Every Actor Who Left a Franchise Is Now Returning To That Franchise

By  · Published on August 25th, 2015

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Remember the xXx movie franchise? Maybe you were reminded during the end credits of Straight Outta Compton, which features a clip from the 2005 sequel, xXx: State of the Union, the installment that starred Ice Cube instead of original lead Vin Diesel. Well now, after skipping that second outing, Diesel is officially returning to the franchise for the third, and that sounds about right. Not because he’s desperately crawling back – in fact, he finally seems to be at a place where a movie series needs him more than he needs it. No, he’s just obviously returning because that’s apparently what is done in Hollywood right now.

Every actor who left a franchise is returning to the franchise they once left behind. Matt Damon is going to be Jason Bourne again. Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to be Conan again. Orlando Bloom is confirmed to be Will Turner again for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. And while it’s just a speculative rumor, Liev Schreiber could be back as Sabretooth in the third Wolverine movie (this would be yet another chance at making amends for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, along with Ryan Reynolds being back in the X-Men Cinematic Universe as Deadpool, Gambit getting his own movie, albeit recast, and now reportedly The Blob being in X-Men: Apocalypse, also recast).

Almost a year ago, in response to word that Bloom might head back to the Pirates franchise, I suggested that certain actors and movie series need to quit each other. I still agree in the case of Bloom given that his character had a complete arc already in the original trilogy. Diesel’s return to xXx is more intriguing, mainly because he doesn’t need it (it’s not one of his babies, like Riddick) and also because the idea of a James Bond movie for the extreme sports crowd doesn’t sound so novel anymore, so now it’s just another generic spy action movie franchise. And Schreiber’s return, in addition to what it does for that series, would allow a great actor another chance to be in a better installment of that series.

This all should seem like a weird trend (if that was what Hollywood was doing here), given two things that happened over the summer. The first was that Terminator Genisys brought Schwarzenegger back into the Terminator series for real (only his likeness was used in Terminator Salvation), but the sequel hasn’t performed as well stateside as was hoped (it has at least done very well overseas, of course). The second is that Jurassic World is the biggest movie of the year worldwide, and it managed to do so without any of the stars of the original movie (I’m not counting B.D. Wong as a star) or the subsequent two installments. Unless we count the T.rex as one of the stars of Jurassic Park, and maybe we should.

Also, we are still seeing big stars dropping out of big franchises. Fans of Independence Day and Bad Boys are going to have to deal with Will Smith not being involved with Independence Day: Resurgence or Bad Boys 3, at least not on screen (he’s producing the latter and potentially Bad Boys 4 but may not appear in them). Both Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Lawrence are expected to be completely done with the X-Men franchise after their next appearances. And we know the Marvel Cinematic Universe can’t go too much longer with its original heroes, or at least their portrayers, on board. So long as they’re not killed off or recast, though, any of these stars could also swing back around in the future. Well, maybe only an old man Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) would work.

Outside of there being any kind of actual trend, there are a few different reasons for franchise comebacks. Bloom’s still looks like a matter of him not having anything else going on (though that doesn’t necessarily mean the franchise has to welcome him back). For Diesel, it’s difficult to determine. He has the Fast and the Furious franchise, plus Guardians of the Galaxy, plus Riddick (I’m certainly not the only one who wants more of that), plus the upcoming The Last Witch Hunter, a sequel for which has already been ordered based on Summit Entertainment’s happiness with the first, so it’s not like he needs another franchise. Unless he’s trying to prove his value as a bankable movie star (see the recent Forbes article questioning that value) in relation to what little worth he wound up showing a decade ago when he walked away from the first xXx sequel.

I believe a big part of stars coming back has to do with Hollywood’s usual mining of nostalgic properties and studios looking at their catalog to continue or reboot already existing properties. Just as Fox and Sony respectively want more ID4 and Bad Boys after all these years and would like to have as many recognizable faces in them as possible, or they’ll have to make a total rehaul, Sony also wants to hold on to the xXx franchise and go back to the formula they started with. I don’t know that anyone is nostalgic for this franchise yet, but it has been 10-plus years and that is all that’s needed for something to be turned around as a sentimental artifact. It’s about asking, “hey, remember when… ?” And audiences love to acknowledge that they do.

I fully expect the rest of the actors who departed franchises early to be summoned back for this nostalgic reason most of all. Isn’t it about time for Fox to be looking back longingly at the success of the first Speed and get Keanu Reeves to do that second sequel he’s hinted that he’ll do? And wouldn’t Universal have no trouble at all doing a straight Bruce Almighty sequel with Jim Carrey returning? And can they please find a way for Jeff Goldblum to be in Jurassic World 2? They’re not likely to find Kirsten Dunst any more interested in doing a Bring It On sequel today than she was 15 years ago, however. Likewise, Michael J. Fox probably wouldn’t do Teen Wolf 3, Christian Bale isn’t going to do American Psycho 3 and Jake Gyllenhaal has no reason to do Donnie Darko 3.

How about a Grease 3 with John Travolta back and paired with the first sequel’s Michelle Pfeiffer, though? It’d be 40 years after the first, on the eve of the new millennium. Nostalgia for a classic movie musical and the 1990s? Paramount and fans, you’re welcome.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.