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  • Tim Allen. With his pre-teenage life marred by the loss of his father, and his adult years disfigured by drug use, Allen managed to make a name of himself in the stand-up circuit, both on television and record, so that his life can go on the right track. He never conceived himself to be an actor, having stated at one point that he could only act based on "personal experience," but he eventually found his big break when he became the star of the ABC sitcom Home Improvement, which became one of the highest-rated sitcoms of the 1990s. A chart-topping book from him soon followed, his first major film role, The Santa Clause, became the 4th highest-grossing domestic release of 1994, and then he voiced Buzz Lightyear in a little animated project known as Toy Story, which became a pop-culture behemoth overnight. Hollywood soon began courting him for more film roles, but he turned down most of them due to his limited acting experience. Consequently, the only studio he received film roles from was Disney, who produced both The Santa Clause and Home Improvement and whom Allen had a close relationship with. During that time, he starred in the films Jungle 2 Jungle and For Richer or Poorer, whose theatrical runs were overshadowed by Allen's highly-publicized DUI arrest in Michigan, with his troubled past having caught up with him. After Home Improvement was cancelled in 1999, he seemed to be heading back on the road to stardom, starring in Galaxy Quest and reprising his role as Buzz in Toy Story 2, but quickly fell back into recession after starring in a few more forgettable film roles after that. Except for the Toy Story franchise, his only notable success on TV was the sitcom Last Man Standing, which aired for nine seasons.
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  • 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 Scrubs was cancelled. 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).
  • 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.
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  • After a few minor roles, Dana Carvey got his big break in 1986 with Tough Guys, where he managed to hold his own alongside Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster. Shortly thereafter, he joined Saturday Night Live, and was one of the people to help reverse its declining popularity and make it "must-see TV" once again. After his success in the Wayne's World movies, it seemed like he was destined for great things. However, his work afterwards was a story of disappointment and missed opportunities. His first movie after Wayne's World 2 was the critical flop Clean Slate, a pattern that would continue for The Road to Wellville and Trapped In Paradise. In 1995, he turned down a role in Bad Boys (1995) because he felt overwhelmed by fatherhood. 1996 gave him an opportunity at a return to form with his own eponymous sketch show. However, Carvey made the ill-advised decision to try out raunchier, edgier material, despite The Dana Carvey Show airing during primetime. While it notably launched the careers of Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert (The Ambiguously Gay Duo first appeared on the show), ratings declined and it was cancelled after only seven episodes. Carvey attempted a comeback in 2002 with The Master of Disguise, but it failed in its intended purpose after being unanimously panned by critics. Since then, he has mostly retired from the screen and stuck to stand-up.
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  • Michael Cera came out with a vengeance after Arrested Development went off the air, appearing in several films that attained both mainstream recognition and artistic credibility (particularly Juno), and things were looking up. Then Year One put him on a bumpy road before his push fell apart in 2010, as both of his films released that year (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Youth in Revolt), despite positive critical reception, flopped badly. His problem? Cera played the exact same nerdy-shy-guy character in every film he's been in so far, right down to specific mannerisms and vocal style. This eventually stuck to him in a big way, and his career took a tumble. He hasn't had a major hit or appearance in years, and now Jesse Eisenberg (who has a similar appearance and acting style) has gone on to become a bigger star.
  • Justin Chatwin had an unremarkable start in the early 2000’s with two-bit roles (most infamously in the widely hated Box Office Bomb Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2, notorious for its 0% critical score on Rotten Tomatoes) before being cast as Tom Cruise’s son in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of War of the Worlds. The film’s success gave Chatwin exposure to a wider audience, and he was cast as the lead in the supernatural thriller The Invisible two years later. Although that film wasn’t as successful at the box office and received negative reviews from critics, its failure paled in comparison to his next attempt at a headliner, Dragonball Evolution. He was cast as Son Goku in the American adaptation of the popular Japanese franchise, which already attracted near-universal scorn for its Race Lift of the source material’s Asian-based lead even in 2009. It was unanimously reviled by critics, audiences, and Dragon Ball fans alike, and unlike Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2, Chatwin didn’t even have the small mercy of not being the film’s face. He retreated into direct-to-video fare afterwards, with his biggest projects since being a recurring role on the Showtime comedy-drama Shameless (US) and a lead role on the Netflix sci-fi series Another Life (2019) – the latter of which was cancelled after just two seasons.
  • ABC threw Eddie Cibrian in every single "beefcake Latin Lothario" role they could think of for a three-year period, including Ugly Betty and the failed Football Wives pilot, even though nobody was interested in him and the Ugly Betty fan reaction when he was paired up with Betty's sister was 'anyone but him'. ABC eventually gave up and after the mess of his personal life involving his affair and eventual tabloid-ready marriage with LeAnn Rimes was dredged up (we also have him to blame for his ex-wife and mistress becoming Real Housewives regulars) and a quick season of CSI: Miami where he did nothing memorable, he was poison, and his derided role in The Playboy Club assured his star burned out quickly; everything he's done since then has been C-level cable network work, and his 2014 VH1 reality series with his wife saw substandard ratings which should make sure he never sees a major television role again.
  • Stephen Collins made a name of himself beginning with his critically-praised role in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the cult series Tales of the Gold Monkey, but he wouldn't hit the big time until seventeen years later when he was cast as the Reverend Eric Camden in the television drama 7th Heaven, which became the highest-rated program of The WB for much of the network's existence and caused studios left and right to offer Collins roles in various films and shows. However, none of these roles offered Collins the star power he had with 7th Heaven, and thus the spotlight began turning away from him, especially following the cancellation of 7th Heaven after just one season on The CW. Since then, Collins tried to find suitable roles and avoid being cast as Eric Camden again, to little success. He made several appearances in the ABC series Private Practice and Scandal, but all that became overshadowed by his highly-publicized divorce with Faye Grant and the nasty proceedings that followed. And then came TMZ leaking an audiotape of Collins admitting to Grant during a private therapy session that he had molested several children decades prior. Role-Ending Misdemeanor doesn't even begin to describe the immediate fallout from the scandal, with his character in Scandal getting McLeaned, Collins resigning from his position at the Screen Actors Guild board, getting fired from the production of Ted 2, and multiple stations and networks yanking reruns of 7th Heaven from their schedules. With the scandal causing such a negative domino effect, it's a safe bet to say Collins may never be able to repair his career.
  • There was at one point in the late 2000s when there were three movies made in an attempt at turning Dane Cook into a movie star, beginning with Employee of the Month and continuing with Good Luck Chuck. The last film, My Best Friend's Girl, ended up a flop, and showed that success as a comedian doesn't always translate into a successful acting career. Since then, Cook has mostly done stand-up and supporting roles in both films and TV.
  • Gil Gerard had been acting throughout the 70’s before landing the role of Captain William “Buck” Rogers in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Inspired by the success of Star Wars two years prior, the series pilot was retooled as a theatrical release in 1979. It grossed nearly $22 million on a $3.5 million budget, igniting interest in the series before it aired on television months later. The series lasted for two years and seasons, but Gerard had a hard time getting work after its conclusion since nobody could see him as anything other than Buck Rogers. The bulk of his filmography afterwards has comprised of direct-to-video and/or TV movies, besides a minor role in The Nice Guys.
  • Armie Hammer has suffered repeated disappointments, including one legendary bomb. After several years of TV roles he got a breakthrough part (or parts) in The Social Network. All of Hammer's subsequent projects - Mirror, Mirror, J. Edgar and The Lone Ranger (2013) - have flopped critically and financially. He's still getting high-profile roles, including the The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) remake... but it failed to light the world on fire. It's only in 2017 where he received a lot of critical praise in Call Me by Your Name. His reputation then took a hit in 2021 when an ex-girlfriend accused him of domestic abuse, leaving his future as an actor in question.
  • 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.
  • Josh Hartnett rocketed to super-stardom in the late 90's and early 00's with roles in teen films like The Virgin Suicides, Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later, and The Faculty, and was voted several times by People Magazine as one of their top teen stars of the year. Gradually, however, his momentum died down — in spite of a starring turn in the critically acclaimed Black Hawk Down, Hartnett was in a long list of commercial flops including Town and Country, Pearl Harbor, and Hollywood Homicide, and the critically panned and controversial 40 Days and 40 Nights (though it was a box office success). His last work of note, 2007's 30 Days of Night, barely recouped its production budget, and he's spent the late '00s and early '10s working on small indie projects. He's started a small comeback in the Showtime horror series Penny Dreadful, but time will tell if he'll be able to return to mainstream success.
  • Jon Heder became a sensation in 2004 when he starred as the title character in Napoleon Dynamite. Premiering at that year’s Sundance Film Festival, it became a surprise hit with youth of the zeitgeist once it gained a wide release during the summer. Filmed on a miniscule budget of $400,000, it surpassed expectations to gross over $46 million during its theatrical release and seemingly established Heder as an up and coming star in comedy. Unfortunately, his star power fell not long after with the 2006 flops Benchwarmers and School for Scoundrels. Besides Blades of Glory the following year (and its success was primarily because Will Ferrell was his co-star), most of his films since then have received limited releases or otherwise gone straight-to-video. He has recently branched out into voice-over work, while Napoleon Dynamite is now viewed as his One-Hit Wonder.
  • 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 an end to his career as a leading man on the big screen. But the small screen turned out to be a much more fruitful frontier for him anyway, first with Bates Motel and second with The Good Doctor.
  • 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 (most recently in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Hirsch's time seems to have passed. Also not helping his case was his 2015 assault conviction.
  • C. Thomas Howell was one of the '80s top rising stars, appearing in hits like The Outsiders and Red Dawn and becoming a Teen Idol. However, he blew it all with 1986's Soul Man, which (while a box office success) garnered controversy as Howell spent most of the movie in blackface, which, in the '80s and beyond, was extremely taboo for obvious reasons. Since then, he has appeared in a bunch of B-movies and TV shows.
  • 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. Then, just two months after the cancellation of Queens, he co-starred with longtime partner Adam Sandler in I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, which critics everywhere tore apart for alleged gay stereotyping. He bounced back a couple years later with Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which was also panned but became the highest-grossing film released in January, only to take another downturn in the next two years with Grown Ups and Zookeeper, both of which received bad reviews and did mediocre business at the box-office. After yet another Sandler-James collaboration, Pixels, bombed critically and financially, he decided to go straight back to television in the CBS sitcom Kevin Can Wait. That series got canned after its second season due to CBS attempting to make it more like The King of Queens, going as far as to fire Erinn Hayes, kill off her character and replace her with Queens co-star Leah Remini, a decision met with largely unfavorable reactions.
  • Sam J. Jones. His is kind of a similar story to "one and done James Bond" George Lazenby's - he had the opportunity of the lifetime with Flash Gordon (1980) but his own attitude undermined his chance at success, but both have been able to find career success elsewhere while still occasionally taking on acting jobs.
  • Taylor Kitsch has had a rough time with this trope. He first rose to prominence in 2006 with his role in the NBC series Friday Night Lights, which was a critical darling despite never having massive ratings. He gained more exposure when he played Gambit in 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which was a moderate box office success despite receiving mixed reviews. Kitsch's portrayal in particular was considered one of the film's saving graces, with many critics and comics fans calling him its Ensemble Dark Horse. Unfortunately, his career after Friday Night Lights ended in 2011 has been very rough. 2012 notoriously proved to be a disastrous year with three high-profile disasters in Battleship, Savages, and John Carter, the last of which was one of the biggest box-office disasters in recent memory. He does have an advantage in that he wasn't blamed for any of the failures, with John Carter's attributed to a very poor marketing campaign and an enormously bloated budget, and the fact that critics and audiences already know how well he can act. He was cast for the second season of True Detective but earned mixed reception for his performance, although it didn't help that the second season wasn't as praised as the first.
  • Shia LaBeouf - who ironically didn't get the hype machine from Disney like his contemporaries, has had the most post-Disney success. While being featured in several big blockbusters in a supporting role (such as I, Robot and Constantine) helped to establish his cred, it was his relationship with Steven Spielberg that pushed him over the edge. Through Spielberg, LaBeouf got cast as the lead in the Transformers franchise and one of the leads of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. This already started polarizing him among fans of the franchises, who felt such a young actor was basically getting handed roles on a silver platter without having put in his dues to earn them, especially in contrast to fellow Transformers star Megan Fox who had to fight tooth and nail for roles that didn't just revolve around her being Ms. Fanservice. Then over time, LaBeouf developed a negative reputation when he started to publically slam the movies he was part of. Though unlike most, LaBeouf's falling off ended up being his own decision after revealing he hates the studio system. Then he was found to be plagiarizing a Daniel Clowes comic for a short film that he premiered at a festival and was reviled for months (to the point where he wore a paper bag over his head), though the backlash eventually died down. He later got a supporting role in David Ayer's World War II film Fury (2014) and this seemed like it was supposed to be his transition from brainless action star to Oscar Bait material. It didn't work, given that the movie didn't make much of a splash or had any lasting traction. His star only further faded when it was revealed his bizarre Method Acting on the set had him doing such things as cutting his face, pulling out a tooth, and refusing to bathe, the latter making him smell so bad he got kicked out of the cast accommodations. While he has worked steadily since he doesn't appear to be eager to get back up to his former heights of fame, but it's a bit doubtful he could even if he tried at this point. If anything, he moved onto a niche role as a performance artist starring in bizarro stage acts and public one-man theater shows. Things did seem to get better in 2019, with his writing debut in Honey Boy and his performance in The Peanut Butter Falcon, but his newfound success was shot down after allegations of domestic abuse from his ex-girlfriend FKA twigs. This resulted in his Oscars campaign for Pieces of a Woman getting cancelled, as well as Marvel dropping him for consideration as Iceman in their rebooted X-Men franchise. He's announcing that he will attend counseling and take a hiatus, so time will tell.
  • 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 (1995), which was the Star-Making Role for both actors.note  Unfortunately, real-life drug issues and a sexual harassment suit would stain his career. On the film side, while Smith went on to star in other smash hits, Lawrence stuck with acting in comedies that only produced lukewarm responses (the first Big Momma's House and Wild Hogs arguably being exceptions).
  • Josh Lucas co-starred in films like American Psycho and A Beautiful Mind before he had his breakthrough in 2003 with two blockbusters: the Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama and the comic book adaptation Hulk. He played Witherspoon’s estranged ex-husband in the former, while he played one of the villains in the latter. Hollywood soon began pushing him as their next, big leading man and gave him major roles in three films: Stealth, Glory Road and Poseidon. However, each of them under-performed to varying degrees at the box office while also receiving negative to mixed reviews. Lucas has thereafter turned back to supporting roles, in which capacity he has maintained a steady career.
  • In the early 2000s Eli Marienthal was getting a push as a child star following his One-Scene Wonder role in American Pie (as Stiffler's younger brother). He was the voice of Hogarth in The Iron Giant and given a prominent role in The Country Bears. Both films flopped at the box office (though the former became a Cult Classic on home video). He was tested out as the star of his own sitcom Tucker which only lasted one season. His role as the love interest in the Lindsay Lohan vehicle Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen was commercially successful but trashed by critics, and he retired from acting shortly afterwards.
  • Australian actor Julian McMahon came to national attention for his Mr. Fanservice roles on Charmed and Nip/Tuck, and got something of a push - even being considered as a potential James Bond. His turn in the blockbuster Fantastic Four (2005) was critically panned, but the movie was a success. His attempt at headlining a project alongside Sandra Bullock in Premonition was a critical disappointment, and he didn't make another film after Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer bombed. He has stuck mainly to TV and smaller roles since Nip/Tuck ended its run. However, he managed to get a role as the Big Bad in the Marvel Cinematic Universe webseries Runaways.
  • Dudley Moore was already a comedy star in his native United Kingdom as part of a wildly popular double act with Peter Cook in The '60s, but as that partnership dissolved in The '70s he struck out on his own — and to Hollywood. A movie-stealing turn in Foul Play led to a lead in Ten, and while Bo Derek (see Actresses below on her) was the focus of the marketing campaign, his career promptly skyrocketed as well. While Wholly Moses! was a disappointment (despite a strong opening weekend), the straight-up star vehicle Arthur (1981) was THE comedy of 1981 and even saw him nominated for a Best Actor Oscar. He was promptly being offered projects left and right. Alas, an attempt to branch out into drama led to the Follow-Up Failure Six Weeks and was followed by a run of five star vehicles, mostly romantic comedies — one was even titled Romantic Comedy — trying to recapture his Arthur heat, over 1983-84 that were modest successes at best and Box Office Bombs at worst. Trying to branch out with Santa Claus: The Movie and Like Father, Like Son did him no favors; the latter film was a minor hit, but that was more due to Kirk Cameron's presence than his. Arthur 2: On the Rocks put the coffin in the ground with only one leading man vehicle since (Crazy People). In The '90s he found more success in his other career as a jazz and classical pianist than as an actor, but a disastrous marriage to his Arthur 2 co-star Brogan Lane (who was abusive) and health issues (above all progressive supranuclear palsy, diagnosed in 1999) permanently derailed him professionally, and he died in 2002.
  • Mike Myers was one of the bigger stars of Saturday Night Live at the turn of The '90s, especially after a movie based on the Wayne's World sketches he toplined was a hit. The sequel and So I Married an Axe Murderer weren't as successful, but a few years after those he struck gold with the first Austin Powers film and his two highly quotable characters in it. Though not a box-office blockbuster, it proved so successful on the video market that the 1999 sequel was. His star rose even higher after he voiced the title character in Shrek. 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. In the summer of 2017, ABC relaunched The Gong Show with "English presenter" Tommy Maitland, who just happens to be Myers under heavy makeup and a Scottish accent (though of course the network is denying that). Following a cameo in Bohemian Rhapsody, he starred in and executive produced The Pentaverate, a comedy series for Netflix, with him playing multiple characters over six episodes. Time will tell if it helps Myers' career, but the initial reaction to the show has not been promising. There are also rumors that a fourth Austin Powers movie might be in the works.
  • 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 a target of mockery 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 gig since then is as the voice of Sora in the Kingdom Hearts video game franchise.
  • Back in the early '90s, Luke Perry was given a huge PR push to be the next big movie star. After his breakout role on Beverly Hills, 90210, Perry appeared in films such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 8 Seconds, and The Fifth Element. With his brooding intensity, Perry was hyped up as the second coming of James Dean. But soon after 90210 ended in 2000, he fell off the radar. Come the 2010's however, Perry would enjoy a resurgence with his role as Fred Andrews on Riverdale and a small but noteworthy appearance in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood until his untimely death in 2019.
  • Freddie Prinze Jr. became known in the mid-90’s when he starred in the slasher I Know What You Did Last Summer opposite Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ryan Phillippe and his own future wife Sarah Michelle Gellar (who’s also mentioned further below this page in Actresses). Despite receiving mixed reviews, the horror film was a profitable hit with audiences. Its success resulted in a sequel, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, being made with Prinze reprising his role, which was still a box office hit despite receiving even worse reviews than the first one nor matching its financial gross. His next starring role after that film was as the male lead in She's All That opposite Rachael Leigh Cook (also mentioned below in Actresses), which made him a sex symbol and THE go-to guy for leading men in teen romantic comedies overnight. Prinze enjoyed a comfortable run as a romantic lead for the next few years, until it came to a swift end in 2001 when Summer Catch failed to match the financial success of his past films while also being torn to shreds by critics. He got a temporary reprieve when he played Fred in the live-action adaptation of Scooby-Doo (2002) and its 2004 sequel Monsters Unleashed (reuniting him with Gellar, who played Daphne in those films), but promptly squandered the tiny amount of credibility he regained when he headlined his own eponymous sitcom, Freddie, which was widely criticized as a shoddily-made vanity project. Besides a recurring role in season 8 of 24 note , he has mainly stuck to voice-over work in animation, most notably with an acclaimed turn as Kanan Jarrus in Star Wars Rebels.
  • 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. He did get a major role in Arrow as Ray Palmer aka The Atom and reprised the role as a main cast member of the spin-off Legends of Tomorrow, so playing another superhero doesn't hurt at least.
  • 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 in the X-Men Film Series 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). He managed to land a role in Batwoman (2019), but that was hit by many production problems and damaging accusations about his onset behavior, something which he strongly disputes.
  • Rob Schneider got his start through stand-up comedy, which paved his path towards sketch comedy when he was hired as a staff writer for Saturday Night Live late in The '80s. He was soon upgraded to the cast at the dawn of The '90s, providing several of that era’s prominent impersonations and recurring bits. He also met many major comedians such as Adam Sandler and David Spade during his tenure, with whom he would often collaborate in the future. Schneider left SNL in 1994 with hopes of becoming a movie star, frequently popping up in many of Sandler’s films. Unfortunately for him, his own efforts as the lead begot a string of steadily worsening failures. Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, The Animal, and The Hot Chick made enough of a profit despite each film receiving worse reviews than the last, but the sequel Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo became such a reviled disaster that he never headlined a live-action film solo again. It actually incited a noteworthy war of words when Schneider scolded Los Angeles Times film critic Patrick Goldstein for giving the film a bad review, proclaiming he had no authority to do so because he hadn’t won a Pulitzer Prize. Pulitzer-winning film critic Roger Ebert promptly stepped in and gave his two cents about the matter, bluntly telling Schneider, “[his] movie sucks”. Subsequently, he “won” a Razzie award for Worst Actor for his performance in European Gigolo. He then starred as part of the ensemble for Benchwarmers alongside the aforementioned Jon Heder, which ground his career further into the dirt. Schneider’s screen presence has been barely sustained since by being part of the ensemble in Sandler’s films, while he has now acquired more notoriety for his anti-vaccine stance. His daughter, singer Elle King, has acquired more recognition in recent years.
  • Steven Seagal is a classic story of an actor who worked his way up the ladder, had a brief time as a big star, overreached himself, and sunk into obscurity, becoming a punchline to countless jokes about washed-up celebrities. He started work in movies as a stunt coordinator and martial arts instructor (including on Never Say Never Again, where he infamously broke Sean Connery's wrist during a spar), but made the transition to actor when one of his aikido students, superstar talent agent Michael Ovitz, arranged for him to demonstrate his martial arts skills on the Warner Bros. lot. Warner Bros. decided to take a chance on him, and in 1988, he wrote and starred in Above the Law (1988), which was a commercial success despite mixed reviews. His next two movies, Hard to Kill and Marked for Death, both opened at #1 at the box office, and while the former was a critical flop, the latter received good reviews. 1991 saw the release of Out for Justice, his third straight number one box office opening. To promote the movie, he hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live...and is still widely considered to be the worst host in the show's history, which many consider in retrospect to be a portent of things to come. While he was a niche actor up to this point, his appearance in the critically acclaimed blockbuster Under Siege allowed him to break out to general audiences and compete with A-list action heroes. Seagal used his newfound clout to make an environmentally conscious movie called On Deadly Ground, which was his directorial debut. The movie was a critical and commercial flop, and the following year's Under Siege 2: Dark Territory was a box office disappointment and received poor reviews. While 1996's Executive Decision was a success, it didn't do much for his career. Still, he would continue to appear in high-budget action movies, but after The Glimmer Man and Fire Down Below both flopped and his original multi-picture contract with Warner Bros. ended, his next major role was in a 1998 direct-to-video movie titled The Patriot (not to be confused with the Revolutionary War movie of the same name). In 2001, he seemed slated for a comeback after Exit Wounds, but the disappointing performance of Half Past Dead would push him off the big screen for good. Aside from Machete, he's been stuck in direct-to-DVD movies and Reality TV. It doesn't help that he's since been Overshadowed by Controversy, due to allegations of sexual misconduct and his apologia for authoritarian leaders like Fidel Castro and Vladimir Putin.
  • Tom Selleck was supposed to be one of the biggest action stars in Hollywood thanks to his starring role in Magnum, P.I., one of the most successful action shows of the '80s. However, he preferred to play against type when it came to movies. His first breakthrough film role was Three Men and a Baby, which got decent reviews and was the biggest box office hit of 1987. After Magnum P.I. was cancelled, Selleck decided to take his action personality to film with An Innocent Man and Quigley Down Under. Although neither were box office hits, they went on to become cult classics, and Selleck would continue to build up his film career throughout the '90s while still being a television favorite. And then came 1999's The Love Letter, which despite Selleck being in a supporting role got poor reviews and failed to turn a profit. Not helping matters was when Selleck decided to show up on Rosie O'Donnell's talk show to promote the movie only to be confronted by O'Donnell over his appearance on a recent National Rifle Association advertisement, a move that O'Donnell received heavy criticism for and forced her to apologize. Even though the moment didn't harm Selleck as much, the failure of The Love Letter did, as he would only appear in three more films, with nothing since 2010. His TV career was also flagging simultaneously, eventually culminating in the romantic comedy Killers, which bombed and killed Selleck's film prospects for good. These days he's starring on CBS' TV series Blue Bloods, which has aired for 11 seasons.
  • Daniel Stern. While he wasn't much of a big name to begin with, he had supporting roles in smaller fare in the early 1980s, but then he changed when he co-starred 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 narrated the hit sitcom The Wonder Years, which would last over six seasons. His biggest career pushes came with Home Alone and City Slickers, which grossed over $100 million at the box office and renewed Hollywood producers' attention.

    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: Lost in New York ended up grossing less than its predecessor, Rookie of the Year (which he also directed) wasn't much of a hit, and City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold nearly floppednote . 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. He was cast in a supporting role alongside Miranda Cosgrove in the NBC sitcom Girlfriend in a Coma, but the series didn't go ahead. However, he did get cast in Manhattan, which was a critical success despite low ratings throughout its two seasons.
  • Nick Swardson was already a familiar supporting player in comedy (notably with his role on Reno 911!), before creating his own sketch series titled Pretend Time on Comedy Central and nabbing his first leading man role in the film Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star. Both projects were unanimously panned, with Bucky Larson becoming a big Box Office Bomb while Comedy Central cancelled Pretend Time after two seasons. He promptly receded back into supporting roles after those two failures.
  • 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. Tucker has only appeared in a handful of movies since 1998, two of which were the 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. After landing a major supporting role in the 2012 Academy Award-winning comedy-drama Silver Linings Playbook, it seemed he had an opportunity to make a comeback in film. However, his only film role since then was Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, which was a critical and commercial flop.
  • Following Avatar and Terminator Salvation, Sam Worthington has got a big push as Hollywood's next big Action Hero. The Clash of the Titans remake followed, as well as a number of smaller action movies. Like several others on this list, however, Worthington has taken criticism for playing more or less the same character in most of his roles. For a while there was even a debate if he is going to be the next Arnold Schwarzenegger or the next Steven Seagal... and them he simply stopped getting roles at all, aside random episodes as One-Scene Wonder. The critical and commercial savaging of Wrath of the Titans, which served as the sequel to the remake of Clash, was apparently the last straw for Worthington. With news that James Cameron's Avatar sequels entered production and Worthington would reprise his role in them, it might change things in his favour.

Actresses:

  • Pamela Anderson is one of the saddest cases of this, having been put through the wringer by the Machine in the worst ways possible. She started out on television with a slew of guest spots early in The '90s before nabbing her Star-Making Role as C.J. Parker on Baywatch, which made her a sex symbol overnight. Hollywood at once began capitalizing on her Ms. Fanservice qualities, giving her role after role in Direct to Video schlock that emphasized her beauty. Her first theatrical release, Barb Wire, became a Box Office Bomb and received a negative reception, with critics noting it barely was a cut above her DTV work. Anderson kept working on Baywatch before scandal struck in 1997 when her sex tape with then-husband Tommy Lee (drummer of Mötley Crüe) was stolen from their home, and later publicly released without their knowledge or consent. She faced extreme scrutiny afterwards which reduced her career prospects post-Baywatch, with her following television work (V.I.P., Stacked, etc.) being dismissed as opportunities to flaunt her sex appeal. She hasn’t appeared in any major Hollywood films aside from a minor, though plot-significant, cameo in Borat, with the bulk of her screen appearances since then being limited to reality television.
  • Jacinda Barrett moved from her native Australia to pursue modeling work in Europe, before making her screen debut in the mid-90’s on the MTV reality show The Real World: London. Barrett pivoted into further television roles as well as film, but her prospects were unremarkable for the next couple of years. In 2006, she seemingly got her big break when she landed significant roles in three films: Poseidon, The Last Kiss, and School for Scoundrels. Unfortunately, each of them underperformed at the box office and were trashed by critics. Barrett saw her potential as a leading lady killed by those failures. She hasn’t starred in any high-profile films since while her successes on television were few and far between. At best, she had a recurring role on Suits opposite her husband Gabriel Macht and a starring role on the Netflix drama Bloodline, which was enough of a hit to last three seasons from 2015 to 2017.
  • Mischa Barton debuted as a child actress in The '90s, notably playing a ghost opposite Haley Joel Osment (see above in Actors) in The Sixth Sense. Later in the Turn of the Millennium, she further established herself as a TV it girl with Rachel Bilson (see below) in The O.C.. However, Barton, unlike Bilson, didn't remain for the whole series, leaving after the third season because of alleged on-set animosity between the cast and crew. She also struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction at the time which worsened after her departure. Barton attempted to extend her success into film, but none of her movies were able to procure the same popularity as The O.C.. She branched out into fashion instead by modeling for many brands while designing her own product lines. Her most notable screen appearance recently has been, ironically, appearing as a main cast member on the first season of the MTV reality show The Hills: New Beginnings, whose parent shows were inspired by The O.C..
  • During the 1980s and early '90s, Kim Basinger was not only one of the most sought after actresses in Hollywood but also one of its biggest sex symbols (serving as Hollywood's epitome of "the blonde bombshell"). With a mixture of sensitivity and sensuality, Basinger was arguably the closest '80s equivalent to Marilyn Monroe. After working as a fashion model and gradually paying her dues in films like the unofficial James Bond film Never Say Never Again, Basinger officially reached the A-list when she was cast as Vicki Vale in Tim Burton's 1989 blockbuster Batman. Shortly after Batman however, a series of commercial duds and her ego problems badly damaged her career. Around the same time that Batman was out, Basinger squandered $20 million on a failed film studio and festival in Braselton, Georgia. In the 1990s, Basinger starred in high profile flops like The Marrying Man alongside Alec Baldwin and Ralph Bakshi's Cool World. Most notably, Basinger developed a reputation as a diva for her clashes with the production teams. While working on The Marrying Man in particular, Basinger demanded that the director of photography be replaced and stalled production with having her makeup completely removed and re-applied between takes. Her collaboration on Cool World was particularly disastrous as she censored the movie for sick hospital children (which was not what Bakshi intended), which in turn drove Bakshi away from filmmaking.

    However, the biggest story of 1993 for Kim Basinger was Boxing Helena, a movie that she backed out of at the last minute. To make a long story short, just before filming began, Basinger got cold feet about playing a woman who is held hostage by a surgeon who amputates her limbs. Not surprisingly, the makers of Boxing Helena suednote  and Basinger was forced to pay a settlement of $3.8 million dollarsnote . But the damage was done; combined with her costly legal battles and failed Braselton buyout, Basinger filed for bankruptcy. It still might have been worthwhile, though, as the film ended up as a notorious disaster that outright annihilated the career of its eventual female lead, Sherilyn Fenn. In 1994, Basinger co-starred with her then-husband Alec Baldwin in the remake of the 1972 crime drama film The Getaway. Despite some buzz if not controversy over some steamy sex scenes, it was not enough to make The Getaway a hit. Ultimately, the aforementioned lawsuits, bankruptcy, and box office flops caused Basinger to retreat from Hollywood for a few years.

    Three years later, Basinger was primed for a comeback in the form of Curtis Hanson’s 1997 film noir, L.A. Confidential. Basinger's performance as a glamorous, sexy Femme Fatale earned her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, putting her back on Hollywood's A-list. Despite the overwhelming success of LA Confidential, Basinger didn’t jump right back into starring roles until I Dreamed of Africanote  and Bless the Child in 2000. Both received bad reviews and underwhelmed at the box office, killing the momentum of her Oscar win. Shortly after that one-two punch, Basinger and Alec Baldwin entered a tumultuous divorce proceeding and custody battle over their daughter, further overshadowing her professional work. Since then, her career has been on a slow decline with Basinger only starring in low-budget movies (or participating in small, borderline "money for hire" parts in films like The Sentinel (2006), Charlie St. Cloud, The Nice Guys, and Fifty Shades Darkernote ) and becoming a recluse. Her most high-profile role since was in 8 Mile with Eminem, where she played his character's mother. Once she won her Oscar, it seemed as if Hollywood stopped paying her much attention even when she appears in high profile movies. To put things in proper perspective, Basinger appeared alongside Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Alan Arkin, and Kevin Hart in 2013's Grudge Match yet was nowhere to be found in the movie's marketing. Nowadays, Basinger is more known for her failed marriage to Alec Baldwin, uncooperative ego, animal rights activism, and lack of financial success than her actual acting abilities. Even most of Kim Basinger's filmography, aside from films like Batman, LA Confidential, and 8 Mile, are only remembered largely as vehicles in launching the careers of such stars as Bruce Willis (Blind Date), Brad Pitt (Cool World), Jennifer Lawrence (The Burning Plain), and Chris Evans (Cellular).
  • Elizabeth Berkley gained a lot of popularity for her role as Jessie Spano in the series Saved by the Bell, and as such the next logical step for her to be the Next Big Thing was to make the move to a film career. In her case, it appeared that she could do so by winning the lead role of Nomi Malone with Showgirls, which attracted a lot of publicity, as the sex- and nudity-laden film was the complete opposite of how Jessie Spano on Saved by the Bell was portrayed as a strong feminist activist, ensuring a lot of morbid curiosity towards her role. 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.
  • Jessica Biel has faltered badly, 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 temporarily dented 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 for a stripper role in a straight-to-video film (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, especially as her "generation" of actresses include megastars like Scarlett Johansson and Kirsten Dunst; there is in fact a 1998 Teen People pictorial of the three, ostensibly pushing them as future stars, but whereas Dunst and Johansson were nominated for an Academy Award in 2020 and 2022 respectively, Biel so far has zero.note  To date, despite being on tons of magazine covers, she's still just a minor star, and at this point is basically "Justin Timberlake's Wife". However, in 2017, she returned to the small screen with her critically hailed role in The Sinner, receiving Golden Globe and Emmy nominations.
  • Rachel Bilson was something of a TV It Girl during her days on The O.C. Once that ended, Bilson did a few underperforming films like Jumper and forgettable TV appearances and, like Kate 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 lasted four seasons from 2011 to 2015.
  • Yasmine Bleeth was already known for her tenures on soap operas like Ryan's Hope and One Life to Live before getting the role of Caroline Holden on Baywatch, co-starring alongside Pamela Anderson (see above). She left the show after a couple of seasons to establish herself in film with the raunchy sports comedy BASEketball, only for its rather bad reception (which included a Worst Actress Golden Raspberry Award nomination for Bleeth) to snuff that chance before it could go anywhere. Since that flopped in 1998, Bleeth worked infrequently on TV shows and films before her cocaine addiction (which was present for most of her career) got so uncontrollable she got arrested and checked into rehab multiple times. After 2003, Bleeth wouldn't appear in another screen project for eighteen years (which turned out to be a low-budget mob comedy that never got a wide release).
  • Nikki Blonsky is a rather sad example of this. After being heavily hyped for her role in the 2007 remake of 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 since has been discovered that she's been working in a salon to pay the bills.
  • 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 verbatim), and she became a regular tabloid and fashion mag staple because she was dating the premiere heartthrob of the time, Orlando Bloom. The point where her hype started to push credulity, however, seemed to come when she was cast in Superman Returns as the title character's iconic love interest, Lois Lane, a seasoned veteran reporter (which in the film is also mother of a five-year-old child) despite the fact that Bosworth was only 23 at the time, attracting a great deal of eyebrow-raising and mockery. 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.
  • Silent film actress Clara Bow was the original "It Girl" (because she starred in a movie called It). 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.
  • Back in the 1940s, a former Rockette called Lucille Bremer impressed officials at MGM with her screen test and they began to test her as a potential star. She made a successful debut playing Rose in Meet Me in St. Louis, with director Vincente Minnelli saying more than once that he felt she came close to stealing the film from Judy Garland. However her first starring role Yolanda and the Thief flopped at the Box Office (despite good reviews) because of its fantasy theme. She took the blame for this and, despite a few more starring roles, MGM soon lost interest in promoting her. She opted to retire from films before the decade was over.
  • Amanda Bynes is a rather sad example. Debuting on All That as a preteen before segueing into her own spinoff The Amanda Show, her knack for physical comedy drew multiple comparisons to Lucille Ball. She was able to successfully graduate off the children's networks to the WB's What I Like About You and did moderately well in her ventures to lead roles in films (and even better in supporting roles such as Hairspray and Easy A.) However, in The New '10s, it started to unravel. Several brushes with the law and bizarre behavior in real life and on Twitter made people worry for her mental health. As of 2022, she hasn't worked in over a decade and has repeatedly been put under psychiatric holds. During this period, Bynes was also placed under the conservatorship of her mother – although it has recently ended with approval from both of them and a judge. Only time will tell if she can properly make a comeback.
  • Keisha Castle-Hughes was regarded as the next big thing back in 2004 after many critics and viewers praised her role in Whale Rider where she's nominated for Best Lead Actress at the Oscars, making her the youngest Best Lead Actress nominee at the age of 13 (until 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis beat the record in 2013). Then, she appeared in Revenge of the Sith and had another lead role in The Nativity Story. But after that, she didn't seem to get much impressive roles as she got pregnant too young. She did get a guest role in The Walking Dead and eventually got in Season 5 of the worldwide TV phenomenon Game of Thrones as Obara Sand, the oldest Sand Snake daughter of fan-favorite Oberyn Martell. Unfortunately, the Sand Snakes themselves were hated by viewers and critics alike due to the Narmy lines, flimsy characterization and horrible acting. Though this didn't seemed to put a dent on Keisha's career as she still got more TV roles, it's a long way for her to get back on the A-list. Unlike that of nearly every other actor involved in the show, her role on Game of Thrones has not been able to supplant that of Whale Rider as her best known, and she is widely considered a One-Hit Wonder for it.
  • Kim Cattrall started off as a promising ingenue in the late '70s. During that time, she appeared in some quality television series (Columbo, Charlie's Angels) and movies (Tribute, with Jack Lemmon). When the '80s came, however, she found herself slumming in forgettable fluff (Porky's, Police Academy, Mannequin), indie movies, and flops (Big Trouble in Little China, The Bonfire of the Vanities). In the '90s, before Sex and the City, she mostly landed one-off TV appearances and Made-for-TV Movies. Now, after Sex and the City, she has yet to achieve any major success. Cattrall herself mused on her place in Hollywood, saying that after Porky's, she began losing roles to Michelle Pfeiffer, another actress of her physical type, leaving Cattrall as a Poor Man's Substitute to Pfeiffer. She could've reprised her Sex and the City role in the HBO Max continuation And Just Like That..., but Hostility on the Set with erstwhile co-star Sarah Jessica Parker motivated her refusal.
  • Rachael Leigh Cook first came to fame thanks to her role in, of all things, a famous anti-heroin Public Service Announcement, a twist on the "This Is Your Brain on Drugs" ad in which she demolishes a kitchen, and became a star proper when She's All That came out. The flop of Josie and the Pussycats (2001) 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, and even remade her anti-drug PSA (this time as a Take That! to the War on Drugs), so a comeback isn't an entirely unrealistic prospect. She stars in Perception, alongside Eric McCormack.
  • 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 better at comedy.
  • Geena Davis started in television comedy in The '80s but found a Star-Making Role with The Fly (1986), which showed her to be beautiful, funny, and capable of handling drama all at once. She immediately had a major push; come 1988 she had both a box-office smash in Beetlejuice and an Oscar-winning supporting turn in The Accidental Tourist. Seeking the most interesting roles she could find rather than conventional leading lady fare, her next big success was 1991's Thelma & Louise (which saw her and Susan Sarandon nominated for Best Actress Oscars), with A League of Their Own coming right on its heels in '92. However, her next few leading turns — Hero, Angie, and Speechless — did little business. And then there was Cutthroat Island, a pirate movie directed by her husband at the time, Renny Harlin, that suffered a massively Troubled Production and became a Contractual Obligation Project. Its catastrophic failure and that of their follow-up flop The Long Kiss Goodnight dissolved their marriage and permanently harmed their film careers. She has noted that her turning 40 in 1996, the year of the latter film, didn't help her career prospects any; she wouldn't act again until Stuart Little in 1999. At the Turn of the Millennium she returned to TV, but both an eponymous sitcom and Commander in Chief were short-lived (the latter yet another Troubled Production to boot — she won a Golden Globe for it, though).

    Nonetheless she found life after the A-list: Out of frustration with the lack of good roles for women in Hollywood (especially in shows aimed at children), in 2004 she founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to research and advocate for change in the industry. She does still appear on TV and in independent films, specifically ones that are female-centric — in 2019 she appeared in the Netflix shows She-Ra and the Princesses of Power and GLOW (2017) in guest roles. That year, she also won an honorary Oscar for her advocacy work.
  • Big things were expected of Bo Derek. After a minor role in Orca: The Killer Whale, she got her big break in Ten, which propelled both her and Dudley Moore to stardom.note  She was even unironically compared to Marilyn Monroe. However, her follow-up movie, 1980's A Change in Seasons, got unfavorable reviews and disappointed at the box office. The 1981 movie Tarzan, the Ape Man, while doing better financially, was mutilated by critics and earned her a Worst Actress Razzie (shared with Faye Dunaway for Mommie Dearest). She didn't get another film offer until 1984's Bolero, which bombed at the box office and earned her another Razzie. She took a five-year hiatus, but her intended comeback film, Ghosts Can't Do It, only put her career even further in the ground. She spent the next few years making TV films, not returning to the big screen until Woman of Desire came out to very little fanfare. She also co-starred in Tommy Boy, but was overshadowed by the film's comedic performances. After that, her most prominent role was in the 2006 telenovela Fashion House. By this point, it's safe to say that her career is toast, with some even going so far as to ask how she even got so big in the first place.
  • Shannen Doherty became a star in the late '80s and early '90s with hits such as Heathers and three respectable TV shows - Little House on the Prairie, Our House and Beverly Hills, 90210. The late 90s were kind to her as well, when she headlined the supernatural drama Charmed. But cracks started to appear as early 1994 when she was fired from 90210 for getting into fights with her co-stars. Stories surfaced about her difficulty on the Charmed set too - with actor TW King leaving after the first season being rumoured to be because she didn't like him. Tension between her and co-star Alyssa Milano caused her to be fired again. After being fired from two hit network shows, she was given a few reality TV projects to headline - all of which did middling business. She stuck to doing TV movies afterwards, and her star power soon faded. Her recent battles with cancer have also put her career on ice.
  • Linda Fiorentino made her theatrical debut in 1985 with three films: the drama Vision Quest, the action comedy Gotcha!, and the Martin Scorsese-directed After Hours. While she kept working throughout The '80s, it was only in The '90s that she truly had her breakthrough with the 1994 neo-noir The Last Seduction. She garnered unanimous critical praise for her performance, with talk of her getting an Oscar nomination even circulating around Hollywood. However, the film, which premiered on HBO at the producers' behest before its theatrical release, was ineligible to receive any Oscar nominations, not even for Fiorentino's performance. She did attain further fame with big roles in Men in Black and Dogma; unfortunately, Fiorentino also became entangled in Hostility on the Set of the latter film. Director Kevin Smith often butted heads with the actress, bemoaning how difficult and demanding she had been to work with in the DVD Commentary for Dogma (though the two would eventually patch things up many years later). Her films released in the early 2000's, What Planet Are You From?, Where The Money Is, and Liberty Stands Still, were critically panned and underperformed financially. In fact, Liberty Stands Still had its theatrical release revoked in 2002 and was shunted Direct to Video. She starred in one more film seven years later, Once More With Feeling. The film, where she co-starred alongside Chazz Palminteri and Drea de Matteo, struggled to get a theatrical run in 2009 before also being sent direct to video, leading Fiorentino to call it quits and vanish from the screen entirely.
  • Claire Forlani shared the screen with a number of high profile stars in The '90s: notably in Mallrats, The Rock, and Meet Joe Black. Despite well-received performances, most of the films were disappointments and she starred in three bombs in a row. She quickly faded from leading roles and turned towards television instead.
  • Megan Fox came out of Transformers as the new "It Girl" sex symbol, and promptly rode it to tons of covers, press coverage, etc. However, Jennifer's Body and Jonah Hex were spectacular failures that stuck 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 following her statements comparing working under Michael Bay to working for Hitler. (Bay said that Fox was fired on orders of executive producer Steven Spielberg, who being Jewish took particular exception of her comments.) She later did get supporting roles in Friends with Kids and This Is 40 and she reunited with Bay for the TMNT reboot, so while she's not quite the hot commodity people were expecting, she's still getting work nonetheless, and motherhood and marriage have mellowed her considerably. Jennifer's Body ended up experiencing being Vindicated by History, especially with regards to her performance, and 2020 saw her starring in several high profile roles. There has also been an increase in public sympathy towards her now with greater awareness of how she was objectified as a teenager (she was reportedly reduced to using botox in her mid-20s under pressure to maintain her Teen Idol looks), and better understanding of obsessive–compulsive disorder and that her erratic behavior was the result of said disorder.
  • Sadie Frost is an actress who was getting lots of buzz in the early '90s thanks to notable appearances in the music videos for Spandau Ballet (she was married to member Gary Kemp) and indie films in her native UK. She was poised to become a star when Francis Ford Coppola selected her to play Lucy Westenra in Bram Stoker's Dracula after being impressed with her performance in Diamond Skulls. There was a lot of buzz around her and she recalls being given all these offers - as well as told she should move to Los Angeles at once - but she chose to take a part in the small British film Shopping and opted to focus on indie films and raising her children. She found more success as a producer and fashion designer in the 2000's.
  • Jennifer Garner first came to fame co-starring on Felicity and 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, Valentine's Day (with Jessica Biel, mentioned above), the Arthur (2011) remake and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. After a career spanning almost fifteen years, Sydney Bristow is still far and away her most iconic role.
  • The success that was Buffy the Vampire Slayer turned Sarah Michelle Gellar into a star and she was suddenly everywhere in the late '90s. Despite the Box Office success of Cruel Intentions, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scooby-Doo (2002) and The Grudge and attempts to resist typecasting, audiences couldn't see her as anyone other than Buffy Summers. The failures of The Return and The Air I Breathe saw her turning to voice-over work and direct-to-video films, gradually fading from the mainstream. She also took time off to raise her children.
  • Heather Graham got her big break in the early '90s with a supporting role on Twin Peaks, later reprising her role in the prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. She followed that up with supporting roles in Swingers, Boogie Nights, and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, which were all very popular hits that seemed to certify her rise into stardom. However, many critically panned Box Office Bombs released in the early 2000's – Say It Isn't So, From Hell, Killing Me Softly, and The Guru (2002) – ground her career to a halt. She hasn't had a role in any high-profile movies since, besides a minor part in The Hangover.
  • Erin Gray got her big break as Colonel Wilma Deering in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, co-starring opposite Gil Gerard (see above in Actors). The role was significant at the time as one of the first strong female characters in a sci-fi setting alongside Princess Leia and Ellen Ripley. Unfortunately, Gray, like her co-star Gerard, had a difficult time finding work after Buck Rogers ended, because nobody could view her as anyone other than Wilma Deering. Her filmography since then has comprised primarily of guest spots on television, direct-to-video and/or TV movies. After Buck Rogers finished its run, Gray's most prolific role was undoubtedly that of Kate Summers-Stratton on the '80s sitcom Silver Spoons. She now primarily works as a casting agent.
  • Danielle Harris. She got her start as a child actress with lead and supporting roles in films like Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, and Free Willy. By the mid-'90s, she was building a steady career as a teen actress with a high-profile supporting role in Roseanne. She later co-starred with Katherine Heigl in the Disney Channel film Wish Upon a Star, and with Sylvester Stallone in Daylight. The June 1998 issue of Teen People featured her on the cover alongside Scarlett Johansson, Kirsten Dunst, and Jessica Biel. Sadly, it was not to last. Aside from voicing Debbie Thornberry in Nickelodeon's The Wild Thornberrys, her career never really took off as once expected, something Danielle herself acknowledges, saying she never really truly got a breakout lead in a mainstream film. She confessed that she was even working at a hair salon in the early 2000s to make ends meet. Danielle did undergo a minor Career Resurrection in 2007 by returning to the Halloween franchise in Rob Zombie's reboot of the franchise, getting her typecast as a scream queen in the years that followed. She also dabbed in directing with 2012's Among Friends. These days, she's largely put acting on hold to focus on her family.
  • Anne Heche made a big splash in 1997 for two reasons: her critically-acclaimed supporting roles in box-office hits I Know What You Did Last Summer and Wag the Dog, and her coming out of the closet and becoming one-half of what was then Hollywood's biggest gay power couple alongside Ellen DeGeneres. Both of these reasons made up for the fact that her first leading role in a Hollywood film, Volcano, flopped at the box-office. Nevertheless, the studios decided to parlay her newfound fame into an A-list acting career, but the resulting films were Six Days, Seven Nights, Return to Paradise and Gus Van Sant's infamous Psycho remake. The former film was a modest success and the latter were money-losers. The fact that America was still too homophobic to accept an LGBT woman as a female lead may have played a part in her losing more jobs (she was outright told that people didn't want to cast her because of it) and her increasing mental instability (the product of a very broken home), which led to her crashing at a random person's house, didn't help either. And on top of that, DeGeneres and Heche broke off their engagement after a three-year relationship. Her subsequent career was spent mainly in indie films and on TV, and she was probably solely known for being Ellen DeGeneres' ex-girlfriend than anything else.
  • 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. She was on her way to becoming a household name before leaving Grey's Anatomy presumably to pursue more film work, and went on to star in flops like Killers, New Year's Eve, One for the Money, and The Big Wedding, and developed a reputation of being difficult to work with, in part thanks to her mother/manager. Not long after Knocked Up came out, however, 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 mediocre reviews. However, her reputation was battered again 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 her latest try at television, in 2014-15 with State of Affairs, was derided by critics and canned after one season despite airing behind The Voice. In 2017, she made another television attempt with Doubt, which got cancelled after two episodes aired, and then made another movie ironically called Unforgettable, which flopped critically and commercially. Her career and reputation are basically in tatters at this point.
  • Paris Hilton. 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 Show The 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 (though House of Wax (2005) was extremely profitable, because audiences turned up in droves just to watch her character get killed off). Despite these failures to branch out she remained a tabloid mainstay till about 2008, when she was replaced as America's favorite reality TV starlet by Kim Kardashian (who rose to fame under similar circumstances as Hilton; ironically, she first gained media attention as a friend and stylist of Hilton). Because of this, by and large the media stopped paying attention to her. She attempted a comeback in 2011 with a new reality show The World According To Paris, but the series was cancelled after only one season. Since then she's kept a pretty low profile, with only an occasional mention in the local Hollywood papers. Hilton has since found moderate success as a DJ and continues to be popular on social media. A 2020 YouTube documentary detailing Hilton's troubled childhood and teen years was extremely well received, leading to what was deemed a successful "rebranding" of her image – which she followed up by launching her successful podcast.
  • Lauren Holly first gained notice on the critically-acclaimed series Picket Fences and gained even more notice as Linda Lee in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story and as Mary in Dumb and Dumber, where she met and later married Jim Carrey. It was assumed that Holly would successfully make the transition to movies, but she unfortunately wound up in a string of high-profile flops, including Down Periscope, Turbulence, and A Smile Like Yours. Ultimately, Holly was destined to become only known for being Jim Carrey's wife, but their marriage was short-lived. Nowadays, she's been stuck doing B-movies and supporting roles on TV, including a recent turn on the third (and last) season of Designated Survivor.
  • Julianne Hough first gained fame after she appeared in Dancing with the Stars as a professional dancer, winning two seasons, and from then on the ball kept rolling. The remake of Footloose was a good first step, the box-office and commercial flop Rock of Ages... not so much. However, Safe Haven became commercially successful despite not getting good notices from critics. As of 2017, she has not been in any big film roles since, but she has returned to Dancing with the Stars as a judge.
  • Kate Hudson had a huge star-making role as a drugged-out groupie in Almost Famous, even being nominated for an Academy Award. 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 more romantic comedy roles have done little for her career, although that certainly hasn't stopped her from trying. Almost Famous is the only film of hers still fondly remembered today. Nowadays, she is more known for her successful Fabletics athletic wear brand.
  • Ashley Judd took off in the mid-90s, and had nearly a decade of big roles, mostly in thrillers such as Kiss the Girls and Double Jeopardy. Then in 2004, the bombs De-Lovely and Twisted derailed her career, making her focus on modestly-budgeted ensemble and independent features ever since, along with prominent political activism. She also revealed that rejecting the sexual advances of former employer Harvey Weinstein made him blackball her from several major projects, including the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
  • 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 decline came from a combination of a disastrous relationship with her parents, chronic partying and drug/alcohol abuse (which did quite the number on her looks and eventually led to legal troubles), and a reputation for being a diva who often showed up to the set late and hungover (if not completely missing filming days altogether). Attempts to revitalize her career — such as the Lifetime biopic Liz & Dick — have mostly flopped, with the qualified success of her 2014 West End theatre debut in Speed-the-Plow the one exception. Nowadays, she's far better known for her appearances in the tabloids and is considered a cautionary tale for the Former Child Star. It's also been joked that Emma Stone has the career she would have had. However, she has started making strides for the better in The New '20s. After achieving sobriety, she released the song Back to Me in 2020, which was her first single in over twelve years. She also signed a deal in 2021 to headline three films for Netflix, with the first one to be tentatively released in Christmas 2022.
  • Emily Lloyd was literally dragged to Hollywood as the next big thing after wowing critics with her performance in Wish You Were Here (1987). Her first U.S. movie however was a flop (Cookie, 1989) but she still had a somewhat solid run after that (In Country, Chicago Joe and the Showgirl, A River Runs Through It). Unfortunate choices and bad luck (Lloyd turned down the lead in Pretty Woman to star in Mermaids, only to be replaced by Winona Ryder) and personal problems most likely put a damper on a bigger 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).
  • With the initial success of Gossip Girl, Leighton Meester was praised as a potential breakout star. Five major films featuring her were released from 2010-2011 - including Country Strong, clearly intended as Oscar Bait. All of them flopped with audiences and critics, though Leighton herself was praised as being better than the material. After Gossip Girl ended, she turned to indie films and had some minor success with a music career - but nothing with the high profile she once enjoyed. She did land a role on the FX comedy Making History, so time will tell. She also had a three-year run on the series, Single Parents, but it was cancelled due to low viewership.
  • When Vanessa Marcil was still on General Hospital, she nabbed the role of the female lead in The Rock. According to her, she then had to decline many subsequent film roles because of her General Hospital contract. She eventually departed for Beverly Hills, 90210, which forced her to decline a role on Ally McBeal. Then she was supposed to be a regular on NYPD Blue only to be replaced after just one episode. After one more primetime stint on the totally forgettable Las Vegas, she ultimately just ended up back on General Hospital.
  • Kelly McGillis had a spectacular debut in The '80s: making her film debut in the 1983 dramedy Reuben, Reuben before reaching the A-list with roles in the smash hits Witness and Top Gun. She starred as a young Amish mother alongside Harrison Ford in the former, which made over $100 million worldwide and became lauded during awards season with eight Academy Award nominations (while snubbed there, McGillis did get a Golden Globe nomination for her performance). The latter, where she starred opposite Tom Cruise, became one of the biggest movies and a cultural touchstone of the decade, grossing over $357 million worldwide. She amassed further critical acclaim with her performance in The Accused, working alongside Jodie Foster (who would earn her first Academy Award for it). She was on top of the world… and then her next film, Cat Chaser, sent her hype plunging back down. It became a Troubled Production that got even worse when McGillis developed growing antipathy for director Abel Ferrara and co-star Peter Weller. The finished film was consigned Direct to Video after poor test screenings, while McGillis was so disillusioned by the experience she ceased acting for two years. Although she resumed in several made-for-TV films and onstage, she didn't reclaim the fame she had in the '80s. She wasn't even offered to reprise her Top Gun role for its 2022 sequel Top Gun: Maverick. Post-the '80s, her most notable theatrical film role was a minor part as an Amish mom (referencing her Witness role) in the critically derided 1994 Box Office Bomb North.
  • Rose McGowan became a cult favourite in the '90s thanks to The Doom Generation. She got a lot of public notoriety for her 'edgy' image (and relationship with Marilyn Manson) and a prominent supporting role in the Sleeper Hit Scream (1996). It all looked ready to make her a star...except the latter was also the film after which she was raped by Harvey Weinstein, who proceeded to blacklist her from Hollywood afterwards. While she was able to keep working thanks to Aaron Spelling offering her a role in Charmed (1998) (ironically after Shannen Doherty mentioned above was fired), she still suffered from Harvey Weinstein being the distributor of her high profile Grindhouse roles - and Robert Rodriguez alleges that he buried the films out of spite. She was attached to remakes of Red Sonja and Barbarella for years that never saw the light of day, and she also suffered setbacks when a botched plastic surgery led to a drastic change in her looks (though the lie circulated was that she was in a car accident and it was reconstructive surgery). In the late 2010's, she got fed up with Hollywood politics and helped expose the culture of sexual abuse and corruption - leading to a renewed career now as a feminist activist, with her memoir Brave going bestseller. She also expressed an interest in directing.
  • 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 building up an unprepared starlet. She is doing quite well with films and a recurring role on critical favorite Boardwalk Empire.
  • 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 '80s, but a string of huge box office bombs in The '90s 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 paycheck of any female in Hollywood history, was another mega-bomb. She vanished for literally a decade, only resurfacing in a storm of hype from her hot body (despite entering her forties) in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and from marrying a much younger man, Ashton Kutcher, which 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 woman who's into younger guys."
  • Julia Ormond was unknown in the US when she landed lead roles in three big, very hyped-up, mid-nineties films (Legends of the Fall, First Knight, and Sabrina, the 1995 remake of the 1954 namesake film), starring opposite such actors as Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Sean Connery, Richard Gere, Harrison Ford, and Greg Kinnear, but all three were box-office and/or critical failures. Whereas her male co-stars were able to rebound with other projects, Ormond hasn't had a leading role since then. She's still working as a character actress, but she never became the "star" Hollywood expected. Ironically, one of her later roles was a supporting role as Vivien Leigh in My Week with Marilyn; during promotional campaigns for those three previous films, Ormond herself was hyped up as "the next Vivien Leigh."
  • 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 Collette 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 the Wonder Woman (2011 pilot), 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. However, G.I. Joe: Retaliation did well enough at the box office ($122.5 million domestically and over twice that overseas) to justify a third film; while waiting to see if she returns, she's transferred from the Joes to S.H.I.E.L.D. (And now to The Orville.)
  • Denise Richards started out with mostly mediocre movies until she got the role of military pilot Carmen Ibáñez in Starship Troopers 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, it being a James Bond film; in fact, one of the most mocked/derided aspects of said film was that Richards wasn't convincing in her role of a nuclear scientist). She stopped doing nudity and vanished from Hollywood within the year. A failed marriage to Charlie Sheen later, and she's now more tabloid-bait than an actual star. She now appears on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
  • Molly Ringwald is a notorious case of this. She seemed set for great things after a trio of hits with writer/director John Hughes, even making the cover of Time magazine when she was just eighteen. However, a vicious split from Hughes and many failed attempts to extend her appeal to audiences utterly destroyed her future as a leading lady. After the massive failure of Betsy's Wedding in 1990, Ringwald has been seldom seen on the silver screen since. She also turned down the lead female roles in a few successful movies, such as Ghost, Edward Scissorhands, Days of Thunder, A League of Their Own and Jerry Maguire. She has since retreated to TV, most notably on Riverdale.
  • 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).
  • ABC in the early 2000s attempted to push Kiele Sanchez in anything they could, first in the three-episode flop That Was Then, and later in the sitcom Married to the Kellys without stirring up much in ratings or interest in the actress. Her role as the female half of the infamous Nikki and Paulo couple on Lost finally ended any interest in building her up, upon which Nikki and Paulo were hastily dropped. After a run on Samantha Who? to finish up her ABC deal, Sanchez eventually found steady work on the A&E series The Glades and DirecTV's Kingdom.
  • Elisabeth Shue had a solid career as a child/teen actress, with prominent roles in The Karate Kid, Adventures in Babysitting, Cocktail and the Back to the Future sequels, but really hit the big time with a critically acclaimed performance alongside Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas, going against her previously established, girl-next-door image. Big things were expected, but a few high-profile critical and commercial flops (the most infamous being Molly, where her depiction of an autistic woman garnered strong vilification from disability rights groups) didn't really hit the heights that were anticipated, and she had a more-or-less solid but unremarkable career since then. She parodied this with a starring role in Hamlet 2, where she played a fictionalized version of herself who quits acting in disillusionment to become a nurse. At the very least, she ended the 2010s/started the 2020s with some big roles on streaming, first The Boys, and then a Role Reprise in the Karate Kid sequel series Cobra Kai.
  • Alicia Silverstone exploded into Hollywood in 1995 thanks to Clueless, gaining so much fame that she even had a 3-picture deal with Columbia that even gave her a production company, First Kiss Productions, to call her own. The summer of 1997 completely derailed her career before it could continue, thanks to the one-two-punch of serial career killer Batman & Robin and her company's first (and only) project, Excess Baggage, becoming a major flop. Silverstone nowadays is remembered as a quintessential One-Hit Wonder in the acting world, and is now more well-known for her political/social activism and promoting her vegan lifestyle.
  • Back in the '80s Helen Slater found herself getting a big push. It started with Supergirl, which was unfortunately a flop. Her next project was The Legend of Billie Jean, which she hoped would be her breakout role, but it was a Box Office disappointment (it did later get a cult following from TV airings however). She did have notable successes in Ruthless People, The Secret of My Success and City Slickers but work seemed to dry up in the 90s. While she's still working away, she's best known as Supergirl, and her high profile work is usually something that acknowledges this (such as Smallville or Supergirl (2015)).
  • Mira Sorvino followed father Paul Sorvino into acting, and very early in her career she was cast in Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite and won an Oscar for it. Add the statuette to her good looks, and she quickly landed leading roles in varied genres, such as comedy (Romy and Michele's High School Reunion), horror (Mimic), action (The Replacement Killers) and romance (At First Sight), but only the first was a modest hit. Add something Sorvino revealed decades later, that Harvey Weinstein sexually harrassed her and sabotaged her career, and she went on a mostly low-profile route, while in-between raising a family and supporting a few activist causes.
  • 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 Knight's 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.
  • Kristy Swanson got a minor push in the late '80s and early '90s, first with One-Scene Wonder roles in Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Lead roles came in the form of Flowers in the Attic and Buffy the Vampire Slayer - but the sequel to the former was cancelled and the latter got retooled into the more famous TV series with Sarah Michelle Gellar as the lead. The failure of The Phantom caused high profile roles to dry up for her, and she drifted towards guest spots on TV and TV movies.
  • Nancy Valen could be regarded as a starlet who unfortunately never got any traction in her career. After a couple of bit parts in movies (such as Porky's Revenge and Loverboy as Patrick Dempsey's love interest) and TV (such as Miami Vice and Charles in Charge), she got the cover of TV Guide as one of the stars of an ill-fated attempt at a TV musical drama series on NBC called Hull High. Like Steven Bochco's similar show Cop Rock on ABC, it failed after only a few episodes. After that, she went back to occasional guest-starring roles on TV (like Murder, She Wrote, Full House, Boy Meets World, Friends, Walker, Texas Ranger and perhaps most notably, in the second season of Saved by the Bell as the sexy new school nurse in a role that was originally meant for swimsuit model Kathy Ireland) and appearing in small B-Movie roles. Oddly enough, at least twice she seemed poised to get a long-term role which suddenly evaporated. The first occurred on the late-night USA Network series Silk Stalkings. After appearing as an IRS auditor in Season 3, she returned in Season 4 to play the role of Dr. Jillian Michaels, who became the love interest of Detective Chris Lorenzo (Rob Estes), one of the show's two main characters, but the storyline was never continued. Two years later, she got her gig on Baywatch as the new lieutenant, Samantha "Sam" Thomas (which is pretty much her best-known acting role), who was brought in to replace the long-running character Lt. Stephanie Holden, played by Alexandra Paul. That particular season ended with Sam in bed with none other than David Hasselhoff himself with the two of them discussing how to break the news of their relationship to Hasslehoff's on-screen son, Hobie. So everything seemed set for her to return the next year with an expanded role as Mitch Buchanan's girlfriend and partner in command. Alas, that didn't happen. Baywatch instead returned with even more former Playboy Playmates, including Carmen Electra and Angelica Bridges as the newer lieutenant, and Nancy Valen's character Samantha had disappeared with no explanation. After guest-appearing during the final season of Spin City, Valen seemed to go into semi-retirement from acting. She only had two more roles (last appearing in the 2007 Christian drama film The Wager) only to resurface as an infomercial host.
  • 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).
  • 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).
  • Canadian competitive swimmer Estella Warren got a huge push as an actress in 2001 when she starred as the love interest and femme fatale in two major Hollywood films — Planet of the Apes (2001) and the Sylvester Stallone racing film Driven. That, along with dating her Driven co-star Kip Pardue 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. & Mrs. Smith (2005), 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.
  • Mara Wilson was a self-inflicted example. A child star in the '90s, she received lots of fame for her memorable turn in Mrs. Doubtfire, and was enough to convince John Hughes to cast her in the planned male role in the remake of Miracle on 34th Street. The film was a massive success, and her next was probably her most iconic - the title character in Matilda. During Matilda's production, her mother passed away and led to several years of her struggling with the grief for that while also trying to keep working (even though she was only eight) - as well as struggling with body image issues as she entered puberty. Her father's refusal to let her do films and TV work that would potentially destroy her family-friendly image led to her passing on scripts like Thirteen (2003) and Arrested Development. Her final film was Thomas and the Magic Railroad, after which she decided to quit acting to focus on schoolwork. She never went back, and instead found renewed success in voice acting and as a writer - to the extent that some people know her more for her writing than Matilda.
  • Sean Young first showed promise as Rachael in Blade Runner, and got a major push with No Way Out (1987) and Wall Street. But then the one role that could really cement her as a star, Vicki Vale in Batman, wound up landing with the aforementioned Kim Basinger after Young injured herself in a horseback accident. What followed were poor role choices to hamper a possibility of taking off as a leading lady, and Hollywood also turned on her for less than savory off-screen behavior (most infamously, she showed up at Warner Bros. studios in a homemade Catwoman costume downright demanding to get the role in Batman Returns), ultimately leading to a Creator Breakdown with well-publicized drug and alcohol issues. After 1994's Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Young's most high profile acting gigs revolved around returning to Rachael, first voicing her in a Blade Runner game, and decades later having her likeness used in Blade Runner 2049.
  • Pia Zadora is a notorious example from The '80s. 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 Las 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 , 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.

Ensembles and Other Group Examples

  • 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.
  • Most of the "New Brat Pack" (a pun on the Brat Pack of The '80s) 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 the Vampire Slayer 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, environmentalist, and Dancing with the Stars contestant. While 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. She even inspired a blogger to start a series on the Hype Machine's victims once he was shocked to see her in Day of the Dead (2008).
    • Jason Biggs tried playing the same down-on-his-luck regular guy character (especially in Loser (2000)) a bit too much, and he now mostly plays supporting roles in films like My Best Friend's Girl and Over Her Dead Body. His luck seems to be improving as of late following a stint as the voice of Leonardo on the the 2012 Ninja Turtles series and a role on Orange Is the New Black. However, he ruined this opportunity by turning his Twitter feed into a place where he boasted about questionable sexual practices with his wife, terribly sexist jokes about the wives of Republican candidates, and racist jokes about the Malaysian Airlines missing plane. This, along with tantrums over TMNT fans and parents who criticize him for his off-screen vulgarity made him seem like poison to anyone hoping to promote their products. The only reason his character existed in OITNB is because of the source material, and fan response to Larry has been of him as The Scrappy of the show. He was written out of season 3 of the latter with a nearly-closed invitation to return only when needed, and season 3 of the former saw him be permanently replaced by Seth Green, which may mean he's again on a downward slope.
    • 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 Dukes of Hazzard film came out. He now mostly plays supporting roles in films like Cop Out, however his role in the Ice Age franchise has made him the most financially successful of his former castmates. He had something of a resurgence when he replaced Clayne Crawford on Lethal Weapon, even if the series only lasted one more season with him.
    • 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. Her chances of becoming a big film star were quickly sunk with the disaster that was Alone in the Dark (2005), although that still hasn't stopped her from doing DTV films. She has since found success with the Sharknado franchise, which was a cult hit on Syfy.
    • Chris Klein attempted to establish himself as an attractive leading man, which went nowhere after his hoped-for star turn – the remake of Rollerball – turned into a Star-Derailing Role instead. His next leading role was in the ill-fated Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, which seems to have buried his film career for good. Since that flop, he has focused mainly on television, most notably with The Flash (2014) on the CW.
    • Thomas Ian Nicholas saw all his hype from American Pie evaporate quickly when he starred in the disaster that was Halloween: Resurrection. Since then, he has appeared in nothing noteworthy beyond Pie sequels and a recurring role on Red Band Society.
    • Eddie Kaye Thomas went from Pie to a series of "dorky, lovable loser" roles in films like the infamous flops Freddy Got Fingered and Dirty Love (both of which won the Razzie for Worst Film), 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 & Kumar Go to White Castle film series, as well as a starring voice on American Dad!, the HBO series How To Make It In America and his current gig on Scorpion. Only time will tell whether he can bring his star back.
    • Ironically, John Cho, who appeared in just one scene in the original film (as the guy who coins the term "MILF"), is the one whose movie career is most on the rise, between Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and Star Trek (2009), along with their sequels. In 2018, he played the lead in Searching, which was significant for being the first mainstream Hollywood thriller headlined by an Asian-American actor. Made on a minuscule budget of $880,000 dollars, Searching premiered at that year's Sundance Film Festival to widespread acclaim. It grossed over $75 million worldwide during its theatrical release, joining the ranks of The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity as one of the most profitable movies ever made based on return on investment.
    • Natasha Lyonne got much cred with Pie and But I'm a Cheerleader, but a serious problem with drugs and alcohol, which contributed to severe health problems and extreme mental illness, all but destroyed her career. There was even a period when she was living homeless on the streets of New York after being evicted from her apartment for her behavior. Eventually she returned with a cameo in American Reunion, and is finally coming back to prominence for her acclaimed role in the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black and headlining her own show, Russian Doll. Unlike Biggs, Lyonne completely escaped the shadow of Pie after landing the show.
  • The cast of Twilight all enjoyed a big push, particularly Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Anna Kendrick. Stewart's first big post-Twilight role was Joan Jett in the biopic The Runaways, and while her stone-faced performance of Bella became a running pop culture gag, at least seems to get regular work and even some critical acclaim (albeit often in a "wow, she actually can act" sense) in fairly low-budget indie movies; Pattinson had the romantic dramas Remember Me (which seems to be more famous for its controversial ending than anything else) and Water for Elephants and the complicated David Cronenberg dramas Cosmopolis and Maps to the Stars; and Kendrick went for indie and Oscar cred with her performance in Up in the Air, not to mention mainstream success in Pitch Perfect. She even got a top ten chart hit in "Cups", a track from the aforementioned film's soundtrack. If anything, Kendrick (who has a sarcastic and self-deprecating demeanor in real life) has maintained stardom following the end of the franchise and appears to be the most ready of the three to hit the next level. Other cast members don't seem to have the same luck as them, however:
    • 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. He's largely-disappeared into Adam Sandler movies.
    • 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 big post-Twilight work, The Legend of Hercules, was a flop.
    • Stewart and Pattinson have had a much better push in recent years with Stewart pulling off three critically acclaimed films in 2014 and becoming something of a critical darling (Even nabbing a Cesar award, making her one of only two American actors ever to do so). Pattinson has followed a similar path and Good Time seems to have finally given him the push he needs to break out from under the shadow of Twilight. The two, particularly Pattinson, have also done themselves favors by making it clear aren't very fond of the films either. Eventually, Pattinson got cast in Christopher Nolan's Tenet and played the title role in The Batman (2022), so things finally look up for him. And in 2021, Stewart starred as Diana, Princess of Wales in Spencer, which garnered rave reviews by critics and Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for her.
  • 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.
  • Thanks to Professional Wrestling becoming quite mainstream in the 90s, and The Rock managing to parlay his wrestling success into a respectable acting career, other wrestlers have also attempted to become mainstream. However, the amount that were successful can be counted on one hand.
    • Sable was an example that came before The Rock's breakout role in The Mummy Returns. Her beauty and popularity with fans led to her gracing the cover of Playboy (and she later got a second less than a year later), and she soon left wrestling hoping to break into the mainstream. It mostly translated to small parts on TV shows, a failed comic book series, and B-movies. She returned to WWE in 2003, stayed there for one year, and kept a low profile after leaving a second time.
    • Chyna's mainstream popularity was almost as big as The Rock's in 2000, and she got a Playboy cover too. There were rumors of her playing Wonder Woman and the T-X, and she got a second Playboy cover. But numerous personal problems behind the scenes led to her abruptly leaving WWF, and her drug problems led to her being persona non grata. After a few years of appearing in small parts on TV shows and a failed music career, she moved to Japan to become a teacher and passed away tragically from a drug overdose at the age of 45 in 2016.
    • The cast of Total Divas got lots of hype after the show proved to be a ratings hit on the E!Network. Eva Marie left wrestling altogether in 2016 to launch onto film work - and her debut Inconceivable was trashed by critics, despite its All-Star Cast that included Nicolas Cage, Gina Gershon and Faye Dunaway, leading her to return to WWE in 2021. The Bella Twins appear to be doing the best, with their reality show Total Bellas proving to be a successful spin-off and launching a successful fitness and clothing brand. Cameron announced an intent to produce music and go into acting, but has yet to make anything happen. The rest have focused almost entirely on wrestling.
    • Stacy Keibler attempted to go mainstream in the mid-2000s, appearing on Dancing with the Stars and managing to get guest spots on How I Met Your Mother (on its 100th episode, no less), Psych and Chuck and small parts in a few movies. She enjoyed a higher profile when she dated George Clooney but after they split up, she quit Hollywood - fed up with the politics of the industry.
  • The entire Inhumans franchise went through this. After years of being a minor group in the Marvel universe, usually in supporting roles, they had a number of well-received series. Then came the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which initially could not use mutants, as they were tied to the X-Men film rights (which were then owned by 20th Century Fox, locking them out of being able to appear in the Disney-owned Marvel Films), but did still use some characters that are normally mutants. The majority of readers saw the 2010s Inhuman push to be an attempt to popularise them so that they can be used in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a Suspiciously Similar Substitute to mutants (the Guardians of the Galaxy were similarly pushed before their film was announced, but nowhere to the degree the Inhumans were), all but confirmed by insiders who note that Ike Perlmutter, the guy in charge of Marvel, would literally tear down posters featuring characters whose film rights didn't belong to Marvel. It was eventually outright confirmed by Charles Soule — who wrote many of their series at the time — in a podcast with artist Ryan Stegman that the Inhumans were indeed intended to be the new X-Men. This also extended to video games, with developers stating that they were explicitly told to not use X-Men characters. An Inhumans movie was announced for Phase 3 of the MCU, and their origin setup in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. After months of being hyped up as Marvel's next big thing, the main Inhuman comic book series was delayed, leaving a bunch of tie-ins to a story that nobody knew anything about. Then, months behind schedule, the series finally released and... needless to say, the response was not what Marvel wanted, with a heavy 'meh' heard across the comic world, and the general consensus being that it was not worth the wait. The first issue of the series wasn't even able to break the top 10 of the month, and the second issue dropped all the way to barely making the top 50. Then came their relaunch as Uncanny Inhumans, which attempted to push the brand with multiple ongoings, while also re-working the Inhumans to have more of a grounded presence in the Marvel Universe akin to mutants. This didn't take either, not helped by Marvel starting a plot about how the Terrigen clouds that give Inhumans' their powers were killing mutants, in what many saw as an unsubtle metaphor for the franchise war. During all this, the Inhumans comics still didn't sell well. This culminated in the despised Inhumans vs. X-Men event, which only made longtime Marvel readers despise the Inhumans more for the attempt to shill them and failing spectacularly. Finally, with Resurr/Xion, the Inhumans comics were consolidated down to Royals and Black Bolt, with the latter in particular receiving critical praise, although neither were strong sellers (Royals was outsold by reprints of decades-old single issues). During this time, the Inhumans TV show premiered — by this point, Marvel Studios was restructured to report directly to Disney and not Marvel, and Kevin Feige apparently had no interest in the Inhumans — and bombed both critically and commercially. Then Marvel/Disney made an offer to acquire Fox that had to wait for government approval, and while that was happening, Marvel quietly turned down the Inhumans hype with one last miniseries, Death of the Inhumans, before shunting the franchise away, just a few months before the Disney/Fox merger was approved and the film rights to the X-Men were regained. Following the rights returning, the X-Men were heavily promoted in a new relaunch that not only saw critical and commercial success but even saw some X-Men occupy the Inhumans' traditional location of the Earth's moon, while there were no Inhuman books on stands and media outside of comics that began production after the return of the X-Men film rights noticeably lacks Inhumans for the most part. Anson Mount, who played Black Bolt on the hated Inhumans show, reprised his role in the much better-received Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and his appearance is cited as one of that film's most unexpected but welcome surprises. It even inspired some viewers to revisit the show and circulated interest in reviving Inhumans under Feige's supervision. However, when their Breakout Character Kamala Khan, was introduced into the MCU, all Inhumans elements were removed, and the last episode of her series even reveals that she's a mutant, which seems to signify that that the Inhumans have been shelved in the MCU as well.

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