“It’s not TV, it’s HBO.” Since the 1990s, that mantra has been the backbone of what was once just a pay-movie channel. While they had the ball rolling for a while, it was The Sopranos that turned HBO into a network known for gripping prestige television. The hits have rolled out ever since from Sex and the City to the epic Game of Thrones. That’s not including such acclaimed series such as The Wire, True Blood, Big Little Lies, Boardwalk Empire, Deadwood, Westworld and countless others. It helps that these shows can attract major Hollywood A-list stars to try television and have earned the network scores of Emmys.
HBO shows feature beefed up casts and can turn actors into mainstream stars. Jason Moama counts as he parlayed his Game of Thrones success into a terrific big-screen career. A few others have followed suit and become successful on other TV shows. But not every HBO star has had the same long-term success. A few are held back by their pasts or personal issues while others just haven’t clicked in the Hollywood scene.
20 Ricky Gervais
After breaking out in the original version of The Office, Ricky Gervais scored on HBO with Extras. The great Hollywood satire was well known for actors sending themselves up in cameos, and Gervais won an Emmy for his part. This led to several movies, but it became clear Gervais’ style of humor didn’t win movie-goers over. It wasn’t helped by interviews and hosting the Golden Globes where he’d openly insult people in the business. Gervais has had roles on Netflix’s After Life while his sardonic attitude has won him few friends in Hollywood.
19 Julia Louis-Dreyfus
She’s never had a major film career with her biggest role in the animated movie A Bug’s Life. That’s because Julia Louis-Dreyfus has made TV her home. Her turn on Seinfeld earned her two Emmy awards and she got another for The New Adventures of Old Christine. Her turn on the HBO series Veep has been amazing with Louis-Dreyfus winning Emmys for six of the show’s seven seasons. She also got credit for working after battling cancer. Given all that (not to mention how she’s a literal billionaire,) it’s no shock Louis-Dreyfus doesn’t care much for big movie parts.
18 Steve Buscemi
With his unique features, Steve Buscemi carved out a career as an actor who could easily move from comedy to drama. After scores of movies, Buscemi moved to HBO by starring in the acclaimed Boardwalk Empire series. He won a Golden Globe and some Emmy nominations for the part, but his career has slowed since. He’s mostly done Adam Sandler movies and the recent passing of his wife has caused him to take a long break which is understandable.
17 Lena Dunham
For a brief time, Lena Dunham was one of the hottest faces around. Her Girls series got major critical acclaim for its frank portrayal of women’s lives and Dunham showing no shame with her work. As soon as her star was rising, it was fading due to Dunham’s very controversial opinions and some writings that rubbed studio heads the wrong way. Not helping were her personal problems that distracted her and curtailed her output. It seems Dunham is just too raunchy to work for the Hollywood system.
16 Jeff Daniels
While it wasn’t as successful as other Aaron Sorkin shows, The Newsroom got some attention for HBO. Jeff Daniels had been a veteran actor for decades when he starred on the show and earned a Best Actor Emmy award for it. While he stays busy, Daniels hasn’t had a major movie role in a few years, although he won another Emmy for the Netflix show Godless. Daniels is now spending time on Broadway and claims that theater work is more fulfilling for him than movie roles are.
15 Jeffrey Tambor
The Larry Sanders Show was ahead of its time with the behind-the-scenes antics of a late-night talk show. The series was a critical favorite thanks to the late Gary Shandling in the title role and Jeffrey Tambor as his long-suffering sidekick. Tambor has crafted a terrific career in movies and TV, culminating in winning an Emmy for Transparent. But Tambor has been hit by charges of harassment and even assault that led to him being fired from Transparent. It also means it’s very unlikely the man will land even a minor role soon.
14 Anna Paquin
Even having an Oscar doesn’t always open doors in Hollywood. Anna Paquin was eleven years old when she won an Oscar for The Piano, which was a lot to live up to. She scored the part of Rogue in the X-Men movies, but not much else. That’s because Paquin has concentrated on TV with her stunning role of Sookie on True Blood showing how she'd grown up. She’d been busy since the show ended, raising a family and starring in TV series such as Flack and The Affair. She already has an Oscar so Paquin doesn’t need Hollywood as much as other stars would.
13 Liv Tyler
The daughter of rocker Stephen Tyler broke out in the late 1990s with her lush beauty and talent. She'd been in big movies like The Lord of the Rings trilogy and looked to be on the rise. But since 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, Tyler simply hasn’t had any big movie parts. She’s popped up in television such as the HBO show The Leftovers, which wasn’t even that big a part for her. Tyler has been busier with her family and activism while also speaking out about ageism in Hollywood, which is why her promising career faltered.
12 Amanda Peet
Following a few short-lived TV shows, Amanda Peet had a huge breakout in the comedy hit The Whole Nine Yards. That led her to other films although none as majorly successful as hoped. She starred in the 2015 HBO series Togetherness which got fair reviews, but was canceled after only two seasons. Peet has had some other TV work, but no movie roles in almost five years. She’s settled into writing, but Peet never paid off on her promise as a Hollywood star.
11 Stephen Moyer
After several minor roles in forgettable films, Stephen Moyer clicked with his turn as vampire Bill on True Blood. He and Anna Paquin’s chemistry was so hot that they ended up getting married in real life. Since the series ended, Moyer has had little major work with minor roles in mostly forgettable films. His Fox show The Gifted was canceled after only two seasons. For some reason, this handsome and talented actor just can’t get another role to sink his teeth into.
10 Evan Rachel Wood
Evan Rachel Wood is familiar to HBO viewers. She first played a vampire on True Blood and then Kate Winslet’s daughter in Mildred Pierce. She now currently stars in the network’s hit drama Westworld, which serves as a great showcase of her talents. In terms of movies, Wood has always leaned more toward small independent dramas than big blockbusters. She appears happier with the smaller projects so it’s less that Hollywood won’t cast her than Wood being uninterested in being an A-list star despite her talent.
9 Shailene Woodley
Shailene Woodley got her breakout on the ABC Family show The Secret Life of the American Teenager and showed nice talent. She wowed critics with her turn in The Descendents and landed the lead in the Divergent series. But that would-be franchise faltered with the third film performing so badly that the concluding chapter was canceled. Woodley has stuck to indie dramas before joining the cast of the hit show Big Little Lies. Woodley is also a dedicated activist which is another reason she shies from the studio pictures.
8 Jeremy Piven
After various short-lived TV shows, Jeremy Piven finally enjoyed the big time on Entourage. His turn as the foul-mouthed Ari Gold earned Piven three Emmy awards and boosted his profile big time. Piven still had a hard time finding regular movie roles after the show ended. Today, Piven is being accused of serious misconduct with various women which has made him toxic to movie studios. Even Ari couldn’t find Piven work in Hollywood these days.
7 Kim Cattrall
Kim Cattrall was already a veteran of Hollywood when cast as Samantha in Sex & the City. Cattrall enjoyed a terrific second act as the feisty woman who had no shame in showing her body off. As any fan of the show knows, Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker got into a huge feud and bad-mouthed each other majorly. This has given Cattrall a bad rep that makes studios wary of casting her. Her last movie role was SATC 2 in 2010. She’s set to return to TV in the Fox show Filthy Rich while movie roles have dried up for Kim.
6 Kit Harington
Thanks to how so many other characters fell, Jon Snow soon became the true hero of Game of Thrones. Kit Harington won legions of fans with his tough demeanor and his handsome looks gaining female fans. But that didn’t work for Harington as his big-screen epic Pompeii was a flop. He’s trying again with The Eternals, but that’s clearly a smaller role in a huge ensemble. Harington might be better off with more TV work as he knows little of Hollywood success.
5 Sophie Turner
Game of Thrones fans hated Sansa Stark because of her bratty attitude. But Sophie Turner transformed the character into a terrific power player. Turner should get more offers from Hollywood, but it doesn’t seem to be happening. While it’s hardly her fault, the box office bomb of Dark Phoenix is a strike against her. Turner seems more interested in TV with a new series, Survive to debut in 2020. There may be time to turn it around but for now, Turner doesn’t seem interested in the Hollywood game.
4 Dustin Hoffman
Luck was going to be HBO’s next prestige drama. It was produced by David Milch and garnered the coup of Oscar-winner Dustin Hoffman in a rare TV role. They canceled the show after one season after allegations of mistreatment of horses came to light. That seems to have haunted Hoffman as the once-popular actor has seen his career falter. His only major work in the last decade has been the Kung Fu Panda movies. Hoffman has long upset people with his serious mannerisms on set and his behavior has made him one of the most infamously difficult actors around. Little wonder he doesn’t get much work today.
3 Maisie Williams
This may seem unfair as Maisie Williams is still young and has a career ahead of her. Yet it doesn’t seem like Hollywood is that interested in trying to push her. Her turn as Arya in Game of Thrones was fantastic with Williams showing talent beyond her years. Williams seems to prefer smaller indie films or British productions than playing the Hollywood game, as well. New Mutants has been stuck in a nightmare of studio mismanagement and may never be released. Williams is also too busy with her social media platform to care much about Hollywood.
2 Sarah Jessica Parker
Sarah Jesica Parker had a few fun comedy hits in the 1990s, such as Honeymoon in Vegas and Hocus Pocus. Her biggest role was Carrie Bradshaw in the hit Sex & the City which won her four Golden Globes and an Emmy. Parker continues to work with HBO in the dramedy Divorce, but her movie career has basically dried up. She had too many flops and the last SATC movie wasn’t well-received. Parker is better off in television and producing rather than trying to revive her film career.
1 Adrian Grenier
Entourage focused on Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his difficulties in Hollywood. A big plot saw Vincent going all-in in a film only for it to turn into a bomb that almost ruined his career. Since the show ended, Grenier can relate. The Entourage movie was not only a flopm but Grenier didn’t make friends blaming its failure on the studio heads, mot to mention his Arsenal film also bombed. Grenier is better off running a record label than movies, as the closest he came to the A-list was the show’s fake Aquaman movie.
Sources: Ranker.com, imdb.com, variety.com, nickiswift.com