Actors are humans too, and they make mistakes just like everyone else. But when you’re famous, all eyes are on you. Making the wrong choice could destroy an actor’s career almost instantly. That’s precisely the case with the actors on the following list.
Here are some actors who made decisions that torpedoed their careers in a matter of moments.
Randy Quaid’s decades-long resume boasts work from gut-busting comedies like the “National Lampoon’s Vacation” films and “Kingpin” to critically acclaimed dramas like “Brokeback Mountain.” So how did all go so wrong?
In September 2009, Quaid and his wife, Evi, were arrested for not paying a $10,000 hotel bill. They were soon arrested again for squatting in a home they no longer owned, so they skipped town and headed to Canada. Aside from his bizarre role in the 2018 indie film “All You Can Eat,” Quaid hasn’t made any film appearances since the late 2000s.
When your resume features starring roles in “Ferris Bueller Day’s Off” and “Dirty Dancing,” you must have a fantastic career ahead of you. As Jennifer Grey’s career began to slow down in the early 90s, she decided to get a nose job. The operation left Grey nearly unrecognizable in a career where being recognized is everything.
While she never again reached the mega-star status from the 80s, Grey found work off and on in the 2000s and beyond, settling into a solid career as a character actor. She’s guest-starred on a lot of famous shows.
Wesley Snipes was at the top of his game when he starred in “White Men Can’t Jump” and the Blade trilogy. But then he decided to not pay his taxes. His offenses were so bad that he got jailed for them.
Snipes’ career came to a crashing halt. By the time he was released, the world had mostly moved on.
When Michael Richards of “Seinfeld” found himself in a battle of wits with a member of his audience during a live show in 2006, he made a split-second decision that instantly destroyed his career. Richards responded to the man’s criticism with racial slurs, demanding that the African-American customer be thrown out of the club, reports The Washington Post.
The comedian left the stage without finishing his routine. Richards appeared via satellite on the “Late Show with David Letterman” to apologize for his outburst, telling the nation that he was “deeply sorry” about what happened and insisting that he wasn’t actually a racist. It didn’t do him any good. His career since has been limited to the occasional token TV appearance.
Brendan Fraser reached mega-star status when he appeared as the swashbuckling Rick O’Connell in “The Mummy,” the first film in a trilogy that defined him. That franchise came to an unspectacular end in 2008. However, Fraser struck gold when another of his movies released that year became an unexpected hit.
Fraser’s relative disappearance and reemergence were the subjects of a lengthy profile for GQ. He explained that his career had been on a downswing because of a combination of retreat and professional retaliation by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
Tila “Tequila” Nguyen began her questionable path to fame by becoming one of the earliest recognized social media celebrities, graduating from the most popular person on MySpace to one of the most unpopular personalities in recent history. She made her first film appearance in “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.” However, it all came crashing after bizarre posts on her website sympathizing with Adolf Hitler, as per The Hollywood Reporter.
Tequila attempted to get her career back on track in 2015 when she appeared as a housemate on the U.K.’s “Celebrity Big Brother.” However, once showrunners learned of her past statements, she was booted out of the house.
Lindsay Lohan became a teen sensation, finding success in 2003’s “Freaky Friday,” 2004’s “Mean Girls,” and 2005’s “Herbie: Fully Loaded.” Her hot streak came to an abrupt halt early in 2007. On May 26, Lohan was taken to the hospital in Beverly Hills after getting into a car accident, reports CNN.
The actress had recently been discharged from the Wonderland Center rehab facility in Los Angeles for undisclosed problems. If her career wasn’t compromised on this occasion, it certainly was when she was arrested on the same charges just two months later, days after another unsuccessful stint in rehab. Her career was pretty much over at that time.
Bow-tied man-child Pee-wee Herman was huge during the 1980s, the subject of two feature films and an Emmy-winning children’s TV series. But the public perception of the character and the man behind him changed drastically in 1991. During a visit with his parents in Sarasota, Florida, Paul Reubens was arrested for indecent exposure at an adult movie theater. Soon after, Reubens retreated from the public eye entirely, disappearing for the remainder of the ’90s.
His attempted comeback at the turn of the century was quickly thwarted when more charges were brought against him. It took another decade before Reubens dared return to the character, which he did successfully in 2016, starring in the critically acclaimed Netflix film “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday.” The positive response to his comeback is a great consolation for a man who spent most of his career in hiding because of a few bad decisions.
The star of “Casablanca” and “Gaslight” appeared to be a typical woman of the time, married and happy with her husband. Though she was married to Peter Lindstrom, Bergman began an affair with her director on “Stromboli,” Roberto Rossellini. Bergman loved Rossellini, and when she got pregnant with his child, she left Lindstrom and her first kid to go off with the Italian director. A woman publicly admitting to an affair caused an insane scandal at the time.
The fervor went all the way to Washington when Senator Edwin C. Johnson proposed a bill that would require movies to be approved not just based on the moral content of the film itself but the moral character of the people involved in filmmaking. Johnson claimed that Bergman “had perpetrated an assault upon the institution of marriage.” Bergman stayed out of the country for eight years, and her status was permanently damaged though she continued to make films.
The star of “The Amanda Show” and “She’s The Man” ran afoul like many child stars before her, but what truly destroyed her career was her Twitter meltdown in the weeks after her arrest. It was like a teenager getting fired from McDonald’s for tweeting how much they hated working there, only so much worse.
All this resulted in her being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, twice placed in a psychiatric facility, and her career being put on ice. According to People, as of summer 2021, she’s been laying low at the beach, finishing her degree, and apparently dabbling in rap music.
Paula Deen was once everyone’s favorite cooking show mom, a pleasant Southern lady who loved good food and wanted you to love it, too. This led to stints on shows like “Top Chef,” “MasterChef,” “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” and a role in an actual movie, “Elizabethtown.” But by 2012, the Deen empire had all but crumbled, thanks to its empress being pretty racist.
Once her statements were verified in district court, the Food Network reacted swiftly, refusing to renew her contract despite her multiple video apologies, reports People. Deen laid low for a while, banished from Food Network and resurfacing for a season of “Positively Paula” on the more obscure RFD-TV network, making the occasional appearance on “Fox and Friends” and “The Dr. Oz Show.”
In a career spanning the best part of 70 years, Robert Blake went from child star of MGM’s “Little Rascals” to The Mystery Man in David Lynch’s “Lost Highway,” the last character he played before his wife passed away in 2001. Three years after his arrest, Blake was acquitted. However, a civil court claim later found him guilty of “intentionally” causing Bakley’s passing and ordered him to pay $30 million to Bakley’s children.
Blake’s criminal trial was the nail in his career coffin. However, that didn’t stop the then-71-year-old actor from issuing a plea to producers in the aftermath. He proclaimed himself “broke” and announced himself available for work. Unsurprisingly, work never came.
Controversy has helped make Kathy Griffin famous. But then she went too far with a stunt that, depending on who you ask, was either a poorly presented joke or a violent threat to the life of a sitting president. In May 2017, Griffin posted a picture of herself holding a Donald Trump mannequin head. According to her, she was mocking the latest of Trump’s remarks. Unfortunately for her, few saw it that way, least of all her employers. CNN quickly canned her from its New Year’s Eve broadcasts. The FBI even investigated her over the picture. Griffin apologized, saying the joke went too far.
Months later, she seemed less broken. In August 2017, she retracted her apology, reports the Los Angeles Times, saying the backlash had gone too far. According to her, not only did she lose her CNN gig, but her entire standup tour was canceled because most of the theaters got dangerous threats. She says her “little picture” cost her jobs, money, and close friendships, and she’s done apologizing for something everyone blew way out of proportion.
Playing Mikaela Banes in 2007’s “Transformers” made Megan Fox a star. Within a couple of years, she’d made the sequel “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” the comedy “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People,” and the cult horror-comedy “Jennifer’s Body.” Despite comparing him to the mastermind of World War II, Michael Bay still hired Fox for “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”
But, according to The Guardian, it was reportedly overruled by producer Steven Spielberg due to her remarks. In an interview with The Washington Post, Fox said she retreated from Hollywood to “escape” the misogyny and find her “purpose.”