15 Rising Stars Who Sabotaged Their Own Careers

Most rise-to-fame stories end when the subject achieves their goals. As such, it’s popularly believed that all the work that goes into being famous happens before a person becomes famous. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, fame isn’t that hard to come by. What’s truly difficult is to achieve a notable level of fame and hold on to it for a long period of time. Of course, there are times when a rising star’s greatest challenge is simply grabbing that last rung on the ladder without falling down to the bottom.

You might not think it would be that hard to complete a rise to fame and fortune after you’ve made it so close to the top, but the history of Hollywood is filled with “remember them?” stories starring young actors who slipped at the last minute. What’s truly amazing about each of these stories is that we’re always surprised to watch them play out. Even though we’ve seen stars rise and fall for years now, it somehow always feels like the next one is always going to make it. Time and time again, though, a promising actor comes along and suffers the kind of fall that only comes after a remarkable climb.

These are 15 Rising Stars Who Sabotaged Their Own Career.

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Shia LaBeouf
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15 Shia LaBeouf

Shia LaBeouf

Shia LaBeouf was in a prime position to be the next major American movie star. His performances in movies like Indiana Jones and Transformers showed that he could handle the weight of blockbusters, while his roles in movies like Disturbia proved that he had the acting chops needed to take on slightly more serious work.

Then LaBeouf seemingly decided he would rather be anything but a Hollywood star. LaBeouf spoke out against his own films and the people who made them. He was particularly hard on Steven Spielberg who he called “less a director than he is a f****** company.”

LaBeouf started turning down more and more major roles while staying in the public spotlight by virtue of his drunken antics. A LaBeouf comeback isn’t impossible, but it isn’t very likely.

14 Topher Grace

Generally speaking, actors who make a name for themselves by virtue of playing the main character on a popular television show have a hard time transitioning to film. The best that most can hope for is to leave the show before they become too closely associated with the character. For instance, most people thought that Topher Grace made the right decision to leave That ‘70s Show at the time he did in order to appear in Spider-Man 3.

Unfortunately for Grace, Spider-Man 3 ended up being a somewhat despised movie. Even worse, many fans partially attributed the film’s failures to Grace’s poor performance.

While Grace could have possibly recovered from that setback, his reported attitude problems supposedly made him someone that few people in Hollywood wanted to work with.

13 Katherine Heigl

Katherine Heigl in Knocked Up

Generally speaking, it’s never a good idea to publicly state any personal grievances you might have with your co-workers and employers. That doesn’t extend to certain illegal actions, but you probably shouldn’t go on Twitter to talk about how Steve isn't pulling his weight or how Marcy is always eating smelly fish for lunch.

That’s basically what happened to Katherine Heigl. Around the time that Knocked Up premiered, Heigl spoke out against Seth Rogen and director Judd Apatow for problems she had with her character and the general nature of the film. She made similar disparaging public comments about Grey’s Anatomy during an interview with Howard Stern.

These comments earned Heigl the dreaded “hard to work with” reputation that seemingly leads to a sharp decline in notable film and television role offers.

12 Terrence Howard

Terrence Howard in Iron Man

Terrence Howard has been a professional actor since the early ‘90s, but most people probably associate him with films from the mid-2000s. That’s when Howard appeared in such hit films as Hustle and Flow, Crash, and Iron Man. Usually, a talented actor like Howard who is known for his work in critical darlings and blockbusters goes on to enjoy a remarkable career.

Howards’ mostly unremarkable recent years can be partially attributed to his decision to turn down a $1 million offer for Iron Man 2. According to Howard, Marvel informed him that they were going to pay him less than the amount they initially agreed to because the movie was going to be successful with or without him. Others say that Howard had become almost impossible to work with. Whatever the case, Howard received fewer major offers and usually had to take a pay cut.

11 Charlie Sheen

Charlie Sheen in Ferris Bueller's Day Off

To be fair, it’s hard to argue against anyone who says that Charlie Sheen’s career has been generally successful. After all, the man has starred in a number of hit films, was once the lead on television’s most-watched show, and has seemingly earned quite a bit of money over the years for his performances.

However, Sheen’s career highlights have always been accompanied by the dark details of his personal life. It’s never been a secret that Sheen has struggled with substance abuse issues over the years, but it is easy to forget that Sheen missed out on quite a few opportunities during the mid-90s due to his personal issues.

What’s much harder to forget is Sheen's meltdown led to him losing his lucrative Two and a Half Men role.

10 Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr in Less Than Zero

Robert Downey Jr.’s career is a fascinating example of why it’s probably best to get your biggest life mistakes out of the way while you’re young. People always recognized that Downey Jr. was an exceptionally talented young actor with personality to spare, but his history of substance abuse issues combined with some regrettable public incidents seemed to seal Downey Jr.’s fate as a star who burnt out too quickly.

As many of you no doubt know, Downey Jr. was able to use the success of Iron Man and some other notable recent films as a launchpad for a truly remarkable comeback. Even still, it’s hard not to think that Downey Jr. wasted many good years battling his demons when he should have been growing as an actor.

9 Amanda Bynes

Amanda Bynes' mugshot

Amanda Bynes seemed destined to be a star. Of all the young actors who helped turned Nickelodeon’s live-action programming into a cultural sensation, Bynes was who most people agreed was going to become a Hollywood star. She was likable, talented, and had managed to attract a sizeable fanbase in a relatively short amount of time.

Then, on April 6, 2012, Bynes was arrested for driving under the influence. She probably could have recovered from this incident, but that arrest seemingly kickstarted a series of unfortunate public incidents which seemed to suggest that Bynes was suffering through a prolonged mental breakdown. Between subsequent arrests and a series of controversial tweets, Bynes soon became one of the most toxic young stars in Hollywood.

She eventually sought professional help, but it seems it may be too late for her to really reclaim her fame - should she even want to.

8 Mark Salling

While we certainly understand why someone might not have been a fan of the show Glee - even the series’ fans will probably admit that it took a turn for the worse before long - it’s hard to deny that the series looked to be a launch point for many successful careers. That’s especially true of young Mark Salling who looked ready to transition from Glee to the world of film.

That transition was derailed in 2015 when Salling was charged with receiving and possessing inappropriate photos of children. Initial claims suggested that Salling may have possessed thousands of illegal photos and videos. Needless to say, those charges resulted in Salling losing all of his current and future roles. He currently faces time in prison and will likely never make a comeback.

7 Jennifer Grey

It’s easy to forget that Jennifer Grey was a staple of the ‘80s film scene. Yet, that's exactly how you should describe someone who appeared in movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Dirty Dancing, Red Dawn, and American Flyers. Her incredible acting helped make those movies some of the definitive films from a decade known for memorable movie experiences. However, we’re willing to bet that you struggle to name three movies that Jennifer Grey starred in since 1990.

If you ask Grey why that’s the case, she might probably tell you it has something to do with her nose job. See, Grey got a nose job in the early ‘90s that left her looking like a completely different person. She has always regretted her decision to undergo the procedure and feels like it was the source of her career woes.

6 Rob Lowe

Rob Lowe in The West Wing

There was a time when many critics and fans felt that Rob Lowe was destined to be the biggest young actor in Hollywood. His "brat pack" roles in St. Elmo’s Fire and The Outsiders proved to many film fans that he was more than just a pretty young face. Right from the start, Lowe exhibited an unusual level of magnetism and on-screen maturity.

Then came the sex tape. In 1988, a stolen videotape featuring Lowe and a 16-year-old girl began making the rounds. While Lowe had slept with the girl in Georgia - where the legal age of consent at the time was 14 - the incident threatened to derail Lowe’s career. Now, Lowe eventually escaped the fallout, but some people say that the incident prevented him from ever really becoming a huge movie star. Indeed, most of Lowe’s notable work since then has been in television.

5 Josh Hartnett

Josh Hartnett is one of those names you hear that makes you think, “Oh yeah, whatever happened to that guy?” Well, it turns out that Hartnett’s performances in movies like Pearl Harbor, Black Hawk Down, and The Faculty made him such a big name that he received separate offers to play Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman.

Remarkably, Hartnett turned down all of those offers. Why? Well, it seems that Hartnett simply wasn’t interested in playing any of the roles. In interviews, Hartnett states that producers were so upset that he turned down so many incredible offers that they eventually stopped approaching him with offers at all.

Hartnett essentially decided to just walk away from the Hollywood blockbuster scene in favor of appearing in smaller projects. Having said that, he has expressed some regret regarding the way he handled his decisions.

4 Edward Norton

Edward Norton as Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk

It’s fascinating to look back on Edward Norton’s early career and realize that he became a major star by virtue of his performances in some non-traditional films that happened to become major hits. His work in films like American History X, Fight Club, and Rounders proved that he was a versatile actor who had a nose for interesting roles and the ability to relay to uncertain audiences just why these stories needed to be told.

As it turns out, Norton’s seemingly quick fall from grace can be partially attributed to how difficult he was to work with. Numerous reports suggest that Norton got on the bad side of many of the actors, directors, and producers that he worked with during his early years.

Norton is in the midst of a mini-comeback, but he almost certainly missed out on some incredible roles due to his attitude problems.

3 Colin Farrell

Colin Farrell’s career “fall” is a somewhat debatable topic. Fans of the actor will tell you that he has actually consistently starred in quite a few notable movies over the years. He’s had some misses, but he’s also successfully transitioned from “young face in blockbusters” to “serious dramatic actor” quite well.

On the other hand, Farrell himself will probably be the first person to tell you that the middle portion of his career was greatly hindered by his substance abuse issues and tendency to pick the wrong roles. Farrell didn’t really begin to address his addiction issues until 2005, which is about the time when he lost his undisputed leading man status. Furthermore, Farrell’s work in such awful films as Alexander and Daredevil may have left some producers with the impression that he was a box office risk.

2 Val Kilmer

Val Kilmer’s fall from fame is one of the most fascinating stories of its kind. There was a time when it felt like Kilmer could do no wrong in terms of picking the right roles and working with the right directors. Even his worst films - like Batman Forever - were box office hits. On top of it all, Kilmer was a well-respected method actor who desired to truly become his characters.

Then came The Island of Dr. Moreau. That movie’s infamously troubled production and subsequent box office failures resulted in director John Frankenheimer telling everyone that would listen to him that Kilmer was impossible to work with. Some disputed that claim, but even Kilmer admitted that he wasn’t someone who aimed to make friends and participate in Hollywood politics. Kilmer’s subsequent weight gain and personal issues seemed to put the final nail in his career coffin.

1 Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay Lohan

While Lindsay Lohan wasn’t the first rising star to ruin her own career - and she certainly won’t be the last - there has always been something otherworldly about just how fast her career fell. Lohan became Hollywood’s “It girl” around the time that Mean Girls became a critical and financial hit. Nobody believed that she was destined for anything less than a spot near the top of the A-list.

Of course, that was before Lohan was arrested multiple times for driving under the influence, before she took multiple trips to rehab, and before she made herself the lead in a number of social media and public incidents that are most generously described as “unfortunate.”

Hollywood has supported a number of hardy-partying stars over the years, but Lohan seemed especially determined to trade in her career for a good time.


What other rising stars sabotaged their own careers? Let us know in the comments!

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