The phrase ‘one hit wonders’ is usually used in reference to the world of music, where an artist can capture lightning in a bottle and stumble upon an insanely catchy tune, release it to an adoring public, and then promptly disappear forever, having failed to replicate their impossible success.
One hit wonders are a bit harder to come across in movies – if an actor is in a hit, you’ll find that doors seem to open automatically for them – but they are out there. Some of these stars - through no fault of their own - never get another chance at stardom, while others happily walked away from the limelight, like the first guy on our list…
Peter Ostrum - ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ (1971)
It was the part of a lifetime, but for child actor Peter Ostrum, it was the only role he’d ever need. Cast as Charlie Bucket in the adaptation of Roald Dahl’s confectionary-based creation, Ostrum is the heart and soul of 'Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory’, and indeed the actor remained pure after the cameras had stopped shooting: though he was offered a studio contract and the chance to continue acting, Ostrum decided Hollywood wasn’t to his taste.
Though he’s happy to be rolled out for the various Wonka anniversaries and re-releases, Ostrum currently works as a veterinarian in New York.
Eminem – '8 Mile’
Sometimes it seems musicians make movies not because they want to, but just because they can – if nothing else, it’s another way to sell records. Credit to Marshall Mathers, then, who was electrifying in Curtis Hanson’s '8 Mile’, in the not-at-all-autobiographical role of Jimmy 'B-Rabbit’ Smith, a rapper from Detroit.
Not only did Eminem knock the role out of the park, he won an Oscar for Best Original Song for 'Lose Yourself’ then promptly decided he’d accomplished everything he wanted to in acting and went back to being a global rap superstar. That’s if you don’t count his hilarious cameo in Judd Apatow’s 'Funny People’: [to Ray Romano] “Would you like to f**k me, Ray? Is that what this is?”
Katie Jarvis – 'Fish Tank’
The story behind the casting of Andrea Arnold’s 'Fish Tank’ is almost as fascinating as the Palme d'Or-nominated drama itself. Director Arnold searched long and hard for an unknown young actress to play the role of aimless Essex teenager Mia, but found her leading lady in the most unlikely of places: Tilbury train station.
Katie Jarvis, 17, had blown up in yet another argument with her boyfriend while waiting for a train, unaware she was being watched by an Oscar-winning director on the opposite platform. Arnold snapped her up and Jarvis was terrific in the role – opposite Michael Fassbender no less – but, save for a small role in Sky TV anthology '10 Minute Tales’, never acted again.
Chuck Aspegren – 'The Deer Hunter’
When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade; so when Robert De Niro and director Michael Cimino visited Chuck Aspegren’s steel mill in East Chicago while scouting for 'The Deer Hunter’, the foreman turned the flying visit into a once in a lifetime opportunity. So impressed by Chuck’s vigour, Cimino cast him in his movie as Axel, hunting buddy of De Niro and Christopher Walken, despite the fact Aspegren had no previous acting experience of any kind.
Once the movie had wrapped, Chuck went back to work at the steel mill, perhaps waiting for the next Hollywood director to pop in and offer him a part. They never came, and 'The Deer Hunter’ remains Aspegren’s sole credit.
Bjork - ‘Dancer In The Dark’ (2000)
It’s true what they say: if you value your sanity, never work with children, animals or Lars von Trier. Icelandic pop goblin Björk was already a huge star in the world of music when she agreed to provide the score for von Trier’s gritty drama 'Dancer In The Dark’, but the Danish director convinced her she had to star in the movie too, as a desperate immigrant attempting to pay for an operation to stop her son from going blind.
Reportedly, the shoot was so emotionally and physically gruelling, Björk vowed to quit the business as soon as it wrapped, but the movie won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and she was named Best Actress – despite her insistence she’d never step in front of the camera again.
Jaye Davidson – 'The Crying Game’
“I really think that most of this is a fluke.” That’s Jaye Davidson there, describing his acting career in a refreshing burst of honesty. Hired to play the crucial role of Dil in 'The Crying Game’ (we all know how that turned out, right?), Davidson had no prior acting experience but did have exactly the androgynous look that director Neil Jordan was after.
Given the movie’s shock twist ending, Jaye’s was the name on everyone’s lips, but Davidson had no interest in forging a career in film – even after scoring an Oscar nomination. Jaye did go on to play villain Ra in Roland Emmerich’s 'Stargate’ in 1994, but Davidson hated the fame game and returned to the modelling industry soon after.
Carie Henn - ‘Aliens’ (1986)
As is so often the way with inexperienced child actors, Carrie Henn had a taste of the limelight and decided it just wasn’t for her. James Cameron knew he wanted an unknown for the role of Newt in his sci-fi sequel 'Aliens’, and Henn got the part after auditioning in England.
Despite receiving second billing to Sigourney Weaver (poor Bill Paxton), Carrie had no desire to continue a career in film, and when the character of Newt was written out of 'Alien3’, there was no need for her to do so. Henn currently works as a schoolteacher in California and apparently still keeps in touch with Sigourney Weaver by letter. Awww.
Tommy Wiseau – 'The Room’
To his credit, Tommy Wiseau has turned failure into an art form – he is a man who pounced on his own ineptitude and made it his way of life. If you’ve seen 'The Room’, you’ll understand perfectly: it’s a laughably bad movie written, directed by and starring Wiseau as a lovesick loser who shouts, cries and has lots of sex.
'The Room’ swiftly gained a reputation as “the worst movie ever” and began screening ironically across America. Now, it’s a cult classic on a par with terrible movies like 'Plan 9 From Outer Space’, and Wiseau – who tours with the movie and now claims it was all a big gag – has no need to add further movies to his CV. Not that anyone would hire him if he did.
Brandon Routh in ‘Superman Returns’ (2006)
The role of Superman is so gigantic, it’s no surprise that his iconic shadow looms large over everything else an actor might subsequently try. Christopher Reeve had trouble shaking off his Superman image, but Brandon Routh was practically buried by it. After donning the tights for Bryan Singer’s 'Superman Returns’ – in which he gave a pretty sensational approximation of Christopher Reeve’s Man Of Steel – relative unknown Routh struggled to escape the cape.
Small roles in 'Zack & Miri Make A Porno’ and 'Scott Pilgrim’ Vs The World were little more than fan service: Routh is still searching for another hit, and we fear he’ll be searching for a while. Are you reading, Henry Cavill?
The cast of 'The Blair Witch Project’
'The Blair Witch Project’ capitalised on the early days of the internet and the gullibility of the people who were on it – the 'found footage’ horror was purported to be 'real’ footage, which would make principal cast members Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael C Williams real too (not to mention dead). Perhaps this was why they found it almost impossible to find work afterwards – although it’s probably just as well they didn’t appear in sequel 'Blair Witch 2: Book Of Shadows’.
To be fair to Donahue, she worked on Steven Spielberg’s TV show 'Taken’, but she would continue to be haunted by the Blair Witch for years – maybe casting agents just couldn’t see past her snot.