype and live appearances. His fame seems to be continuing, with his third album (and second album of all original music) going platinum in several countries. Let's face it, he'll be on the cover of every teen magazine and on every poster in teenage girls' bedrooms for the next year or so, but it's still questionable whether his stardom will start to burn down, or whether he has legitimate staying power as an artist and not just as a hype product.
The biggest threat to Bieber's career as a mature performer is people getting completely sick of him, as he has saturated every form of media out there, even appearing on shows and in magazines that have nothing to do with his target demographic of young children and teens. Whether he can make the transition to mature performer once these kids lose interest or whether everyone will get so sick of him that they'll throw parties to celebrate him finally dropping off the radar for good remains to be seen.
Ryan Reynolds had the fortune/misfortune of coming along when Hollywood had a dearth of young leading males. After getting his big break in the ABC series Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, Reynolds starred in a number of well-regarded comedic roles. However, most of his films from the late '00s and early '10s (with the exception of Buried) received mixed reviews at best. His intended dramatic breakout performance in 2011's Green Lantern was also a critical and commercial underperformer, and then The Change-Up didn't do well either; thus he was not the bankable star Hollywood perceived him to be. It's hard to say how well his career will turn out at this point, though the success of 2012's Safe House (though Denzel Washington was obviously the big draw, and there's a lot of debate about how much Reynolds' presence really contributed) could help him regain momentum.
The boys of Supernatural. Both Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki have gotten incredible praise for the show (including helping to raise it above the Sci Fi Ghetto), and for being a couple of members of "Young Hot Hollywood" who can actually act instead of relying on being solely Mr. Fanservice. However, both of their attempts at film careers after starting Supernatural (Jensen in My Bloody Valentine 3 D and Jared in the Friday the 13th (2009) remake) went nowhere. The big test will be when they branch out of the sci-fi/horror genre, and when Supernatural ends and they can be choosier about film roles (since right now they are limited to what they can do while Supernatural is on break).
Patrick Dempsey had a serviceable but unremarkable film career for a while. Once Grey's Anatomy became successful, Hollywood started trying to promote him as the next big thing. Of the leading-man roles he's had since then, only Enchanted was really a critical and / or commercial success, and that one was arguably helped by having the Disney name behind it as well. His other roles haven't really set the world on fire.
Seth Rogen has been dancing around this trope for a while. He's been acting since the late nineties but he got his biggest push from Knocked Up in 2007. Like Michael Cera, he was then on the receiving end of criticism for playing the same character (The vulgar but loveable slacker) too many times in films that weren't successful or were despite his presence. Though he earned back quite a bit of cred with his surprising dramatic performance in 50/50 which have made people view him in a better light.
Amanda Seyfried was seemingly on a streak of success in becoming a top box-office draw (with hits such as Mean Girls and Mamma Mia!). But in an eleven-month period from 2011 to 2012, she had three major flops in a row (Red Riding Hood, In Time, and Gone) with some reviews for the third one questioning if she even had appeal or talent in the first place (though others reviewers contended she was better than the material). She's now on the fence and with her next film (a biopic on Linda Lovelace designed solely to beat another one with Malin Akerman into theatres) not likely to win her much cred, she could end up disappearing. Les Miserables (2012), in which she plays Cosette, has been successful critically and commercially, but most of the acclaim has been directed at Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman.
Emily Blunt became known outside of the UK in 2006 with her performance in The Devil Wears Prada and a Golden Globe win for the drama Gideon's Daughter. But since then, her career has been a rollercoaster of critical hits (The Adjustment Bureau, Sunshine Cleaning, Salmon Fishing In The Yemen) and major misfires (The Wolfman 2010, The Five Year Engagement). She still has a shot of having a big hit outside of her native country but outside of the arthouse crowd, she likely to remain best known as John Krasinski's wife.
She actually had to decline the role of Black Widow in Iron Man 2 (and the subsequent appearances in films like the box-office juggernaut The Avengers) because of a scheduling conflict with Gulliver's Travels, which was a box office bomb during the 2010 holiday season. Oof.
Julianne Hough is pretty much touted as "The Next Big Thing" by The Machine, and America will be subjected to the Dancing With The Stars performer's films left and right for the next several years until she either hits it big or they give up. The remake of Footloose was a good first step, the box-office and commercial flop Rock Of Ages (which also included Tom Cruise and Catherine Zeta-Jones elsewhere on this page)... not so much. However, Safe Haven became commercially successful despite not getting good notices from critics.
Beth Behrs, from 2 Broke Girls has also received critical acclaim as well, and time will tell if this lasts or not. However, her Germans Love David Hasselhoff status - in the United Kingdom - probably counts for this too.
Viola Davis has had a string of very well-received roles over the past few years starting with the acclaimed Doubt. Only time will tell if her winning streak holds.
Although a prominent actor since Clueless, character actor Paul Rudd's recent stint as a Hollywood leading man has been built upon the popularity of the Judd Apatow films he has appeared in. He had a promising start with I Love You Man, but practically every film since then have been either box-office flops or disappointments.
This Is 40 has gotten a lot of praise though and he's pretty much guaranteed a career in prominent supporting roles.
Andrew Garfield had a string of indie successes (Boy A, Lions For Lambs, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) before hitting it big with The Amazing Spider-Man. Even critics who didn't care much for it praised him in the title role, favorably comparing him to Tobey Maguire (who also found the right balance between big budget films and small dramatic films). With his attachment to that big franchise and acclaimed roles in fare such as The Social Network (which many felt he was overlooked for at the Academy Awards), it's looking hopeful he'll stay big for a long while.
Despite not being an actress, Rachel Townsend falls right into this category.
Jeremy Renner seems to be avoiding this trope so far, helped by the fact that, at forty-two, he is much older than most of the stars usually being hyped. While he's been working pretty consistently since 1995 and got attention for his roles in Dahmer and The Assassination Of Jesse James, it was his role in The Hurt Locker in 2008 that brought him huge acclaim and an Oscar nomination. He's since followed it up with critical acclaim and another Oscar nomination for The Town and a central role in The Avengers as Hawkeye. While Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and The Bourne Legacy did well at the box-office but not so well with critics, it looks like his career will be strong for awhile.
Ever since the Pussycat Dolls split up, Hollywood has been trying their absolute damnedest to make Nicole Sherzinger a pop superstar. She had one album, long stuck in Development Hell, released in 2010, to mild success. She's also had multiple TV spots, including judging spots on the UK and US versions of The X Factor and her own episode of Behind The Music. It's still up in the air if all of it will finally pay off.
An episode of Angel dealt with a young actress who, knowing that she'd be spit out by the Hype Machine in a few years, tries to become a vampire so that she could retain her youth and beauty (and, by extension, her career) forever.
Allegra Coleman. In 1996, Esquire ran an article on the "Next Big Thing." They created their own Hype Machine behind her, talking about her role in a new Woody Allen film, her rocky relationship with David Schwimmer, and her friendship with Deepak Chopra. The problem? Allegra wasn't real. The whole thing was an elaborate fabrication created by writer Martha Sherrill as a hoax/publicity stunt/Take That. The interesting part of the whole thing was that, despite not being real, the Allegra Coleman hype machine still worked, jump-starting the acting career of the model used in the photo shoot, future Heroes star Ali Larter.