Just to recap, Hollywood is a fickle lover, and for some actors, that love affair can last a lifetime, or even beyond. For a vast majority, however, fame can be fleeting. The stars mentioned here are special cases. For a brief moment, each looked as though he or she might become the next megastar to grace Hollywood. Then, nothing happened. Some ended up in a string of bad movies which hurt their standing. Others fell victims to circumstance, bad choice of projects, or just plain burned out.
Our original list of 16 Stars Who Were Going to Be Huge…But Vanished provoked a fascinating response, alternating between rage, amazement, and with a whole lot of “oh yeahs!” reminding readers of would-be superstars who never panned out. The fifteen listed here fall into the same category, some deservedly, others less so. Regardless, each had bright, shining moments in the spotlight, and for most of them, that’s all. Once above-the-line billing faded into just another name on the cast list, or at times, into oblivion.
Submitted here for your reminiscence or nostalgic kicks, check out 15 MORE Stars Who Were Going To Be The Next Big Thing…But Vanished.
15. Julia Ormond
Also known as that woman who turned up in everything despite having no discernable fan base, Ormond had a wild ride in the 1990s. Touted as a latter-day Audrey Hepburn, she nabbed plumb roles in First Knight opposite Richard Gere, Sabrina with Harrison Ford, and Legends of the Fall costarring with Brad Pitt. English born and multi-lingual, Ormond displayed true dramatic range in her performances, and appeared comfortable in performing in other languages besides English.
Then, after a string high-profile roles, Ormond all but vanished. Her output post 1998 has been sporadic, at best, with the actress focusing more on television roles and bit parts. In 2007 she hit a career nadir starring as Lindsay Lohan’s mother in the notorious bomb I Know Who Killed Me. Since then, she’s redeemed herself somewhat, with acclaimed turns on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, CSI and as a series regular on The Witches of East End. Ormond started at the top and worked her way down, suggesting that even in today’s climate of studio mega-marketing, stars are born, not made.
14. Josh Lucas
Lucas’ sandy blond hair, hunky figure and bright blue eyes made him a natural for screen acting, and the actor began scoring roles at age 19 in television. He did however, have one problem: he didn’t possess much in the way of talent. To his credit though, Lucas spent years taking acting lessons and developing his craft. In the early 2000s, his work began to pay off. He scored featured roles in American Psycho, Session 9 and A Beautiful Mind, cementing his standing as a featured player. He won the part of Reese Witherspoon’s love interest in Sweet Home Alabama, which gained him leading man status as something of the poor man’s Matthew McConaughey.
Lucas then appeared in Hulk as Eric Bana’s slimy nemesis. Though much-anticipated, the film was something of a flop-hit, and audiences remain divided on it today. Lucas went on to score a leading role in Stealth which proved a catastrophic bomb, and greatly hurt the actor’s standing. Poseidon did little to redeem him to audiences, and proved a major flop as well. Since then, Lucas has retreated into supporting and lower-profile parts, never quite achieving the stardom he appeared poised for.
13. Danny Masterson
New York born Masterson stared his career young. He and his four siblings all began modeling and acting in childhood, and for Danny, his innocent looks helped him rack up a considerable commercial reel, appearing in ads for everything from Frosted Flakes to skin products. He scored a recurring role on the sitcom Cybill before landing the part of a stoner-slacker teen in That ’70s Show. The series proved a hit, and Masterson’s part catapulted him to stardom. In 1999, TV Guide named him one of the most promising actors to watch.
Masterson tried to transition to film with less success, and parts in The Faculty, Dracula 2000 and Smiley Face did almost nothing to further his career. Following the cancellation of That ’70s Show, Masterson continued to take guest roles on TV and embark on a DJ career. Neither, however, helped him to the megastardom once predicted for him. An outspoken Scientologist, Masterson scored a lead again on the short lived sit-com Men at Work, and on the Netflix comedy The Ranch opposite his former ‘70s Show costar, Ashton Kutcher.
12. Mike Vogel
Another blond hunk, Mike Vogel began his career as a jeans model before transitioning to acting. He made his debut on the sitcom Grounded For Life in a role which he would play over the course of three seasons. Vogel’s good looks and charm made him a strong possibility for Hollywood megastardom. He attempted to cross over into films with the painful Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, to little effect. After a turn in the shipwreck of a film Poseidon, Vogel became somewhat infamous for the major roles he didn’t get. He lost out on the lead in Tron: Legacy to Garret Hedlund, and the star-making part of Captain America in the Marvel film universe to Chris Evans.
Since then, Vogel has taken on smaller roles in lower profile fare, preferring instead to focus on his real-life role as a husband and father to three sons. In terms of career outings, he has found some success on television, appearing on Bates Motel, the telefilm In My Dreams, and as a regular cast member in Under the Dome.
11. Claire Forlani
One of the quintessential brooding, glum ’90s girls, London-born Forlani first began acting as a child. After spending several years studying at the prestigious Arts Education School of London, she moved to the US to break into Hollywood. Supporting parts in a series of TV movies helped earn her some credibility, before director Kevin Smith cast her in a featured role in Mallrats. Subsequently, she landed the role of Sean Connery’s daughter in The Rock.
From there, Forlani began to show off her dramatic gifts, turning in acclaimed performances in Basquiat and the big-budget remake of Meet Joe Black opposite Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins. In 2001, she landed a high profile endorsement deal, becoming the face of L’Oreal cosmetics. Unfortunately, her film roles after didn’t offer the same level of prestige. Performances in The Medallion, Green Street and Ripley Under Ground went all but unnoticed. Forlani did fare a bit better on television, scoring a pair of recurring roles on CSI and NCIS: Los Angeles. Though still working and beautiful as ever, the kind of Winona Ryder-like stardom (and let’s face it, even Ryder herself isn’t up to that standard anymore) once anticipated for Forlani in the ’90s has proved elusive.
10. Joey Lauren Adams
A former child actress, Adams first came to attention with a pair of break-out comedic turns in the stoner comedy Dazed and Confused and the big budget Saturday Night Live adaptation of The Coneheads. Director Kevin Smith then tapped Adams for the titular role in Chasing Amy, a semi-sequel to his films Clerks and Mallrats. Adams played a bisexual woman who becomes the object of Ben Affleck’s affections in Chasing Amy to wide acclaim, and she nabbed a Golden Globe nomination for her performance.
Though touted as a possible Oscar nominee for Chasing Amy as well, the prestigious nomination was not to be. Good parts also proved in short supply, with Adams taking roles in forgettable films like Big Daddy and A Cool, Dry Place. She continues to work in film and television, including a recurring role on The United States of Tara. In 2006, she tried her hand at directing to some acclaim with the indie film Come Early Morning. Though major stardom has evaded Adams, her considerable talents make her hard to discount, and since Kevin Smith has announced she’ll star in Mallrats II, said stardom may yet come.
9. Samantha Mathis
Mathis was born into Hollywood stock and began working at an early age. The daughter of actress Bibi Besch (best known as Dr. Carol Marcus from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan), Mathis began working in television and commercials at age 16. She scored a leading role opposite teen heartthrob Christian Slater in Pump Up The Volume in 1990, and continued working in telefims and features, as well as on the New York stage. She nabbed the female lead in the much-hyped Super Mario Bros. only to see the movie become a notorious box office flop.
A relationship with River Phoenix, whom she met on the film The Thing Called Love, turned dour when he overdosed in front of Mathis at a Hollywood night club. Negative press coverage following Phoenix’s untimely death forced Mathis to lower her profile. After two years in London, she returned to Hollywood with roles in Little Women, How to Make an American Quilt and Broken Arrow. Then tragedy struck again, when Mathis’s mother Bibi Besch died of cancer. Mathis went on hiatus again, returning to acting several years later with American Psycho. Roles in The Punisher, Under the Dome, and the ever-abysmal Atlas Shrugged Part II did little to restore her standing. While not a major star, she nonetheless has a dependable reputation, and continues to work as an actress, most recently as a full-time cast member on the TV series The Strain.
8. Maria Bello
Blond bombshell Bello first tried her hand at acting after studying political science at Villanova University. She began with acclaimed roles on the New York stage before moving to Hollywood. After a number of guest spots on several TV series, she nabbed a recurring role on the hit drama ER. In the fourth season, she joined the main cast of the show. In 2000, Bello tried her hand at movies, appearing in the cult hit Coyote Ugly and the flop Duets. She’s fared better in indie films, nabbing solid roles in The Cooler (for which she received a Golden Globe nomination), A History of Violence and Auto Focus.
Unfortunately, while Bello has fared well in supporting turns, her lead roles have proven less than fortuitous. She replaced Rachel Weitz in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, which effectively closed out The Mummy series. In 2011, what should have been sure fire stardom proved a monumental let down. Bello scored the lead in the long-awaited Americanized version of the British crime drama Prime Suspect. Unfortunately, for reasons that had nothing to do with Bello or her talent, the show proved a disaster. She’s since appeared in minor film and TV roles, suggesting that if not a major actress, Bello is at least a resilient one.
7. Barry Pepper
Square-jawed Canadian thespian Pepper first broke out with a pair of acclaimed performances opposite Tom Hanks. Both The Green Mile and Saving Private Ryan established Pepper as an effective dramatic actor, and Hollywood immediately began to buzz about his future as a superstar. Then tragedy struck: Pepper appeared opposite then-hot star John Travolta in the monumental disaster Battlefield Earth. He won a Razzie award for his performance, and the bomb helped derail his career momentum.
Pepper acquitted himself well in the telefilm 61 as baseball legend Roger Maris. Since then, he’s proven himself a fine character actor in We Were Soldiers, 25th Hour and True Grit. Still, star parts have proven fleeting. Turns in The Lone Ranger, Seven Pounds and The Maze Runner have not done much to elevate his status to Hollywood megastar, even if they’ve kept him employed. In 2011, he scored an Emmy for his performance as Robert F. Kennedy in The Kennedys.
6. Corey Haim
As tragic a young star if there ever was one, Corey Haim’s tabloid lifestyle has become the stuff of Hollywood legend. That’s a disservice to both Hollywood and Haim: the truth is, he was a wonderful actor.
The Canadian Haim began working as a small child, acting in commercials before landing several TV and film gigs. Early roles paired him with Liza Minnelli, Sally Field, Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey Jr., and helped him gain notice. He landed his first leading role in Lucas with Winona Ryder and Charlie Sheen, and earned rave reviews for his performance as a nerdy teen. Critic Roger Ebert declared that Haim had a bright future ahead as a major actor. He followed up in the cult classic The Lost Boys, which paired him with another child star Corey, Corey Feldman. The two would become lifelong friends, star in several films together and become known as “The Coreys” in pop culture.
Fame, however, had its trappings, and though Roger Ebert had named Haim one of the best actors of his generation, Haim’s career took a nose dive. The actor began to appear in a string of dud films, some of which went straight to video. Haim later confessed to heavy drug use, which took a toll on his work and career. His drug habit led to financial and legal problems as well, which derailed his career. After several years in obscurity, he attempted a comeback in the early 2000s, appearing on a reality show with friend Corey Feldman. He also had a cameo in a direct-to-DVD Lost Boys sequel. He continued to struggle with drugs until his death from drug-induced pneumonia in 2010.
5. Henry Thomas
In case you’ve forgotten, he’s the one on the right…
Thomas caused a sensation with his debut performance in E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial in 1982. E.T., of course, became a seminal screen classic, with Thomas’ performance singled out as the key role in the film. At only age 10, he’d earned Oscar buzz and starred in what would become the most successful film in history to that point.
The success of the film brought Thomas immediate and extreme fame, and though Hollywood had pegged Thomas as a rising star, the actor retreated from the limelight. He continued to occasionally act while attending school, though he shied away from recognition. He returned to acting full time in 1990 with Psycho IV: The Beginning as a young Norman Bates, and acquiesced to supporting character roles thereafter. He earned strong reviews for work in Legends of the Fall, Gangs of New York and 11:14, and continues to act today. Thomas’ career makes for a fascinating case where an actor was offered megastardom, but kindly refused instead!
4. Rachael Leigh Cook
Rachael Leigh Cook grew up in Minnesota and appeared in a few local commercials and worked as a print model before catching the acting bug. At age 14, she set her sights on Hollywood, and won a role in the much-hyped film version of The Babysitter’s Club. She continued to work thereafter, and even appeared in a notorious anti-drug commercial where she smashed objects with a frying pan! Despite the camp factor of the ad, Cook landed a role in the teen romantic comedy She’s All That shortly thereafter. The film became a surprise hit, and Hollywood looked to Cook as a future starlet.
Cook appeared in her first star vehicle Josie and the Pussycats opposite Rosario Dawson and Tara Reid in 2001, which promptly bombed at the box office. From there, Cook focused more on voice over and indie film work. She landed her first regular role providing a voice on the hit show Batman Beyond, and earned strong reviews for her performances in Into the West and The Bumblebee Flies Anyway. Critics drew comparisons between Cook and Parker Posey, predicting that she would become a queen of indie cinema. It didn’t happen.
Despite a consistent career, megastardom has eluded Cook. She continues to provide prolific work as a voice over actress, and take smaller roles in film and TV, preferring lower profile roles to star turns.
3. Haley Joel Osment
Few child actors achieve the success of Haley Joel Osment, who burst onto the showbiz scene in 1999 with The Sixth Sense. The film became a runaway hit, and Osment, then only 11, nabbed an Oscar nomination for his work. He’d previously worked in commercials beginning at age four, and went on to nab parts in TV and film, most notably as Tom Hanks’ son in Forrest Gump. He would go on to turn in solid work in Pay it Forward and Secondhand Lions, before taking the lead in Steven Spielberg’s long-awaited A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. His performance again earned raves, and marked the pinnacle of his career. Critics, including the legendary Roger Ebert, named him one of the best actors alive.
Osment continued to act throughout his teens, providing voice over work in films like The Jungle Book 2 and the un-bearable The Country Bears. After a three year hiatus from acting, Osment made headlines again for a drunk driving accident. He returned to acting shortly thereafter, appearing in direct-to-DVD films, odd television appearances, and in a short lived production of American Buffalo on Broadway. Despite his early promise, Osment never quite sustained himself into superstardom. Though he continues to work in minor parts, the actor does have one high profile role he continues to return to: providing the voice of Sora in the popular video game series Kingdom Hearts.
2. Erika Christensen
Erika Chrstensen grew up in Hollywood, so perhaps it was only a matter of time before she tried her hand at the city profession. She began acting at age 15, landing guest roles on a number of popular television shows including Frasier, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and in the video for Michael Jackson’s “Childhood.” Her big break came in 2000, when she landed a featured role in Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic. Her performance as a drug-addicted teen captured glowing reviews, and Hollywood focused on her as an up-and-coming megastar. Her follow ups to Traffic didn’t bring her the same kind of acclaim, however. Turns in The Banger Sisters and The Perfect Score went all but unnoticed, while a lead part in the thriller Swimfan earned her atrocious reviews.
Following her career nosedive, Christensen pursued supporting roles in films like Flightplan and in various television parts. After appearing in a string of bombs and direct-to-DVD movies, Christensen had something of a comeback, landing an acclaimed role in the sitcom Parenthood. Following cancellation of the show, she continues to work in low budget films and on television, though her career hasn’t quite lived up to the hype thusfar.
1. Leelee Sobieski
Hand selected by Stanley Kubrick to play a key role in his film Eyes Wide Shut, Hollywood turned its sights on Leelee Sobieski as a superstar in the making. She’d already appeared in a number of small roles on TV and in movies prior to her breakout, including parts in Deep Impact and Jungle 2 Jungle. She followed up her success in Eyes Wide Shut with an acclaimed performance in the telefilm Joan of Arc, which earned her a Golden Globe nomination. From there, her career path turned rocky. Sobieski earned starring roles, though most of her films proved mediocre at best. Star vehicles like Joy Ride induced motion sickness, while critics smashed The Glass House with savage reviews, and Sobieski’s career subsequently went into decline.
From there, Sobieski turned to supporting parts, though none could stop her professional free fall. 88 Minutes and The Wicker Man again earned scathing reviews (the latter becoming a meme, thanks to Nicolas Cage punching her in the face!) and little box office notice, while In the Name of the King earned her a Razzie Nomination. Of late, she’s shied away from acting, taking sporadic roles in TV and films, which have earned her little notice. Despite her promising beginnings, Sobieski proved less a star than a flash in the pan.
Anyone we missed this time? Tell us in the comments!