Hollywood is fickle, and just as often as it likes to raise celebrities from obscurity, it likes to watch them fizzle out. Choosing a nobody for one career-defining role is what Tinseltown loves to do. It introduces the “Next Big Thing.” This new It Guy or Gal is a hot commodity. They have career opportunities at their fingertips, they just need the right people to guide them in their decisions, because, as Hollywood has shown us many times before, taking the wrong role can bring them right back to where they began – forgotten and relegated to lists like these.
While making a misstep career-wise is often the case for celebs who didn’t manage to reach the potential audiences, studios, and critics imagined for them, there are other factors at play that can cause a professional flop. Poor behavior on set can start tongues wagging; a lack of talent; typecasting; personal issues; pickiness. Some stars bite the hands that feed them, forgetting that it wasn’t that long ago when they were watching the red carpet instead of walking on it. These 22 celebs may have once been touted as the Next Big Thing to hit Hollywood but, for whatever combination of reasons, ended up totally flopping instead.
22 Amber Heard: Famous For Her Personal Life, Not Professional Success
Hollywood is always on the lookout for its next “It Girl” and Amber Heard seemed to fit the bill in the late 2000s and early 2010s. She was beautiful and spunky and making a name for herself thanks to roles in movies like Pineapple Express and The Stepfather.
Unfortunately, just as Heard’s star was rising, people began to question if she really had the skills to earn all those bills. An ill-fated romance and marriage to the much-older Johnny Depp that ended in divorce and saw both stars lashing out at each other through the media, caused the actress to become more known for her personal problems than any professional prowess.
21 Megan Fox: Bit The Hand That Fed Her
Like Amber Heard, Megan Fox was everywhere in the late 2000s, a gorgeous new up-and-comer who first got noticed thanks to her role in the first Transformers film. While Transformers was never going to be considered a set made for thespians, Fox decided to air her grievances publicly by calling the sequel a movie that was “not about acting” and comparing director Michael Bay to both Hitler and Napoleon, as Looper reports.
Unsurprisingly, the remarks got her blackballed in Hollywood, and the beautiful brunette struggled to nab any major roles in which she wasn’t typecast as arm candy again and again. A few lackluster pictures later and she isn’t nearly the star anyone expected her to be.
20 Alex Pettyfer: A Nightmare To Work With
Alex Pettyfer was set up to be the next big teen heartthrob, on par with Robert Pattinson, after he was cast in the YA adaptation I Am Number Four. Too soon, though, his star began to fall and his clout in Hollywood began to crumble as rumors swirled that the actor wasn’t just difficult to work with – he was mean!
He managed to score the lead in Magic Mike, but was so impossible that director Steven Soderbergh and producer/costar Channing Tatum removed him from later press events. He wasn’t asked back for the sequel, either. Pettyfer has since stepped behind the camera in a bid to direct.
19 Kate Hudson: Plays The Same Character
Look, is Kate Hudson a household name? Absolutely. There’s no doubt that the actress is firmly placed on the A-list, in part due to her Hollywood pedigree thanks to mom Goldie Hawn. However, one would be hard-pressed to find a film starring Hudson in the last decade that has been worthy of an award, even though the petite blonde was positioned to be the Next Big Thing following her Golden Globe-winning role in 2000’s Almost Famous.
Rather than use that to her advantage, Hudson instead settled into a series of middling romantic comedies in which she played the same immature, bratty, beautiful lead (see: How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, Bride Wars, Something Borrowed).
18 Denise Richards: Now A Real Housewife
When any major Hollywood celebrity finds themselves turning to reality TV in order to stay relevant or make a quick buck, we know that their time on the A-list has long since passed.
That seems to be the case for Denise Richards who, once upon a time, was going to be the hottest actress in Hollywood thanks to a successful string of hits in the late 1990s like Drop Dead Gorgeous, Starship Troopers, and Wild Things. Unfortunately for Richards, she wed Charlie Sheen, which was a bad drama in and of itself, and her hits became fewer and further between until she was doing one-off episodes on TV shows and low-budget movies.
17 Clive Owen: The Almost-Bond
Remember Clive Owen? In the mid-2000s, before Daniel Craig was cast and before whisperings about Idris Elba began, Owen became the obvious choice for the next James Bond – a role that would have kept him comfortable for years! Owen, for his part, has said he wasn’t offered the role of the secret agent, but that doesn’t explain why he decided to appear in flop after flop for years.
Unlike many others on this list, it wasn’t like Owen isn’t capable of acting – he’s quite good, when given the right material! However, he hasn’t been very discriminating when it comes to picking his roles, oscillating between action flicks and sensitive weepies.
16 Alicia Silverstone: From Clueless To Cast-less
When Clueless came out all the way back in 1995, everyone thought that Alicia Silverstone was going to be the Next Big Thing. She’d graduated from starring in Aerosmith videos to being the voice of a generation with a Valley Girl accent, and yet, despite all the promise and potential, Silverstone just didn’t deliver.
Clueless is almost 25 years old, and it still remains Silverstone’s best-known film. How could it not, though, when her filmography is littered with duds like Vamps, The Babysitter, and Angels in Stardust?
Silverstone now has perhaps become most recognized for her veganism and unconventional parenting methods, which include feeding her son from her own mouth.
15 Kate Bosworth: Crushed By The Competition
A blonde beauty who was catapulted to fame thanks to her role in the 2000s film Blue Crush – and found herself a tabloid fixture thanks to her on-again, off-again romance with the era’s equally hot commodity, Orlando Bloom – Kate Bosworth never really managed to be a breakout success story.
The actress still appears in magazines, but usually on the red carpet for events with which she isn’t involved. After the flop Superman Returns – the one superhero film that didn’t contribute to the genre’s success – Bosworth hasn’t realized the potential so many ascribed to her over 15 years ago, thanks to a succession of flops.
14 Julia Stiles: From Leading Roles To Bit Parts
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Julia Stiles was the girl who wasn’t the conventional lead. She was the girl with the attitude. With hits like 10 Things I Hate About You and Save the Last Dance, Stiles was a major player on the Hollywood A-list – and then it all came crashing down.
It took a couple of panned films for the actress to find herself left out in the cold, something she acknowledged in a 2010 New York Times interview, saying,
“I think audiences…develop crushes on actors, and then lose interest….There are a handful of actors who sustain interest because it’s exciting to watch them get better at what they do. I want to be one of those actors.”
13 Rachael Leigh Cook: She’s Not All That
A total teen queen in the 1990s, Rachael Leigh Cook is still best remembered for her career-defining role of Laney Boggs in She’s All That. Unfortunately for Cook, though, that “career-defining role” was really the only role that earned her much recognition!
Josie and the Pussycats, released in 2001, ended up flopping for the actress, and saw her return to smaller indie roles – a move she later said was a bad decision. In a 2016 interview with SheKnows, Cook explained that she moved away from rom-coms despite loving the genre, saying that, “As soon as I had options in my career, I almost immediately swung my career in [the other] direction.”
12 Josh Hartnett: Didn’t Play The Hollywood Game
Like Rachael Leigh Cook (who happened to be his costar in the forgettable Blow Dry), Josh Hartnett didn’t want to do the roles that were offered to him by Hollywood. Following a string of hits that saw him capitalize on his leading man potential, Hartnett began turning down major roles that could have seen him enter a whole new career era.
Blockbuster roles like Spider-Man, Superman, and Batman were all offered to the Pearl Harbor star, who declined them in favor of smaller, more dramatic roles that ended up being huge flops – think Wicker Park and The Black Dahlia. While he’s since acknowledged his regrets, as Distractify reports, he knows he can’t change the past.
11 Vanessa Hudgens: Famous Festival-Goer
Vanessa Hudgens was expected to be the next breakout success from the Disney machine after her roles in the High School Musical franchise. After all, Zac Efron did it, and the two were dating for quite a while, so audiences naturally assumed that Hudgens’ career would follow suit.
Alas, while Efron skyrocketed to the A-list, Hudgens stayed pretty grounded. She tried her hand at music, which seemed fitting for an actress who was really only ever photographed at various music festivals, and shot some commercials for Kohl’s, but even an edgy appearance in Spring Breakers wasn’t enough to give her a boost, so she turned to formulaic Netflix holiday fare instead.
10 Bella Thorne: Disney Darling Turned Hot Mess
Not everyone is lucky enough to make it out of the Disney machine in one piece, and Bella Thorne seems to be one such casualty. After success with Shake It Up! alongside Zendaya, Thorne appeared to fall off the deep end, with a messy personal life that saw her acting out on social media, to scantily-clad photos, to tacky personal relationships, to a string of low-budget forgettable films that had the actress giving off about as much energy as if she had been sleepwalking.
There’s still time for Thorne to turn her career around, but it definitely has fizzled more than anyone ever imagined it could for a woman whose career trajectory looked like it would sizzle.
9 Dakota Fanning: Usurped By Her Sister
As far as child actors go, Dakota Fanning was long considered to be one of the most successful. As a wide-eyed precocious youngster, her talent was evident from early roles in I Am Sam and War of the Worlds. However, as time has gone by, Fanning has found it difficult to break out of the child star formula and find more adult success.
Add the fact that Fanning’s younger sister, Elle, is currently making bank in Hollywood and we understand that a little competition between the siblings might contribute to Fanning taking some time off from Hollywood. She does have some major projects coming up, though, with Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and The Bell Jar.
8 Taylor Lautner: More Skin Than Skills
Whether you were #TeamEdward or #TeamJacob, there’s no denying that, at the height of Twilight, everyone expected Taylor Lautner to be the Next Big Thing in Hollywood. He was hunky and sensitive and he came with a built-in fandom that should’ve translated into box-office success.
After the 2011 flop Abduction, Lautner, who once commanded $7.5 million a movie, wasn’t getting offers anymore, because the returns just weren’t justifying his asking price. Add the fact that the actor was described as “a stranger in his own performance,” as Nicki Swift reports, and just not a very good actor overall, and we can understand why the offers – and the cash – have since dried up.
7 Tara Reid: Talent In Short Supply
In the late 1990s, Tara Reid was the kind of girl every guy wanted. Thanks to her bubbly personality, raspy voice, and beautiful face – plus appearances in teenage-friendly fare like American Pie – the actress was set to have a promising career!
Unfortunately for her, the gravy train soon slowed down before stopping completely. Along with other list-maker Rachael Leigh Cook, she starred in Josie and the Pussycats, which was a dud. Ditto for her other forgettable 2000s films. Reid soon became known for changes to her appearance and rampant partying than any actual film success or talent, which is what shunted her out of the spotlight.
6 Katie Holmes: Better Known As Tom Cruise’s Ex
Yes, Katie Holmes is still undisputedly famous. However, is that fame based on anything recent in her filmography or is it because of her role as a tabloid fixture thanks to her marriage to Tom Cruise?
After a string of hits in the late 1990s that began with Dawson’s Creek, Holmes was cast in Batman Begins. Too bad for the actress, she was replaced with Maggie Gyllenhaal in the sequel and took a break to focus on family. Since then, the offers have dried up, with people realizing that Holmes didn’t exactly have what it takes to stay in the spotlight, and that her marriage to Cruise is what’s kept her on anyone’s mind over the last 10 years.
5 Mischa Barton: Back In Orange County
Another former child star who shifted into mainstream acclaim thanks to the early 2000s TV sensation The O.C., Mischa Barton became one of the most talked about young actresses in Hollywood. After opting to leave the show at the end of its third season, everyone wondered where Barton’s career would head next.
What most people – including the actress herself – probably didn’t see coming, though, was that it would come to a screeching halt.
Barton flopped on TV and film and a series of personal issues made it impossible for her to find work. Now, weirdly, she’s joined the ranks of the newly revived Hills franchise, which begins this June.
4 Robert Pattinson: Hated His Claim To Fame
Like his Twilight costar Taylor Lautner, Robert Pattinson was poised for a career high following the massive success of the Twilight franchise. He was all over tabloids and TV thanks to his relationship with Kristen Stewart and his heartthrob status, but instead of doing what Hollywood wanted, the Brit decided to pursue small roles in indie pictures. He explained to The Independent in 2014 that it allowed him to “work with who [he] want[s] to work with and it’s not [his] fault if it doesn’t make any money.”
So, while he may be the writer of his own destiny, Pattinson’s career certainly hasn’t become the massive success audiences everywhere predicted it would be.
3 Sarah Michelle Gellar: Hasn’t Had A Hit In Ages
Sarah Michelle Gellar seems like a truly lovely human being, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer was an iconic piece of pop culture in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but it seems like that is where Gellar’s career last showed any steam.
The petite blonde was a huge star on TV and in film thanks to teen-friendly fare like Cruel Intentions, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Scream 2, but when we think of the past decade, not much comes to mind. With the anniversaries of these big hits, Gellar has been getting a bit more press recently, but it’s really because of nostalgia value rather than any excitement over what she may be cooking up.
2 Russell Brand: Overworked His Schtick
Thanks to his instantly recognizable accent, funny hits like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and a high-profile romance with Katy Perry, Russell Brand was riding high in the early 2010s. It was short-lived, though, as audiences quickly tired of the comedian: his talk show was cancelled, his 2011 remake of Arthur flopped, and his sitcom didn’t get picked up. Add the fact that he split with Perry via a New Year’s Eve text message and the Brit wasn’t nearly as beloved as he once was.
Brand has turned to writing, authoring a series of books, and a web series to keep himself busy, but his flash-in-the-pan success has certainly cooled.
1 Lindsay Lohan: Her Own Worst Enemy
When we think of Lindsay Lohan, it’s with the idea that she had a much longer career than she did. In reality, her downfall has gone on for much longer than her ascent, which lasted for only a few years in the mid-2000s.
Roles in Freaky Friday transitioned into the iconic Mean Girls, and then Lohan became a liability on set. She showed up to work late – if she showed up at all – she partied regularly, she had high-profile romances, and was a box office flop. She became her own worst enemy, failing to capitalize on the talent she displayed so early on and instead making a bigger name for herself as a walking drama.
Sources: Looper, The New York Times, She Knows, The Independent