The (Movie Star) Comeback Kids

June 4, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Features

robert-downey-jr300x210The lives of movie royalty, far from being the strife-free islands of plenty those glossy magazines would have you believe, are more like stock market graphs with dizzying box-office smashing highs followed by barrel-scraping career ending lows.

Like an out of control self aware automaton turned against its masters, the Hollywood machine ceaselessly lures impressionable starlets to Tinseltown with the promise of screen immortality only to devour their aspirations and suck the youth from their needy cadavers. But every once in a while, the greedy Gods of cinema (probably Odeon) bestow a second chance on some of the more scrappy pretenders.

To the rest of the world this rarest of things is known as ‘the comeback.’ So to celebrate the release of The Wrestler on DVD (which you can win here!) and Mickey Rourke’s Golden Globe and Bafta winning return to form, here’s our list of the greatest movie star comebacks….


There was a time when the youthfully smooth face of Micky Rourke adorned the bedroom walls of many an adolescent. In his heyday Rourke was a gifted, if somewhat temperamental actor (emphasis on the mental). Renown for his hell-raising ways and legendary prowess with the laydeez, Rourke was too much for many directors to handle.

Succumbing to his own hype Rourke turned his back on the studios and with all the forethought of a particularly stupid goldfish decided to become a prize fighter. The years in the ring took the same toll on Rourke’s visage as beating a banana in a rucksack before a going on a bouncy castle does. A whole load of therapy and plastic surgery later and Rourke returned to celluloid glory in 2005 as Marv the thug with a heart in Frank Miller’s Sin City.


Travolta’s back catalogue is a bit like mad Manc rockers Oasis’. It starts off strong and exciting with hits such as Grease, Carrie and Saturday Night Fever showing talent, promise and attitude. Then, within spitting distance of greatness, it takes an inexplicable nosedive into the trough of mediocre complacency and spends the next few years struggling to justify its own existence.

Sure, having a pilot’s license is cool and all (Travolta, that is, not Oasis) but when you’re making sequels to a thoroughly average concept comedy such as Look Whose Talking, you need to rise above it all somehow. So after the humiliation I can only imagine went into Look Whose Talking Now (I think that was the one when the pets started piping up) what a relief it must have been to find an envelope marked Pulp Fiction on the doorstep. And the rest, as they say, is history.


Having a father who would never let me win at badminton, I can really sympathise with Kiefer having to compete with his legendary father’s Hollywood status.

I mean, my dad has never won a Golden Globe award or anything but he has an awesome net smash that I can only dream of replicating. Before the phenomenal success of 24 we remembered Kiefer as the psycho bully Ace Merill from the childhood shaping Stand By Me or as handsome vampire David in The Lost Boys. But, to many of the eighties ‘brat pack’, the nineties weren’t kind.

Sutherland floundered around managing the odd hit and several wide of the mark movies (Teresa’s Tattoo anyone?). However, true to his pedigree Sutherland was reborn, making the family name proud once again by taking up the now iconic lead role in 24 as Jack Bauer; the incredible non-pooing sleepless FBI agent whose tireless pursuit of terrorists lead to only one atomic bomb being detonated in LA. Good job!


Pulled over by the cops with heroin, crack and a firearm? Check.

Broke into next-door’s and passed out on a neighbour’s kid’s bed? Check.

Robert Downey Jr wasn’t always the wisecracking smooth talker that his on-screen characters might make you believe. In his time he’s probably destroyed more class As than the LAPD and gone off the rails with less dignity than the opening of the Primark January sales.

In true Hollywood crash and burn style, Downey Jr wasn’t content with just being out of work; he didn’t stop until he’d been sent to the bog boy’s house. And that, so I’m lead to believe, can be a sobering experience. Fortunately a role on Ally McBeal brought Downey Jr’s return to the industry and his senses and he’s since risen to superhero status without the aid a piece of tinfoil and a lighter.


Expressionlessly-deadpan ex-Ghostbusting comedy hero Murray never really went away as much as he slipped from the radar into a no doubt massively high-quality of living hiatus.

After winning us over in films such as Ghostbusters, Caddyshack and Little Shop of Horrors, Murray seemed to pop up every few years to put in a performance in quirky indie films such as Ed Wood and Rushmore. It wasn’t until Wes Anderson gained wide acclaim in 2001 with The Royal Tenenbaums that the Murray star was set a-twinkling once again and a few years later he was back on everyone’s lips with Sofia Coppola’s debut Lost in Translation.

Jack McKay

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