We all remember Mel Gibson, don’t we? Massive Hollywood name, loads of Oscars and blockbusters, who then disappeared of the face of the earth after some full-mouthed anti-Semitism remarks back in 2006. That was it for him. Hollywood’s doors closed forever, like an outcast, a plague-infested.
But oh, boy, doesn’t Hollywood just love welcoming its rejects back, as if nothing had happened and they were all friends again. Mel Gibson’s latest movie (yes, he’s back to making movies!) is the World War II pacifist drama Hacksaw Ridge, and if there is something Hollywood adores, that is war dramas – especially if they are based on real-life stories, like Hacksaw is.
The first step towards Gibson’s comeback is already here, with the announcement of the Golden Globes nominations, in which Gibson’s movie is up for three major awards: Best Motion Picture –Drama, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture –Drama for Andrew Garfield and Best Director for Gibson himself.
But Gibson’s case isn’t the first time Hollywood has done this to one of its stars. There are many more who have suffered years in the shadows to then resurface.
Robert Downey Jr.
This is by far the biggest example of a Hollywood comeback. Downey was already a huge star in his early twenties. He was even nominated for an Academy Award for his starring role in Chaplin when he was 27. But his problems began in 1996, when he fell down a spiral of drugs and on-and-off arrests. For years, no one in Hollywood paid him any attention or cared about him.
But this is Robert Downey Jr. we are talking about. Of course, he recovered, and in 2008 he went on to make a little movie you might have heard of called Iron Man. Ever since, he has become once again one of Hollywood’s biggest names, and his acting recovery started with an Oscar nomination, also in 2008, for his role as an intense method actor in Tropic Thunder. And then he went further and became Sherlock Holmes. You’d have to be living under a rock to not know who Robert Downey Jr. is.
Another Iron Man alumnus makes the list. Rourke’s name was everywhere in the eighties, with hits like Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish and the erotic drama 9½ Weeks. But he made the mistake of quitting acting for a time to focus on boxing, and when he chose to return to his life as an actor in 1994, the cinema industry wasn’t ready to welcome him back home just yet.
Rourke’s comeback started slowly, with a role in 2005’s Sin City. But it was in 2008 (yes, the same year as Downey Jr.) when Hollywood finally accepted him back. Rourke starred in the drama The Wrestler, for which he won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA award. He didn’t win an Oscar, because Hollywood doesn’t like to offer its hand for too long, but at least he got nominated.
Note: The Wrestler also revamped the career of another castaway, Marisa Tomei, who had won an Oscar back in 1993 for My Cousin Vinny and who was also nominated for the 2008 drama. Next year she will be seen as the younger-than-usual Aunt May in Spiderman: Homecoming.
Okay, so he was never really “gone”, but his early career focused mostly on romantic comedies like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days or The Wedding Planner and minor disasters like EDtv or Sahara (let’s pretend that never happened).
But now the world has awakened to his talent thanks to what we know as “The McConaissance.” The actor started to focus on more dramatic roles and 2014 saw him shine on both the big and the small screen. For TV, he gave us the performance of a lifetime as Rust Cohle in the HBO drama True Detective, where he shared the limelight with his long-time friend Woody Harrelson. And he was seen in cinemas everywhere in the drama Dallas Buyers Club, based on a real story (I told you Hollywood loved those). He won every acting award available to him that year, including the Oscar, which he accepted in fashion, with a tan, a white suit and his Southern loquacity.
Affleck was so promising in the nineties. He and his best mate Matt Damon won an Oscar for the script of Good Will Hunting, and after that, Affleck’s career seemed to focus on minor romantic comedies and even minor thrillers, and what’s even worse, on his real-life romantic relationships.
No one can remember right now the movies Affleck did in the early noughties, but everyone remembers that disaster of an over-advertised relationship with Jennifer Lopez that the media dubbed as “Bennifer.” And then he did Daredevil, and fell into a pit of despair, loneliness and even worse movies.
But Affleck is a talented man, and he clawed out of that pit to make the (yes, based on a real life story) political thriller Argo, for which he won Best Picture –he wasn’t nominated as Best Director because Hollywood didn’t want to give him so much love just yet, but he did win a BAFTA and a Golden Globe for his directing.