After spending several decades getting a bad rep as a movie sub-genre that is mediocre or not serious work, the superhero genre has quickly etched its way into mainstream pop culture media. The MCU alone racks in several millions of dollars every year. Not to mention teh DCEU, or the off brand comic book adaptations, or even original superhero ideas. If a superhero movie manages to find its way to the theater, we can bet top dollar that there are going to be long lines waiting to go see it, which is why the superhero film is the perfect way for any up and coming actor to break into Hollywood.
Any rising star looking for a way to climb up the ranks of Hollywood can look no further than when the spotlight is on bright and everyone is watching the latest hotly anticipated superhero movie on the big screen. A lot of stars in recent memory first got their big start by appearing in superhero movies, including Chris Hemsworth. However, sometimes, there is an exception to the rule. Sometimes, a superhero role is the zenith of an actor’s career because they fail to make it big in Hollywood afterwards. Here are some examples.
15. TOPHER GRACE – SPIDER-MAN 3
There was a time that Topher Grace’s career seemed bright when he decided to leave That 70’s Show in favor of giving Hollywood a shot. He traded his role as Eric Foreman for the part of the traditionally anti-heroic Venom character for the third installment of the Spider-Man franchise. He was set to play one of the three antagonists of the film.
While the film was the most financially successful out of Sam Raimi’s franchise, Spider-Man 3 also managed to be the most critically lauded of the bunch.
One of the bigger flaws pointed out in the film was Grace’s performance as Eddie Brock/Venom, which critics found to be miscast and lackluster. That seemed to seal the kiss of death to Topher Grace’s career as it never reached higher heights since.
14. THOMAS JANE – THE PUNISHER
When Hollywood decided to bring The Punisher to the big screen in the early ’00s, they decided to put Thomas Jane at the helm as Frank Castle. At the time he was cast, Jane was on the steady rise to fame after gaining acclaim for small supporting performances he turned in for films like Boogie Nights and The Thin Red Line. Getting cast as The Punisher was his first big break in Hollywood with the spotlight shining bright on him.
Disappointingly, The Punisher failed to crack in big bucks at the box office and it produced some less than savory reviews. Although, most critics found Thomas Jane’s performance to be impressive. However, in Hollywood, being impressive doesn’t amount to anything unless it makes money. As such, Jane was never given the keys to the kingdom of a major production again.
13. MALIN AKERMAN – WATCHMEN
After being in developmental hell ever since the late ’80s, Alan Moore’s critically beloved Watchmen finally saw a big screen rendition in 2009 at the hands of Zack Snyder. While the film itself received mixed reviews, it did great business at the box office, currently sitting as the 4th highest grossing R-rated picture opening in the history of film.
With that much success, critics expected much of the cast to move on to bigger and better things.
This included the actress that filled Silk Spectre’s shoes, Malin Akerman. She did start getting big work following Watchmen — as in major Hollywood productions — but not necessarily better work. After starring in two back to back box office flops (Rock of Ages and Wanderlust), her movie career was as good as done.
12. BILLY CAMPBELL – THE ROCKETEER
When he directed The Rocketeer for Disney in 1991, Joe Johnston convinced the house of Mickey Mouse to cast a complete unknown in the title role. Enter Billy Campbell. Campbell did not have much work to his name going into The Rocketeer, and has not found too much work in movies coming out of it. The film turned out to be a financial disappointment despite garnering mostly favorable reviews. The reviews themselves were not able to help Campbell’s career progress following the box office flop.
As fast as his star started to rise in the wake of The Rocketeer, Billy Campbell’s star suddenly remained stagnant. The occasional television appearance — like his role as Darren Richmond on The Killing — helped put Campbell back into conversations, but not enough to make him relevant.
11. BRANDON ROUTH – SUPERMAN RETURNS
In a hope to revive the Superman character’s movie franchise back to the days of old when Christopher Reeve was the star, Superman Returns went into production with Bryan Singer as the director and Brandon Routh as the title character. Just like when Reeve was cast back in the day, Brandon Routh was a completely unknown actor at the time, the hope being that using the same formula in casting Superman would produce the same results. It didn’t.
The film received mixed reviews and regained only $200 million from its $270 million budget.
10. CHRIS O’DONNELL – BATMAN FOREVER
Chris O’Donnell spent much of the ’90s as a rising actor on the verge of a breakout in Hollywood. He was always seen in supporting roles beside A-list celebrities in films like The Three Musketeers and Scent of a Woman. He caught his biggest break yet when he was starred in Batman Forever as The Caped Crusader’s trusty sidekick, Robin. The move proved to be so successful that he decided to reprise the part in Batman & Robin.
He did so to less favorable results, both in the box office department and critically. Suddenly, those big roles stopped coming in for O’Donnell. Although he has been able to find new success on television as the star of NCIS: New Orleans, but nothing else beyond that.
9. HELEN SLATER – SUPERGIRL
After the smash success of the Christopher Reeve Superman franchise, Hollywood decided to bring the character’s cousin, Supergirl, to the big screen as well. To fill the character’s ruby red shoes of justice, Helen Slater beat out Demi Moore and Brooke Shields for the part. Like Reeve when he first played Superman, Slater was a complete unknown actor at the time hoping to use her superhero role as a launching pad to a bigger career.
The film also served as Helen Slater’s very first appearance in any theatrical movie.
Unlike Reeves, Slater failed to do so after Supergirl stunk up the box office. Not only did the film do poorly financially, but it received awful reviews, Slater’s performance included considering she was nominated for a Razzie for Worst Actress.
8. LORI PETTY – TANK GIRL
Most audiences recognize Lori Petty as Lolly Whitehill from Orange is the New Black on the small screen, but a couple decades prior to that, she was trying her hand at Hollywood. Namely, in the production of Tank Girl — based on the post-apocalyptic comic book series of the same name — as the title character. While the film has since gained a cult following in more recent years, Tank Girl attracted some unfavorable reviews upon its original theatrical run.
Worst of all, after spawning a budget of $25 million, the film only made about $6 million at the box office. Understandably, Petty’s acting career tanked soon after. Thankfully, she is in the midst of a newfound comeback on her hands thanks to her aforementioned Netflix appearance.
7. ERIC BANA – HULK
When he first started acting in the early ’90s, Eric Bana did so as a comedy actor on television. When he decided to transition into starring in movies, he took a shockingly serious turn as real life gangster Mark “Chopper” Read in Chopper. Hollywood quickly took notice to Bana’s acting chops and thought he would be the right fit for Ang Lee’s Hulk. While the film did moderate business at the box office, it also gained lukewarm reviews.
Bana tried to bounce back by starring in Troy shortly after, which wound up being an even bigger critical and financial flop.
After this, critics started to question Bana’s bankable star power and looking at his recent filmography, it looks like Hollywood did the same. Aside from playing the villain in Star Trek, Bana never appears in major productions anymore.
6. SAM JONES – FLASH GORDON
Sam Jones first film appearance was in 1979 for the film 10, but that was enough to convince the production team behind Flash Gordon that Jones would be the perfect fit for the title role; going as far as to beat Kurt Russell and Arnold Schwarzenegger for the part. Making the comic strip adaptation itself on a $20 million budget was a gamble enough. The gamble was made even bigger by putting such an inexperienced actor in the forefront.
It turned out to be a gamble that failed to pay off, seeing as the film just barely made back its budget, practically bombing at the theater. Rather than a career boost, Jones received a Worst Actor Razzie nomination, which didn’t help his case in Hollywood. Years later, Jones and the film earned cult status, but being a cult classic doesn’t pay the bills.
5. JAMES MARSDEN – X-MEN
After a string of short lived guest appearances on television shows like Saved by the Bell and Party of Five, James Marsden caught his first big break in Hollywood when he was cast in the X-Men franchise as Scott Summers, aka Cyclops. In theory, this would have been the perfect opportunity to showcase his acting chops for all the world to see, but his performances were always overshadowed by that of Hugh Jackman’s role as Wolverine.
In turn, Marsden — much like Cyclops’s role in the franchise overall — became an afterthought.
For that reason, his career never reached the pinnacle that critics predicted he would have. He still pops up every now and again in a small supporting role in big budget movies, but his roles always amount to him being overlooked in some way or another.
4. TAYLOR KITSCH – X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE
Once upon a time ago, Taylor Kitsch had the opportunity to lead not one, but two superhero franchises of his own. The first would have been playing Gambit after reprising his role as the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Unfortunately, the film underperformed and drew critically gaudy reviews.
All was not lost for the former Friday Night Lights stars, as shortly afterwards, he snagged the title role of John Carter, a character often considered the world’s very first superhero after debuting on the page in 1912. It would be an understatement to say that the pressure was on for Mr. Kitsch, and once again, his film failed to deliver. Only John Carter flopped even harder and was even less critically received. Kitsch’s career never recovered.
3. GABRIEL MACHT – THE SPIRIT
After the box office success of his big screen adaptations for his graphic novels Sin City and 300, Frank Miller decided to try his hand at filmmaking as a director. He prepped himself to write and direct the big screen treatment for The Spirit, a comic book character that dates back all the way to the ’40s and was originally created by Will Eisner. To play The Spirit, Miller called on Gabriel Macht, a complete unknown at the time.
This was his first chance to grab the brass ring in Hollywood, and unfortunately for Macht, it would prove to be his last after the film bombed in every way possible.
2. TAYLOR DOOLEY – THE ADVENTURES OF SHARKBOY AND LAVAGIRL
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D is most notable for being the first big break for future Twilight heartthrob Taylor Lautner, despite the film itself being a box office bomb. His star seems to have risen and faded quickly after the Twilight franchise ended, but the fact remains that most audience’s first introduction to him was when he played Sharkboy, and the role proved to be a launching pad to success for him.
We wish we could say the same for the girl who played his co-star Lavagirl, Taylor Dooley. Dooley failed to find work that reached the same heights as playing Lavagirl and eventually, she decided to take a hiatus. Instead, she studied Psychology at college, got married, and had a child. Now that she’s ready to give acting another shot, we’ll see what the future holds for her.
1. ALICIA SILVERSTONE – BATMAN & ROBIN
When Batman & Robin first reached theaters in 1997 and was critically defecated on by everybody and their mama, no one made it out of that production with their career intact. Except for George Clooney, who somehow became even more popular after the fact, but other than him, everyone involved with this film went on a swift decline, career wise. Even Alicia Silverstone, who was well on her way to being Hollywood’s next it girl.
She quickly became famous after starring in Clueless and hoped to use Batman & Robin to continue her success.
It proved to be an ill-advised failure that destroyed her career in one fell swoop. That and the combined failure of another film of hers released that same year, Excess Baggage, instantly signaled the end for Alicia Silverstone.
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