10 actors who squandered their comebacks

Hanna Flint
The McConaissance has not lasted (Warner Bros.)

The world loves a Hollywood comeback and over the years we’ve seen a lot of actors enjoy a return to form. But sometimes, after getting the Oscar or achieving critical acclaim, they make a whole load of bad movie decisions and find themselves back at the bottom of acting barrel… again.

So here’s just ten stars who have likewise failed to make the most of the opportunities afforded by their big comeback.

Mickey Rourke

Mickey Rourke in The Fighter (L) and Skin Traffik

After enjoying big screen acclaim in the 80s, Rourke made an impactful return two decades later with roles in Once Upon a Time in Mexico and Sin City. His comeback was cemented in with a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler but since then he devolved back to starring in straight-to-DVD stunners with titles such as War Pigs, Blunt Force Trauma, and WEAPONiZED alongside people like Tom Sizemore.

Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey collecting his Oscar (L) and in this year’s The Dark Tower.

Three years ago, the McConaissance – McConaughey’s escape from a career in forgettable romcoms – culminated with an Oscar win for his role in Dallas Buyers Club. Since then the Texan’s lustre has disappeared in a string of flops including Gold, The Sea of Trees, and this year’s The Dark Tower. A second McComing is hopefully nigh.

Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck with his Best Picture Oscar for Argo (L) and as Batman

The Noughties weren’t kind to Affleck’s career but he enjoyed a return to critical form in 2013 when he won a Best Picture Oscar for Argo in which he directed and starred. Sadly his subsequent films such as Runner Runner, Batman V Superman, and Justice League have failed to garner anywhere near as much praise, and his directorial follow up to ArgoLive By Night – was savaged by critics, and was a major box office flop.

Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man (L) and in The Judge

Iron Man established Downey Jr’s big comeback as an A-list star in 2008, after years in the wilderness, but now it seems that’s the only role he wants to play anymore. After receiving mixed reviews for Due Date and The Judge, the actor has made six films since 2015 and they’re all in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Well, if it ain’t broke… and RDJ certainly isn’t, reportedly earning $50m for Marvel’s Avengers Assemble.

Adrien Brody

Adrien Brody in The Grand Budapest Hotel (L) and in Dragon Blade

He won an Oscar in 2002 for The Pianist but Brody has struggled to offer up a performance as good ever since. He did have a minor comeback in 2014 in Wes Anderson’s superb The Grand Budapest Hotel but a string of ill-advised movies like Dragon Blade and Manhattan Nights followed. Brody can now be seen channeling Marlon Brando in Peaky Blinders.

John Cusack

John Cusack in Love & Mercy (L) and the Southern Fury poster

For a hot minute in 2014 Cusack earned acclaimed for his roles in David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars and Love & Mercy as Brian Wilson. Now he’s making direct-to-video movies like Southern Fury alongside Nicolas Cage (one critic dubbed it “the worst movie of 2017”) that are as low in enjoyment as they are in budget.

John Travolta

John Travolta as Vicent Vega in Pulp Fiction (L) and in I Am Wrath

He shot to fame in the 1970s but the following decade did not match the Grease star’s earlier success. Thanks to Quentin Tarantino he made a 90s comeback in Pulp Fiction and his career was reignited but since his career-low performance in Battlefield Earth, no role has quite lived up to Vincent Vega since. He’s now plying in trade in straight-to-DVD thrillers like Killing Season, Criminal Activities, and I Am Wrath.

Adam Sandler

Adam Sandler in Funny People (L) and in Sandy Wexler

The comedy actor made a critical comeback in 2009 with Funny People but soon after he was back to making juvenile comedies including That’s My Boy, Pixels and The Ridiculous Six. Hopefully his second (or is it third or fourth?) comeback with The Meyerowitz Stories will see better film choices in his future. Seems unlikely though.

Chevy Chase

Chevy Chase in Community (L) and in Hot Tub Time Machine

The National Lampoon veteran saw a return to comedy form in the beloved TV series Community but he’s been unable to convert his rediscovered cultural cache into anything substantial beyond cameos in fratboy comedies like Hot Tub Time Machine and the Vacation remake.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Expendables 2 (L) and in Terminator Genisys

Arnie took a break from acting to play Governor of California but made his big screen comeback in 2012 in The Expendables 2. Sadly none of his action roles have quite lived up to his 90s offerings, not even his highly-anticipated return as the T-800 in 2015’s Terminator Genisys.

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