With the critical acclaim that Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler has already received, Mickey Rourke is quickly getting mentioned on everyone’s Best Of lists. Rourke’s performance is being hailed by critics as both a comeback and iconic. So we’d like to take a look at cinema’s best comebacks, and worst disasters. We’ll give you the bad news first:
What would be worse than soliciting a prostitute and being caught red handed, like Hugh Grant did in 1995? Try soliciting a transvestite prostitute as Eddie Murphy did just two years later. So why did Eddie Murphy not fare as well as Grant (who didn’t make this list)? Murphy vehemently denied any wrongdoing and even pleaded not guilty. Grant, on the other hand, publicly apologized and even went on a press tour of self deprecation. Some of you could make the argument that Murphy should be on the comeback end of this discussion with Shrek and Dreamgirls. However, Murphy cemented himself into Hollywood’s Wall of Shame due to three little words: Norbit, Meet Dave.
Once one of the golden boys of Hollywood, Gibson (no relation) had a really bad night back in 2006 when he was pulled over for drunk driving. However, the drunk-driving charge was probably the least of his problems when it came to his image. He let some anti-Semitic comments loose, and in Hollywood of all places. That’s like working at The Cracker Barrell and cracking jokes about inbreeding or making fun of Nascar. The aftermath: Gibson has not starred in or directed a film since Apocalypto, which was released the same year. He will though, but he is likely on a hiatus because of this disaster.
Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle
Also known as Roscoe Conkling Arbuckle, the actor was a bonafide superstar at the beginning of the 20th century. He was one of the best paid actors of his era, and was a hot commodity as well as a very busy guy. This was until he was accused of being so fat that when he reportedly raped a women, his weight caused her bladder to rupture which eventually lead to her death. While he was found not guilty of both rape and murder, he didn’t appear in films for almost a decade after the incident.
Most know him better as Pee-wee Herman, Reubens graced my television screen a lot when I was a kid. I loved Pee-wee’s Playhouse. Then when my mom found out about his indecent exposure arrest, and it was a long time before I’d see or hear about Pee-wee Herman. Thing is, and I might get some heat from this, but isn’t that kind of what happens in adult movie theaters? Hunter, Fure? Reubens was forming a pretty good comeback with his roles in ‘Murphy Brown,’ Mystery Men and Blow. However, he was again charged with a sexually related crime of possession of child pornography. He was found not guilty, as the material was not pornographic. Still, his Pee-wee image and career has never reached the levels of his early career.
Ryder became well known for her indie presence during the 80s and 90s. In 2001 she became better known as a rich actress that was caught shoplifting from Saks Fifth Avenue. She did indeed score big with Mr. Deeds just a year later, but since? Not much. She looks to be forming a slight comeback, being cast in J.J. Abrams Star Trek. But let’s just hope she doesn’t try to steal anything from the Enterprise.
Polanski is regarded as one of the best film directors in the world. He has one of the most impressive resumes in Hollywood, but one of the most improbable personal lives. Polanski was a Holocaust survivor who later lost wife Sharon Tate to the Manson family cult. Following these tragedies, Polanski went on to direct a little film called Chinatown. From there, only a statutory rape charge that has spread decades and nations. Polanski is currently a fugitive of the United States and faces imprisonment if he ever returns. Needless to say, he didn’t come pick up his Oscar for The Pianist.
Haley Joel Osment
You’re probably shaking your head at this one right now, but yeah…the kid from Sixth Sense and Forrest Gump has had a disastrous fall. Believe it or not, he is now 20 years old (and kinda weird looking) and already has his own mugshot. At the age of 18 he was charged with a little something we like to call drunk driving, marijuana possession and rolling his car over. He apologized for his actions and even got into Tisch. However, he has not starred in a theatrical release since the incident.
And now the good news…
Hopper has never been a big favorite of mine, but the guy sure did come back on the scene in a big way from being basically a drug addicted train-wreck. He revolutionized independent film with Easy Rider, but then quickly slipped into addiction and exile after The Last Movie. He spent the rest of the 70s and early 80s in and out of rehab (aside from Apocalypse Now), but made a big splash back on the scene with Blue Velvet and Hoosiers. Now the guy is like a Hollywood institution.
Neil Patrick Harris
Most people might remember him as the wunderkind Doogie Howser. The show ended in 1993, and no one really heard from him until an odd role in Starship Troopers. Then nothing until 2004 with the surprise hit Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle where Harris played a drug addicted wild man parody of himself. He is now doing pretty well in the spotlight after another Harold and Kumar film, his role in ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and in Joss Whedon’s ‘Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.’
John Travolta had the female population eating out of his hand in the late 70s and early 80s with films like Grease, Saturday Night Fever and Urban Cowboy. He quickly was slapped with a has-been label and ended up becoming something horrific in the Look Who’s Talking films. Then as fate would have it, he agreed to play a small but powerful role in an upcoming director’s newest film. Enter Paul Harvey: And that director was Quentin Tarantino…and the film, Pulp Fiction. And that’s the rest of the story.
Robert Downey Jr.
You can’t really call this year a comeback for Downey Jr. Maybe you could call it a rebirth. The guy has gone from an un-insurable Hollywood liability to a legitimate superstar. He paved the road to comeback with several films from 2003-2007 including Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Gothika, Zodiak, Charlie Bartlett, Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus and A Scanner Darkly. With films in 2008 like Iron Man and Tropic Thunder, Downey Jr. is in total control of his destiny. Hell, he is getting Oscar buzz around Tropic Thunder and for the unreleased 2009 film The Soloist already.
Rourke had a pretty good thing going for him in the 80s, until he left Hollywood to try his fists at professional Boxing. When he came back (not all in once piece) to film in the 90s, he could only muster some forgettable roles. Then some lightning struck. Some will argue that Crazy Mickey started to mount a comeback with 2005’s Sin City. However, what he has going on now is being considered more than a comeback. People are saying that his performance in The Wrestler is transcendent and iconic. Simply a comeback? Maybe. I’m sure that when the dust (and hype) has settled, he will be able to pick from the best of scripts.