Celebrities often experience the highs and lows of the spotlight. Some celebrities choose to take breaks to live regular lives with their families, tend to their mental health, or go into hiding because of being associated with scandals or displaying unbecoming behavior.
But what separates the truly remarkable from the rest is their ability to stage a remarkable comeback. These are the stories that capture our attention, where celebrities face adversity, reinvent themselves, and reclaim their place in the limelight. The following celebrities have been away from the industry for many years and staged a remarkable comeback.
Ke Huy Quan
“I spent a year in a refugee camp and somehow I ended up here on Hollywood’s biggest stage,” said Quan who recently accepted an Oscar award for Best Supporting Actor in film “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” It certainly wasn’t his first feature film. Quan was a child actor and was seen embracing Harrison Ford at the ceremony, reuniting for the first time since 1984 when they filmed Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom together. One reader commented “He also has the only picture I think of Harrison Ford where Harrison isn’t smirking sarcastically. Their red carpet reunion brings me so much joy, and I think it’s because he’s such a genuine, enthusiastic, open personality. Plus his red carpet looks were fire.” Quan was also part of the hit film “The Goonies” and the television show “Head of the Class.” More readers commented on Quan’s comeback.
“He’s so damned wholesome. He in “EEAAO” tugged at my heartstrings, and to see him just joyous on the red carpet was such a breath of fresh air from the cold, metered mentality we usually see.”
“Yep this is my fav success and comeback story too! It’s the epitome of why America has long been known as the land of dreams where you can work hard and remake yourself.”
“He is truly such an inspiration. a living proof that you’re never too late to pursue your dream. and his excitement was so refreshing to see too like something about it felt so real and yes his speech and the hug made me bawl as well.”
Barrymore made a huge comeback with her daytime talk show which premiered in 2020. The show has recently been renewed for a fourth season.
“From a messed up childhood then drug addiction to amazing, talented and kind person (she’s not perfect but damn close and no one’s perfect anyways).”
“Absolutely. It’s a miracle this woman is still alive let alone rocking it like she does after being failed by the majority of adults in her life. Her life story is going to make an epic biopic one day.”
We lost the legendary Tina Turner on May 24, 2023. One of the most memorable things about her is her amazing comeback in 1984 when her album Private Dancer was released. She went from being a cleaner to one of the world’s biggest stars. She endured many years of abuse by her ex-husband Ike Turner and showed the world how to overcome adversity.
“Ike left her with nothing except her name and a ton of debt and she hustled until she was selling out stadiums at 50 years old, unheard of for a black female rock and roll singer.”
“Like Ike Turner yeah, he’s important in musical history. But Tina is an icon and will be for generations. She will outlast him by miles. Feels like pretty good karma to me.”
Coolige was best known for her roles in “Legally Blond” and “American Pie” in 1999 and 2001, but not much after that. Even before those roles, she had been auditioning for ten years and never landed a job she said in an interview with Variety. Then came the television series “White Lotus” which helped Coolige stage an amazing comeback at age 60. Thanks to “White Lotus” she became a regular winner of several of the major acting awards, including a Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Awards.
“She kinda fell off the last decade and had a resurgence the last two years after her astounding performance in HBO’s The White Lotus. Nothing beats that first season for me.”
Macaulay Culkin took a break from acting in 1994 and returned in 2003 with a guest appearance on the television show Will & Grace and a role in the film Party Monster. Most recently he received accolades for his role in “American Horror Stories.” Culkin currently has a podcast “Bunny Ears” which he calls a cross between Gwenyth Paltrow’s “Goop” and the “Onion.”
Natasha Lyonne is knowns for her role in “American Pie” and “Slums of “Beverly Hills.” Shortly after, things went downhill for Lyonne. She became addicted to drugs and homeless. She didn’t think she would survive so that fact that she has returned to Hollywood and become an actress in demand is extraordinary. She returned to acting and landed a role in the hit series “Orange is the New Black” for which she received a Screen Actors Guild Award.
“Yes! I’m old enough to remember when she went missing and was eventually found abroad in pretty bad shape (heart infection). I’m so glad she was able to change her life and go back to acting regularly, she has a lot of talent.”
“Her case is incredible. Wasn’t she homeless at one point?” Another replied, “She was. And I think at one point she was admitted to Bellevue hospital. She’s made an amazing comeback.”
Michael Keaton was a huge star in the 80s and 90s with such hit films as “Mr. Mom,” “Beetlejuice,” and “Batman.” But things slowed down for in him the early 2000s. He didn’t leave the industry completely but made rare appearances in minor roles. He also released two big ticket flops, “Desperate Measures,” and “Jack Frost,” and decided to take a break. He came back big in 2014 in the movie “Birdman.” The role won him a Golden Globe award and an Oscar nomination.
“Michael Keaton with Birdman, the Academy got it so wrong that year.”
Keaton had a career resurgence with his starring role as a faded actor attempting a comeback in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman (2014) for which he received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. – wikipedia
Brendan Fraser is best known for his roles in “The Mummy,” trilogy “Encino Man,” and “George of the Jungle.” He was riding high and loved by man fans. “Oh, man. It’s 100% Brendan Fraser. I used to love his movies when I was a kid (even that stupid Looney Tunes movie),” mentioned a reader.
He took a hiatus from acting in 2014 because of chronic pain from stunts which resulted in several surgeries to help him heal. He also experienced being sexually assaulted by a Hollywood executive, another reason to distance himself from the industry. He also believes that reporting the incident blacklisted him by Hollywood.
Though he appeared in much smaller roles in recent years, in 2022 Fraser made a full comeback and received critical acclaim for his role in “The Whale.” This marked his first leading role since 2013, earning him an Oscar Award and considered one of the greatest comebacks in Hollywood.
Winona Ryder was the ‘It girl’ in the 80s and 90s. She was a teenage sensation, starring in such hit films as “Beetlejuice,” “Heathers,” and “Edward Scissorhands.” She carried on for years playing roles in big box office hits. Suddenly in 2001 things came crashing down. Ryder was arrested for shoplifting and the incident was covered worldwide. Eight different kinds of prescription medication were found in her purse. One reader recalls “She was on a new medication (I can’t remember which), but the side effects were compulsive behavior and mood swings. She has said she was in a fog that day, and in her right mind she would have never done that.”
This led her to take a break and distance herself completely from the industry. She returned to acting almost a decade later in “Star Trek” and “Black Swan.” Her official comeback came with the hit serious “Stranger Things.”
“I love Winona Ryder, always have, and was really mad she wasn’t in anything just because of her theft. There were worse things going on in the industry and she was the one who got blacklisted. She’s made a great comeback, and I love Stranger Things!”
Robert Downy Jr.
From jail to superhero, Robert Downey Jr. is another amazing celebrity comeback story. Downey was a huge star in the 80s and was even considered one of the ‘Brat Pack’ members, along with Demi Moore, Judd Nelson and Rob Lowe. But he was also deep into drugs and eventually arrested in 1996 after police stopped him from speeding and found drugs and a gun. He finally went into another rehab program in the early 2000s and stayed sober. He landed the role of Tony Stark in the Iron Man movies and has been at the top of the game since.
“He’s really turned his life around. I remember reading a long time ago that for Iron Man he would not be paid in full until he completed the film, and that he couldn’t be insured (or if he was insured, it was very very high?). All because of his drug history.”
“Robert- Arrested twice, fired from Ally McBeal and had to go through a 12 step recovery program.
The comeback we all know”
“Bro was jailed and ran his health into the ground with substance abuse, was almost passed over for a B-list superhero movie from a studio about to declare bankruptcy, and ended up giving a performance that launched the most successful franchise in cinematic history.”
John Travolta has had many career highs and lows. Travolta was a huge star in the 70s and 80s with such hit movies as “Saturday Night Fever,” “Grease,” and “Urban Cowboy.” After that, he was more selective with his roles but also starred in several box office flops. His first big comeback was in 1989 in “Look Who’s Talking” but his choices after that role didn’t reach the same heights. But the second big comeback really helped cement his return to star status and that was his role in “Pulp Fiction.”
“I loved John Travolta’s comeback for Pulp Fiction.”
“He was perfect in that role. I always forget it’s him when I watch that movie. I love that character.”
Henry Winkler has had the best late-career comeback story. Henry Winkler became an American pop-culture icon with his role as Fonzie in the hit sitcom “Happy Days.” He admitted to suffering from depression after the show ended a decade later. He felt typecast and was only offered similar roles. 50 years after the show ended, although Winkler came back in smaller roles in a couple of hit television serious, he is now flying high with his role in the hit series “Barry.”
“Henry Winkler in Arrested Development is an absolute gift. He’s so seamlessly funny, if you didn’t know who he was you’d miss how good he is.”
“He was such a gem in that show too. And Parks and Rec! Damn, I need to do a couple of re-watches.”
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