Some actors start hot and stay hot, others just fizzle out after a while or never get the chance to get on a hot streak to begin with. The even rarer category of actors is the one Bryan Cranston belongs to. The guys who plug along, get a break, lose the break, and then get an even bigger one after everybody forgot about them.
Second chances and life don’t really go hand in hand all the time, and in acting they are even lesser acquaintances. I mean, you don’t hear us talking about the kid that played Anakin Skywalker right? Or about the great contributions to acting that guy from Troll 2 has made. Then again, maybe they just didn’t get their second chance yet.
I wouldn’t hold my breath for that Anakin kid though. He really was awful.
The titular reason for this article, Bryan Cranston has gone through a bit of a journey on his path to being the one that knocks. The first thing most people will remember him from is his stint as the oppressed dentist, Dr. Tim Watley on Seinfeld. Other than that, he mostly bounced around in an episode here or there for a ton of shows, as well as playing bit parts in film. Honestly, his biggest roles seemed to be voicing anime.
Then Malcom in the Middle happened, and Cranston’s range as a lovable-but-kind-of-really-unbalanced individual became common knowledge. This almost directly lead to his turn in Breaking Bad, which clearly lead to him being in like every single movie that is coming out in the next year.
Depending on how much you like Hugh Laurie, or how English you are, your dates for when he fell off the first time are going to be different. After breaking through thanks to major roles in Blackadder – one of the greatest television series of all time – and solidifying is comic chops in A Bit of Fry & Laurie, he mostly disappeared back into minor roles.
To the more American of you reading this, you might not even know he existed after Blackadder, until he turned up as one of the world’s greatest philosophers in House MD.
Neil Patrick Harris
Child stars very rarely recover from the whole being a star while you are awkward and growing. Neil Patrick Harris definitely seemed destined to go down that dark road. The only real light for him was a few minutes in Starship Troopers. Generally, when your recent career highlight is Starship Troopers, you are in a slump.
Then a pair of folks named Harold and Kumar needed somebody to play a drugged up oversexed parody of themselves while they went to White Castle, and Neil Patrick Harris didn’t have anything better to do.
Mickey Rourke has actually had multiple breaks. The problem is that after his role in Barfly, most of his breaks were in his face. Mickey decided he would rather be a boxer than a drugged up actor, and surprisingly was pretty damn good at it. Even being a good boxer means getting your face rearranged though, so when he returned to acting his “sex symbol” cred was a bit worn off.
Thankfully, Frank Miller made Marv a pretty rough looking dude in Sin City.
I feel like John Travolta should have to send a percentage of his contracts directly to Quentin Tarantino for bailing his career out like a Detroit automaker. I mean if he wasn’t already sending all his money to L. Ron Hubbard’s grave so he could keep invisible alien ghosts out of his body. After his country music cash grab Urban Cowboy, Travolta forgot how to choose work and decided “Staying Alive” was a way better career choice than “An Officer and a Gentleman.” Luckily Quentin Tarantino has a fetish for reviving the careers of slumping actors.
And also feet.