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HollyWon't: 15 Big Franchise Actors That Should Be Bigger Stars

Despite being the decided centerpiece of both popular culture and the global entertainment market, Hollywood and the film industry are remarkably fickle entities. Every budget, production, and casting choice is made with surgical precision, perfectly calculated to ensure maximum profit, cultural relevancy, and to boost the star power of everyone involved. That means when something goes wrong, as things inevitably do when twenty different people are competing for their wishes to be met all at once, there’s little studios can do in the way of financial course correction. One of the few measures of control mainstream Hollywood actually has to protect itself is the notorious Hollywood Blacklist.

Originally a group of film moguls the government outed as communists during the height of McCarthyism, the metaphorical blacklist still exists to this day and contains the names of actors deemed no longer billable or prevalent to the modern film scene. Those unfortunate enough to find themselves on the blacklist usually would find themselves shunned to supporting roles at best. This even includes the likes of major, franchise-carrying actors who had proven themselves compatible to the Hollywood machine. As a testament to this truth, here are 15 big-name actors that Hollywood now avoids.

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15 TOBEY MAGUIRE

Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy is widely considered the foundation upon which the Marvel Cinematic Universe has now built an unshakable franchise on. A comic book movie and proud of it, the films were colorful, dramatic, and action packed. And one of its defining elements was Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker. He was nerdy, awkward, and even a little goofy -- everything Spider-Man should be and more.

The series ended when Spider-Man 4 died in a boardroom and the Amazing Spider-Man films were birthed to fill the resulting void. This left poor Maguire in something of a career pitfall. His subsequent films failed to reach the same cultural relevance and Hollywood has seemingly decided that he’s simply not worth the effort at this point. Even a lead role in an attempt to translate the great American novel to film couldn’t resurrect his career.

14 BRENDAN FRASER

Oh Brendan, what happened? As the star of the Mummy remake in the early '00s, you were a delightful grab bag of everything a turn of the century movie star should be; good looking, reasonably talented, and just a tad adorkable. And the movies themselves were fun action rides as well. For a few years, it looked like Fraser was going to be the newest iteration of the classic Hollywood star.

Than Crash happened, arguably the film the finally exposed Hollywood as the fake, ratings-driven, exploitative industry it was once and for all. Though most of its cast has since managed to escape from Crash’s career-sucking black hole, Fraser never got out of its eclipsing shadow. Hollywood has since effectively scrubbed him from the record books, not even trying all too hard to cash in on his nostalgia value, which has only grown in the interim.

13 SHIA LABEOUF

Boyd "Bible" Swan (Shia LaBeouf) in Columbia Pictures' FURY.

If there’s a bridge Shia LaBeouf hasn’t burned yet, then he’s actively seeking it out and hoarding all nearby matches so he can fix the problem. Most were introduced to LaBeouf when he was a young Disney star, with potential and opportunities abound. His first major film franchise was Michael Bay’s controversial Transformers films and whatever good will LaBeouf had accumulated beforehand was gone by the end of the first film. And then he was obligated to make two more.

By the time he was done with Transformers, horror stories had begun to circulate around Hollywood of LaBeouf’s instability. He apparently never showered while on the set of Fury and his backstage feud with famed director Lars Von Trier during the shoot of the Nymphomaniac films are well documented. Since then, Hollywood has been hard pressed to dial his number.

12 KIRSTEN DUNST

Despite seeming like a proper Hollywood leading lady, Kirsten Dunst is actually a strange, enigmatic figure in terms of career trajectory. Getting her start in television and voice over, she made her first big impression to Hollywood in the acclaimed Virgin Suicides. After a few years down the line, she tried her hand at being a franchise actress by playing Mary Jane in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy.

And while the films themselves are lauded paragons of the industry, her performance is almost universally accepted to be the worst part of them. She was vapid, generic, and only got a proper character arc in the final instalment. She’s been struggling to find a place for herself in the industry ever since. Despite a brief return to relevancy with 2011’s Melancholia, she’s mostly been relegated to minor and television roles.

11 MARK HAMILL

Play a game with yourself and name your three favorite Mark Hamill film roles. It’s fair to assume most people would list Luke Skywalker, so that’s one. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm got a theatrical release so his iconic role as the voice of the Joker counts. And after that? It’s weird that you can’t think of anymore than that, right? Hamill doesn’t just have some of the most iconic characters of all time in his repertoire, he’s a legitimately talented performer with a routinely underestimated dramatic range.

You’d think Hollywood would find some use for him outside of the roles he’s already known for, but instead the industry seems comfortable keeping him on as a benchwarmer. This might be a mixed blessing though as Hamill has casually become a voice acting legend in his free time.

10 RUPERT GRINT

In its infancy, the Harry Potter film franchise promised to be a training ground for the next generation of young actors. Contractually obligated to spend the better part of their teens onscreen and honing their craft under the watchful tutelage of some of the most talented living actors in the world today, the world got to see half the cast gradually morph from awkward child actors to confident thespians.

Of its three biggest child stars, Emma Watson has gone on to be an outspoken political activist, Daniel Radcliffe seems comfortable resting on his cultural laurels with the occasional indie flick, and Rupert Grint…Rupert Grint seems to be gone. Has anyone seen him since 2011? Nobody in Hollywood has. The man seems to have driven off the end of the earth in his famous ice cream truck, never to be seen again.

9 MICHAEL FASSBENDER

Once hailed as the man who could return the prestige of Hollywood to the artists, Michael Fassbender then morphed into an enthusiastic team player who has since devolved into little more than an industry obligation. His status as the thinking man’s action hero became compromised when he was cast as a young Magneto in X-Men: First Class. Though the film was one of the best in the series and his performance was admirable, the degeneration of his interest in the subsequent films was matched only by that of Jennifer Lawrence.

His presence was also supposed to be the shot in the arm that the Alien franchise needed, but his role and performance got lost in whatever Prometheus was. And now that he’s failed to turn Assassin’s Creed into a viable film franchise? It’s safe to say that no amount of Oscar bait can get him back in Hollywood’s good graces.

8 GENE HACKMAN

In all fairness to the esteemed Mr. Hackman, it’s hard to cast a man who very publicly retired from acting in the early '00s. But Hackman didn’t do himself any favors on his way out. A prolific and revered actor, Hackman is perhaps best known for playing Lex Luthor in the Donner/Reeves Superman films. At the turn of the century, he made it known that he was considering his well-earned retirement. Before he could close the curtain, he became pestered by director Wes Anderson who had written a part in his new movie specifically for Hackman.

This notion apparently sickened Hackman but he was convinced to do the film. According to rumor, Hackman was an absolute nightmare on the set of Royal Tenenbaums, making life difficult for everyone from his costars to the makeup department. Even if he hadn’t retired, Hollywood probably wouldn’t have welcomed him back.

7 MICHAEL CHIKLIS

To say that the Fantastic Four have had difficulties translating to screen would be a dramatic understatement. Arguably the least-terrible attempt was the pair of films in the mid-'00s where Michael Chiklis played thus far the best version of Ben Grimm, aka the Thing, fully encompassing his outsized personality and bizarre body dysmorphia.

He did a pretty good job, all things considered, but Hollywood decided that his beautiful, bald head just wasn’t sustainable as a long-term movie star and he hasn’t had a significant movie role since. Fortunately, Chiklis’ career didn’t exactly suffer from his exclusion from Hollywood. He’s currently succeeding where he always had: in television. The Shield alum is experiencing a career renaissance with big roles on Gotham, American Horror Story, and Vegas.

6 SAM WORTHINGTON

Clash of the Titans movie image

In retrospect, it’s weird that Sam Worthington was ever really a thing. From 2009-2010, he seemed to be Hollywood’s new golden boy, staring in the Clash of the Titans remake, the Terminator rebirth attempt, and the over-hyped Avatar. Then, just as quickly as he appeared, the English pretty boy vanished into the abyss of obscurity. He was briefly brought out of whatever cryogenic vault Hollywood stored him in for Wrath of the Titans, but that was little more than a blip on the radar.

There are plans to bring him back for the myriad of planned Avatar sequels, but not only is that contractually obligated, those movies have been in development limbo for the better part of a decade. James Cameron can plan them all he wants, but nobody will consider them real until image hits the screen.

5 ORLANDO BLOOM

As a younger man, Orlando Bloom was known as a franchise player. Getting his Hollywood big-break as the cartoonishly competent Legolas in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, he immediately transitioned to play a main character in the instantly successful Pirates of the Caribbean series. And he pulled off both roles with stellar performances that have endured throughout both series’ subsequent declines in quality.

And yet, apart from being brought back for the lackluster example of Hollywood corporate wrangling that is the Peter Jackson Hobbit trilogy and a brief cameo in the even more disappointing Dead Men Tell No Tales, Bloom has gone largely unnoticed by the industry in recent years. Why? Was it because actors like Luke Evans and Dan Stevens turned out to be such viable replacements? Was it because he had aged out of Hollywood’s target demographic? We may never know.

4 ELIJAH WOOD

In the geek subculture, there is no scripture more holy than J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Not only did Tolkien lay the groundwork for the modern fantasy genre, but he was the first to see the potential of marketing ‘fairy tales’ to an adult audience. For decades, filming his epic trilogy was considered not only impossible but blasphemous.

Then Peter Jackson turned a sizable portion of New Zealand into his personal playground for two full years and made one of the most defining film franchises of the modern era. And the face of the series was Elijah Wood as Frodo, a former child actor ready to prove he could cut his teeth on more adult material. Since helming the franchise however? Hollywood has essentially turned him into persona non grata, shunning him into the worlds of television and voice over performances.

3 MARGOT KIDDER

The Richard Donner/Christopher Reeves Superman films are largely regarded as some of the best superhero movies of all time with even their campiest and goofiest aspects held up as sacred lore. But one of the many underappreciated aspects of the films is Margot Kidder as Lois Lane. Her role is deceptively difficult, trying to play a proper septic foil to Reeves’s hyper-idealized Superman.

The two actors had to perfectly match and counter the others’ energy and tone, a feat that makes even veteran actors stumble. Kidder had already proved herself in Amityville Horror and Superman should have been the catapult that shot her into the stratosphere. Instead, Hollywood showed her the door. Her very public meltdown in 1996 might have been the final nail in her film career’s coffin, but she seems to have recovered nicely by shifting to television.

2 BILLY DEE WILLIAMS

Actor Billy Dee Williams is shown, June 4, 1980. (AP Photo/Randy Rasmussen)

Talk about a double header! Not only was Billy Dee Williams the backstabbing scoundrel Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars movies, he was also the righteous district attorney Harvey Dent in one of the most famous unfulfilled cinematic set-ups in film history. He was known as a team player and a bankable star. He was talented, suave, and had a unique swagger all his own. And the odds are that until you heard his voice in the Lego Batman movie, you forgot he was even alive.

Hollywood slept on Williams hard, under-utilizing his vast talents to an almost criminal degree, leaving him stranded in bit parts after replacing him in Batman Forever, right when his character would have evolved into Two-Face. He’s been coasting on his Star Wars legacy for decades now, and even then, he’s been relegated to one-off appearances. Seriously, somebody buy the poor man a Colt 45.

1 WESLEY SNIPES

When Batman and Robin came out in 1997, critics decried it as the premature death of the superhero film. But it was less than two years later when Blade debuted that the genre shocked itself back to life by embracing its B-movie roots. And a major element of its greatness was the pitch perfect casting of Wesley Snipes as the titular role. As the half-vampire hunter of the undead, Snipes was cool, intimidating, and just the right flavor of over-the-top. He even brought the same energy and devotion to its immediate sequel.

But it was clear that by the time Blade: Trinity rolled around, Snipes had lost his smile and passion for the project. Reportedly being a nuisance onset and indulging heavily in substance abuse, Snipes quickly drifted off the Hollywood radar, resurfacing only as the butt of late night jokes after he was publicly served by the IRS.

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