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Star-Derailing Role

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"If this doesn't kill your career, nothing will."
Maria Shriver (to her then-husband Arnold Schwarzenegger on the premiere of Red Sonja)

The latest blockbuster complete with an A-List star has just hit the theaters nationwide. They've done the usual talk show circuit hyping the film. The studio's marketing department spared no expense advertising it. Then the numbers come in...

...and the film has completely and totally bombed.

As it turns out, the studio didn't allow advance screening of the film for critics, and for good reason. Very few of them are giving the movie a positive review. Word of mouth is even worse. And as they say in Hollywood, you're only as good as your last role. Perhaps the role wasn't the right fit, or maybe the person's lack of actual acting skill has finally caught up to them. Regardless, the star's time on the A-List (or possibly even the B-List) has come to an end. If they're lucky, they may find another Star-Making Role, but more often than not, the fallen star gets trapped in a permanent Never Live It Down and ends up fading into obscurity, never to reclaim the glory they once had. Tabloid fodder could also cause the adoring media to turn against them, often dismissing their latest project out of hand. If they have an out-of-control private life it makes it worse for the actors in question. This can also be subverted if the actors are Critic-Proof and/or have a Controversy-Proof Image.

Compare with Creator Killer for those behind the camera, and Role-Ending Misdemeanor for when it happens due to off-camera foibles. Can sometimes coincide with Franchise Killer or even Genre-Killer in the most extreme circumstances. Contrast with Star-Making Role and Career Resurrection.

A good number of these examples have been Vindicated by Cable or garnered Cult Classic status.

Examples with their own sections:

Other examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • This situation is rare in voiceover because an actor supplying the voice wouldn't typically be "attached" to a project in the same way an on-camera actor would be, at least in a marketing sense, and a voice actor wouldn't really hurt their career by being in a flop. Nonetheless, there are a couple exceptions:
    • Aya Hirano's career took a hit with the failure of Dragonaut: The Resonance. Her growing reputation as a "diva" also led her managers to try to reel her in and limit her to supporting roles to save face. Hirano ultimately "left" the agency when she was caught in a scandal. However, it turned out to be a 10-Minute Retirement, and Hirano relaunched her career before the dust even settled.
    • This might have happened to David Moo after he voiced Sanji in 4Kids Entertainment's (in)famous English dub of One Piece. His exaggerated and unfitting Brooklyn accent became the laughingstock of even non-fans of the series and became something of a symbol of the dub's poorly done voice acting, strange treatment of the characters, or even 4Kids and bad dubbing in general. This is most likely to blame on Toei forcing 4Kids to dub it against their will, causing even popular voice actors like Veronica Taylor to also turn in bad performances. Moo supposedly even disagreed with how he was asked to voice Sanji. He eventually retired from voice acting to become a co-owner of the Brooklyn-based Quarter Bar, which has been ranked one of the top 18 bars in the US by at least one publication. He was also the only main voice actor not to return for Slayers Revolution and Slayers Evolution-R, where he had originally voiced Xellos. An interview with the Slayers voice director (Michael Sinterniklaas, who also took over the role) suggests that it was a decision made by the powers-that-be and not a case of Moo leaving on his own. However, everyone else in the old One Piece dub still has at least some sort of career. The divisive reception to his take on Xellos didn't help.
    • Jessica Calvello's career was derailed for a long time (11 years to be exact) after what happened behind the scenes during the dubbing of Excel♡Saga. Because of the strain the character of Excel put on her voice, her contract with ADV Films required a 4-month break between volumes. When they didn't follow up on this, Jessica's voice was injured and she ended up leaving the show (and was replaced with Larissa Wolcott). When she recovered, she moved to New York, where she found a decent amount of work, but nothing compared to the roles she had at ADV Films. She never appeared in another dub for ADV Films ever again (ADV shut down in 2009, 4 years before Jessica moved back to Texas), and didn't appear in another Texas-based dub for well over a decade. Fortunately, she's getting a decent amount of work now that the Excel incident is long behind her, such as her roles as Saori Takebe from Girls und Panzer, Kanako Miyame in Maria†Holic, Hange Zoe in Attack on Titan, and all iterations of Cutey Honey.
  • Most of the Latin American Spanish dub actors and actresses who participated in the Kaleido Star dub, which was recorded in Colombia, had their careers derailed due to the negative reception of said series in Latin America.
  • Almost happened to Yukana when she played Four Murasame in the Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam movies. First, Four's original seiyuu Saeko Shimazu wasn't cast despite still being active, so the fans immediately pegged Yukana as a Replacement Scrappy. Second, sound director Sadayoshi Fujino and voice actress Kayoko Fujii were going through a scandalous divorce related to the guy's womanizing, and Yukana was apparently involved with him in the past. As a result, Yukana was accused of pulling Casting Couch and took the brunt of the fandom's fury, which put her whole career at serious risk; it wouldn't recover until she was cast as C.C. in Code Geass.

    Live-Action TV 


  • Bob Denver could not follow the success of Gilligan's Island, and Dusty's Trail - an out-West carbon copy of Gilligan in which he played the title role - prevented him from making another primetime series thereafter. (He did find work on Saturday morning shows well into The '80s, with two animated versions of Gilligan's Island and Far Out Space Nuts.)
  • Dan Fogler's attempt to jump into television after his film career died started with the ABC sitcom Man Up!, in which he served as a co-star. Only eight episodes of the series were aired, and his TV pilot Prairie Dogs, produced the following year, did not go forward and was received negatively by those who saw it.
  • Although they seldom happen, One Episode Wonders are not immune to this. This was what South of Sunset and Lawless respectively did to Eagles lead singer Glenn Frey and football player Brian Bosworth.
  • Kevin Can Wait started a downward spiral for Kevin James. It was cancelled after two seasons, following a controversial retool which alienated the fanbase and was universally panned by critics. Aside from completed projects, James didn't act for the rest of the 2010s. He's been trying to revive his career on Netflix, but he hasn't had that much luck. His sitcom The Crew (2021) got canceled after one season, and his 2022 movie Home Team got mixed to mediocre reviews.
  • ITV made headlines when it poached Ross Kemp from the BBC with a record £800,000 contract. They promptly shoehorned him into Ultimate Force, causing a significant retool, in order to justify the cost. The show performed incredibly badly and suffered nightmarish scheduling delays, resulting in Kemp's career as an actor effectively ending. He reinvented himself as an investigative journalist and has since regained significant critical acclaim.
  • Prior to his namesake sitcom Emeril, Emeril Lagasse was riding high as one of the hottest TV chefs in the country. Then it tanked and he became just another face in the crowd. (It also has the misfortune of being Robert Urich's last series.)
  • Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll seems to have killed the career of Denis Leary, in addition to other shows he produced that didn't do well like Sirens and Benders. Since that show's cancellation, as well as Ice Age: Collision Course bombing at the box office, he doesn't have any projects slated for the future, when it comes to either acting or producing.
  • Jay Mohr was billed as a rising star in the late '90s, playing memorable roles in movies such as Jerry Maguire and Picture Perfect, as well as having a recurring role on The Jeff Foxworthy Show. Action was meant to be his ultimate catalyst into fame, but it was panned by critics and burned out after one season. Since then, he's only managed supporting roles and TV shows that either were low-rated or short-lived.
  • Mike Myers had already killed his film career with the failures of The Cat in the Hat and The Love Guru (see Film Actors) when he attempted to make a comeback on Netflix by starring, writing, producing, and creating the 2022 comedy miniseries The Pentaverate. Its negative reception prematurely killed his comeback hopes.
  • After the 2001 Box Office Bomb Summer Catch, Freddie Prinze Jr.'s brief comeback from playing Fred in Scooby-Doo (2002) and its sequel abruptly ended when he headlined his own eponymous sitcom Freddie. Inspired by his upbringing, it was negatively received and lasted only one season before getting cancelled.
  • Jeff Probst attempted to enter the daytime TV circuit with a self-titled talk show (his second attempt to move beyond the Survivor brand). To the surprise of almost no one, he actually suffered the same effect as Eliza Dushku experienced with Dollhouse. Wisely, he has continued doing only Survivor since then.
  • The Paul Reiser Show promptly bombed as soon as it aired, and NBC canceled it after two episodes. Considering he has done nothing noteworthy since Mad About You came to an end over a decade ago, this appeared to signal the end of Paul Reiser's on-screen career. However, he seems to have quietly regained some viability as a supporting actor in various movie projects, appearing in Behind the Candelabra, Whiplash, and Concussion. Additionally, a recurring role in the TV Show Married earned some critical acclaim for him particularly. His lead role as Sam Owens in the second season of Stranger Things has certainly helped his case quite a bit.
  • Michael Richards in The Michael Richards Show, the first post-Seinfeld project that established the "Seinfeld curse". Since it flopped in 2000, he's only done voice-over work (including in his old co-star's Bee Movie) and played himself in Curb Your Enthusiasm. His career was buried in 2006 by deciding to deal with a heckler at one of his stand-up comedy shows by screeching racial epithets at him. The incident was captured and released online by TMZ, ensuring that it would live on forever. He did later have a main cast role on the sitcom Kirstie but it was cancelled after one season.
  • Ramón Rodriguez starred in the unsuccessful cop drama Gang Related after he previously played Bosley in the Charlie's Angels (2011) remake (which also derailed the stars of its leading ladies; see Actresses below). His next high-profile television role was in the badly-received Iron Fist (2017), which is infamous as one of the few failures in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • Rob Schneider of all people (known best for playing bit parts in Happy Madison movies and/or leading in ridiculous ripe-for-parody comedies ("Rob Schneider is: A Carrot!")) headlined a sitcom for CBS aptly titled Rob, where he played a milquetoast white guy married to a Spicy Latina stereotype (and both lived with her family). It didn't last a full season and no one from the show (except for Eugenio Derbez, who would go on to star in the sleeper hit Instructions Not Included which is still iconic in his native Mexico) has been seen since. Schneider later dug himself deeper with 2016's animated bomb Norm of the North and his infamous Twitter tirades.
  • For Kevin Sorbo, it was Andromeda. Sorbo was cast as Captain Dylan Hunt due to his success playing the title character on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Even an aneurysm that caused four strokes didn't have a negative impact on his career. However, when Show Runner Robert Hewitt Wolfe departed in season two (allegedly due to backstage feuds with Sorbo over the show's creative direction, a charge that Sorbo denies), he took over the production and made what had been an ensemble piece center far more around his character, which meshed well with studio demands that the show be more action-heavy and episodic in order to make it friendlier for Syndication. Unfortunately for Sorbo, several members of the core cast found him increasingly difficult to work with in his capacity as both star and producer, and quickly bailed out. Around this time, Sorbo also became a Christian fundamentalist. After the series ended in 2005, Sorbo's career has been restricted mostly to independent Christian/Direct to Video films, as well as minor roles such as Crusher in the Skylanders franchise and portraying King Lar Gand in Supergirl.
  • Christopher Titus' lack of diplomacy in a network meeting brought about the cancellation of Titus and killed his acting career.
  • Steve Whitmire's career as a Muppet performer ended following the failure of The Muppets in 2016; he was told as early as October of that year that his days as a puppeteer were numbered, and his roles were finally replaced by other Muppet performers after his departure the following July.
  • Robin Williams returned to television after his film career was reduced to roles in the Happy Feet and the Night at the Museum franchise. Unfortunately, he starred in The Crazy Ones opposite Sarah Michelle Gellar (listed below in Actresses). The show's cancellation after one season in 2014 broke Williams and is assumed to have played a part in his tragic suicide later that year.
  • Dick York's career ended with Bewitched. The show was highly successful, but his famous departure and replacement with Dick Sargent after six seasons due to a back injury and resulting pain killer addiction resulted in him being out of the spotlight for a few years as he focused on recovery. When he attempted a comeback a decade later, he only booked one or two small things due to being out of the Hollywood loop for so long. He never acted again after that.
    • Dick Sargent didn't have it much better. Nobody could see him in any role other than Darrin, and the only roles he could get were guest-star walk-ons on a handful of sitcoms. He mostly went back to stage acting after his on-camera career faded.


  • Sarah Michelle Gellar went back to TV when her film career declined after The Grudge and its sequel. Unfortunately, her first show, Ringer in 2011, got mixed ratings and reviews, while failing to be as popular as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was cancelled after one season, as well as her follow-up show The Crazy Ones in 2014 opposite Robin Williams (see above in Actors). Gellar has worked infrequently since then.
  • Bette Midler in Bette, the spectacular failure of which effectively ended her entire acting career after For the Boys crippled her film career. She's since focused mostly on Broadway, and won a Tony Award in 2017 for the title role in a revival of Hello, Dolly!.
  • Although Geena Davis was still stinging from Cutthroat Island, The Geena Davis Show didn't help matters. One telling clue: usually when a show is named after its star, they keep that name in the show - Emeril played himself in Emeril and Bette played herself in Bette, for example - with Bill Cosby being among the more notable exceptions (The Bill Cosby Show, The Cosby Show, The Cosby Mysteries, Cosby and, of course, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids - in none of those is his character called Bill). Despite being The GEENA DAVIS Show, Geena Davis's character was named "Teddie". Davis' career was then really thrown off the rails when Commander in Chief failed. It was supposed to be Davis' comeback and initially started strong, including an Emmy nomination and a Golden Globe win for her, but ratings declined throughout the year before it was ultimately canceled after 18 episodes. Davis has forged a new career focusing on researching women in film and bringing awareness to the plight of sexism within the entertainment industry, which has been met with critical acclaim. She still does acting roles here and there, including voicing the mother in the Studio Ghibli film When Marnie Was There.
  • Lucille Ball in Life with Lucy; in 1986, after noticing how NBC had resurrected the careers of Bill Cosby and Bea Arthur with The Cosby Show and The Golden Girls, ABC decided to see if they could do the same with Lucille Ball of I Love Lucy fame. Given her past television successes through the '60s and '70s, even after the end of her most famous show, Ball was given complete creative control over the series and proceeded to bring in actors, writers, and crew members who had worked on her previous works. The resulting series (about a widow who works at a hardware store she had inherited partial ownership of) was painfully unfunny and cringe-inducing to watch. One big reason was that Lucy was trying to duplicate her famous slapstick comedy, which didn't work nearly as well for the then-75-year-old Ball (watching a senior citizen do pratfalls makes you want to check her hip, not laugh). The show flopped on arrival, and its failure made Ball stop working on any more projects, and she died three years later.
  • Wanda Sykes's once-strong career as a comedienne and actress fell apart after the failure of her talk show The Wanda Sykes Show. It was said that her openness about her lesbianism and her inability to appeal to Middle America blackballed her from ever heading a major production again. Her post-cancellation work has been mostly in smaller theatrical projects, although she's recently bounced back a bit with a recurring role on BlackIsh.
  • Amber Heard had a lot of buzz about her movie career, reaching its height when she beat actresses like Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley for the role of Johnny Depp's Love Interest in The Rum Diary, which flopped at the box office. Then she starred in the dreadful flop TV show The Playboy Club, and her buzz was all but killed overnight. Heard's next few films like Paranoia and 3 Days to Kill were critical and box office letdowns, and paired with her messy divorce from Depp, it seems most likely that her career won't reach new heights after that. However, she has joined the DCEU as Mera in Aquaman, but even that's looking like a dead cat bounce in her career, as allegations of Heard being both physically and emotionally abusive to Depp have been met with demands for Mera to be recast or at the very least cut from the Aquaman sequel, with an online petition that had already surpassed 4 million signatures by mid-2022.
  • Joan Rivers's career took a major hit in The '80s when she agreed to do a talk show for the then-new Fox network after it became clear she wasn't going to be tapped to replace Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson despite being its regular guest host by then. Carson refused to speak to her after she did this, and after she was fired from The Late Show, she was blacklisted from Hollywood for years.
  • Nikki Cox became an instant sex symbol in her role as the teenage daughter Tiffany Malloy on The WB sitcom (one of the earliest shows aired on the network back in early 1995) Unhappily Ever After. When Unhappily ended its run after 100 episodes in 1999, Cox starred in her own sitcom for The WB called Nikki, which lasted for two years. However, sometime after leaving the NBC series Las Vegas, Cox reemerged (after having had some ill-advised plastic surgery) in a guest appearance on the CBS series Ghost Whisperer alongside her real-life husband Jay Mohr. Since that time, Cox's most notable acting role has been voicing Silver Sable on The Spectacular Spider-Man.
  • After her film career ended in 2001 with Monkeybone and Kiss of the Dragon, Bridget Fonda finished her career as an actress by playing the title character in the Hallmark miniseries The Snow Queen (2002)note . Fonda pretty much retired from acting to become a full-time wife and mother afterwards.
  • Pink Lady's popularity in Japan had peaked in 1978, and by 1980 they had been rocked by a few scandals that had pushed their Japanese record sales into decline. So they shifted their focus to the United States and ultimately gambled on Pink Lady and Jeff reviving their careers. Except it didn't work out, and they disbanded a year later.
  • The short-run of FOX sitcom Stacked marked the end (as Chris "Rowdy C" Moore further explained in his TV Trash review) of Pamela Anderson's career as a television star, after her film career was previously derailed when Barb Wire failed. Most of Anderson's screen appearances since then have consisted of reality TV, besides an admittedly significant cameo in Borat.
  • The failure of the Charlie's Angels (2011) remake nearly extinguished the careers of its three leading ladies: Annie Ilonzeh, Minka Kelly, and Rachael Taylor. Luckily, each of them rebounded by the end of the decade in various TV series: Ilonzeh on Chicago Fire, Kelly on Titans (2018), and Taylor on Jessica Jones (2015).
  • Eliza Dushku hasn't had any prominent live-action TV roles after Dollhouse, after many reviewers expressed the opinion that a role intended to display her versatility, and ability to play something other than a sexy, morally-ambiguous action hero, actually had the reverse effect. Most of what she's done since has been voice acting in parts that reflect her standard Typecasting and appeal to her established geek fanbase.
    • In 2018, Dushku appeared poised for a comeback with her appearance on Bull. She was fired in apparent retaliation for complaining about series star Michael Weatherly's alleged sexual harassment of her. CBS settled with her for $9.5 million.
  • Perennial geek culture fan-favorite Summer Glau seems to have finally been done in by the cancellation of The Cape, making it her third canceled series in six years (fourth, if you count Dollhouse, in which she has a somewhat small but significant recurring guest-starring role).
  • While Charmed itself was a significant hit, the derailing came from Shannen Doherty's high-profile exit after the third season. Having been a respectable TV star in the '80s and '90s, she was notably dismissed from Beverly Hills, 90210 at the end of the fourth season due to tension between her and other cast members. Similar stories surfaced on the Charmed set, with T.W. King leaving after Season 1 — rumored to be because Doherty didn't like him (though other sources say he asked for more screentime and was just cut). Doherty herself left the show very publicly after a feud with co-star Alyssa Milano, to the point where she allegedly said "either she goes or I do". The fact that she had been fired from a second hit show after fighting with cast members earned her a reputation as a diva, as did her subsequent refusal to allow Charmed to use any archive footage or pictures of her — which meant that it took until 2005 for the first three seasons to come out on DVD. She turned to Reality TV projects and TV movies, but never with the high profile she once enjoyed.
  • Although Mary Tyler Moore's career took a sharp downward turn after her hit series ended, it was not until New York News that she was finally knocked off. She did not enjoy the tyrannical role that she was given, and despite asking to be written out, the series' cancellation prevailed.
  • Jennette McCurdy's acting career was derailed by Sam & Cat, a Crossover Spin-Off of both iCarly and Victorious. This show was meant to be a vehicle for Jennette, but she instead found herself in the shadow of her co-star Ariana Grande, who was making waves in the pop industry. Jennette began to publicly butt heads with Nickelodeon and Ariana, which led to Sam & Cat being cancelled after only one season. Following the show's cancellation, Ariana's music career took off while Jennette's acting career took an immediate nosedive, with Nick and Ariana being Mis-blamed by Jennette further worsening things for her. Viewing her acting career as an embarrassment and revealing that she was never interested in acting in the first place (she was forced into acting by her late Stage Mom Debra), Jennette would quit acting in favor of writing and directing and didn't reprise her role as Sam Puckett in the iCarly revival on Paramount+.
  • Sheena (2000) seemed to kill Gena Lee Nolin's acting career. After that show was canceled after two seasons and 33 episodes in 2002, she did not land another role (with the exception of reprising her Baywatch role in a 2003 TV movie) until the fourth Sharknado movie in 2016.
  • Shortly after her departure from her long-time role on NCIS in 2018, Pauley Perrette fronted the CBS sitcom Broke. The series however, only lasted one season's worth of 13 episodes and shortly thereafter, Perrette officially announced her retirement from acting.
  • After concluding her six-year run on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in 1996, Karyn Parsons received the lead role alongside Lori Petty on the FOX sitcom Lush Lifenote . Lush Life however turned out to be a major flop, with it being canceled after four episodes and three others that were produced but never aired. After that, Parsons would never get such a high-profile role again, unless you count her stint among the ensemble cast of the short-lived ABC sitcom The Job with Denis Leary.
  • The costly failure of Lipstick Jungle ended Brooke Shields' television career more than two decades after Sahara crippled her film career. After it ended after two seasons and 20 episodes, Shields focused mostly on her family and on Broadway.

    Fictional examples 


  • In Jonathan Maberry's V Wars, Michael Fayne is a D-list actor whose once-promising career was harpooned when he chose to star in Frightbook, a New Media Are Evil horror movie that was greenlit the day that The Social Network hit theaters. Despite a promising cast of TV stars and veteran character actors, it was weighed down by its female lead, a former Disney Channel star turned troubled sex symbol who couldn't act her way out of a wet paper bag, and it only made a million dollars on a $30 million budget "mostly from inbred mouth-breathers who rented the video because the cover art showed the Disney chick in a push-up bra." His next film, a sci-fi horror picture called Deep Ice, went Direct to Video, and by the time we meet him, he's reading an awful script for a Syfy Channel Original Movie titled Giant Ice Centipede vs. Slothtopus III. Worse, on the set of Deep Ice (filmed on location in Barrow, Alaska) he caught a virus called I1V1 that had been locked in the permafrost only to be released by Global Warming, and he's suffered chronic illness ever since that's cut into his ability to work — an illness that soon turns out to be vampirism.

Live-Action TV

  • On Entourage, Vincent Chase, riding high off the success of a film adaptation of Aquaman, stars in the passion project Medellín, a biopic of Pablo Escobar in which he plays the notorious drug lord. Unfortunately, the film's Troubled Production produces an utter mess of a film that gets booed at Cannes and ultimately suffers the indignity of going Direct to Video, and worse, Chase had gotten out of his lucrative Aquaman contract in order to star in Medellín, leaving his career in tatters. He eventually enjoys a Career Resurrection courtesy of a Martin Scorsese-directed adaptation of The Great Gatsby.

Western Animation

  • In The Simpsons episode Beyond Blunderdome, Marge and Homer go see a test screening of the remake of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington starring Mel Gibson (who voices himself). The test audience gives the film rave reviews, but Gibson is unsure of it, since he thinks they loved the film only because he is their favorite movie star. However, when he reads Homer's scathing review, he was jealous of Marge's celebrity crush, Gibson hires Homer as a consultant to reshoot the movie to appeal to a larger audience. Despite having a brief misgiving that this may not be a good idea, they still show their cut to the studio executives, who hate it, since Homer's input added a suspicious looking dog as the secret Big Bad, randomly sped up footage because it looked and sounded funny, and Mr. Smith massacring Congress and the President of the United States at the end. When their cut is screened to a test audience, Gibson's career is heavily implied to have taken some serious damage as the audience thrashes this cut and Jimmy Steward's granddaughter threatens legal action against Gibson and Homer. On the ride home, Homer lists some ideas for their next project, and when he mentions they could make their own version of Indiana Jones Gibson finally wises up, and kicks Homer out the limousine and drives off.