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19 Actors Whose Careers Were Destroyed Just As They Were About To Make It Big

You see it all the time — an actor seems set up to be the next big thing. Maybe they're already an established star, but they're on the precipice of becoming a major leading actor. Maybe they're transitioning from teen films or rom-coms to Oscar bait, or transitioning from TV to film. Or maybe they're in their very first major role, with Hollywood just starting to take notice of them. Everything they want seems at their fingertips — and then they fall.

people walking the red carpet
Andrew Hobbs / Getty Images

Here are 19 stars that fell fast, and fell hard — going from having the world as their oyster, to no prospects at all, at least for a while.

1.Percy Hynes White seemed poised to become a new Hollywood It Boy after his role in the über-popular Wednesday alongside Jenna Ortega. However, in January, Hynes White was accused of sexual assault in Toronto by a woman who claimed he'd throw parties with his friends where he gave drugs and alcohol to minors to get them to have sex with him.

closeup of him and jenna ortega at an event
Christopher Polk/Billboard via Getty Images

“He would pursue, have sex with, abuse and get my friend high who was 13/14 at the time. Last time I knew they had sex she was 16 and he was 20. He assaulted me at one of those parties awhile I was too drunk, and he had cornered and pressured and assaulted multiple of my friends,” the user wrote in a now-deleted tweet.

  Pietro S. D'aprano / Getty Images for Gucci
Pietro S. D'aprano / Getty Images for Gucci

While White has strongly denied the allegations, he has reportedly been written out of Wednesday despite it looking like he'd have a major role in Season 2 as Wednesday's love interest.

  Vlad Cioplea / Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection
Vlad Cioplea / Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

2.Emile Hirsch seemed like he was going to be the next big thing after starring in Into the Wild. Afterwards, his career was a bit more shaky — he had several starring roles, but not all were successes. Still, there seemed no reason he would not continue to become an even bigger star until he assaulted a female Paramount executive at Sundance in 2015. The executive told police Hirsch "choked me up, threw me across the table, and I felt the front of my throat hit the back of my throat," calling the attack "insanely painful and absolutely terrifying."

  Steve Granitz / WireImage via Getty Images
Steve Granitz / WireImage via Getty Images

Hirsch pled guilty to assault charges and was sentenced to 15 days in jail. He later revealed he didn't remember what had happened and had been binge drinking. In the years following, Hirsch participated almost entirely in voiceover projects and small indie films, as well as a Chinese film. However, things took a turn when he appeared in a small role in Tarantino's Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, which provoked controversy, including from Jameela Jamil.

his character crouched behind a gate at night
Sony Pictures Releasing

While the role seemed to indicate a comeback for Hirsch, this never came to fruition. He's worked steadily since, but besides his voice work, his films have almost entirely been small indies premiering at film festivals or in select theaters and VOD, and many have poor ratings, including one with a 0% Rotten Tomatoes score.

  Paul Archuleta / Getty Images
Paul Archuleta / Getty Images

3.As the star of Lost, Matthew Fox became a major Hollywood player in the late 2000s. After the show ended in 2010, Fox said he was "done with television," and started appearing in more film roles — including being cast in World War Z with Brad Pitt in 2011. It seemed like he might successfully make the switch from TV star to movie star...but in that same year, his career hit a setback when he was accused of assaulting a bus driver (the lawsuit was later dropped). The next year, he was arrested for driving under the influence, and Lost costar Dominic Monaghan also claimed in a tweet, "He beats women. Not isolated incidents. Often."

An insider allegedly close to Fox called Monaghan's claims

Fox denied all claims but the DUI, saying, “It’s been a long, trying year of sitting on my hands on a lot of negative sh-t said about me, when they’re the furthest things from who I am. That I beat a woman in Cleveland when in fact I was assaulted by a man and did nothing but retaliate against him?" Fox continued — he had previously claimed a fellow passenger punched him and he fought back, and that the bus driver tried to extort him. "The 46 years I’ve been breathing on this planet, I have never hit a woman before. Never have, never will.”

closeup of him in a suit
Arnold Jerocki / WireImage via Getty Images

After the controversy, Fox took a long break from acting. He hasn't appeared in a film since 2015's Bone Tomahawk, though he returned to TV in 2022's Last Light, which he executive produced. An interview promoting the show with E! did not address the reasons for Fox's "retirement" except for "I had completed a bucket list of projects that I wanted to do in 2014 and I felt like I had accomplished what I set out to accomplish and was gonna focus my energies on other things." The Hollywood Reporter called the Peacock miniseries "inept" and "bizarrely anticlimactic." Fox has only appeared in one project since, the Australian series C*A*U*G*H*T.

  Stan
Stan

4.Gina Carano's career change from pro wrestler to actor initially seemed to be a huge success following a starring role in the much-lauded Star Wars series The Mandalorian. But then in early 2021, Gina Carano posted a photo to social media comparing being a Republican to being a Jew during the Holocaust, which caused fans to dig up some other past problematic social media posts by the actor, in which she denounced wearing face masks and claimed voter fraud in 2020.

  Lucasfilm / Disney+
Lucasfilm / Disney+

She was quickly asked not to return to the Lucasfilm and Disney show, and plans were scrapped for her character to have her own show. "Her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable," a representative for Lucasfilm said in a statement. She was also dropped by her agency.

  Ethan Miller / FilmMagic via Getty Images
Ethan Miller / FilmMagic via Getty Images

Shortly after, Carano announced that she would develop, produce, and star in the film White Knuckle with conservative media company the Daily Wire. However, Carano later canceled the film because she refused to adhere to Hollywood's masking policies. She decided to quit her union (presumably the Screen Actors Guild) and make a different movie in Montana. The film was released in 2022 to little fanfare, and it's clear that Carano doesn't have the budding career she once had.

Carano also had a role in My Son Hunter, the far-right fictionalized portrayal of Hunter Biden's foreign business deals.

Carano also had a role in My Son Hunter, the far-right fictionalized portrayal of Hunter Biden's foreign business deals.

The Daily Wire / courtesy Everett Collection

5.Jussie Smollett was one of the breakout stars of Empire, and when he made headlines in early 2019 for experiencing a hate crime in Chicago, his support seemed at an all-time high. Except then police investigators determined Smollett had actually staged the attack, releasing the two men accused of attacking Smollett. He was then fired from Empire, which was in its fifth season.

Closeup of Jussie Smollett
Fox

Charges were filed against Smolett for making a false police report and wasting police resources. A 2021 trial found him guilty of five out of the six counts he'd been charged with, and he was sentenced to 150 days in county jail. He was released on bond after just six days and later made a return to Hollywood in B-Boy Blues, this time behind the camera. He has no acting projects lined up.

It looks like Smollett will have to complete the 150 days after his conviction was upheld last month.

6.Making the jump from soap operas to other TV isn't easy, but Hartley Sawyer seemed in the clear after becoming a fan favorite on The Flash. However, he was fired from the show in 2020 after his old racist, misogynistic, and homophobic tweets surfaced on social media. More than one tweet referred to assaulting women, with one reading, “Date rape myself so I don’t have to masturbate.”

  Colin Bentley / The CW / Courtesy Everett Collection
Colin Bentley / The CW / Courtesy Everett Collection

Sawyer apologized on Instagram: “My words, irrelevant of being meant with an intent of humor, were hurtful, and unacceptable. I am ashamed I was capable of these really horrible attempts to get attention at that time. I regret them deeply. This was not acceptable behavior. These were words I threw out at the time with no thought or recognition of the harm my words could do, and now have done today.” However, the damage was done, and he has no upcoming projects.

  Joe Scarnici / FilmMagic via Getty Images
Joe Scarnici / FilmMagic via Getty Images

7.Blake Jenner's career began as a bit of a Cinderella story, winning The Glee Project and starring in the latter seasons of Glee. His career continued to grow from there, appearing in the critically acclaimed The Edge of Seventeen as well as Supergirl and a few other indie films, along with the Netflix series What/If. But then his ex-wife (and Glee and Supergirl costar) Melissa Benoist accused him of abuse (which Jenner admitted to, though he also accused Benoist of abuse).

his character walking in a school hallway with a backpack
Murray Close/STX Entertainment / courtesy Everett Collection

His career largely ended in the wake of the allegations — he was replaced in Merrily We Roll Along with Paul Mescal, and in the last few years he has only appeared in a TV movie, as a video game voice, and in the panned Bruce Willis/John Travolta film Paradise City, which was only released in select theaters and mostly available on streaming platforms. Jenner was also arrested on a DUI last year, to which he pled no contest.

  Albert L. Ortega / Getty Images
Albert L. Ortega / Getty Images

8.As stated on his website, Cas Anvar's career "skyrocketed" when he began starring on the series The Expanse. This success led to a recurring role on How to Get Away With Murder, setting up Anvar for continued Hollywood success...until he was accused of harassment and sexual misconduct in 2020, and fired from The Expanse (Anvar has denied the claims). His website shows no updates since then, and his only roles have been in a single episode of FBI: International and in a Lifetime movie.

  Amazon / courtesy Everett Collection
Amazon / courtesy Everett Collection

9.While this example has nothing to do with bad behavior, it still stands out as one where a budding star's career was ruined overnight. Elizabeth Berkley became a teenage heartthrob as "girl next door" Jessie in Saved by the Bell, but her first big movie role after the series basically singlehandedly sank her career. The film was Showgirls, which garnered a Rotten Tomatoes Score of 23 percent. Not only did the NC-17 film tank, but Berkley's performance was panned, causing Berkley's career to flounder just as soon as it had begun. Berkley continued to work in film for the next decade or so, but her career never quite recovered.

her character dancing on a pole
United Artists/ Courtesy: Everett Collection

10.Another sad career dive happened to Jennifer Grey. After filming Dirty Dancing and not getting any more movie role offers, Grey decided to get a nose job, hoping to widen her casting options. Dirty Dancing ended up catapulting her into fame, and her initial nose job seemed a success. However, halfway into shooting Wind, she decided to go under the knife again when she saw white cartilage poking through at her nose tip. Her nose looked vastly different after this second surgery, and as Grey herself said, "Overnight I lost my identity and my career."

  Vestron Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection
Vestron Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

At a movie premiere soon after her cast was removed, she said Michael Douglas didn't recognize her. "That was the first time I had gone out in public," she said. "And it became the thing, the idea of being completely invisible, from one day to the next. In the world's eyes, I was no longer me." She would not appear in another wide-scale theatrical release until a small role in 2000's Bounce and does not appear to have had one since, which is shocking considering the career one may have expected post-Dirty Dancing.

closeup of her after her nose job
Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic, Inc via Getty Images

11.Grey's Anatomy's early seasons were filled with breakout stars, and there was no reason Isaiah Washington shouldn't have been one of them...until he was fired after using an anti-gay slur on set. He'd later claim it wasn't directed at anyone, though some sources claim he used it in connection with his costar T.R. Knight, who is gay. The word was apparently uttered after a physical and verbal altercation between Washington and male lead Patrick Dempsey.

his character in a hospital bed
Ron Tom / ABC / Courtesy Everett Collection

Washington's projects post-Grey's included mostly one-episode stints, foreign films, low-budget films, straight-to-DVD and VOD projects, and one short-lived series. His only large project in the following decade was The 100, which he appeared in 60 of 100 episodes, but he still never quite regained the career he'd had before.

  Diyah Pera / The CW Network / courtesy Everett Collection
Diyah Pera / The CW Network / courtesy Everett Collection

12.His Grey's costar Katherine Heigl also largely caused her own career to stall after a series of publicized remarks that seemed to disparage her projects and their writers. First, while starring on Grey's, she subtly shaded the writing decisions for her character, and notably withdrew herself from Emmy consideration in 2008, saying, "I did not feel I was given the material this season to warrant a nomination."

She's since expressed regret over this comment, saying that it was between her and the writers, and a lot of it was about her own performance.

And after starring in Knocked Up — her first major movie role — she called her character "a little sexist," adding, “It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys. ... I had a hard time with it, on some days. ... Ninety-eight percent of the time it was an amazing experience, but it was hard for me to love the movie.”

her character sitting at a kitchen table

As a result, Heigl was blacklisted from Hollywood for many years, her once-promising career floundering as she had a reputation for being "difficult." In recent years, she's spoken about this unfair reputation. "I may have said a couple of things you didn't like, but then that escalated to 'she's ungrateful,' then that escalated to 'she's difficult,' and that escalated to 'she's unprofessional,'" she said. "What is your definition of difficult? Somebody with an opinion that you don't like? Now, I'm 42, and that shit pisses me off."

  Nathan Congleton / NBC via Getty Images
Nathan Congleton / NBC via Getty Images

13.Shannen Doherty became a major TV star in the '90s, but persistent drama on her projects led to a bad reputation and a career that fizzled out. First, she was fired from the hit series Beverly Hills, 90210 after being "difficult" during filming and having issues with her costars, notably Tori Spelling. Spelling, who also said Doherty got into a physical fight with costar Jennie Garth, admitted in 2015 that she'd called her father, producer Aaron Spelling, to get Doherty fired after rising tensions on set.

Though Doherty did return as the character in reboot/sequel 90210 and as herself alongside her costars in BH 90210.

Then on Charmed, Doherty chose to leave due to friction between her and her castmates. She said, "There was too much drama on the set and not enough passion for the work" (which many assumed was referring to costar Alyssa Milano, with whom there'd been rumors of drama). Afterward, her projects were mostly TV movies, along with trying her hand at hosting, and a reality show.

closeup of her character in a leather jacket
Richard Cartwright / The WB Television Network / Courtesy Everett Collection

14.T.J. Miller was already a successful comedian when he was cast in his breakout role in Silicon Valley*, and roles in the Deadpool and How to Train Your Dragon films catapulted him into even more widespread success. This success likely would've parlayed into starring roles if he hadn't been accused of sexual assault during the #MeToo movement — allegations he denied and even joked about onstage while performing stand-up comedy.

closeup of him in a suit

Miller also made waves for calling in a fake bomb threat on an Amtrak train in 2018. Miller allegedly called 911 to report a female passenger had a bomb, but no evidence was found, and his memory of the woman changed. According to the US Attorney's office in Connecticut, the officer he spoke to and other passengers indicated he appeared drunk, with one saying he'd been “involved in hostile exchanges” with a female passenger.* Miller was indicted for “intentionally conveying to law enforcement false information about an explosive device on a train," but the charge was later dropped.

*The female passenger, however, did not match Miller's description of the woman he claimed had a bomb in her bag.

*The female passenger, however, did not match Miller's description of the woman he claimed had a bomb in her bag.

Slaven Vlasic / Getty Images

After all the controversy, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World recast Miller and overdubbed all of his lines, and Miller has only appeared in two films since (and no TV shows), neither of which were well-received or starring roles. He has, however, continued his stand-up career.

  Paramount Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection
Paramount Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

15.Ansel Elgort was already an established movie star, but Baby Driver catapulted him to the Hollywood A-List, making him one to watch to see what came next. When he was cast in Steven Speilberg's West Side Story, it felt like Elgort's moment — until he was accused in 2020 of a sexual assault of a 17-year-old that had allegedly occurred in 2014, when Elgort was 20.

his character with headphones on and a toy car in front of him
Wilson Webb / TriStar /Courtesy Everett Collection

More women soon came forward to share their stories of troubling behavior from Elgort, including a woman that went on two dates with him at 16 and a woman who said he sent her a dick picture when she was in eighth grade. Elgort responded with claims that "I have never and would never assault anyone” and said his relationship with the first accuser was consensual. He largely retreated from the public eye after this, and notably did very little press for West Side Story, the highly anticipated Steven Spielberg remake in which he had starred. Even the original trailer barely featured him, despite his casting as one of the two starring roles.

Closeup of Ansel Elgort

Other cast members were frequently asked about the allegations against Elgort in his absence.

20th Century Studios

Since then, Elgort has only appeared in Tokyo Vice — one reviewer noted, "His presence makes a good show hard to bear." He appears to have no other upcoming projects.

  Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images
Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

16.Similarly, Armie Hammer had a pretty successful career that truly skyrocketed with Call My By Your Name. He had a whole number of new projects lined up, and then he was fired from just about every one of them (including Billion Dollar Spy, Shotgun Wedding, and the TV series The Offer) after sexual assault allegations and alleged messages in which he called himself a cannibal became public. He was also dropped by his agency and publicist.

his character wearing sunglasses standing outside
Sony Pictures Classics / courtesy Everett Collection

He retreated from Hollywood and wasn't spotted for a long time until he was discovered to be seemingly working as a timeshare salesperson in the Cayman Islands. He has no projects lined up. He did finally publicly speak on the allegations last year, denying criminal wrongdoing but admitting to an "imbalance of power" with the woman he had relationships with, as well as to having been emotionally abusive. “I’m here to own my mistakes, take accountability for the fact that I was an asshole, that I was selfish, that I used people to make me feel better, and when I was done, moved on," he said.

closeup of him at an event
Todd Williamson/E! Entertainment / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

17.Finally, we'll end on three instances where the results have yet to be seen. First, Ezra Miller, who became the subject of numerous controversies just as they were becoming an A-Lister. After appearing in Justice League as The Flash, there was a lot of hype for the character's solo movie. At the same time, Miller, who had previously found plenty of movie success but fallen short of leading a film, was gaining growing notoriety for their role in the Fantastic Beasts films.

closeup of them at an event
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin / FilmMagic via Getty Images

But then Miller was accused, among other things, of grooming, assault, burglary, and abuse. They have also been arrested multiple times. The Flash was still released, but it failed to reach expectations. Fantastic Beasts seems to have no plans to continue, and Miller does not appear to have any projects in production.

  Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection
Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection

18.Jason Mitchell rose to prominence in the 2010s with roles in films like Straight Outta Compton, Keanu, and Kong: Skull Island. His career continued to build momentum with a starring role in The Chi and an upcoming role in the Netflix movie Desperados — until he was fired after allegations of misconduct on the set of both (including, according to the Hollywood Reporter, making "highly inappropriate remarks" to two female costars while "lingering close to their quarters"). He was then dropped by his agency. Mitchell has denied the allegations.

closeup of his character sitting on a couch with a woman

Mitchell's career stagnated, and then, in 2020, he was arrested after being found with firearms and drugs (a representative for Mitchell called it a "misunderstanding," and Mitchell later claimed he had "jumped in the car with the wrong people" and that the charges had been dropped). However, in 2021, he appeared in one small film, and it was announced that he would executive-produce and star in two new projects, one of which (Everything is Both) has since been released to little fanfare. He has some additional projects in development, so time will tell if he's able to make a comeback.

  Paras Griffin / Getty Images
Paras Griffin / Getty Images

19.And lastly, Jonathan Majors' career seems to be in limbo after he initially appeared to be Marvel's (and Hollywood's) new darling. Majors had his breakout role in Lovecraft Country, and Marvel generated buzz by casting the up-and-comer as the post-Thanos villain of the MCU. Majors appeared in Loki and the newest Ant-Man, but his time with Marvel seemed to be only getting started. Despite plans for many future films, Majors was fired by Marvel after he was arrested and later convicted of reckless assault and harassment in his ensuing domestic violence trial.

  Marvel / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection
Marvel / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Majors continues to deny the allegations. He was dropped by his manager and publicist (along with a number of projects and brand deals), but his agency, WME, appears to continue to represent him. Majors appeared in his first post-conviction interview just this week, maintaining his innocence, so we will see if his career is permanently damaged, but it certainly seems so right now.

  John Nacion / Getty Images
John Nacion / Getty Images

What other stars fell from grace just as they were poised to make it big? Let us know in the comments.