Random Thoughts: Where have these once-famous actresses gone?

Upon hearing this news from CinemaBlend that Meg Ryan is cast along with John Lithgow in a Crash-eque drama, it dawned on me how long I haven’t seen her in ages. The last movie I saw her in was Kate & Leopold which was nearly a decade ago! I did see her in the trailer of a dark comedy Serious Moonlight, but I guess nobody saw that (the movie’s total worldwide gross was a paltry $138,696 according to Box Office Mojo). The trailer was so dismal it made me cringe, I mean, didn’t Timothy Hutton won an Oscar?? And what’s with Ryan’s hair that looked like a replica of Jennifer Aniston’s, super straight and super shiny. Even in the poster and dvd cover, they hardly showed her face… people could easily mistake it for an Aniston rom-com, not sure if that’s intentional?

In any case, unlike Julia Roberts, Diane Lane or Sandra Bullock who somehow could still open a movie, looks like Ryan’s acting career has officially gone kaput. That’s too bad, I kind of like her. Not the best actress in her generation by any means but her movies were entertaining, to me anyway. When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail… LOVE ’em. She was the rom-com queen when rom-com was still enjoyable and quite poignant.

She’s obviously not the only once-famous actress who’ve seemed to have *disappeared* from Hollywood from the past decade. I reckon there is generally a much shorter shelf life for female performers than than the male counterpart, but is that really the only reason? I mean look at someone like 65-year-old Helen Mirren who’s so ubiquitous lately with no sign of slowing down. I don’t know why some actresses are still prolific and others seems as if they struggle to find even a single decent project. And we’re talking about those who’ve had considerable success both commercially as well as critically, a few even won major awards in the past. Here are just a few name that came to mind:

  • Rene Russo (Lethal Weapon 3 & 4, The Line of Fire, Ransom, Thomas Crown Affair)
  • Madeleine Stowe (The Last of the Mohicans, Twelve Monkeys)
  • Julia Ormond (Legends of the Fall, Sabrina)
  • Sean Young (Blade Runner, No Way Out)
  • Rebecca De Mornay (Risky Business, The Hand That Rock the Craddle)
  • Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (The Abyss, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves)
  • Helen Hunt (As Good as It Gets, What Women Want)
  • Jeanne Tripplehorn (Basic Instinct, The Firm, Mickey Blue Eyes)
  • Elisabeth Shue (Cocktail, Leaving Last Vegas)

Anyway, those are just the ones I can think on the top of my head, the list goes on. I don’t really have a theory to offer about this topic, so perhaps you can offer one? And while we’re at it, which female actress was your favorite from the 80s & 90s that you wish would make a *comeback*?

26 thoughts on “Random Thoughts: Where have these once-famous actresses gone?

  1. Vince

    Good topic – Jean Tripplehorn is actually still going strong as one of the leads in the HBO series BIG LOVE. I know Elisabeth Shue is active as a producer. As for the rest, good question.

  2. Ted S.

    Meg Ryan has always been cast as that girl next door type and when she tried to expand her skills into more dramatic role, it just didn’t work. Remember Courage Under Fire? I just didn’t buy her in that role. So as she gotten older, movie executives aren’t casting her to be in those girl next door type anymore, which is sad because I like her as actress.

    As for the rest of the ladies on your list, again I hate to say it, they’ve gotten older and you know Hollywood tends to go with younger actresses in their films. Also, those actresses never had big hits like Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock when they were in their prime.

    1. That’s right Ted, all of Meg’s non rom-com roles tank, even that one with Russell Crowe bombed. It’s possible that their affair had something to do with it, but I think like you said, people just don’t see her in ‘serious’ roles.

      I think the age thing is a huge factor sadly. Castor just commented on my other post when I suggested Carla Gugino for Lois Lane that Hollywood would never cast a woman in late 30s in that role, even though the male protagonist would be around that age!! Such a double standard. Well, I think some of their movies were hits, but you’re right that they didn’t have the lead roles in those movies.

  3. One of the things I’ve always found surprising is going back to older decades picking a handful of actresses who were big in their own right but not groundbreaking and track their careers. The number of 10 – 20 years and done actresses in Hollywood is jawdropping. Lots of times its Hollywood thinking they got old, and therefore unbankable (stupid and unjustified imo). Sometimes its them wanting to play outside the box Hollywood, and definitely filmgoers, have put them in (this is especially evident on TV to film actresses).

    When it comes to Meg Ryan I think Ted hit the nail on the head; she went outside the realm of rom-com and Hollywood didn’t follow.

    Stowe is one that I find most surprising. She’s always had the talent to make her stand out in a film, never relying solely on looks. My only guess there is a combination of age and that she hasn’t always made the best film choices.

    1. Hi Ryan! Yep, I think that notion of old actress=unbankable is stupid and unfair, but the fact is, a lot of teens & younger crowds do make up the majority of moviegoers and they’d rather see people their age. I give props for Meg for refusing to be typecast any longer and seek various risky roles, pity that she just wasn’t able to convince the audience. I wonder if this is why Aniston is persistent to stay in her rom-com zone because people seem to continue to buy tickets for her movies even when they complain she plays the same character.

      A lot of these actresses haven’t always relied on looks, either, and a whole lot of actors don’t always make the best film choices either. Oh well, Hollywood is clearly kinder to the male species.

      1. I know a few of my neighbors who watch romantic comedies (generic ones that is) almost religiously. Every time one opens they’re there at the theater that weekend gearing to go. I don’t get the mentality, but basically they like the monotony of it. The predictability and stability of it. I can only guess as a substitute for instability elsewhere (but that’s a personal matter I’m not willing to dive into). Hence they tend to love actresses who continue to give them that, and become devout fans of them (to be fair I know men with the same disposition towards generic action films). Unfortunately once they leave that area they leave those fans and enter the realm of those who have been annoyed by their dedication to archetype cinema.

        There’s nothing cinema viewers, and cinema makers, enjoy more than a bit of typecasting.

        1. Oh boy, your neighbors must adore Aniston and Katherine Heigl 😉 My friend’s girlfriend is the exact same way and the poor guy’s always get dragged to see ’em with her! I don’t get that mentality either, but you’re spot on that it’s most likely a substitute for something else they can’t control. I just asked someone the other day why an actor wants to play themselves or a variation of him/her (in the case of Aniston, she doesn’t even bother to change her hairstyle!), I mean, isn’t the point of ‘acting’ is so you can be somebody else?? But I think they perhaps fear what you point out… that their fans won’t follow them if they step out of their comfort zones. To those I don’t regard them as actors in the sense of an ‘artist’… they’re merely entertainers.

    2. Agree with Ryan. It’s just a fact that most actresses sort of fade away once they reach their 40’s and only a handful keep their staying power (you can count them on the fingers of your two hands). Especially for something as fickle as being “America’s sweetheart” and being a rom-com queen, your career expectancy simply won’t last as long as someone with more diverse performing talents.

  4. Meg Ryan’s career was killed after she left Denis Quaid with whom she was in a very long relationship in order to have a very short fling with Russell Crowe who dumped her almost immediately after they starting going out. People kinda lost any love for her after that.

    Rene Russo is playing in THOR next year, while gorgeous Madeline Stowe is preparing her directorial debut with quite a great cast!

    I’m happy that Virginia Madsen came from the dead and now has a very active career again.

    1. Well Dez, actors have affairs all the time, I mean look at Angelina and a plethora of others, I don’t see her career slowing down anytime soon. But if your theory were indeed true, isn’t it interesting that Meg is the one ‘punished’ for the fling whilst most people probably don’t remember much about Russell’s involvement.

      Oh right, Rene is going to be in THOR, I did know about that. It’s been a long time since I see her in anything. Nice to hear about Stowe’s directorial debut, we don’t see enough female directors in Hollywood so this is certainly good news. Didn’t Virginia win an Oscar (or nominated?) for Sideways, then she just went poof! What movies is she doing now Dez?

      1. it’s true, but the downfall of her career really did start with that affair, after that she started having some really bad roles and the rest is history.

        Yep, it’s true that men are more easily forgiven for cheating and having affairs, but it’s true that it is in a man’s nature to be extremely sexual and to be a hunter, while female nature is different.

        You even have Rene in that first pic from THOR depicting the palace in ASGARD 🙂

        Virginia did come back with SIDEWAYS, and will appear in THE ART OF LOVE with Aidan Quinn :)))

        1. Well, even if it is men’s nature to be more of a prey, it’s a cop out excuse and I for one don’t give ’em passes for cheating because they’re following their ‘nature.’ In any case, it can take a whole day discussing such a topic.

          Oh right, I remember reading that post now, I like Aidan Quinn too. Btw, Luke Evans seems to be everywhere, good for him. He is in Thor also I believe.

            1. not a whole day, Flixy, but a whole life 🙂 because that is the exact point about which women and men will never agree, since one of them tend to analyze the others comparing them with their own nature and psyche. And those two are incomparable 🙂 These things require a scientific approach which I personally always use since this problem is about biology not solely the psychology 🙂

              Yes, Luke Evans is everywhere and I believe Aidan and Virginia will make a lovely couple!

    1. Err, yeah I heard about that. In fact, the reason I got to thinking about Meg was because I read that exact movie casting through Cinemablend. You’re not paying attention there Scarlet 😉

      1. well, there we have it! bested again! one of these days I’ll hit ya up with some news you didn’t know yet! confused me by not adding it into your post. Thought u didn’t know! nice trickery! 😉 Next time!

    1. Hi Marcello, Yasmine Bleeth?? Come on! 🙂 But Michelle was in Cherie last year wasn’t she? I never thought of her as being ‘away’ from Hollywood, she’s just more selective.

      @Prairiegirl. I have yet to see the whole movie of Fabulous Baker Boys, just bits and pieces of it. I did remember her in the red dress singing on top of the piano 🙂

  5. Richard

    I would love to see Geena Davis make a comeback. I was a massive fan of hers, especially in The Accidental Tourist and The Long Kiss Goodnight. Mmmmmm, Geena Davis.

  6. Elisabeth Shue turned up as Elisabeth Shue in Hamlet 2 (http://www.top10films.co.uk/archives/3104), probably the best thing about that movie! I went off Meg Ryan after her breakdown on the Parkinson show – she may have been suffering from mental health issues at the time which could have caused her to take a break from acting but if she wasn’t she certainly came across as a bit of an idiot.

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