Do you ever wonder what happened to the actors that played some of your favorite superheroes? They were often the most popular actors of the day and rising stars in Hollywood, poised to make their big breaks by donning spandex. Maybe they started in independent films or art house dramas, when suddenly they found themselves in big studio blockbusters, getting their own fancy trailers and being able to demand obscenely large sums of money.
Maybe it didn’t happen right away, maybe it took a few movies, but soon after they donned cape and cowl, they found the parts growing slimmer, and the opportunities drying up. Sometimes it was their own fault; their horrible attitude on set and their failure to draw crowds hindered their own success. Sometimes it wasn’t their fault, and the superhero films they were in simply tanked due to going over budget, poor marketing, or cheesy dialogue. For whatever reason, they were no longer being asked to make big budget pictures. CBR has compiled a list of 15 superhero actors that Hollywood won’t cast anymore. Some of them you may not miss, and some of them you may! Luckily for you, a few are making small appearances after being away from the limelight for too many years.
15 VAL KILMER
Often referred to as the worst Batman in the series of Batman films beginning in 1989, Val Kilmer never quite recovered from the box office disappointment of Batman Forever. His Batman, like his Bruce Wayne, was soft spoken and introspective. Maybe it was because he didn’t make enough distinction between the two roles (though in retrospect, compared to the gravel-voiced Bale in Batman Begins, such a huge differentiation wasn’t necessary). Maybe it was because it was the first time we saw nipples on the batsuit.
Shortly before Batman Forever he’d been in a string of hits, from Top Gun to Tombstone, all giving memorable performances. But even movies like The Saint, in which he played multiple roles, couldn’t get him out from under the Caped Crusader’s shadow. He’s steadily worked, mostly in indie films, but he never really headlined another blockbuster again.
14 JENNIFER GARNER
Jennifer Garner got her start starring in the hit espionage thriller Alias in the early ‘00s. During that time, and towards the end of the run of the series, she filmed Elektra. The character had already appeared in the Daredevil film starring Ben Affleck, which wasn’t a commercial success. Nevertheless, a standalone film for her character was greenlit, and we got the lame interpretation of an awesome assassin’s origin story that we did.
Shortly after, she could be found floundering in indie ensemble movies like Juno, or populating romantic comedies like Valentine’s Day and Arthur. But it wasn’t until she appeared in the critically acclaimed Dallas Buyers Club that people even remembered who she was. She was out of the public eye much of the time dealing with the tumultuous marriage she had with Ben Affleck and raising her three children (four, if you count him).
13 WESLEY SNIPES
Wesley Snipes got to be in a Michael Jackson video. He got to be in Jungle Fever. He got to be in Demolition Man. And then shortly before the new millennium, he got to be everyone’s favorite human vampire hybrid slayer, Blade. Blade was unlike any other superhero being showcased at the time (except maybe Spawn), and was much more like a blend between Underworld and The Matrix before either of those movies was released.
Snipes beat out Denzel Washington and Lawrence Fishburne for the role, giving Blade just the right balance of malice and charisma. It didn’t hurt that he studied kung fu and is a fifth degree black belt in Shotokan karate. He made a trilogy of Blade movies, but tax fraud charges made it impossible to film on location in other countries, causing him to lose out on a lot of roles.
12 TOBEY MAGUIRE
Finally bringing Spider-Man to the big spring in the titular role was Tobey Maguire, fresh off a string of successes in Pleasantville, The Cider House Rules and Ride With the Devil. While not blockbusters, they steadily made a case for his range and depth of character. And while the first two Spider-Man films were successful, the third was universally panned. And though there was talk of making a fourth, he was already pushing 35, and Sony wanted a reboot.
He only made a handful of movies afterwards. While he played a lead role in both The Great Gatsby and the independent movie Brothers, the former wasn’t well received by critics and the latter wasn’t widely released. Now he has a production company and, in his 40s, is raising a family and giving Hollywood the cold shoulder.
11 DAVID HASSELHOFF
David Hasselhoff is one of the most recognizable faces on television, thanks to Baywatch and Knight Rider. He made made-for-TV movies involving both franchises, which were hits among his fan base. But one TV movie lives in infamy, and that is Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. from the late ‘90s. Nick Fury has exiled himself to the Yukon after the Cold War, but S.H.I.E.L.D. brings him back to take on Hydra!
He very much wanted that vehicle to take him places, spawning another franchise that he could star in. Instead, there were no more Nick Fury movies, and it was back to the beach for him with more Baywatch TV specials, and appearances in the Sharknado series. Unexpectedly, he recently popped up in the video short Guardians of the Galaxy: Inferno, alongside members of the cast.
10 DOLPH LUNDGREN
In the ‘80s, Dolph Lundgren was everywhere. Like Sylvester Stallone, Jean Claude Van Dam and Arnold Schwarzenegger, he was known for his physique and his accent. He was also known for being the first big screen incarnation of Frank Castle in the 1989 movie The Punisher. He sported black hair, a leather trenchcoat and a bad attitude. He didn’t wear the skull on his chest. To this day, the movie holds the record for most kills made onscreen, 91 in total, not counting mass explosions.
A sequel was planned, as the studios wanted a franchise, but the film didn’t gross as much as expected, and Dolph was displeased with the final cut. He went on to have parts in films like Johnny Mnemonic and Universal Soldier, but it would be until he starred in The Expendables alongside many of his action movie peers that rejuvenated interest in his career.
9 NICOLAS CAGE
Once regarded as one of the most engaging actors of his generation, these days Nicolas Cage consistently chooses movies that don’t reflect his versatility or range. The ‘90s saw him as a huge action star, right up to when he starred in the National Treasure series. And then in 2007, while his career was on a bit of a downward spiral, he starred as Johnny Blaze in Ghost Rider, which sealed his fate.
Like most stars that get in on the superhero gigs, he thought it would lead to a franchise, except by the time he was playing Johnny Blaze, he was already in his 40s. The film was universally panned, but miraculously he was allowed to make a sequel. He still makes films (that either he has to finance or go direct to DVD), but he hasn’t been in a big studio picture since.
8 JIM CARREY
Known for his outlandish physical comedy and wacky facial expressions, Jim Carrey was a perfect match for the part of The Mask in 1994. The film itself was changed from the dark, psychotic comic source material and changed to the lighter, campier version viewers experienced, based on Carrey’s particular comedy style. It came out the same year that Dumb and Dumber and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective was released. The very next year he would play The Riddler to Val Kilmer’s Batman in Batman Forever, and like so many from the film, never recover his career.
The sequel to Ace Ventura tanked, as did the Cable Guy and Liar Liar. His leap into a more dramatic part in the Truman Show did moderately well, but by the time he made another comedy with Me, Myself & Irene, it seemed audiences weren’t feeling it. Every movie he’s starred in since has flopped.
7 HALLE BERRY
Everyone was super excited to finally get to see Storm in all her glory in the X-Men series, especially since she would be portrayed by Halle Berry, who at the time was considered one of the most talented women in Hollywood. The first X-Men boasted a lot of acting talent and was successful. It led to her being cast in Swordfish, Monster’s Ball and a Bond film. Things were looking great for the Oscar-winner.
But shortly after the second X-Men movie she made Catwoman, a campy, weak disservice to a great DC character. Following its failure, she made one more X-Men movie, but she wasn’t getting any offers for meaty dramatic roles anymore. Her movies were few and far between, and not very great. Recently, however, she can be seen in Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Perhaps it’s a return to big studio films after all.
6 EDWARD NORTON
An actor known for taking cerebral parts in films that make you think, audiences were surprised when he signed on to play Bruce Banner aka The Hulk. He’d been in Rounders, American History X and Fight Club, playing roles that required intense preparation and no green screen. He’d been in the dark comedy Death to Smoochy and the horror thriller prequel to Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon. Perhaps this all contributed to the fact that his version of Bruce Banner was much more of a thinking man lonewolf, which was at odds with the blockbuster premier of The Hulk to the big screen.
After that, it was back to independent films like Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel. He worked steadily, but never in films of The Hulk’s magnitude. He is a welcome sight on screen, unfortunately he’s become very selective about his roles after that experience.
5 JESSICA ALBA
Once one of the hottest stars in Hollywood, Jessica Alba seemed to be on every billboard, magazine cover, and talk show. Like Jennifer Garner, she too had a TV series that launched her career called Dark Angel in which she played a teenage assassin. Soon after it was over, she would star in both Sin City and The Fantastic Four. Sin City was liked, while The Fantastic Four was not, even though it was a vast improvement over the 1990 version.
Even though The Fantastic Four was considered fairly mediocre, it still spawned a sequel, and she made a string of romantic comedies like Good Luck Chuck, Meet Bill and Valentine’s Day. She never got any more significant parts than as the love interest, and though she’s worked steadily, she’s much more focused on her line of organic home care products.
4 BILLY ZANE
When you can say you’ve been in one of the highest grossing films of all time, it’s no small feat. But it doesn’t mean you rest on your laurels, either. Prior to being in Titanic, Billy Zane had already tried his hand at playing one of the oldest and longest running superheroes in The Phantom. Despite the fact that he bulked up so that the suit would require no padding and looked the part of a dashing hero, the film wasn’t popular. It could be that audiences didn’t respond to its time period, or just didn’t like The Phantom’s lack of superpowers.
Unfortunately after The Phantom and Titanic, he wasn’t getting starring roles. He made quirky independent projects, cheesy B grade European films, and did cameos in films like Zoolander. Though he’s worked steadily in film and TV, Hollywood won’t cast him in the big stuff anymore.
3 SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR
During the years of 1996-2003, lovers of the supernatural and teen angst got to get their pre-Twilight rocks off to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the show about a teenage girl just trying to survive high school and being the one chosen to kill all the vampires in Sunnydale. It was written and created by Joss Whedon, who had worked on the feature film, and would go on to direct The Avengers movies.
Sarah Michelle Gellar had a hard time leaving the character of Buffy Summers behind. Buffy the character lived on well after the final season in a string of comic adventures. Gellar starred in The Grudge franchise, but her big movie break happened in the Scooby-Doo movies, the failure of which led to her going right back to television.
2 MICHAEL JAI WHITE
Michael Jai White has the distinction of being the first African-American to play a major comic book superhero in a major motion picture (followed closely by Shaq in Steel). Spawn was a very innovative film for its visual effects and gritty story telling, almost bordering on horror (John Leguizamo ate live maggots on camera). The film went over budget by almost double, and while two sequels were planned to form a trilogy, they stalled in development hell (but expect a reboot in 2018).
Since Spawn failed to live up to expectations, and the franchise didn’t continue, Michael Jai White kicked it in appearances on Boston Public and Wonderland, and a part in the Dark Knight. But nothing was ever on the magnitude of Spawn again. Portraying Ben Turner/Bronze Tiger on Arrow recently may have been the kickstart his career needs to get back into blockbuster territory.
1 ALICIA SILVERSTONE
A darling of the ‘90s, Alicia Silverstone got her start in an Aerosmith video and a few made-for-TV movies before she was everyone’s favorite teen ditz in Clueless. Not soon after that she starred alongside George Clooney and Chris O’Donnell in Batman and Robin, a movie responsible for ending many careers. Though she would appear in a few comedies like Excess Baggage and Blast from the Past, playing Batgirl did more to hinder her film career than catapult it.
Many people have attributed Silverstone’s one-note acting and subpar action capabilities as Batgirl to the reason why she was no longer taken seriously as an actress. Her career path wasn’t particularly geared towards dramas, but the pickings were slim for an actress that had been notoriously fat-shamed during the course of production.
Which of these actors would you love to see again? Let us know in the comments!