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Actors Whose Careers Totally Fizzled Out This Past Decade

Fame is a fleeting thing, especially for an actor. One year, you're on top of the world, a big box office draw; a mere year or two later, you can find yourself scrambling to book a guest part on a sitcom. The reasons for this kind of downfall are many: Audiences might be tired of seeing the same actor over and over. Perhaps the actor bad-mouthed a director after finishing a project⁠ — it happens. The actors being discussed here have had careers that reached the dizzying heights of Oscar-winning fame and roles in acclaimed blockbuster movies, but as we all know, what goes up, must come down — and come down they did. Here's a look at some acting careers that flourished in the spotlight, then took a turn in the 2010s, suffering a gnarly descent into choruses of "Whatever happened to..." These are the actors whose careers totally fizzled out this past decade.

Cameron Diaz is retired and loving it

The 1990s were very good to Cameron Diaz. After enjoying her breakout moment in 1994, when she was cast with Jim Carrey in The Mask, she continued to star in blockbusters throughout the decade (like My Best Friend's Wedding and There's Something About Mary) as well as independent fare (like A Life Less Ordinary and Being John Malkovich). In the 2000s, Diaz was still a bankable star and had big hits with the Charlie's Angels franchise as well as Shrek and its sequels. She also tried her hand at more dramatic parts in The Gangs of New York and Vanilla Sky. For most of the past 10 years, however, she's been absent from movie screens. Sure, she had a hit with Bad Teacher in 2011, and someone might have watched her in The Green Hornet or The Counselor, but her last appearance in a film was 2014's Annie remake. Not a great note to go out on — but go out she did, because Diaz has effectively retired from acting altogether.

In a 2018 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Diaz spoke alongside The Sweetest Thing co-stars Christina Applegate and Selma Blair. Applegate mentioned that she was semi-retired and Diaz responded, "That's so awesome... I'm semi-retired, too, and I am actually retired." In an August 2019 piece for InStyle, Diaz wrote about why she stopped acting, explaining, "I feel it's OK for me to take time for myself now to reorganize and choose how I want to come [back] into the world. If I decide to. I don't miss performing." She certainly doesn't seem to be in any hurry to come back; as she put it, "I'm not selling any films, and because I'm not selling anything, I don't have to give anybody anything. I'm not doing this anymore. I'm living my life".

Katherine Heigl's bad reputation

Katherine Heigl had a pretty good thing going in the 2000s. She was one of the stars of the critically acclaimed ABC show Grey's Anatomy, and she successfully managed the move from television to the big screen in films like Knocked Up, 27 Dresses, and The Ugly Truth. Heigl's career trajectory seemed aimed for the stars until it took a nosedive in 2010, and it's yet to really recover.

Heigl's fall from grace started with being released from her Grey's Anatomy contract. After seeing success with her film roles, it was rumored Heigl would be leaving the show. She asked to have her role reduced in season 5, and then seemed to complain about the material she was given. The final straw came when she failed to report for work on the set in March of 2010. The following month, Heigl told Entertainment Weekly, "The rumors that I refused to return were totally untrue." In response, ABC released a statement, telling press, "By mutual agreement, Katherine Heigl has ended her successful run as Dr. Isobel Stevens. The studio wishes her well." 

Whether she quit or was fired, the press was unkind to Heigl after her departure from the show. She was seen as ungrateful and difficult to work with, her next couple of movies failed at the box office, she was dropped by her publicist, and she ultimately found it difficult to find work at all. Heigl could be rebounding, however — she returned to television in shows like Doubt and Suits, and starred in a comedy pilot for CBS called Our House. Following those projects, she landed the Netflix show Firefly Lane, where she serves as both star and executive producer.

Josh Hartnett's heart wasn't in it anymore

When Josh Harnett arrived on the scene in the late '90s, he was a man on fire. He broke out on the screen (and in our hearts) in 1999's Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, following that up with The Faculty and The Virgin Suicides; a few years later, Hartnett had a string of hits that included Pearl Harbor, Black Hawk Down, and 40 Days and 40 Nights. As it turns out, success didn't mean that much to the actor — Hartnett turned his back on Hollywood to return home. As he told Details (via HuffPost), "I was on the cover of every magazine. I couldn't really go anywhere. I didn't feel comfortable in my own skin. I was alone. I didn't trust anyone. So I went back to Minnesota and got back together with my old friends." After turning down offers to play Spider-Man, Superman, and Batman, Hartnett was dropped by his agent and offers were harder to come by. If you look at Hartnett's IMDb page, you'll see he didn't actually stop acting — he's continued to pop up in projects about once a year, and in 2016, he became a lot more visible with his role in Showtime's Penny Dreadful. Unlike many actors whose career has fallen to the wayside, that's just the way Harnett wanted it.

Tobey Maguire's tangled web

Tobey Maguire has been acting since he was a teen. He started off in television in 1990 and over the next few years appeared in several programs and had small roles in a few movies before 1997, which marked his breakout year. He appeared in three movies that year, including the critically acclaimed The Ice Storm and Deconstructing Harry, then went on to hit his peak during the 2000s in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy. The public loved the first two movies but the third was widely panned; the failure of that movie, along with a few other factors, marked the downfall of his career.

Aside from the stench of franchise failure, Maguire's path has been rocky in recent years because he doesn't want to play the Hollywood" game, although he's continued acting with roles in The Great Gatsby and The Spoils of Babylon. He's also been a producer on several movies, starting with the 2002 Spike Lee film 25th Hour, and has even branched out into voice work: Maguire was last heard as the voice of Adult Tim in 2017's The Boss Baby.

Jim Carrey was ready to quit

Jim Carrey has experienced terrific heights and terrible lows in his career. Even before he hit it big on the television show In Living Color in 1990, he appeared in films such as Finders Keepers, Peggy Sue Got Married, and The Dead Pool. It was when his time on In Living Color came to an end that Carrey's career entered overdrive — in 1994, he ruled the box office with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber

After conquering comedy, Carrey started taking roles of a more serious nature and proving he could actually act. The Truman Show, Man on the Moon, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind all showcased Carrey's abilities. He continued working throughout the first decade of the new millennium, but his roles post-2010 have been few and far between, and Carrey's personal life has been through the wringer too. His much-publicized relationship with Jenny McCarthy and the suicide of his ex-girlfriend kept him in the headlines even as his enthusiasm for the film business started to wane. As he told The Hollywood Reporter (via Uproxx), "I just didn't want to be in the business anymore. I didn't like what was happening, the corporations taking over and all that." 

When he's not creating art, Carrey can be found behind the camera of shows like I'm Dying Up Here and Kidding. His profile has dimmed considerably over the last decade, but he doesn't seem to mind.

Megan Fox compared Michael Bay to Hitler

Megan Fox learned the hard way that trash-talking your boss isn't the best way to further your career. When she spoke to Wonderland about director Michael Bay, her boss on the first two Transformer movies, she compared him to Napoleon and Hitler. Whether she was fired from the third Transformer movie or quit (conflicting stories abound), her career was at the precipice — and her next two projects pushed it over the edge. 

Fox was blamed for the failure of Jennifer's Body, despite the fact that the marketing undermined the film by focusing on her sexuality. At the time of its release, Fox has said she was talking about how she was treated and no one cared, adding to her already difficult reputation. "I feel like I was sort of out and in front of the #MeToo movement before the #MeToo movement happened," she recalled. "I was speaking out and saying, 'Hey, these things are happening to me and they're not OK. "And everyone was like, 'Oh well, f*** you. We don't care, you deserve it.' Because everybody talked about how you looked or how you dressed or the jokes you made." While she's tumbled from the top of the box office, Fox has continued to appear onscreen over the last several years, including a role in New Girl as well as a part in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and its sequel.

Adrien Brody would rather hide in his roles

Throughout the 1990s, Adrien Brody worked consistently, popping up in movies like Steven Soderbergh's King of the Hill, Spike Lee's Summer of Sam, and Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line. His life changed in just about every way, however, after he starred as Wladyslaw Szpilman in Roman Polanski's 2002 film The Pianist. Brody won an Oscar, making him the youngest performer to win Best Actor — and marking just one among a ton of accolades for his performance. 

To prepare for the role, Brody went full Method and when he came out the other side of the project, he was a changed man. As he told The Independent, "I was perceived as this very serious dramatic actor" when he felt he should "be as much of a chameleon as possible." This would explain his choice of roles post-The Pianist. One look at Brody's IMDb page and you can see just how varied his picks have been over the last decade and a half, from King Kong and The Brothers Bloom to Splice and Predators. More recently, Brody was seen in season 9 of the series Peaky Blinders, but his career has cooled considerably since that Oscar-winning night.

Julia Roberts prefers family to film

Beginning in 1988 when she broke out in Mystic Pizza all the way through the early 2000s, Julia Roberts was one of Hollywood's most bankable stars. She went from roles in romantic comedies to winning an Oscar for her work in Erin Brockovich. She slowed down after 2004's Ocean's Twelve, and over the last decade, Roberts has cut way back on her acting, stating she just can't keep up with the pace of her fellow actors; as she told the Los Angeles Times, she doesn't know how "how people can juggle that much work" because she doesn't "have that capacity." 

All of which is to say that if Robert's career seems to have waned over the past decade, it's because that's the way she wants it. At this point her her life, her family is her number one priority, and she selects projects with that mind. In the same Los Angeles Times piece, she added, "I do like to be with my family, and I feel like my kids are young and there'll be a time when it's not as feasible for all five of us to be together as much as we are now." Of course, that doesn't mean she's stopped acting entirely: in 2018, she was seen in the Amazon series Homecoming.

Jim Caviezel would rather play Jesus

Jim Caviezel started acting professionally in the early '90s and by 1997, he'd started to make a name for himself in films like G.I. Jane, The Thin Red Line, and Ride with the Devil. The 2000s saw Caviezel starring with the likes of Jennifer Lopez in Angel Eyes and playing the lead in The Count of Monte Cristo, but his biggest film role was yet to come — and when it did, it changed his career forever. 

Caviezel, of course, played Jesus in Mel Gibson's 2004 film The Passion of the Christ. Raised a Catholic, Caviezel's career had already been plotted with his religion in mind: He refused to do any love scenes containing nudity for his roles in Angel Eyes and The Count of Monte Cristo. His politics and his devout Catholicism may have turned off some industry executives — at once point, Caviezel made an anti-stem cell ad in response to a pro-stem cell ad Michael J. Fox had made, basically calling Fox a "Judas." Although Caviezel and Gibson had a falling out after Gibson made headlines due to abusive behavior toward the mother of his young child, the two have announced plans to pair up again for a sequel to The Passion of the Christ, to be titled The Passion of the Christ: Resurrection.

Liv Tyler hates social media

After attracting attention for appearances in a pair of music videos for Aerosmith (the band led by her famous dad Steven), Liv Tyler's film career took off in 1995 with Heavy and Empire Records, leading to a string of hits at the box office. She's acted in a wide range of films, from That Thing You Do! and Reign Over Me to Armageddon and The Incredible Hulk, but she's probably most remembered for her role as Arwen in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. 

So where's she been? Her output over the last decade has decreased thanks in part, to her aversion to social media. In an interview with The Evening Standard, Tyler said, "You weren't advertising yourself all the time in the way that people do now. It's such a pressure now, it's just part of everything." She thinks this aversion might've hurt her career-wise; as she put it, "It's not always the best for making decisions professionally. Sometimes, if you don't play the game you miss out." 

Tyler's shyness isn't the only thing that's kept her out of the spotlight. She met her partner David Gardner in 2014, and the couple now have two children together. "Pregnancy and childbirth and being a mother has helped me to know myself more and know my strengths and my weaknesses," Tyler told the Irish Examiner. "It kind of makes me have a slightly more... it has definitely changed the way I look at my job, because when I am leaving my house and leaving my children to go to work there is a new kind of purpose to it." More recently, Tyler has been seen in the show Harlots, and she stars alongside Rob Lowe in the Fox series 9-1-1: Lone Star.

Hilary Swank had an Oscar problem

In just a couple of years, Hilary Swank went from being fired from Beverly Hills, 90210 to winning an Oscar for her role as Brandon Teena in 1999's Boys Don't Cry. Although she worked consistently after winning, it wasn't until she teamed up with Clint Eastwood for 2004's Million Dollar Baby that she scored another genuine hit — and won her second Oscar. 

Unfortunately, a string of lackluster movies followed, culminating in the 2009 box office disappointment Amelia. Over the ensuing decade, Swank has appeared in a few low-profile projects; offscreen, she suffered a PR nightmare in 2011 after going to Chechnya to attend controversial leader Ramzan Kadyrov's birthday celebration; in the wake of the outcry, she fired her agents and went on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to try to smooth things out. 

Swank had more important reasons for taking a break — she was also caring for her father after his lung transplant. As she told Los Angeles Confidential, she moved him in and became his primary caretaker for what she thought would be a one-year recovery, although her father was still living with her three years later. Still, she didn't stop working altogether: In 2017, she appeared in Steven Soderbergh's Lucky Logan as well as Danny Boyle's FX Network series Trust.

Taylor Lautner timed out

There was a brief period of time when Taylor Lautner seemed to be everywhere. After landing early roles in The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D and Cheaper by the Dozen 2, he achieved heartthrob status with his role as Jacob Black in the Twilight franchise. After he nearly missed out on the Twilight sequel The Twilight Saga: New Moon because producers thought he wasn't physically big enough for the role, he bulked up; according to The Hollywood Reporter, during the height of Lautner's popularity in 2009, he was up for the title role of Max Steel and offered over $7 million for the movie Northern Lights. He ended up dropping out of that film in order to star in Stretch Armstrong, which was ultimately never made. 

Clearly, Taylor Lautner suffered a run of bad luck, but it seems as though there might have been other reasons for the bottom falling out of his career. His father, Daniel Lautner, was apparently wasn't "the easiest guy to work with," according to another Hollywood Reporter article discussing Lautner being dropped by his PR firm of only three months. After appearing in the final Twilight film in 2012, Lautner has seen his spotlight fade, although he's surfaced in a handful of projects, including the movies Grown Ups 2 and The Ridiculous 6 as well as the television shows Cuckoo and Scream Queens.