Nowadays, most movies seem to fit in to one of three categories: they’re either incredibly cheap to make, based on something with a built-in fan base, or they have franchise potential – we’re talking sequels, baby. Producers want sequels! This is why horror movies are routinely made for less than $10 million, seemingly every young adult novel in print is getting a film adaptation, and Universal Pictures is likely to keep making Fast and Furious sequels until Vin Diesel is racing around a retirement home in a wheelchair.
For people who want to see less sequels and more original movies, now is pretty much the worst time to be a fan of film. For the actors and actresses fortunate enough to land roles in these massive franchises, however, times couldn’t be better. Being part of a big franchise not only pretty much guarantees the actors and actresses steady work for years to come, but also usually translates to hefty paychecks as well. This isn’t always the case though. Sometimes actors land roles in franchises but for some reason or another are let go. And sometimes those same actors inexplicably find their way back.
For this list, we looked at actors who left big franchises for at least one entry with no clear intention of returning. Characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for example, don’t count because while some actors are left out of some films, Marvel usually has a plan to bring them back.
Here are 15 Actors Who Left Huge Franchises Then Returned In A Later Entry.
15. Alex Vincent (Child’s Play)
Alex Vincent was just seven years old when he starred in his first film, 1988’s Child’s Play. For those unfamiliar with the film (is anyone really unfamiliar with Chucky?!), it tells the story of a serial killer named Charles Lee Ray who, after being fatally wounded by a Chicago homicide detective, transfers his soul into a “Good Guy” doll. Vincent plays the role of Andy Barclay, the unfortunate little boy who receives the doll as a Christmas present from his mother and has to fight off the adorable little murderer. Vincent would return as Andy in 1989’s Child’s Play 2 before being replaced by Justin Whalen in Child’s Play 3. The reason for the change is the third film takes place eight years after the events of the second and Vincent was too young for the part.
Vincent would have no association with the franchises’ next two entries (1998’s Bride of Chucky and 2004’s Seed of Chucky), but would return in wickedly awesome fashion in 2013’s Curse of Chucky. As tempting as it is to spoil Vincent’s actions in the film, fans of the franchise are better off watching it for themselves. It’s definitely worth it.
14. Liam Neeson (The Dark Knight)
Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is often regarded as one of the greatest superhero trilogies ever made (with Spider-Man and Captain America certainly included in that conversation), and with darn good reason. Nolan is one of the better directors working today, Christian Bale was an utterly believable Caped Crusader, and it featured quite possibly the greatest performance in a superhero movie ever in the form of Heath Ledger’s Joker. One underrated aspect of the franchise, however, is Liam Neeson’s role as Ra’s Al Ghul in Batman Begins.
Neeson was brilliant as the Demon’s Head, bringing a level of gravitas that only Liam Neeson can deliver and proving to be a formidable opponent for Bale’s Batman. Neeson was absent from The Dark Knight because his character was, well, dead, but that didn’t stop him from returning in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises. After Bruce has his back broken by Bane, Neeson’s Al Ghul shows up in a dream sequence to give the World’s Greatest Detective some vital plot information. The scene is a bit clunky and feels out of place, but marked Neeson’s return to the franchise nonetheless.
13. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels (Dumb and Dumber)
Jim Carrey had one hell of a year in 1994, starring in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber, which raked in $107 million, $351 million, and $247 million at the worldwide box office, respectively. Sequels to the first two films were immediately greenlit and Carrey would appear in 1995’s Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, but ultimately turn down The Mask 2 (which would go on to become the dreadful Son of the Mask). The Dumb and Dumber franchise, however, would take a more interesting route.
Despite the success of the first film, it would take nine years for the next entry in the franchise to hit the big screen. That entry came in the form of 2003’s Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, a prequel with Derek Richardson and Eric Christian Olsen in the roles of Harry and Lloyd. The franchise would lie dormant again until 2014 when Carrey and Jeff Daniels returned in Dumb and Dumber To. The film did poorly with critics, but performed well at the box office to the tune of $169 million.
12. Carey Elwes (Saw)
The Saw franchise has grossed over $878 million at the worldwide box office. That may not seem like much when compared to some of the other blockbuster franchises in the world today (Deadpool, by comparison, made nearly $800 million on its own), but when you consider the fact that each entry cost less than $10 million to produce and grossed twelve times that amount at the box office, that’s pretty darn good. With a franchise that successful, it’s easy to forget the fact that the first one was made for $1.2 million, and had Cary Elwes in the lead role.
That’s right, Cary Elwes, the star of such classics as The Princess Bride, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and Hot Shots!, cut his freakin’ foot off at the end of the first Saw film and vanished, never to be mentioned again for the franchise’s next five entries. Until the final one that is. Saw 3D saw Elwes’ Dr. Lawrence Gordon return to the franchise and reveal himself as Jigsaw’s longtime unseen accomplice. The franchise then ends in the iconic bathroom that started it all as Dr. Gordon seals Detective Hoffman inside with the series’ classic theme playing in the background. A fitting end to a twisted franchise.
11. Sam Neil (Jurassic Park)
Dr. Alan Grant is the best part of Jurassic Park…with the exception of the T-Rex…and the raptors…and the dilophosaurus…and Jeff Goldblum. Okay, let’s try that again. Dr. Alan Grant is one of the best parts of Jurassic Park and Sam Neil’s performance in the role is simply terrific. The awe that he and Laura Dern display when interacting with the dinosaurs comes across as truly genuine and perfectly echoes what audiences surely felt seeing dinosaurs come to life on screen for the first time. This made their omission from the sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, all the more jarring.
The sequel would instead focus on Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm and introduce Julianne Moore’s Dr. Sarah Harding and Vince Vaughn’s Nick Van Owen. Neil and Dern would return, however, in Jurassic Park III (though Dern’s appearance is more of a cameo). The film didn’t live up to the original in terms of quality, but it was nice to see Neil back in the lead role nonetheless. Don’t expect a return in Jurassic World 2 though.
10. pretty much Everyone (X-Men)
The X-Men franchise has had quite the history on the big screen. Bryan Singer directed the first two entries before dropping out to direct Superman Returns. Brett Ratner then took the reigns for X-Men: The Last Stand during which he killed off Cyclops, Jean Grey, Professor X, and “cured” Mystique of her powers. Then most of the characters were ditched or recast for the franchise’s first prequel, X-Men Origins: Wolverine before the franchise was given a soft reboot in the form of X-Men: First Class.
Then came The Wolverine, which brought back a resurrected Professor X, and then X-Men: Days of Future Past, which brought back most of the cast of the original trilogy in addition to the cast of First Class. The events of Days of Future Past then altered the timeline previously established in X-Men 1-3, which allowed for the returns of Jean Grey and Cyclops. So, yeah, pretty much everyone left. Then pretty much everyone came back. Good for them.
9. Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator)
What’s that, you say? Arnold Schwarzenegger never left the Terminator franchise? Oh yes he did. After starring as the titular villain in the original film, then saving the world from judgement day in the aptly titled Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and then…basically failing to stop judgment day for a second time in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Arnie decided to take a break from acting and became the governor of California. Did that stop the franchise from soldiering on without its main star? Of course not.
Instead, Christian Bale (fresh off of The Dark Knight) was cast as John Connor and the war with the machines finally came to fruition in Terminator Salvation. Yes, CGI Arnold does make an appearance in the film as the original T-800, but real Arnold had nothing to do with the production so he still qualifies for the list. Salvation would under-perform at the box office, though, which would lead to Arnold being brought back for another go in 2015’s Terminator: Genisys. Genisys was supposed to lead to more Arnie in future sequels for the franchise, but that no longer seems to be the case.
8. Matt Damon (Jason Bourne)
You may be noticing a trend here. A franchise grows with a certain actor as its star, then the actor drops out for one reason or another, and rather than leaving well-enough alone, the franchise’s producers decide to keep things rolling with a new actor in the lead. Case in point: the Bourne franchise. The original trilogy was a great series of films that peaked with The Bourne Ultimatum, the franchise’s highest-rated and highest-grossing entry to date.
Then Matt Damon left the franchise and Jeremy Renner was tapped to carry the ball as…well, not Jason Bourne (all right, his character’s name is Aaron Cross, but you totally forgot that). The film was fine, but performed poorly at the box office and so Damon was brought back for 2016’s Jason Bourne. The fifth film in the franchise wasn’t as highly rated as Damon’s original trilogy, but did perform well at the box office, which means Bourne 6 is a possibility.
7. Vin Diesel (XXX)
XXX came at an interesting time in Vin Diesel’s career. It was after his star-making roles in hits like The Fast and the Furious and Pitch Black, but just before misses like The Pacifier and Babylon A.D., and long before his Fast and Furious franchise would become a box office juggernaut. The film performed well at the box office to the tune of $277 million worldwide and Diesel had signed on for a sequel but later dropped out because he didn’t care for the script. Ice Cube was tapped to star in XXX: State of the Union, but the film flopped at the box office, grossing roughly a quarter of the original film.
This led to talks of a Diesel return as far back as 2006, though he wouldn’t officially return to the franchise until earlier this year in XXX: Return of Xander Cage. The film under-performed in the United States, grossing only $44 million (the original made $142 million), but crushed the foreign box office for a worldwide total of $345 million. The film did so well, in fact, that Diesel is allegedly already in talks for a fourth entry.
6. Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek)
Hands down one of the coolest returns to a franchise ever is Leonard Nimoy’s return as Spock to the Star Trek reboot in 2009. The Star Trek franchise dates all the way back to 1966 when the original series first premiered on television. Since then there have been five spin-off series and thirteen feature films. Nimoy played the role of Spock in the original series as well as the first six films, but did not participate in the various spin-offs (with the exception of Star Trek: The Next Generation). This made his return in the 2009 reboot that much more incredible.
After not-yet-Captain Kirk is marooned on Delta Vega by Spock, he meets an older version of Spock played by Nimoy. Older Spock explains that he has come from the future along with the film’s main antagonist, Nero, and that he accidentally disrupted the timeline that resulted in the events of the film. This was a brilliant way to bring Nimoy back to the franchise. It paid homage to the original series while allowing the reboot to chart its own course in the new timeline.
5. Orlando Bloom (Pirates of the Caribbean)
Let’s be honest. Pirates of the Caribbean should have been a standalone film as opposed to a franchise. The original film had a brilliant mix of comedy, action, and romance, and a satisfying ending with Will and Elizabeth becoming a couple and Jack finally getting to captain the Black Pearl once more. Dead Man’s Chest couldn’t live up to the original, At World’s End was a bit of an over-bloated mess, and On Stranger Tides actually made people start to hate Jack Sparrow. Plus, it was missing a good portion of the original trilogy’s cast, namely Will and Elizabeth.
Since we’re living in the age of the franchise (and The Lone Ranger wasn’t exactly the blockbuster Disney had hoped for), another Pirates sequel is set for release later this year. The trailers for the latest entry (Dead Men Tell No Tales) have been intriguing thus far. The film will see the arrival of Javier Bardem’s Captain Salazar and, more importantly, the return of Orlando Bloom’s Will turner. It’s been a decade since we’ve seen Will on the big screen. Hopefully, it will be a pleasant reunion.
4. Robin Williams (Aladdin)
There’s a lot to love about Disney’s Aladdin. It came at a time when Disney was firing on all cylinders (sandwiched between classics The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King), won two Academy Awards (Best Original Score and Best Original Song for “A Whole New World), and features perhaps the best vocal performance for any animated movie ever. Robin Williams is a tour de force in the role of Genie, using his many talents to bring the character to life in a way no other actor could possibly duplicate. That didn’t stop producers from trying though.
Around the release of the film, Williams and Disney had a falling out over the use of the actor’s voice in the marketing campaign. As a result, Williams refused to return for the sequel, Aladdin: The Return of Jafar, and was replaced by Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer Simpson). The film received mostly negative reviews, prompting Disney to issue a formal apology to Williams who then agreed to return to for the franchise’s third film, Aladdin and the King of Thieves. Unfortunately, it too wasn’t very well received. Genie was funny, though.
3. Sean Connery (James Bond)
Plenty of actors have come on and gone in the James Bond series, but only one came, went, and then came again, and that was the original Bond himself, Sean Connery. Connery played Agent 007 in five films throughout the 1960’s (Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, and You Only Live Twice) before leaving the franchise due to problems with the producers. George Lazenby was brought in as the new Bond for 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service but left the franchise after just one film.
With Lazenby gone, Connery was brought back for the steep price of £1.25 million and starred in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. The film was a financial success and so producers tried to convince Connery to return for another but he refused and was eventually replaced by Roger Moore. Connery would play the role one last time in 1983’s Never Say Never Again but the film wasn’t produced by Eon, making it a different franchise.
2. Heather Langenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street was a groundbreaking film at the time of its release. It featured a villain who would go on to become an icon in the horror genre in Freddy Krueger, and made people scared to go to sleep. What Jaws did for going in the water, Freddy did for going to sleep. At the film’s core was Nancy Thompson, played by Heather Langenkamp. Nancy survives Freddy’s attack by pulling him into the real world and letting loose a series of traps that would make Kevin McCallister jealous.
Langenkamp would’t appear in the film’s sequel but would reprise her role in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, by the end of which her character is killed. If you thought the death of her character would keep Langenkamp from returning yet again, you’d be wrong because she does just that in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. This time, Langenkamp plays both herself and Nancy and is forced to face off against Freddy one last time after he escapes the film world and enters the real one. It’s a mind-bending, beautifully executed premise that all horror fans must see.
1. Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween)
Following the success of the first two Halloween films, John Carpenter decided the third entry in the franchise would not focus on Michael Myers. Then Halloween: Season of the Witch became a critical and commercial flop and Michael was brought back in the aptly named Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. Notably missing from the film, however, was Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode. It’s revealed that Laurie died before the events of Halloween 4 and so the film centers around Michael trying to kill her daughter, Jamie.
Curtis would remain absent from the franchise for Halloween 5 and 6, but would make her triumphant return in 1998’s Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. It’s here that audiences learn Laurie faked her death to escape her brother and has spent the last 20 years living in California under a different name. Of course, Michael finds her and the two finally come face to face in the film’s climax. Laurie, axe in hand, calling out her brother while the Halloween theme blares in the background is an incredible moment in what should have been the final entry in the franchise. Instead, Halloween: Resurrection happened, but let’s all pretend it didn’t.
What do you think of our list? Can you think of any other actors who left huge franchises and later returned? Let us know in the comments below.
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