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Forgotten Actors You Didn't Know Are About To Make Huge Comebacks

It's hard enough to make it in Hollywood, let alone making it last. For most actors and actresses who manage to break into the big time, 15 minutes of fame is all they can expect before fading back into indie films, stage productions, or another line of work altogether. Just as many musicians become known as "one-hit wonders" and a lot of authors are only ever remember for a single big bestseller, many movie stars fade from the spotlight almost as quickly as they enter it.

Every now and again, though, the fates align to bring an actor back into the mainstream in a big way — like when Winona Ryder went bonkers in Stranger Things and won everyone over again, or when Molly Ringwald got a choice role in Riverdale and reminded audiences why she was such a star in the '80s. In fact, it happens more often than you might realize: each of these stars are prepping projects that could lead to huge comebacks in the not-too-distant future.

The Siberian Express

Dolph Lundgren's rise to fame was nothing short of meteoric. After earning a very small role in the 1985 James Bond film A View to a Kill, the supersized Swedish stud gloved up for what would become his career-defining part as Russian boxer Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. As unlikable as the character may have been, Lundgren was a hit, and went on to earn sizable spots in action movies like The Punisher, Universal Soldier, and Men of War.

Things started to slow down for Lundgren, however, once the action films of the era started to fall out of favor and yielded the box office to stories with more cranial appeal (think Mission: Impossible, The Matrix, and The Bourne Identity). He still had no trouble keeping the lights on, but his status as a hitmaker was certainly through by the time he joined Sylvester Stallone's assemblage of old-school action stars in the Expendables series. Those films have helped Lundgren score some more steady work in recent years, but it's his impending return to the role that made him a star in the first place, in Creed II, and his forthcoming appearance as King Nereus in DC's Aquaman that looks to really rev up the engines on his return to the top. There may be a whole generation of moviegoers that don't yet know Dolph Lundgren's work, but with these projects ahead, he could be back at household name status sooner than later.

The time traveler

Keanu Reeves has managed to become something of an unlikely Renaissance Man in Tinseltown, thriving in action movies like Speed, The Matrix and John Wick, and even warming hearts with romantic drama fare like Sweet November. Before that, he made a name for himself as one of two lovable doofuses in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure — unfortunately, his co-star in that film has had far less luck carving out a career in cinema.

Apart from a few cameo appearances in TV shows, music videos, and short films, Alex Winter has been almost completely inactive on the screen since the slacker duo traveled through time to get some first-person history lessons — but he's capable of much more. Before he became Bill, he also earned some attention for his turn as the vampire Mark in The Lost Boys, and he subsequently directed the eventual cult comedy Freaked. He and Reeves have been hyping a potential third installment to the Bill & Ted saga for years, but as of 2018, fans finally have reason to believe it's happening, as Bill & Ted: Face the Music finally got the go-ahead. Winter's name might have slipped through the cracks of history after Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, but by re-teaming with Reeves for the film series that made both of them famous, his career might just get a second wind.

The scorned sweetheart

Meg Ryan was on top of the world in the '80s and '90s. After making the jump from TV to film with a small role in Top Gun, Ryan went on to become one-half of cinema's sweetheart duo with Tom Hanks with the feel-good favorites Joe versus the Volcano, Sleepless in Seattle, and You've Got Mail. People loved to love her in other films, too, like When Harry Met Sally..., Prelude to a Kiss, and City of Angels, to name a few. Her hot streak came to a grinding halt, however, when her personal life became tabloid fodder after she had an extramarital affair with Proof of Life co-star Russell Crowe.

Suddenly, she was no longer bankable in cute rom-coms, her wholesome image seen as tarnished, and her attempts to step away into more serious drama with movies like Against the Ropes and In the Land of Women failed to open up a new lane for her. Eventually, she retreated from the spotlight for several years at a time, only resurfacing for a few TV guest spots. In 2015, she directed the war drama Ithaca, which reunited her with Hanks and marked the start of Ryan's new non-apology tour as she started publicly rejecting the persona that had defined her career before. She's also lined up her own TV series — the half-hour comedy Picture Paris, which could be a key start in returning to the small screen. With this new work and her new no-nonsense attitude, Meg Ryan could be on her way up again.

The timely reboot star

Candice Bergen has been woefully under-celebrated in recent years. In the '80s and '90s, she was a bona fide star, earning praise for her work in films like Starting Over and Gandhi. More importantly, she had the distinction of leading her own TV series in Murphy Brown as a sharp and perfectly imperfect broadcast journalist whose methodical breakdown of gender barriers matched that of her real-life counterpart.

After the show ended, though, she was sidelined with small roles in rom-coms like Miss Congeniality, Sweet Home Alabama, and Sex and the City. She did eventually nab another award-worthy TV role in Boston Legal, but the true Bergennaissance has yet to happen ... until now. After starring alongside some other seasoned screen treasures in 2018's Book Club, Bergen will return to reclaim her title role in CBS' reboot of Murphy Brown. The series revival is expected to follow its eponymous journalist as she navigates the changing world of modern media for better and worse, along with continuing to impress the social and political relevance of the work. It may be exactly the kind of show the watching world needs in the "fake news" era, and Bergen is poised to return as a voice of reason and realism.

The original Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot has definitely earned her stars and stripes as the heroine of the modern DC film universe. Before she became Diana Prince, however, there was another whose turn as Wonder Woman was celebrated as completely on point: Lynda Carter, who portrayed the Amazonian warrior in the late '70s television series for three seasons. From there, Carter's career slowed down significantly in the '80s, with just a few TV, film, and commercial roles over the '90s and 2000s.

She has since cited a desire for a life of "substance" spent raising her two children as the reason for her absence, but now that her kids are grown, Carter seems to be making more regular appearances, including a recurring role in TV's Supergirl and a small but memorable part in the Super Troopers films. With Gadot's version of Wonder Woman bringing the character back into ubiquity, Carter's been a subject of curiosity for fans of the character, and now, it looks like she'll have a cameo role in the sequel, Wonder Woman 1984. Timing issues prevented her from appearing in the first film, but given the fan furor surrounding Wonder Woman, it isn't much of a stretch of the imagination to foresee this as just the start of Carter's own major comeback.

The Iceman

Val Kilmer's career was on fire in the '90s, thanks largely to his leading role as Bruce Wayne in Batman Forever and his work in hits like Tombstone and Heat. His momentum slowed, however, thanks to missteps like 1999's At First Sight and 2000's Red Planet. None of his films have crossed the $100 million mark at the domestic box office since Disney's animated 1998 hit The Prince of Egypt.

Part of the reason for his career slowdown has been his lengthy battle with throat cancer, which began to take a public toll on his well-being in 2015 and has continued to affect his voice. He's also been devoting a lot of his performance time in recent years to his solo play Cinema Twain
. Soon, he'll get a shot at recapturing some of his former screen glory by reprising his role as Iceman in Top Gun: Maverick, and judging by his reply to a fan's comment on his Facebook announcement, it sounds like he may even get to play another round of volleyball in the sequel. Set, spike, score!

The bright blue savior

Before Avatar, Sam Worthington wasn't exactly a nobody. The English native worked steadily in Australia for several years before landing the lead in James Cameron's 2009 hit, but after playing Jake Sully, the ball really started rolling on his career. Soon after, he was headlining hopeful tentpoles like Terminator Salvation and the Clash of the Titans remake and its sequel. While those films were relatively moderately successful, it soon became clear that it wasn't Worthington who was responsible for putting such huge ticketing numbers on the board for Avatar, and his big-budget blockbuster opportunities started to dwindle in favor of more low-key projects with an action bent, like Everest, Hacksaw Ridge, and The Titan.

Worthington may be due for a big pick-me-up, however, once those long-awaited Avatar sequels start to drop. The actor will reprise his role as the newest transplant to the Na'Vi people, and if Cameron is to be believed, the movies are going to be something else indeed, which means Worthington might get another shot at riding one of those rainbow fliers to super success again when Avatar 2 hits theaters in 2020.

The slumdog millionaire

Dev Patel was an overnight sensation thanks to his performance as Jamal in the gripping 2008 drama Slumdog Millionaire, but his filmography has been surprisingly spare ever since. He did earn a promising leading role in M. Night Shyamalan's Avatar: The Last Airbender, but the film was a flop at the box office and a laughingstock with critics. Since then, Patel has suffered a few additional stinkers, but he's also done some interesting work in projects like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel series and TV's The Newsroom.

More recently, he's thrived with well-received indie films like The Man Who Knew Infinity and Lion, the latter of which earned him a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor. While neither were household hits, they did prove that Patel still has some serious chops. He looks poised to follow up on that momentum with a promising turn in Hotel Mumbai — and by taking on the title role in Armando Iannucci's The Personal History of David Copperfield. In other words, Patel's talent may have gone mostly unnoticed for the past few years, but he's priming himself for a return to the big time now.