Hollywood is a fickle mistress. One day’s superstar is the next day’s nobody. It is common for an actor or actress to have a hit, or even a string of hits, before fading forever into obscurity. But occasionally, the end isn’t the end. Second chances do happen. The 2000s have brought success for several actors who had appeared as if their time in the spotlight was over.
Neil Patrick Harris
It’s hard to remember that Neil Patrick Harris was ever anything but a giant. The former child star has been in the spotlight since the 2005 premiere of “How I Met Your Mother.” But his first shot at stardom came years earlier. Many people still remember him as the title character in the television show “Doogie Howser, M.D.”
Like many young stars, he had difficulties making the transition to adult stardom. Things changed in 2004 when Harris made a cameo appearance in “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.”
Harris played a fictitious version of himself as a coked-up, dysfunctional has-been. What could have been a less-than-notable attempt at self-parody took off, and with his casting in “How I Met Your Mother” the next year Harris was once again a star.
Robert Downey, Jr.
Perhaps no actor in recent memory has had a fall and comeback as dramatic as Robert Downey, Jr. By the mid-1990s, he had been on the Hollywood scene for decades. He enjoyed success in the early ’90s with films such as “Chaplin” and “Natural Born Killers.”
But in 1996, things went downhill. Downey was arrested on drug charges and began a five year struggle with addiction. He spent almost a year in rehab and was released in 2000. His troubles weren’t over. It took a couple years of before Downey could get film roles again.
2008 was the true comeback year for Downey. He starred in “Iron Man,” a film which, according to Boxofficemojo.com, has made well over half a million dollars internationally. Downey starred in an Iron Man sequel, 2012’s “The Avengers” and two Sherlock Holmes films.
In the 2008 film “The Wrestler,” Mickey Rourke played a washed-up wrestler who must deal with the physical and emotional tolls of an unsuccessful career.
In some ways, it was a role meant for Rourke. The actor had numerous leading roles in in 1980s. In 1991, he withdrew from Hollywood to return to the world of boxing, which he had trained for during his youth.
The numerous facial injuries he sustained as a result of his boxing career and the ensuing reconstructive plastic surgery left Rourke with but a shadow of the looks that had helped make him a star.
His new looks, as well as the experiences he had as a boxer, made Rourke perfect for “The Wrestler.” The film earned him a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination.