15 Movie Stars Who Managed to Make a Comeback After a Long Break and Now Shine Brighter Than Ever
To climb up to the heights of Hollywood and stay there for at least a few years is every aspiring actor’s dream. True, fame is a fickle friend, and in most cases it will leave you quite abruptly. But the film industry has seen a few lucky ones who, after a break in their careers, have managed to return to their profession and end up shining brighter than ever.
The big news of the 2023 Oscars was that Brendan Fraser, who hadn’t been heard from much since the early noughties, won the Best Actor award. He went from one of the most in-demand actors in Hollywood to a master voice actor. After that, he disappeared from the radar altogether.
In 2019, it was as if Fraser rose from the ashes. He once again started appearing in big projects. First, in The Poison Rose and Line of Descent, and, in 2022, in Darren Aronofsky’s drama The Whale. The latter earned Brendan the coveted statuette.
Hayden Panettiere won the viewers’ hearts when she starred in the TV series Heroes and Nashville, as well as the iconic movie Scream 4. However, after starring in the horror film, the actress developed health problems. She struggled with depression for several years, which led to her taking a break from acting. But it was the horror film that, once again, helped her get back to her former self. When Panettiere learned about the filming of the new part of Scream, she called the creators and said she was ready to play her character again.
Incidentally, coping with fame has been difficult for many celebrities, including supermodel Bella Hadid.
Eddie Murphy used to appear on the big screens almost every year starting in the ’80s. The actor worked mostly on comedies. However, 30 years into his career, he started taking on fewer and fewer roles, and after A Thousand Words, he disappeared off the screens altogether.
In 2016, he returned as a film actor, this time in a dramatic role in Mr. Church, after which he again disappeared for several years. His next work was a biopic about comedian Rudy Ray Moore, in which Murphy played the lead role. The film was hailed as one of the best of 2019 and Eddie’s work as the greatest in his filmography.
Many actresses are afraid to go on maternity leave because when they return they may not be so in demand. That was not the case with Zoe Saldaña. When she became a mother, she left her career without a second thought and devoted herself completely to her family. And she only returned to work due to her financial needs: “We have to pay bills and at the end of the day, I think that’s the best example we can set to our children.”
But after her maternity leave, the actress had tremendous success. She has starred in several Marvel Cinematic Universe films, as well reprising her role in Avatar.
Ke Huy Quan
In the 1980s, Ke Huy Quan was a successful child actor who was eagerly sought after by various directors. One of the highlights of his career was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. However, as he got older, he couldn’t find his niche in the acting pantheon and went to work on the other side of the camera. He became a stunt director, and a successful one at that. For example, he directed stunts for X-Men.
Years later, however, Ke Huy Quan was invited back into acting. And this comeback was a real triumph. The actor starred in Everything Everywhere All at Once, for which he won an Oscar.
Demi Moore seems to never have been afraid to be left out of Hollywood. She took several career breaks before bravely returning to the ranks of in-demand actresses. After her role as Jane the soldier, she moved to Idaho, where she devoted several years exclusively to raising her daughters.
After a three-year hiatus, Moore returned to acting, first starring in the arthouse film Passion of Mind and then in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. Her role in the latter was received praise from critics and audiences alike. After that, the actress once again disappeared off the screens for several years, and then, again, easily returned to her profession.
After the iconic 1983 film Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (Episode VI), Mark Hamill didn’t act for six years. The success of the movie was so great that the actor became associated with his character. And he didn’t want that, so Hamill immersed himself in Broadway productions. He returned to the cinema only in 1989.
Several failures in a row motivated Mark to expand the scope of his activities. He took on voice acting in animated films, which helped him return to fame. Now he also appears on-screen. For example, he can be seen in the series Criminal Minds.
After the release of the thriller Case 39, Renée Zellweger was hit by a barrage of criticism. The press wrote that after turning 40, the future of the actress’ career seemed uncertain. After that, the star appeared in the drama My Own Love Song, after which she left the big screen for six years. According to her, she wanted to “go away and grow up a bit.” And apparently, that’s exactly what happened.
2016 saw the release of Bridget Jones’s Baby, in which Renée returned to her iconic character. The film grossed more than $210 million, and fans, who had been missing the actress, were delighted with her performance.
Back in 1999, the star of Home Alone, Joe Pesci, announced his departure from the cinema, to devote all his efforts to a music career and enjoy life away from the cameras. However, the actor did return to the screens several times, playing minor or episodic roles.
While working on the film The Irishman, Martin Scorsese could only see Pesci in one of the key roles. He offered it to Joe over 50 times, but each time the actor refused, not wanting to return to the gangster image. Scorsese promised that this movie character would be “different,” and only after that did Pesci agree to go through with it. The role brought the actor many award nominations, including the BAFTAs and the Oscars.
In 2021, another star of Home Alone became a sensation, having returned to the big screens after a long hiatus. Macaulay Culkin, who was written off by Hollywood back in the ’90s, made a triumphant return in the tenth season of American Horror Story, leaving critics stunned with his performance. Prior to that, he had taken part in experimental projects, starring in obscure films and commercials. However, the series was the actor’s first truly prominent work in almost two decades.
In the 1990s and 2000s it might have seemed that Katherine Heigl was in almost every romantic comedy in Hollywood. But over time she started appearing in fewer and fewer projects. From 2017, she stopped acting in films altogether, although she did appear in a few TV series. In 2021, the actress finally returned to the big screens. Heigl played one of the leading roles in the psychological thriller Fear of Rain, showing that she can play more complex characters than those in teenage comedies.
Today it’s hard to imagine, but back in 2010 Joaquin Phoenix with all seriousness announced his retirement from the acting profession. He planned to focus his energy on exploring the relationship between celebrities and the press. However, after some time he did return to the cinema. Director Paul Thomas Anderson offered him a major role in the drama The Master. For this role, Phoenix lost a lot of weight and even changed the cutting of his teeth with the help of a dentist.
The effort was not in vain. Critics wrote: “Phoenix wears the role like a second skin. You can’t take your eyes off him.” After the colossal success, the actor decided to continue acting. 2019 saw the release of his most striking work, which led to him winning an Oscar for his performance in The Joker. The second part of this film is planned for a 2024 release.
Jackie Earle Haley
Jackie Earle Haley started his career at a young age, playing rebellious kids. But in the ’90s, he achieved success as a producer and director of TV commercials. Then, in 2006, on the recommendation of Sean Penn, he returned to the acting profession. Together they starred in All the King’s Men. Next came the film Little Children, which earned him an Oscar nomination and an invitation to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
After the resounding success of the Twilight saga and the title of one of Hollywood’s highest-paid young actors, the bar for Taylor Lautner was set incredibly high. However, projects to match it were nowhere to be found. The actor starred in several films, which didn’t get much love from the public, and left Hollywood to live the “real life.” During this time, he found love.
2023 was the year that the ’70s and ’80s film icon Shelley Duvall returned to the big screens. The star of Kubrick’s The Shining shone with renewed vigor after a 20-year career hiatus. Director Scott Goldberg offered her a role in his film The Forest Hills, believing it would be a great opportunity for her to remind the world of her abilities. As for the 73-year-old Duvall, she says: “[Jessica Tandy] won an Oscar when she was 80. I can still win.”