Why Do Some Actors Make It Big and Some Don't? It's Not Just Talent

Some of you out there may remember the show Boy Meets World. It starred Fred Savage's less famous brother Ben and the guy who did the voice of K.I.T.T. in Knight Rider.
Yes, Michael. Glen A. Larson Productions

It was a decent show, all about the usual growing pains teenage boys have (Unlike the show Growing Pains, which was about this alien called A.L.F. To be honest, the 80s and 90s are kind of a blur for me). 

Anyway, it was announced that a new version of the show, titled Girl Meets World, would be coming out featuring most of the main cast from Boy Meets World

Then I saw this headline recently: 

'Girl Meets World' Star Ben Savage is Happy to Reprise Cory Matthews 
"It's really fun to be playing the same character from a different perspective," the actor says. 

No kidding. Better than standing in line for food stamps, I bet. Because according to his imdb page, dude hasn't exactly been lighting Hollywood on fire. He's had a few bit parts on a few TV shows and movies, and that's it. So being asked to reprise the role that made him "famous" and really get into acting again is like winning the lottery. I mean, he probably thought he was going on to big things like his brother Fred Savage, what with a hit TV show under his belt. Instead he just faded away into obscurity, like a Kleenex in the wind. 

Danielle Fishel is probably pretty happy about it, too. (You might remember her as Corey's girlfriend Topanga on the show.) What's she doing these days, anyway?

Hmm. I guess she's doing all right. Maxim.com 

According to her imdb page she hasn't made many films or starred in any TV for a while now. 

Which brings up another excellent example of an up-and-coming star disappearing for years and then reappearing out of nowhere: Mark Hamill (aka Luke Skywalker):
Well, they say the camera adds twenty-five years of shattered dreams . . . 

Now, unlike those other two I mentioned, Mark has actually been super busy on the Hollywood Scene. Doing voice overs. For cartoons. Not saying there's anything wrong with that, but when your co-star (aka Indiana Jones) becomes one of the biggest movies stars ever and you fade away into the abyss of voicing children's cartoons, well . . . Let's just say I bet Mark wasn't thrilled with the way things turned out. 

But now they're back. Why? It's Hollywood. Not everybody makes it and to have even one hit movie or TV show under your belt is impressive. Add to that some people become so associated with one of their characters people just can't accept them in any other role. So they're stuck, even if they have talent. 

What can they do about it? Nothing, really, except hope that the movie and TV people decide they need them again. Maybe they were only suited to their one famous role. Maybe they are terrible actors in general. Maybe they are just douchebags whose heads got too big. Or just chalk it up to good luck followed by bad luck. 

Robert Evans once said, "Luck is when opportunity meets preparation." Maybe these guys just weren't prepared for their success, or had such a limited range they were useless in other roles. There might be (and probably is) a very good reason they dropped off the map. When the opportunities came, they found out they didn't have anything else to give. 

But are we sure we want them back? 

Look at what happened when Spielberg brought Marion (aka Karen Allen) back for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Terrribleness. It was nice to have a familiar face back in the series, but my God, her acting was abysmal. I would say it ruined the movies, but too many other things beat her to it. 

Yes, I'm looking in your direction you paper bag wearing douche. 

Even though it's impossible to ever know the real reasons some succeed and others fail, especially in the superficial and super-fickle movie industry, everything seems to work out. 

Tom Selleck was going to be in Die Hard (and Raiders of the Lost Ark) but couldn't do the movie because of Magnum P.I. Sylvester Stallone, Don Johnson, Harrison Ford and even Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood all turned down the role before Bruce Willis nailed it and became a superstar.

"Come out to the coast, we'll get together, have a few laughs . . ." Twentieth Century Fox

Jason Bateman was the star of a hit TV show, The Hogan Family (aka Valerie) then did Teen Wolf Too and seemed poised to break out big. Instead he worked on a series of crappy TV shows and TV movies before getting another hit fifteen long years later with Arrested Development. He's a talented guy, but seemed to keep doing crappy projects. When he got another chance to shine, he did. Still, I hope he did some community service or spent a few years meditating in Tibet to make up for Teen Wolf Too. It was one 'high school-werewolf-who-excels-at-sports' movies too many.

Another example is Josh Hartnett, who voluntary took ten years off from acting, largely to wait for people to forget about Pearl Harbor. He banked on the fact that he could still get work, and is now starring in a TV show called Penny Dreadful. Sure, it's not a $200 million summer movie, but it's probably better than your last acting gig. Also, it could be worse. He could be this guy:

Yes, this is a thing.

Often the real reason for success in acting has nothing to do with your ability as an actor at all. It's simply right place, right time. You get that chance to audition for a big shot, you better make it count.
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