Hollywood is riddled with actors vying for an opportunity to showcase their talents. Often, one big movie is all it takes for an actor to break out and become the next big movie star. But that notion is a double-edged sword that can sometimes come back and destroy careers. If the movie doesn’t make you, it can often break you and end an otherwise budding future in Hollywood.
The actors on this list aren’t considered failures, in fact, at a certain point, they were expected to break out as the next big actor in Hollywood with much potential. But for some reason, their career took a turn for the worse and didn’t end where many pegged them to be. We’re not bashing these actors or calling them hacks - in fact, we think many of these actors are quite talented - but their meteoric rises and subsequent stumbles in the Hollywood stratosphere work as cautionary tales.
Here are 11 Actors Who Failed to Break Out.
12 Taylor Lautner
In the past five years, there have been many victims to the young adult genre. This genre seems to be a well of false hope, and rarely delivers actors that can break out of the shadow of the series. Starring opposite Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in the mega-book adaptation, Twilight, Taylor Lautner’s career was launched into overdrive when the second movie was released in 2009 and expanded his role. As the series and its incredible successful sequels continued to gain Lautner exposure, he began receiving major roles in films in which he was the main lead actor. Starting with Abduction in 2011, roles in action films began to open themselves for him but they didn’t end up successful.
Abduction flopped, and his latest attempt to be a bankable star, Tracers, also failed to make noise at the box office. Even since the Twilight series ended in 2012, he has slowly faded into supporting roles. He hasn’t received another opportunity to break out from the vampire series. His most recent role saw him join the Adam Sandler gang in The Ridiculous 6, which isn’t necessarily a good thing for a serious acting career.
11 Alex Pettyfer
Alex Pettyfer burst onto the scene thanks to another young adult film, I Am Number Four. Produced by Michael Bay and co-starring Timothy Olyphant, I Am Number Four had high hopes of becoming a breakaway success and launching another YA franchise, but it fell short. Grossing $149 million off at $50 million budget, the film didn’t bomb, but critics didn’t warm up to it Compared to other YA films, and with marketing and distribution costs tallied, the sum underwhelmed.
Pushing aside this misstep, Pettyfer continued with many more high profile roles in Beastly, In Time, Magic Mike and Lee Daniel’s The Butler, but he didn’t manage to break out from these movies, either. Failing to catch on with this blitz of films, his presence on screen has diminished lately, with his last film coming in 2014.
10 Lily Collins
Lily Collins' status as an actress was supposed to change in 2012 when she was cast opposite Julia Roberts in the retelling of Snow White, Mirror, Mirror and being tasked with leading yet another budding young adult book franchise, Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Before that, her career started strongly with her performances in The Blind Side opposite Sandra Bullock and Priest opposite Paul Bettany. Unfortunately, the fast start didn't translate into a strong finish.
Mirror, Mirror failed at the box office while Mortal Instruments was a complete flop. The first film of the six book series grossed only $90 million off a $60 million budget, and plans for the sequels were canceled. In the midst of her high profile failures, Collins played minor roles in films like Stuck in Love, co-starring Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Connelly, which earned her praise for her acting, but her star began to fade as she’s only been in one film since 2013.
9 Armie Hammer
Many actors on this list were branded "chosen ones" by the press, and expected to be the next Hollywood leading actor, and Armie Hammer was one of the most prominent of these. Hammer’s career got off to a strong start after his performances in David Fincher’s The Social Network and Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar, opposite Leonardo DiCaprio. He then translated this success into leading role into the next Disney franchise opposite Johnny Depp with The Lone Ranger. Things didn’t go as planned.
The Lone Ranger cost $225 million to make and an additional $150 million in marketing cost but only grossed $260 million. It ended being labeled one of the biggest financial flops of all time. With that title on his resume, Hammer’s career has never quite bounced back. After The Lone Ranger, two years passed until he got his next big opportunity in Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. last summer, but that ended up flopping as well. He has three films coming out this year, but all are supporting roles and a far away from almost leading the next big Disney franchise.
8 Brendan Fraser
Brendan Fraser is the oldest actor on this list and probably the biggest enigma. Breaking out in the Disney movie George of the Jungle, Fraser then went on to lead two highly successful films in The Mummy franchise. He also had roles opposite Elizabeth Hurley and Alicia Silverstone in Bedazzled and Blast from the Past, respectively. Those films didn’t do great financially, but they continued to establish him as an established Hollywood near A-lister.
But then 2008 happened. He headlined two summer movies in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and Journey to the Center of the Earth. Both ended up being respectable successes, but didn't light the world ablaze with their performance. Even with multiple hits on his resume, his star slowly withered away. He hasn’t been in a financially successful film since 2008. Fraser was never the prototype leading actor, leaning toward the goofy side, but his resume boasted some pretty big films before his slow exile from elite Hollywood happened.
7 Garrett Hedlund
Starting his career robustly with a role in the Brad Pitt epic, Troy, Garrett Hedlund began building up his resume with minor roles in Four Brothers, Friday Night Lights, and Death Sentence. It wasn’t until he was cast in the lead role for Tron: Legacy, which was speculated to be Disney’s next big franchise if it were to succeed, that he truly started to get noticed. The film did really well - grossing $400 million off a $170 million budget - but it didn’t reach the peak levels of success that were expected of it. Talks of a sequel were put on the shelf and a bigger franchise never spawned.
Hedlund then embarked on an interesting career journey that featured many minor roles in indy films, including On The Road and Inside Llewyn Davis, largely ignoring big Hollywood productions. That was until Pan last year, which ended up being a huge financial failure even with Hugh Jackman and Rooney Mara in the cast. The unorthodox approach to his career doesn't appear to be paying off. Hedlund still hasn’t achieved a real breakthrough success in his 12-year Hollywood career.
6 Jai Courtney
The most recent addition to this list and the only actor that has a chance to break this curse this year is Jai Courtney. The Australian actor first made his mark on the small screen in Spartacus: Blood and Sand, but then he was cast opposite Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher back in 2012. He then subsequently got leading roles in the Divergent series, A Good Day to Die Hard and Terminator: Genysis. He was seen as the next big star after being cast in several movies that looked like they would bring him success, but things didn’t play out like that for him.
While the Divergent series was successful, A Good Day to Die Hard failed to garner financial success and Terminator: Genysis bombed at the domestic box office. Luckily for Courtney, the film did really well internationally and escaped flop status. Nonetheless, the film was negatively reviewed and another Jai Courtney movie failed to truly catch on. His star hasn’t completely waned, though. He’s starring in the upcoming DC Universe film, Suicide Squad, which could be the film to finally push him into Hollywood stardom, even though it's more of an ensemble film.
5 Sam Worthington
In 2009, James Cameron’s Avatar went to become the highest grossing film of all time, and the face of the movie was unknown actor Sam Worthington. The last leading actor to lead a James Cameron epic into the record books was Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. The buzz around Worthington hinted at similar career path for the future Oscar winner. To go along with Avatar that year, Worthington was also cast along Christian Bale to reboot the Terminator franchise, Terminator: Salvation. Things were looking real good for Worthington’s career in 2009.
Fast-forward seven years later and Sam Worthington’s name isn’t easily recognized. Avatar proved to be his first big success, but Terminator: Salvation also proved to be his first failure. Bad reviews and an uninspiring box office run drove the Terminator franchise into another reboot just last year without Bale or Worthington. In 2010, Worthington had his second big success with the remake of Clash of the Titans. Unfortunately, he returned for the much-maligned sequel that failed at the box office and slowed his career. He hasn’t had any noteworthy roles since 2012. Luckily for him, there are three Avatar sequels scheduled, which might mean his career could have a second wind.
4 Hayden Christensen
After the massive financial success (and critical letdown) of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, George Lucas had a big decision to make when casting the teenager Anakin Skywalker. It would be the role of a lifetime, and the lucky recipient of the role was Hayden Christensen. Unknown at the time, the role put Christensen in the spotlight. There were huge expectations for the fresh-faced actor’s budding Hollywood career, but those expectations were never met.
Christensen’s performances in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith were not well received. The role of a lifetime seemed to polarize Christensen and cast a shadow upon his future that he could not escape. His biggest role since Star Wars was Jumper in 2008, which was a mild success but didn’t launch the franchise producers were hoping for. There were many talks of a possible sequel but nothing materialized. Christensen has since had a number of supporting role, but major Hollywood success outside of the galaxy, far, far, away, has continued to elude the actor.
3 Brandon Routh
After the Superman franchise had been in exile for 19 years, X-Men director Bryan Singer was ready to bring the Man of Steel back to the big screen and he cast unknown actor Brandon Routh to fill the shoes of left behind by Christopher Reeve as the iconic hero. Superman Returns was supposed to be the homecoming for the Krypton native and Routh was supposed to ride Superman’s cape to Hollywood stardom. That did not happen.
Superman Returns ended up having a disappointing run and earned lukewarm reviews, particularly for Routh’s performance and the somber tone of the film. Brandon Routh quickly fell off the map and has not appeared in a major film since his turn as Superman. Starring in a number of indy flicks and some TV appearances - most recently as The Atom on the CW’s Arrow and NBC's Chuck - has given his career a second life, but his failure to build off such a big role left a big dent in his career. He seems to be content wandering the realm of TV roles and indy movies, but his once promising career never truly began.
2 Taylor Kitsch
Taylor Kitsch slowly built a solid career with minor roles in films like Snakes on a Plane and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Those were his outlier success, but the main backbone to his early career was his role in the critically acclaimed TV series Friday Night Lights, which he joined in 2006. The stage was set for Kitsch to break out with three major films in 2012: John Carter, Battleship, and Savages. What happened next can only be described as terrible luck.
All three films were box office duds. John Carter went on to become one of, if not the biggest box office bomb of all time. The $263 million movie ended up costing Disney $200 million in losses. Months later, Battleship didn’t fair much better and ended up flopping as well. His only small-scale film, Savages, hit theaters later that summer, but Oliver Stone's low-budget drama failed to break even. By the time 2012 ended, Kitsch's major Hollywood career was over before it began. He hasn’t landed any leading roles since that year, only supporting roles, with the only major movie being The Lone Survivor in 2013. Last year, Kitsch starred in the highly-anticipated second season of True Detective, but even that was a major disappointment.
Kitsch may the poster child for failed actor with a bright future, but not many actors can survive three failures in a row. Here's hoping he can get another shot after the terrible run he had.
Hollywood, in many ways, is a desert. It’s a feast or famine business. Many actors on this list received multiple opportunities to reach the next level of success, but it just didn't work out. It happens all the time. Some of the actors on this list have future opportunities to break out of this list, but that is still to be seen.
The only thing that can be known right now for sure is that not every big opportunity will lead to success. The easy route of getting cast in a big entity can prove to have adverse success. After the first wave of YA break-out stars, Hollywood was littered with knockoffs that failed time and time again. Unfortunately, many actors on this list took the bait and rode the train to obscurity.