The best acting comebacks in recent Hollywood history
Hollywood loves a comeback story and not just in a film or TV script. In real life, Tinseltown is always willing to forgive past movie mistakes; Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez starring in 2003’s box office bomb Gigli is a prime example of Hollywood forgiveness.
Since was released, Affleck has gone on to win a second Oscar (he won his first alongside best buddy Matt Damon for Best Original Screenplay for 1998’s ) for his 2013 film and his co-star/ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Lopez, has had roles in award-winning TV shows like and huge blockbuster hits like . She was also a judge on reality TV ratings juggernaut for five seasons.
Lopez and Affleck aren’t alone in having an acting misstep and returning to the A-list better, more bankable and in higher demand. Christina Applegate (above), Hilary Duff, Robert Downey Jr., Jason Bateman, Jane Fonda and Winona Ryder are just a few of the big names whose star stocks fell hard only to recently rise, phoenix-like, from the acting wasteland of retirement housing commercials and paid birthday party appearances to star in hot TV shows like Netflix’s and the franchise.
The current hunger in Hollywood for rebooting past favourites has also given a number of forgotten names a second career chance. Take the upcoming reboot of reality/drama show — the entire cast is getting a second chance and along for the ride is new cast member, Mischa Barton. After Barton left teen drama Hollywood scarcely said the actress’s name, but now, she’s back.
Scroll on for the best acting comebacks in recent Hollywood history.
Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini star in the show everyone is talking about and binge-watching, Netflix’s Dead to Me, but both actresses disappeared from the Hollywood agenda for years. Applegate’s career started out strong with her role on late ‘80s, early ‘90s sitcom Married… with Children but stumbled into crickets territory following that. In the last couple of years she’s staged a comeback with roles in Bad Moms and now Dead to Me.
Cardellini had similar early fame with a role as Velma in the Scooby-Doo live-action franchise, but then things got quiet. Fast forward to last year and she’s one of the most in-demand actresses in Hollywood. In 2018 she starred in Oscar-winning film Green Book as Tony Lip’s (Viggo Mortensen) wife Dolores and this year, she played Laura Barton in the year’s biggest blockbuster, Avengers: Endgame. The actress is now starring alongside Applegate in the breakout hit TV show of the year, .
Mischa Barton was everyone’s favourite teen-with-issues, Marissa Cooper, on but after her departure from the show in 2006, it was a long lean few years of no Barton. Now, she’s back in a big way. The actress has confirmed she will be joining the cast of the rebooted reality drama The Hills, aptly titled, The Hills: New Beginnings.
As a singer, dancer and actress, Jennifer Lopez didn’t ever really depart from the spotlight because there’s always something this multi-talent is doing, but she wasn’t booking a bunch of movie roles following 2003’s Gigli. However, all that changed when she booked the role of Ramona in one of the year’s most highly-anticipated movies, Hustlers. Lopez stars alongside Cardi B, Constance Wu, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer and Lili Reinhart in the film, which is about vengeful ex-strippers who set out to con their rich clientele. Jenny from the Block has officially returned.
Disney darling Hilary Duff was everyone’s favourite star in the early ‘00s, starring as Lizzie McGuire in the TV series and movie as well as having roles in Cheaper by the Dozen and A Cinderella Story, but then she kind of vanished from our screens, with only a couple of cameo credits to her name. Along came 2016’s Younger and with it Duff, reminding fans exactly why we were all big fans of hers in her Disney days.
Remember 1999 teen comedy American Pie? It put many of the cast on the map including Natasha Lyonne, who played Jessica. But like many teen stars, transitioning a role in a teen film franchise into a long-term acting career can be tough (where is Michael Welch who played Mike in Twilight now?). But Lyonne has done it, 20 years after American Pie was released, Lyonne is currently starring in Netflix’s hit Russian Doll — a dark take on the classic Groundhog Day time loop. The actress made her initial comeback on Orange Is the New Black in 2013.
Welcome back Winona Ryder! Ryder was the darling of the ‘90s starring in Edward Scissorhands alongside a young Johnny Depp, Mermaids with Cher, Reality Bites and Little Women, but then there was the arrest for shoplifting in 2001 and Hollywood stopped calling. But, thanks to Netflix’s Stranger Things Ryder has made a triumphant return. The actress plays Joyce Byers in the hit supernatural show and has been welcomed back into the Hollywood fold like no time has passed at all.
Teen Wolf Too’s Jason Bateman has had a major career comeback in both film and TV starring in so many recent Hollywood hot properties including Arrested Development, Ozark and Game Night.
After era-defining TV show Beverly Hills, 90210 ended in 2000, almost the entire cast drifted into quiet obscurity. From being the decade’s pin-ups to being barely recognised, the cast turned to other pursuits — Ian Ziering, who played Steve Sanders, even joined male dance group, the Chippendales. Luke Perry, who played Dylan McKay, was the first to return to our screens as Archie’s dad on Riverdale, only to tragically pass away in March this year. And now the remaining main cast members, Jason Priestly (Brandon), Jennie Garth (Kelly), Ian Ziering (Steve), Gabrielle Carteris (Andrea), Brian Austin Green (David), Tori Spelling (Donna), Shannen Doherty (Brenda) are coming back by way of a 90210 reboot slated to air in August this year.
Jane Fonda was an actress well before she became the queen of ‘80s fitness and then she came back to acting, staging a renaissance with her TV show , which has been renewed for a sixth season.
No comeback story would be complete without a mention of Robert Downey Jr., who is the classic Hollywood comeback kid. From his early days as a child and teen actor to his well-documented struggles with substance abuse leading to his reported firing from ‘90s TV show Ally McBeal, Downey Jr. has had such a noteworthy return to form he is now one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood, reportedly earning US$75 million from 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War alone.