Washed-Up Actors Who Are Still Huge Stars Internationally

Americans often assume that when an actor or actress is no longer big news on the big screen in the United States, their career and fame must be finished. That's not always true. For some Hollywood celebrities, notoriety continues to flourish outside the borders. Sometimes that international acclaim even offers opportunities abroad that no longer exist in the States. Americans may be surprised to learn that while they've been scratching their heads and wondering what happened, these stars are still considered a hot commodity elsewhere.

John Cusack

Although John Cusack once enjoyed plenty of fame and fortune in the States, the 2000s haven't exactly been good to this actor. His 2010 film Hot Tub Time Machine—an ode to his 1980s relevancy—earned a little more than $50 million domestically. Compare that to the runaway success of 2015's Dragon Blade, a historical Chinese epic that earned close to $54 million on its debut weekend in China, though it brought in only $74,068 in the States. Dragon Blade, which co-starred Jackie Chan and Adrien Brody, raked in global earnings of more than $121.5 million. Americans may not have loved it, but everyone else apparently did, and Cusack, who played a Roman general, reaped the spoils.

"[Chan's] movies all have a sense of adventure that is contagious," Cusack told The Star. "As an actor, when you make films, you want to have an adventure too. So, coming to the Gobi Desert to make this movie with the eagles and the horses, doing fight scenes with the best fight choreographer around...it was totally insane, but it was pretty fun!"

Adrien Brody

Oscar-winner Adrien Brody's fame in the States has deteriorated over the past decade, but his fortunes are growing in the Chinese market and that could help catalyze his comeback in America and abroad. According to Deadline, Brody launched the Fable House production company, a Chinese co-venture, that offered him the chance to produce and star in the romantic comedy Manhattan Love Story, opposite Chinese actress Ni Ni. That project reportedly began filming in New York in 2015. Fable House also produced the aforementioned Dragon Blade.

"The idea is to back U.S.-China co-productions with name stars that resonate in the world's two biggest film markets," reported Deadline. Brody told the publication, "I feel a deep connection to Asia. I've been able to develop close friendships with a core group of extremely talented filmmakers and financiers, who have opened many doors."

Nicolas Cage

Nicolas Cage may be little more than a walking meme to Americans, but his fame is no laughing matter in China. Cage ranked 13th in a three-way tie (with songstress Taylor Swift and basketball legend Michael Jordan) on the Advertising Age list of "China's 20 Most Engaging Foreign Celebrities." Cage also received the best global actor prize at the 2013 Huading Awards. You read that correctly: China gave the Con Air (1997) star a serious award...for his acting abilities. It just goes to show you how public perception of one's craft can change depending on what part of the world one's movies are playing.

Unfortunately, it hasn't been entirely a walk in the park for Cage in Asia. His 2014 movie Outcast was suddenly yanked from Chinese theaters before the film's big premiere. According to the Los Angeles Times, the French-China-Canada co-production company may have gotten entangled in red tape that prohibits foreign films from airing during national Chinese holidays, so that glitch allegedly had more to do with China's "unpredictable" behavior towards foreign films than with Cage and his star power.

Kelly Rowland

In the eyes of many Americans, singer Kelly Rowland has spent the majority of her career in the gigantic shadow of fellow Destiny's Child member Beyoncé. Following her stint with the girl group, Roland tried her hand at acting, but critics in the States have not sung her praises for her film and TV roles. However, Rowland has found a bit of shine across the pond. In 2011, she became a judge on the popular British singing competition The X-Factor. Her popularity on that program led to an appearance as a judge on the (doomed) American version of the show, followed by yet another judging gig on the 2017 season of The Voice in Australia. Thanks to her work on foreign reality TV shows, Rowland seems to be receiving recognition for her singular talents and business insights while also gaining some much-needed distance from the mighty Queen Bey.

Kevin James

While Kevin James' career has taken somewhat of a not-too-funny nosedive in the United States, his fame has reached new heights in Germany. According to Reuters, the comedian is such a "heavyweight" in the European nation, that his television show The King of Queens (1998-2007) pulled in unheard of ratings. His knack for generating top performing movie releases was the reason James—and not co-star Adam Sandler—was the focal point of promoting I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry (2007) in Germany. The strategy paid off: the film premiered at the top of the box office in Deutschland. Why are Germans so taken with James?

It could be that the Long Island native happens to be of German descent. It's also worth noting that despite the country's alleged obsession with David Hasselhoff, it's James who's far more popular there at the moment.

John Travolta

Unlike some actors whose fame remains steady over the decades, John Travolta has experienced a number of real, or at least perceived, career comebacks before falling back into the abyss of pop culture irrelevancy. In between these red carpet waves, Travolta has used his international fame to pay the bills. In the '80s, he made commercials promoting Japanese energy drinks, and in 2013, he starred in Brazilian commercials for a rum company. At least the Pulp Fiction (1994) star knows that when his fame falters in the States, he can grease the wheels with overseas endorsements.

Lou Ferrigno

The last time Lou Ferrigno wielded any Stateside star power was during his heyday as the transformed version of the titular Incredible Hulk on the 1970s TV show. Aside from cameos, you don't see much of the award-winning body builder these days. At least, not if you're an American. However, Ferrigno is still enjoying smashing success overseas. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he's among a growing number of Hollywood has-beens enjoying new-found relevancy with an upstart Japanese management company called—wait for it—Japollywood Artists.

Company co-founder Takanori Oya noted that many older American programs are still popular in Japan, which makes the stars of those classic very marketable. "There are so many talented actors in America who haven't gotten the chance to prove themselves," Oya said. "I want to get them the chance to work in Japan." Japollywood co-founder William Winckler told The Hollywood Reporter that film and commercial work in Japan can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars—which is probably far more than Ferrigno could earn in the States at present.

Halle Berry

In an ironic twist, former A-list actress Halle Berry's career fizzled out not long after she won an Academy Award for her role in Monster's Ball (2002). Some blame sexism in Hollywood; others point to poor movie choices. Whatever the reason, Berry is yet another American thespian who made her way to China in an effort to cash in on international fame. In 2014, she won a Huading Film Award, telling the audience that her warm reception in Shanghai made her feel like "an original Beatle." According to Variety, China's Bliss Media and Maven Pictures are financing Berry's independent film Kings, which tells the story of a foster family during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Production reportedly began in December 2016.

Sylvester Stallone

You would think Rocky IV (1985) would have made actor, filmmaker, and screenwriter Sylvester Stallone somewhat of a pariah in Russia. Not so. Stallone reportedly has a loyal following there. That might be why his 2013 movie Grudge Match performed far better in Russia that it did in every other foreign country. That same year, a Stallone-inspired art exhibit was displayed at the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. Why go through such trouble for an actor who was portrayed as an enemy to Russian ideals for so long?

It might have something to do with his heritage. It turns out that by way of his mother, Jackie Stallone, the actor can trace his ethnic origins to the former U.S.S.R. So much for the "Italian Stallion!"