Winning Oscars Doesn’t Guarantee Career Longevity: 10 Actors Who Prove It
Winning Oscars Doesn’t Guarantee Career Longevity: 10 Actors Who Prove It

Every actor wants an Oscar. It’s the apex peer and industry honor, the most respected acting award in the profession, and automatically guarantees continued success, right? Wrong. While that may happen for most, sometimes it backfires. Oscar or not, you’re only as good as your last film, and your acting career can die a rapid death if you don’t play your cards right. It takes constant vigilance, and of course, luck.

We analyze 10 actors who won and then dwindled or disappeared. In the world of Oscar, good looks count because Best Actor and Actress count for more than the Supporting category. You’d better be ambitious, better know The Biz, and try and avoid the obvious face-lift.

1. Renee Zellweger

Actress Renee Zellweger at the 61st Annual Golden Globe Awards, 1/25/2004 in Beverly Hills, California. (Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)
Actress Renee Zellweger at the 61st Annual Golden Globe Awards, Jan. 25, 2004 in Beverly Hills, California. (Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)

Renee Zellweger was first seen in Richard Linklater’s “Dazed & Confused;” blink and you’ll miss her. Then she really got noticed in “Jerry Maguire” and “Bridget Jones’ Diary.” Then, Best Supporting Actress Oscar for “Cold Mountain.” From there, her films mostly went downhill. We hadn’t heard from her in three years, but now she’s back with an over-the-top face-lift. She looks scarcely like her former self. It might give her a whole new career (it didn’t work for Jennifer Grey 0f “Dirty Dancing) but she might need a whole new name and schtick to go with the new face. It’s marketing. Branding. It’s show-business.

2. Mira Sorvino

Actress Mira Sorvino attends Artistic Freedom Academy Awards Dinner Mar. 5, 2006, W. Hollywood, CA (Thos Robinson/Getty Images)
Actress Mira Sorvino attends Artistic Freedom Academy Awards Dinner Mar. 5, 2006, W. Hollywood, Calif. (Thos Robinson/Getty Images)

Mira Sorvino had an “It” girl period in the ’90s, starting with her odd, falsetto-voiced hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold in Woody Allen’s “Mighty Aphrodite.” It won her Best Supporting Actress. “Beautiful Girls” was a fun movie (that birthed the career of megastar Natalie Portman) but Sorvino’s performance therein was somehow… sad. “Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion” with Lisa Kudrow was hilarious. One only hopes she’s gone the Debra Winger route, and is happier out of the spotlight than in it, but she, like Zellweger, also went the route of a facelift that rendered her, if not unrecognizable, then… nearly.

3. Kim Basinger

Kim Basinger, Best Supporting Actress for 'L.A. Confidential,' poses for photographers on March 23rd at the 70th Annual Academy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. (Hector Mata/AFP/Getty Images)
Kim Basinger, Best Supporting Actress for ‘L.A. Confidential,’ poses for photographers on March 23rd, 1998 at the 70th Annual Academy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. (Hector Mata/AFP/Getty Images)

Kim Basinger won an Oscar for “L.A. Confidential.” She had the looks and the chops, but she took too much time off—three years! That’s certain death in showbiz. You snooze you lose, you rest on your laurels, your laurels will strangle you. People’s memories are too short nowadays to remember three years ago.

4. Mercedes Ruehl

Mercedes Ruehl arrives for the 56th Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall, New York City. June 2, 2002. Photo by Scott Gries/ImageDirect
Mercedes Ruehl attends the Tony Awards, New York City, June 2, 2002. (Scott Gries/ImageDirect)

Mercedes Ruehl won for  Best Supporting Actress in 1991’s “The Fisher King,” starring Robin Williams. She then did a few supporting roles, in “Lost In Yonkers,” and “Last Action Hero,” then poof! Gone. A character actress with a very niche product—hard to keep peddling it around. It’s hard enough for the big stars.

5. Halle Berry

Caption:LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 19: Honoree Halle Berry attends the 2nd Annual unite4:humanity Presented By ALCATEL ONETOUCH at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 19, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for Variety)
Halle Berry attends 2nd Annual unite4:humanity at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 19, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for Variety)

Halle Berry had an Oscar win for “Monster’s Ball,” Then, while she did look good emerging from the surf a la Ursula Andress as a Bond Girl in “Die Another Day,” and wore the Catwoman suit well, she ended up with a Razzie Award For Worst Actress. The acting in both these films was pretty bad. She still models for Revlon and is still very much in the public consciousness. While she might make a comeback, there’s that brutal Hollywood women-of-a-certain-age thing to contend with.

6. F. Murray Abraham

Caption:LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25: Actor F. Murray Abraham attends the 21st Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 25, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
F. Murray Abraham attends 21st Annual SAG Awards on Jan. 25, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

F. Murray Abraham hit the big screen in a tiny role playing a grease monkey in the early 70s, in the Walter Matthau/George Burns film of Neil Simon’s play, “The Sunshine Boys.” He won an Oscar for Best Actor in 1985 for “Amadeus.” Most of the movies he made thereafter were terrible. F. Murray Abraham is a classic character actor. He doesn’t have Brad Pitt looks. Stunning looks are the ticket to a successful career, provided one can act. Otherwise, it’s fringe characters, because that’s the product you have to sell. Often fringe characters exist in bad movies. But once in a while, like “Amadeus,” such a character actor comes across a great role that allows him or her to shine, and one reminds the world how much talent it takes to be allowed on the big screen at all. F. Murray Abraham started as a grease monkey, peaked with ” Amadeus,” and then there was “Blood Monkey,” about killer monkeys. That’s the reality of the Biz. A business like any other.

7. Adrian Brody

Adrian Brody poses for the photographers as he arrives at the Gala Dinner on the occasion of the presentation of the Pirelli 2015 Calendar by Steven Meisel, unveiled in Milan, Italy, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Giuseppe Aresu)
Adrian Brody at the Gala Dinner on the occasion of the presentation of the Pirelli 2015 Calendar by Steven Meisel, unveiled in Milan, Italy, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Giuseppe Aresu)

Adrien Brody won Best Actor (for holocaust film “The Pianist”) in 2002, at age 27. Much like F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody’s got an interesting character actor face—he’s not a pretty boy. He later tried action movies (“King Kong,” “Predators”). Many sub-par movies followed. You take what they give you.

8. Roberto Benigni

Caption:LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES: Italian director and actor Roberto Benigni holds his Oscar after winning for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for his part in the movie 'Life Is Beautiful' during the 71st Academy Awards 21 March 1999 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion . (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO Timothy A. Clary (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Roberto Benigni wins Oscar for Best Actor in ‘Life Is Beautiful’ on Mar. 21, 1999. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

We first became aware of Italian actor Roberto Benigni in Jim Jarmusch’s “Down By Law” in the late 80s. He later won a well-deserved Oscar for the holocaust movie, “Life Is Beautiful.” Then he cavorted and partied for about two years. His return to acting absolutely bombed with “Asterix & Obelix Take On Caesar,” and “Pinocchio.” Benigni’s made five (bad) movies since. But he, like Kim Basinger, took too much time off.

9. Timothy Hutton

Actor Timothy Hutton attends the Icon Award Presentation during aTVfest presented by SCAD on February 6, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SCAD)
Timothy Hutton attends the Icon Award Presentation on Feb. 6, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SCAD)

Timothy Hutton blew up in Robert Redford’s directorial debut, “Ordinary People.” Which may have had something to do with the fact that it was megastar Robert Redford’s directorial debut. Hutton was 20 when he won the Oscar for it. He was in “Beautiful Girls” along with Mira Sorvino. He was also married to Debra Winger for a bit. But Hutton had neither the heft of a true leading man, nor the quirkiness of a true character actor. “Ordinary People” was the perfect alignment of role and who Hutton was, at age 20.

10. Cuba Gooding Jr.

Cuba Gooding Jr. poses in the winners room at the EE British Academy Film Awards at The Royal Opera House on February 8, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)
Cuba Gooding Jr. at the EE British Academy Film Awards at The Royal Opera House on Feb. 8, 2015 in London, England. (Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

Cuba Gooding Jr. won an Oscar for Jerry Maguire. He’s done many good movies, including “Boyz n the Hood,” but he always suffered a little from “Mike Tyson” syndrome. That high-pitched voice never seemed to go with that body. How do you cast this guy? All in all though, not realizing what it takes, the rest of the world often stamps “failed actor” on such a career. And most of these forgoing careers. But from an actor point of view, if you made a living plying your trade in the shark-infested waters of showbiz, let alone won an Oscar, you hit it out of the park.

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