Total Nerd

13 Actors Who Got Big Breaks In Franchises But Couldn't Ride The Wave

List Rules
Vote up the actors whose big franchise break should have led to greater success.

Do you ever wonder what happened to the acting one-hit wonders of Hollywood history? Those thespians who landed a role so large that even though they never really hit it big again, they died a legit celebrity? The streets of Hollywood (or, at least, the valley) are lined with men and women who became household names in tentpole franchises and then somehow still never managed to achieve continued stardom.

It really goes to show how tough Hollywood can be. Even those who "break in" can find their way back on the outside. This list is a roundup of all those celebrities who faded into obscurity. Actors that landed the role of a lifetime, which then turned out to be one of - if not the only - major roles in their lifetimes.

  • Rupert Grint ('Harry Potter' Franchise)
    Photo: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 / Warner Bros. Pictures

    Rupert Grint wasn't just in Harry Potter; he was a standout role. A fan favorite, even. Ron Weasley was the comic relief who everyone wanted more of. Then... nothing. Of the three actors who comprised the Harry Potter trinity, Grint is the only one whose IMDb top 4 still features exclusively Harry Potter films. 

    In a way, it's hard to blame the young wizard. It's not like he only starred in one blockbuster - he starred in eight of them. That's enough to give anyone their fill in Hollywood. Grint told MTV News while reflecting on his childhood, "I always kind of felt like I was missing out on a little bit." Spending your childhood working is a grueling endeavor, even if you did that work at Hogwarts. 

    Even though he needed some time off, in a 2016 interview, Grint said he felt it was time to get back into acting. And, in recent years, he's done exactly that, just not on the big screen. Grint has had a couple of acclaimed roles in television, including the BBC series Sick Note and M. Night Shyamalan's Apple TV+ horror series, Servant.

  • Mark Hamill ('Star Wars' Original Trilogy)
    Photo: Star Wars: A New Hope / 20th Century Fox

    Mark Hamill is an insanely lovable human being with a very wholesome Twitter presence, so there's a twinge of regret in discussing his film career's post-Star Wars decline. The weird thing about Hamill's career is that he did an incredible job in the franchise he was a part of. Yet, even with how massive Star Wars turned out to be, Hamill didn't seem to have any luck leveraging his stardom into more roles. 

    It seemed like that very stardom hurt his acting career in some ways. After Star Wars, Hamill went to Broadway, where he played Mozart in Amadeus. When it came time to make a movie out of the play, Hamill wanted to keep his role, but the director wasn't too keen on that happening. According to Hamill, the director told him the people wouldn't believe "that the Luke Skywalker was the Mozart." 

    Even though Hamill's face may have been too recognizable to do other roles on the big screen, his voice was heard frequently on the small one. Hamill became one of the most well-known voices of Batman's infamous adversary, the Joker. Starting his role as the crazed Clown Prince of Crime in Batman: The Animated Series, Hamill has gone on to voice the Joker in countless appearances of the character across film, television, and video games. And then, of course, he was able to reclaim the role that made him famous in the first place, as Luke returned to the big screen in the franchise's now-completed sequel trilogy.

  • Carrie-Anne Moss ('The Matrix' Franchise)
    Photo: The Matrix / Warner Bros.

    In the 1999 hit film The Matrix, Neo chose to take the Red Pill and had his life forever changed. Luckily for Neo, he wasn't alone with his newfound knowledge and was shown the ropes by the incredibly cool Trinity. She acted as a sort of mentor figure (and love interest) for Neo. 

    For Keanu Reeves, The Matrix was another notch on the belt of what was already a successful career. For co-star Carrie-Anne Moss, not so much. She's had some success in TV and film, including her role in Netflix's Jessica Jones, but there's most likely no one happier that the Matrix franchise is returning for a fourth installment.

  • Orlando Bloom ('The Lord of the Rings' Franchise)
    Photo: The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings / New Line Cinema

    Orlando Bloom was in not one but two massive franchises. As he portrayed Legolas in the Lord of the Rings films and Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean, more eyes have looked upon him than any single person born before the 20th century. He is incredibly, incredibly famous. But, he hasn't really been a "name actor" since the end of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. 

    Forbes describes Bloom as being the "victim of a new normal in Hollywood," in which "marquee characters in IP-driven franchises were more valuable than the actors playing them." Basically, his role as Legolas in The Lord of the Rings did a better job of selling video games and action figures than it did selling Bloom as an actor. Aside from forgotten big-screen roles in such films as Digging for Fire and The Outpost, Bloom's most notable post-franchise role has been in the Amazon fantasy series, Carnival Row.