The Greatest Comebacks
Actors come and actors go, and some do that within their own career. Of late the most notable example has been Mickey Rourke, he's come back with a vengeance, and it began before The Wrestler, but that's the film that's seen as cementing his return.
However he's not the only one that it's happened to, there are a number of actors and actresses whose careers have taken a nose dive, or simply just halted, and then have come back with some superb films, taking their careers back to the fore, but can you think of them?
Mickey Rourke is perhaps the yardstick of this topic. His career was shooting upwards with Rumble Fish, The Pope of Greenwish Village, 9 1/2 Weeks, Angel Heart, Barfly, and then it began to tumble. He managed to regain some ground with the notice that films such as Wild Orchid, Desperate Hours, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man and White Sands gained him, but the films weren't well received and were continuing to mark his decline. He really was on the downward trend both career wise and personally at that point, something he willingly atests to himself.
It was during this period of his life that he gained the reputation for being incredibly difficult to work with and unpredictable on set, something he recognised himself and admitted that he had no respect for himself as an actor. So he returned to his boxing career and started fighting again, and fighting well. The time did him well mentally and he was a very different person on leaving the ring, but it also took its toll physically, hence the appearance of the man today after botched plastic surgery to repair the damage incurred through fighting.
However that didn't stop his return to acting, and with a few smaller roles here and there from Get Carter and The Pledge to Once Upon a Time in Mexico and then a much bigger step onto Man on Fire (Filmstalker review). Yet it was his appearance in Sin City (Filmstalker review) that really got him noticed again and took him right back up to the heights of his previous career, even higher one might argue. Following that with a great role in a not so well received Domino, and a poor film choice in Stormbreaker, his leading role in The Wrestler just cemented how strong he's returned and just how good he is as an actor.
We have a couple of interesting roles to look forward too as well, with the remake 13 and The Expendables, a film that will throw him in with a bunch of actors returning to the fore.
Let's hope that his success doesn't stop here because he is turning out to be a hell of an actor and personality.
Talking of Expendables, let's consider Sylvester Stallone, there's another comback, although some might consider his to be as strong as Rourke's, it's still a comeback none the less. I thought that Stallone had hit a career high with Cop Land, a brilliant film where he played his character superbly, standing up well to much more highly thought of actors and holding his own. He also deliverd a great voice performance prior in Antz, and then something happened.
I suspect his first mistake was the remake of Get Carter. Now this had some great potential, but it had a huge hurdle to climb from the beginning, it was a Michael Caine film that had a particular style to it, a style that most suited a bleak English outlook. To redevelop this needed something special, and it didn't work. Follow that with Stallone's attempt at a modern day racing car film that relied too much on CGI and he had two poor shows in a row, the failures kept coming.
I honestly thought that was the last we would see from Stallone, and his television show The Contender was perhaps the best we'd see him at again. Then came the announcement that he was going to be writing, directing and starring in a new Rocky film, Rocky Balboa (Filmstalker review), word followed that he was considering doing the same for Rambo, and everyone was amazed. The consensus was that people wanted him to succeed, but they just couldn't believe he could.
Boy did he put us wrong. Not only did he deliver a superb Rocky film that captured the essence and feel of the original character, but he put tons of heart and love into it and there was a strong character building side to it. So when it came the turn of Rambo, who was going to doubt he could do it? Well he did do it, although I think not as successfully as he did with Rocky. The heart and character side to it was a little lost to extended realistic action sequences, and I would have liked to have seen the same treatment that Rocky received given to Rambo. Still, another amazing return to form, and perhaps exceeding expectations.
What I think was particularly special about this comeback was the fact that he did it on the power of his own writing, his own directing and his own lead acting. Now that is something rather impressive you have to admit, to pin the whole comeback on his own film.
He's not being selfish though, next up is The Expendables where he's giving a number of other older stars a chance at redemption, apart from Stallone and Rourke who head up the "comeback kings" for the cast, there's Dolph Lundgren and Eric Roberts, unfortunately Jean-Cluade Van Damme didn't take a role in the film, but imagine if he had, this would have been a film filled with comeback kings.
There's another film on the slate which could mark a completely new direction for him, a film about the famous author Edgar Allan Poe that he's written, and that would be something very different from the films he's made to date, and if he pulls it off it'll be another landmark for his once again rising career.
There was a time when Bridget Fonda was getting a lot of bigger roles on screen, and not only because she was gorgeous and sexy but because she was a damn fine actress. Shag, Frankenstein Unbound, The Godfather Part III, Doc Hollywood, Drop Dead Fred, these films were all building her up, then we saw Single White Female, one of my person favourite roles of hers Singles. Then the films didn't seem to do so well, It Could Happen to You and The Road to Wellville were the bigger named ones but they weren't big hits, and then things went a little quiet. The best through the two year period was City Hall but nothing to rival the film roles that came before.
Tarantino was the one that gave her a break, someone we'll come back to again. In Jackie Brown she had a great role that manged to show off just how gorgeous she is on screen and also give her a cool role to play. However that was the return to the top for her as we saw Finding Graceland and Lake Placid and the course ran downhill. Some seven films later and she was done with acting in 2002. That is a shame, I'd love to see her return again, and not just because she's beautiful.
While we're talking Tarantino, what about John Travolta? Grease, Blow Out, Staying Alive, the height of his career. Perfect, Look Who's Talking, Look Who's Talking Too, look who's career is fading rapidly. Then came Tarantino and cast him totally against type in Pulp Fiction, and that against type is what has made his career so strong today. Get Shorty, Michael, Phenomenon, Broken Arrow, Face/Off, The Thin Red Line, all good films and great appearances. Then it began slipping again, ever so slightly, with the odd strong performance such as The General's Daughter, but a poorly received film, mix in some stonkers and some personal tragedy, and we're seeing him come through with The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, a film I hope shows off his talents of being a bad guy.
Is he coming back again, or has he let his career slip away from the Pulp Fiction return? I think a bit of the latter, and we'll perhaps hear a quiet period from the man as he concentrates on family, and maybe he'll come back as strong as ever. I hope so, he's a great actor. Since his Pulp Fiction return he's delivered some great bad guys and some superb, wavering on the edge of being, over the top characters. A lot of fun to watch and beneath that some great performances.
Alec Baldwin is a really interesting choice for this list, and a prime example of an actor with two seriously big comebacks, one on television and one on screen. He is a great actor, and he was high up there within his first few appearances with Beetlejuice, then we had Married to the Mob, Working Girl, The Hunt for Red October, and he's been the best Jack Ryan ever in my eyes. We saw a couple of years before some more very powerful performances in Glengarry Glen Ross, Malice, and a little lighter in The Shadow, which I still rate as a great superhero character and an entertaining film. Then he starts to slide away, even narrating the American version of Thomas the Tank Engine, yes, Alec Baldwin.
Then, after six episodes on the excellent Will & Grace, he appeared on 30 Rock, and his career shot up once more, timed nicely with his superb appearance in The Departed (Filmstalker review) and then in The Good Shepherd. He was definitely back to film with a bang. There have been some mixed films since then, but the television career is undoubtedly running at a great high once more. He's certainly a comeback king and winning awards for it too, I just hope that he keeps picking good films to return to and gives us some great perfomances.
Robert Downey Jr. now there's a comeback to rival the rest, in fact how many comebacks has he had? To be fair this has been his biggest. Downey Jr. was another great start that started off so well with films like Less than Zero taking him to the fore, then his troubles began but he came through them with Air America, Soapdish and Chaplin.
It was on Chaplin though that many said he burnt his bridges, and yet his talent kept him coming back with Short Cuts the following year and Natural Born Killers the year after that. However his addictions kept him from returning to the front line of acting for some time and it was The Singing Detective, Gothika and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Filmstalker review) that suggested he might return once again, followed by Good Night, and Good Luck, A Scanner Darkly until the film that I think secured his leading man status again, Zodiac.
Throw in Iron Man (Filmstalker review), Tropic Thunder, The Soloist, and Sherlock Holmes and I think we can safely say without a doubt that Robert Downey Jr. is back, and I think stronger than ever. He's a superb actor that can effortlessly turn his talent to so many characters, and his intensity is magnetic.
Once again I've gotten carried away with writing about some of my favourite actors and some good, and not so good, examples of actors and actresses who have made comebacks in their career, and some that are perhaps in the process of coming back. Do you have any more comebacks that you can think of? I certainly have a few more I've refrained from mentioning, and deleted from this list after writing it in order to leave a few untouched. Who would you say has had the biggest comeback to date?