While actors give great performances, stars have “brands”, and a part of that is maintaining the illusion that people want to see the star themselves. Most stars fail at becoming bankable on their own and slide back onto the B or C list, but a few actors manage to weather those early career storms and escape movie star jail. SEE SOME EXAMPLES OF WHAT I MEAN BELOW!
Post-Good Will Hunting was Matt Damon’s time to shine, and boy did he ever… not. The biggest mess of all of his messy movies was probably All The Pretty Horses. It cost way too much and was way too long to be entrusted to Billy Bob Thornton, who had previously only directed very small films. Matt Damon even said it himself on David Letterman — three flops in a row, and you’re essentially in movie jail. But The Bourne Identity was a huge hit, and its sequels were just as big (and better movies, too). Now, Damon’s secured his place on the A-list, no matter how many flops in a row he has to endure.
He may have had a smaller role than Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, but Ben Affleck initially looked like the bigger star. He even ended up with one of the most high-profile celebrity relationships in recent memory, as pretty much everyone went nuts for his coupling with Jennifer Lopez. But after “Bennifer” came to an end, and Affleck saw a number of his movies fail in a row, he’d mostly retreat from the spotlight. In fact, Affleck didn’t even appear in Gone Baby Gone, his first film as a director (which is still his best, imho). The film would receive so much acclaim that people started talking about Affleck again. He chose his next projects carefully, doing a supporting comedy role in Extract, then starring in The Town. Then Argo won Best Picture (barf), and now the guy is Batman. That’s a helluva comeback!
I don’t anyone thought Adam Sandler would become the kind of bankable star that he did; Billy Madison developed a cult following after flopping in theaters, and Happy Gilmore was a mild hit. But The Waterboy exploded in theaters, making 100 million dollars. Sandler’s next movie, though, Little Nicky, bombed. It’s been well over a decade, and that movie sure as hell never became a “cult classic”. Sandler would have a cameo in The Animal, which also flopped, and nobody liked his animated holiday movie Eight Crazy Nights. But for some reason, the next batch of Sandler movies were all big hits. Why was that? I don’t know! As far as I can tell, it’s because he went away from playing eccentric weirdos, and returned to playing angry man children?
George Clooney was obviously a movie star even when he was on the TV show ER. The guy’s charisma was out of this world, and he just dominated every scene he was in. But when Clooney left the show, things were pretty rocky. Bad rom-coms, a dud of a political action thriller (The Peacemaker), and finally *shudders* Batman & Robin were all lining up to turn Clooney into another TV star who couldn’t make the transition. Until he did!
Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr.’s career didn’t go to hell because of flops, it went to hell because of drug addiction. Honestly, he had so many relapses and run-ins with the law, it’s really incredible that RDJ is not only still alive but also healthy enough to bring his career back. It’s also incredible luck that he found literally the perfect role — is there a better piece of casting than putting him in Iron Man, the movie that pretty much created the look and tone of the entire Marvel universe?
Meet Joe Black, 7 Years In Tibet, and The Devil’s Own were all flops that really should’ve sunk Brad Pitt’s career. Se7en was a big hit, but one big hit can only do so much to keep an incredibly handsome guy’s career going. But then, Pitt wised up and started taking some roles that weren’t so… joyless. Fight Club, Snatch (a small role that is still a highlight of the film), and Ocean’s Eleven all saw the guy clearly enjoying himself, and audiences responded. He even has an Oscar nomination for Twelve Monkeys mixed in there. Now the guy is one of the bigger producers of prestige films currently working.
I FOUND A LADY! Sandra Bullock was the queen of the romantic comedies, back when those were in vogue. But then she spent some time in the wilderness, with movies like Infamous and Premonition absolutely crapping the bed. But then came The Proposal, a huge hit during a time when romantic comedies weren’t exactly making bank. Bullock would follow that up with The Blind Side, a surprising hit that also won her an Oscar (a win that a lot of people still refer to derisively). Gravity was a huge, huge hit, largely anchored by her, and she also had a hit comedy in there with The Heat. It’s the kind of box office comeback that means she’ll be able to weather huge flops like All About Steve and Our Brand Is Crisis without having to worry about it ruining her career anymore.
Any actors you’ve been happy to see make a comeback?