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Why Hollywood Won't Cast These Sci-Fi Stars Anymore

Stars of science fiction are a unique breed. Thanks to how so many of these movies spawn an array of sequels and spinoffs, actors in this genre can stick around for decades. Mark Hamill, for example, was still playing Luke Skywalker in movies more than 40 years after the original Star Wars was released. Meanwhile, Star Trek veteran Leonard Nimoy portrayed Spock in various movies over the course of multiple decades. When audiences latch onto a certain performer, they can manage to stick around for years to come.

While this kind of long-term career as a sci-fi actor is possible, it doesn't happen for everyone. A large number of actors who got their big breaks in sci-fi movies didn't have the longevity of Hamill or Nimoy. For a variety of reasons, ranging from personal preferences to box office struggles or real-world scandals, these performers all struggled to have careers as vast as space itself. Here's why Hollywood won't cast these sci-fi stars anymore.

Bruce Boxleitner

Tron has become synonymous with its groundbreaking computer-animated visual effects. However, Bruce Boxleitner, who took on the dual roles of human programmer Alan Bradley and digital security program Tron, didn't see anything special about the project at first. "Yes, it was just another job.  I was a very busy young actor in those days," Boxleitner told Media Mikes. "Tron came along as a total surprise. To tell the truth, the sci-fi genre was very new to me."

Tron earned positive marks upon its initial release, but while it eventually acquired cult favorite status among generations of fans, it never became a big enough box office hit to propel Boxleitner to the A-list. In the years since Tron was released, Boxleitner has mostly appeared in television programs like Babylon 5, although he reprised his dual Tron roles for Tron: Legacy in 2010.

Given how closely he's tied to an influential sci-fi film like Tron, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Boxleitner return to the genre in the future. However, such a return wouldn't entail reprising the roles of Alan Bradley and Tron. When asked by SlashFilm about appearing in a prospective Tron 3, Boxleitner replied, "I'm done with it. I've moved on. I hate to say that, but it's been too up and down for me. I would rather not just keep going. I don't want to repeat my career anymore... No, I'm not interested."

Carrie Henn

Though she had no prior acting experience, Carrie Henn beat out hundreds of other candidates for the role of Newt in Aliens. Henn entered the production a total unknown, but soon, the world over knew who she was. As Aliens grossed over $130 million worldwide, the film, and characters like Newt, were everywhere. It was the perfect launchpad for Henn to use to pursue a longterm career as an actor.

However, Aliens remains Henn's only acting credit. Henn's sparse filmography was a deliberate choice on her part: After finishing principal photography on Aliens, she decided opt out of Hollywood, and ended up pursuing a career as an educator. According to Den of Geek, "In 2000 [Henn] earned her degree in liberal studies and child development." Today, she teaches fourth-graders in Northern California, some of whom still recognize her from her work as Newt.

While Henn has made a conscious decision to forego an acting career, she still appears at panels related to Aliens at fan conventions and keeps in touch with her Aliens co-star Sigourney Weaver. "She took me under her wings when we were filming," Henn told Wired about her friendship with Weaver. "Because I was so inexperienced. I can't describe my relationship with her, because she's more than just a friend — what you see on screen is genuinely how we feel about each other." Henn may have left the world of film, but her enduring friendship with Weaver proves Aliens is still affecting her life today.

Linda Hamilton

Linda Hamilton never intended for her career to be defined by her work as Sarah Connor in The Terminator. "Did I think I was going to become an action-adventure star? Not once!" Hamilton told the New York Times. "I was going to be a Shakespearean actress, and with Terminator, it all took a left turn." The original Terminator and especially Terminator 2: Judgement Day cemented Hamilton as an action movie star.

Unfortunately, Hamilton wasn't enamored with the roles she was offered in the wake of Terminator 2's success. "Nobody looked at it like, 'She can do anything,'" she recalled. "Instead it was, 'She's going to eat us alive!' People really did not know what to do with me." Since her lead role in Dante's Peak in 1997, Hamilton has primarily kept a low profile as an actor. In fact, per the Independent, "Hamilton has been semi-retired since 2012."

That retirement was briefly broken by Hamilton reprising her role as Sarah Connor in Terminator: Dark Fate in 2019. Though intended to spawn sequels, Fate's $261.1 million worldwide box office haul put those follow-up plans on ice. Hamilton, for one, isn't interested in more work as Sarah Connor. Speaking to People, she said, "I would be quite happy to never return. So no, I am not hopeful, because I would really love to be done." When it comes to headlining sci-fi movies, Linda Hamilton, unlike the T-800, will not be back.

Dane DeHaan

"For most of his career, he has played some version of the charismatic iconoclast," W Magazine once said regarding Dane DeHaan. This approach informed his debut performance as tormented teenager Andrew in Chronicle, which drew positive critical notices. In praising DeHaan and the other leads of Chronicle, film critic Roger Ebert remarked, "It's their convincing acting... that gives the movie a natural authenticity."

In the wake of Chronicle becoming a sleeper hit, DeHaan wasn't just looking to do more sci-fi movies. "I just think it's fun to do a lot of different kinds of movies! I think that's my 'in' into the business," DeHaan told Mandatory in December 2015. "What I really love to do is act. And I really want to make all kinds of movies." Despite that desire for versatility, DeHaan ended up making other sci-fi movies after Chronicle, including his turn as Harry Osborne in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and both A Cure for Wellness and Valerian: The City of a Thousand Planets in 2017.

None of those projects propelled DeHaan to leading man status, and his spotlight has dimmed considerably in recent years — but there's always a chance that some new film, sci-fi or otherwise, could come along to give his career a second wind and carry him beyond box office duds like Valerian.

Hayden Christensen

Hayden Christensen took over the lead role of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. While he's earned praise for his dramatic performances in films like Shattered Glass, his turns in the Star Wars prequels were widely reviled. He even ended up winning the Golden Raspberry for Worst Supporting Actor — twice — for his portrayal of the Jedi turned Sith lord.

The high-profile status of the Star Wars movies eventually led to Christensen taking a break from Hollywood. "I guess I felt like I had this great thing in Star Wars that provided all these opportunities and gave me a career," Christensen told the Los Angeles Times, "But it all kind of felt a little too handed to me. I didn't want to go through life feeling like I was just riding a wave."

This has led to Christensen only appearing in a handful of movies, like 90 Minutes in Heaven in 2015, since the Star Wars prequels finished. Meanwhile, Christensen's primary focus has been on running his own farm. "It's a hobby, but I want to have the appearance of being a proper farmer," Christensen told the Toronto Star. "I'm trying to figure it out. It's all new to me, but I would eventually like it to be a fully operational farm with livestock and different crops."

Natasha Henstridge

"It's not a movie that calls for stars," producer Frank Mancuso Jr. told Variety about the film Species. "We're going to try and put as much money as we can below the line and allow the effects and the creature to be the highlights of the film." This approach led to newcomer Natasha Henstridge securing the role of alien/human hybrid Sil in Species.

Species ended up grossing a strong $113.1 million worldwide. However, Henstridge struggled to escape the shadow of Sil in her future works. "There are things involved in being remembered for a particular role that people have a hard time letting go of," she told Review Graveyard. "And when it comes to making other projects that can be tough." This challenge was reflected in her first post-Species endeavors such as Maximum Risk and Species II, none of which garnered much in the way of either box office or critical success.

Since 2008, Henstridge has only appeared in a handful of independent movies as well as TV shows like Diggstown, but pigeonholing may not have been the only reason she's receded from the spotlight: In November 2017, she was one of six women in a Los Angeles Times story to accuse filmmaker Brett Ratner of sexual harassment or misconduct.

Alex Pettyfer

Alex Pettyfer's career as an adult leading man kicked off with a pair of 2011 sci-fi films. The first of those was I Am Number Four, a cosmic take on the Twilight formula of a fantastical being falling in love with a mortal human. He received some positive marks for his work in the role, with the Guardian noting that "The pretty, glowering Alex Pettyfer plays a good extraterrestrial."

Unfortunately, Number Four never became the next Twilight. It was released to theaters in February 2011 to a worldwide box office total of just under $150 million. Pettyfer's other 2011 sci-fi movie, In Time, fared only slightly better at the box office. These commercial struggles led to Pettyfer's career as a sci-fi leading man being short-lived. Save for the Netflix series The I-Land and the thriller Warning, Pettyfer has avoided the genre entirely since 2011, focusing on independent fare since the release of Endless Love in February 2014.

Pettyfer's shift away from sci-fi fare and major Hollywood productions was a conscious choice. "I was disillusioned by Hollywood at the time, "Pettyfer said in an interview with VMAN, "But now I've come to accept that's just the way things are: it's called show business, not show art." 

Casper Van Dien

Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers was going to need the right leading man to make its intended satire work. As he told the A.V. Club, the movie would be "playing with fascism or fascist imagery to point out certain aspects of American society... of course, the movie is about 'Let's all go to war and let's all die." That meant the lead character, John "Johnny" Rico, would need to be played by somebody who looked like they walked right off an army recruitment poster.

Who better for the part than Casper Van Dien, a man who once recalled to People Magazine that his high school classmates called him "Ken Doll"? Van Dien fit the intended aesthetic of Starship Troopers like a glove. Unfortunately, it proved far more challenging for Van Dien to fit into other successful leading man roles. Directly after Troopers, he headlined box office duds like The Omega Code and Sanctimony; by 2006, he was starring in projects like the Hallmark Channel movie The Curse of King Tut's Tomb.

In recent years, Van Dien has shifted focus from leading man roles to directing, helming a series of movies that includes Sleeping Beauty and The Last Bid. "I would love to direct more," Van Dien told Anthem Magazine. "I hope I get to do that again in the future. I would love to direct something that's a little more personal to me, or an action movie."

Saffron Burrows

Saffron Burrows' initial foray into sci-fi was less than ideal: She played the co-lead opposite Freddie Prinze Jr. in Wing Commander, which received scathing reviews, even from its own stars. "I can't stand Wing Commander. I can't watch one scene of that movie," Prinze told Movieline. Burrows would make another stab at headlining sci-fi movies with the lead role of Dr. Susan McAlester in Deep Blue Sea, a shark thriller that was significantly better-received than Wing Commander"Deep Blue Sea is no Jaws," reads the film's Rotten Tomatoes consensus, "but action fans seeking some toothy action can certainly do — and almost certainly have done — far worse for B-movie thrills."

In the wake of Deep Blue Sea, Burrows rarely returned to sci-fi storytelling, save for stints like a recurring guest role on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. In recent years, Burrows has balanced recurring TV roles with her lifelong commitment to activism and progressive politics. "I do have a penchant for the bureaucracy of union conferences, motions and speeches," Burrows told the Guardian. "Certainly there's a huge amount of nitty-gritty that some people would find tedious but I might enjoy."

Michael Biehn

Between The Terminator, Aliens, and The Abyss, Michael Biehn was a prominent face in sci-fi movies in the 1980s. To hear Biehn tell it, though, he was never really a movie star. "People always talk about me being an '80s star. I was not an '80s star," Biehn told the Hollywood Reporter. "Bruce Willis was an '80s star. Tom Cruise was an '80s star. Schwarzenegger and Stallone. Mel Gibson. Those guys were making $20 million [a picture]. I never even got $1 million. I kind of liked it that way."

In the wake of those big hits, Biehn opted to slow things down rather than pursue movie stardom. Over the last 30 years, he's only appeared in a handful of major films such as Tombstone and Grindhouse. Rather than headline an endless succession of star vehicles, he's consciously chosen to put his family life first. "The amount of movies Bruce Willis makes," Biehn pointed out, "I don't see how you can live a normal life where you see your kids all the time, you're taking them to school and baseball practice and you're coaching their teams. You're in their lives."

While Biehn has evaded the spotlight in recent years, his role in the second season of The Mandalorian sees him finally returning to sci-fi, the genre that helped him kick off his big-screen career.

T.J. Miller

"I'm not an actor; I'm a comedian," T.J. Miller once told the Hollywood Reporter, "And I don't know how... I hoodwinked Hollywood into giving me a career in this." That career began with Miller playing mostly unseen camera operator Hud in the sci-fi/horror film Cloverfield, and in the years following, he was a common sight in sci-fi fare: He played the role of Weasel in the two Deadpool movies, Fred in Big Hero 6, and i-R0k in Ready Player One. 

Miller's various sci-fi roles frequently employ the actor as a decidedly human source of comedic relief. For example, on his casting in Deadpool, Miller told USA Today, "[The producers] all asked if there was anyone out there who looks like his superhero power is spilling mustard on his shirt... And each of them, each at once, said 'T.J. Miller.'"

However, Miller's film career has been derailed by numerous real-world scandals. These have included allegedly sending a transphobic email to film critic Danielle Solzman and allegations of sexual assault and workplace misconduct. Additionally, Miller was arrested in April 2018 for allegedly calling in a fake bomb threat. These events have led to his career opportunities dwindling, including losing out on a role in X-Force. 

Miller may not understand how he got a career as an actor. However, it's far clearer what's led to his career as a sci-fi cinema fixture grinding to a halt.