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15 Actors Who Destroyed Their Careers Practically Overnight
Frankly, I don't think we need to see any of these people make a comeback. You had your shot!by Hannah Marder
You see it all the time. An up-and-coming star seems poised to take Hollywood by storm...and then something happens, and it all disappears.
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Or maybe they're already an established star, but something so horrible comes out that they're forced to retreat entirely from Hollywood.
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Either way, frankly — their career tanking is what they deserve, at least in the following cases. Here are 15 celebrities who destroyed their careers with bad behavior:
1. In early 2021, Gina Carano posted a photo to social media comparing being a Republican to being a Jew during the Holocaust, which caused fans to dig up some other past problematic social media posts by The Mandalorian actor, in which she denounced wearing face masks and claimed voter fraud in 2020.
Albert L. Ortega / Getty Images
She was quickly asked not to return to the Lucasfilm and Disney show, and plans were scrapped for her character to have her own show. "Her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable," a representative for Lucasfilm said in a statement. She was also dropped by her agency.
Disney+ / Lucasfilm / Courtesy Everett Collection
Shortly after, Carano announced that she would develop, produce, and star in the film White Knuckle with conservative media company the Daily Wire. However, Carano later canceled the film because she refused to adhere to Hollywood's masking policies. She decided to quit her union (presumably the Screen Actors Guild) and make a different movie in Montana. The film was released in 2022 to little fanfare, and it's clear that Carano doesn't have the budding career she once had.
The Daily Wire / Courtesy Everett Collection
Carano also had a role in My Son Hunter, the far-right fictionalized portrayal of Hunter Biden's foreign business deals.
2. Jussie Smollett made headlines in early 2019 for experiencing a hate crime in Chicago...except, as it turned out, Smollett had actually staged the attack. He was then fired from his hit show, Empire, which was in its fifth season.
Prince Williams / Wireimage via Getty Images
Charges were filed against him for making a false police report and wasting police resources. A 2021 trial found him guilty of five out of the six counts he'd been charged with, and he was sentenced to 150 days in county jail. He was released on bond after just six days and later made a return to Hollywood in B-Boy Blues, this time behind the camera. He has no acting projects lined up, though he has appeared at events like the 2022 BET Awards.
Paras Griffin / Getty Images
3. Hartley Sawyer was similarly fired from The Flash in 2020 after his old racist, misogynistic, and homophobic tweets surfaced on social media. More than one tweet referred to assaulting women, with one reading, “Date rape myself so I don’t have to masturbate.”
Katie Yu / The CW Network / Courtesy Everett Collection
Sawyer apologized on Instagram: “My words, irrelevant of being meant with an intent of humor, were hurtful, and unacceptable. I am ashamed I was capable of these really horrible attempts to get attention at that time. I regret them deeply. This was not acceptable behavior. These were words I threw out at the time with no thought or recognition of the harm my words could do, and now have done today.” However, the damage was done, and he has no upcoming projects.
Joe Scarnici / FilmMagic via Getty Images
4. Roseanne Barr was also fired from the Roseanne reboot after making an offensive and racist comment about Barack Obama's adviser Valerie Jarrett, which ABC’s entertainment president, Channing Dungey, called “abhorrent, repugnant, and inconsistent with our values.”
Rachel Luna / Getty Images
Barr referred to Jarrett as if "muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby." She later apologized.
The show was canceled and then came back as The Conners, with Roseanne's character killed off. Barr's career never recovered, though this month it was announced that she would appear in a new comedy special on Fox Nation next year.
5. Another actor to go on a racist tirade that ruined his career was Michael Richards. After becoming a household name playing Kramer on Seinfeld, he reentered a successful career in stand-up comedy. But in 2006, at one of his shows, he went on a racist rant against audience members who were heckling him.
Gregory Pace / FilmMagic via Getty Images
The video made the rounds online, and Richards stepped away from performing. He did apologize, but even his apology was mocked for being insincere. He later briefly appeared on Curb Your Enthusiasm with the rest of the Seinfeld cast, as well as in some other small roles. He then had a larger role in the one-season canceled 2013 sitcom Kirstie, but it did not succeed in relaunching his career. Since then, he has appeared in only one small film.
TV Land / Courtesy Everett Collection
6. Jason Mitchell rose to prominence over the 2010s in films like Straight Outta Compton, Keanu, and Kong: Skull Island. He was set to star in the Netflix movie Desperados but was fired after allegations of misconduct (including, according to the Hollywood Reporter, making "highly inappropriate remarks" to two female costars while "lingering close to their quarters"). He was then fired from the third season of Lena Waithe's series The Chi (also due to claims of misconduct on set) and dropped by his agency.
Elizabeth Sisson / Showtime / Courtesy Everett Collection
Mitchell was accused by showrunner Ayanna Floyd Davis and costar Tiffany Boone, though they were not the only ones to make complaints about his behavior.
Mitchell's career stagnated, and then, in 2020, he was arrested after being found with firearms and drugs. However, in 2021, he appeared in one small film, and it was announced that he would executive-produce and star in two new projects — so time will tell if he's able to make a comeback.
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7. Another actor whose career tanked overnight — but who may still yet make a comeback — is Lori Loughlin. Loughlin, whose most notable role was as Aunt Becky in Full House, was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud in 2020 and served two months in jail for her part in the 2019 admissions scandal. In the scandal, wealthy parents paid bribes to get their children accepted into prestigious universities.
John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe via Getty Images
When she was first accused, she was fired from the Full House reboot Fuller House, as well as from When Calls the Heart. However, post-jail time, she did appear as her When Calls the Heart character in the show's spinoff, When Hope Calls. And recently, it was announced she would star in Great American Family’s Fall Into Winter, her first starring role since the scandal. However, she has not returned to any roles of the same caliber as that of Fuller House.
Michael Yarish/Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection
8. Felicity Huffman was similarly convicted for her role in the college scam, serving just 11 days in prison in 2019. She has struggled more than Loughlin to find roles since, as tabloid OK! reported. She was set to star in an ABC pilot in 2020, though there has been no news about it since.
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9. One of the most infamous examples of an actor who ruined his career is Bill Cosby. Known as "America's Dad" after a decadeslong career in comedy, he had an equally long history of sexual assault come to light in 2014.
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Cosby was accused of dozens of counts of sexual assault, leading to his conviction and imprisonment in 2018. He was released in 2021 — still, it remains unlikely that his career will ever recover.
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10. Kevin Spacey is another example of someone who ruined their career through sexual assault. He starred in the Emmy Award–winning role of Frank Underwood in House of Cards, but Spacey's career quickly derailed after Anthony Rapp made sexual assault allegations against him. Soon, other people came forward and alleged inappropriate behavior, harassment, and assault, and Spacey was promptly fired from the Netflix series.
Emiley Schweich / Everett Collection
Netflix also scrapped his planned film Gore, and in an unprecedented move, Christopher Plummer was recast in his role in the already complete All the Money in the World. Reshoots took nine days, and Plummer was nominated for an Oscar for the role.
Aidan Monaghan / Giles Keyte / TriStar Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection
More recently, Spacey was ordered to pay $31 million to the production company for House of Cards because he was also accused of misconduct behind the scenes.
David Giesbrecht / Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection
The actor will go on trial in London next year for sexual assault (and has pleaded not guilty), and it seems unlikely that his acting career will ever recover.
Karwai Tang / WireImage via Getty Images
He did star in the Croatian film Bilo jednom u Hrvatskoj (Once Upon a Time in Croatia), as well as Peter Five Eight, which premiered at Cannes but has not yet been able to secure distribution in America.
11. Armie Hammer was similarly fired from just about every upcoming film and show he was meant to be in (including Billion Dollar Spy, Shotgun Wedding, and the TV series The Offer) after sexual assault allegations and alleged messages in which he called himself a cannibal became public. He was also dropped by his agency and publicist.
Bruce Glikas / WireImage via Getty Images
He retreated from Hollywood and wasn't spotted for a long time, until he was recently discovered to be seemingly working as a timeshare salesperson in the Cayman Islands. He was also spotted back in LA this summer, but he has no projects lined up.
Mega / GC Images via Getty Images
12. Danny Masterson, best known for playing Hyde on That '70s Show, was accused of sexual assault by three women in 2017.
Carsey-Werner / Courtesy Everett Collection
He was subsequently fired from the show he was then appearing on, The Ranch, and his character, Rooster, was killed off. He was also dropped from his agency. Masterson denied the claims, pleading not guilty after his arrest. His criminal trial is set for next month.
Lucy Nicholson — Pool / Getty Images
In addition, multiple victims of Masterson have accused him and the Church of Scientology, of which he is a member, of stalking and harassment, claiming that a family pet was killed by the church, among other things.
13. Chris Noth, best known for Sex and the City, appeared in its reboot, And Just Like That, in 2021. However, as the show began airing, two women came forward claiming that Noth had sexually assaulted them.
Noth denied the claims, but the damage to his career was done. A $12 million deal to sell his tequila brand was canceled, he was fired from The Equalizer, and his Peloton commercial (inspired by his character's fate in And Just Like That) was pulled. The only thing he has appeared in since is a one-night reading last month of a play that he produced, directed, and starred in.
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And finally, let's end on two actors who ruined their careers overnight...and then came back, and 100% shouldn't have.
14. Louis C.K. admitted to masturbating in front of colleagues in 2017 after the New York Times published an article accusing him of this behavior.
Steve Granitz / WireImage via Getty Images
FX (which had broadcast his show Louie) severed ties with C.K., and his upcoming film I Love You, Daddy was shelved days before its premiere. He was recast in the Secret Life of Pets sequel, and his planned specials were canceled.
Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images
He seemed to make a comeback in the last couple of years, however, winning a Grammy, going on an international comedy tour, releasing a new special, and cowriting and directing the film Fourth of July. I'm a proponent of redemption and forgiveness, but anyone who has ever sexually assaulted anyone — and this is sexual assault — should never, ever be allowed to gain more fame and wealth!!!
Abramorama / Courtesy Everett Collection
Shame on the Grammys for even nominating him.
15. Mel Gibson took a break from Hollywood after his 2006 DUI. As he was being arrested, he went on a tirade against Jewish people, which was leaked to TMZ. A few years later, a phone call of him making racist, misogynistic comments to his ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva was also leaked. He was later charged with misdemeanor domestic violence against Grigorieva.
Jon Kopaloff / FilmMagic via Getty Images
However, just six years after this second incident, he returned in 2016 with Hacksaw Ridge, which he directed. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, winning two. Gibson himself was even nominated for Best Director.
Angela Weiss / AFP via Getty Images
I really think these awards should have some sort of morality clause, specifically for domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, and racism. Like, I don't care how good an actor/director/writer/comedian you are — you shouldn't be getting the top awards of your profession when you've been accused of these things, or else other people are going to think it's okay.
Sidenote: I'd really like to mention Chris Brown here, but that's a different industry and another post, so let me just briefly say that he, too, did not deserve a comeback.
Alright, we've rounded up the actors who suffered a pretty well-deserved fall from grace — how about actors who didn't deserve to have their popularity disappear overnight? Let us know about actors whose careers unfairly got ruined below!
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