Celebs Hollywood Tried To Make Happen

It's no secret that Hollywood is a cutthroat industry, a town where untold millions have sought the kind of fame that only finds a select few superstars. Not everyone can join the ranks of the Brad Pitts and the Beyoncés who run Tinseltown; some stars are destined to, shall we say, burn less bright. You wouldn't know it by taking a look at the careers of some public figures, though, who — despite repeated box-office disappointments and poor reviews — continue to lead big-money projects anyway! It's in those careers that we can see the Hollywood machine, full of publicists, agents, managers, etc., trying to make certain people's careers stick despite audiences greeting their projects with a resounding "meh."

Anne Helene Petersen wrote about one such star in BuzzFeed, tracing out what she called "Ten Long Years Of Trying To Make Armie Hammer Happen." She wondered, "How many second chances does a handsome white male star get?" When he saw the article, Hammer was upset, responding on Twitter that the takedown was "bitter AF." And now he's faced allegations of sexual assault and cannibalism, so there's that. (Per Vox, he has denied the allegations.)

Still, Petersen's point stands. Sometimes, Hollywood tries hard to make someone happen, there are just some celebs whose careers just haven't quite gotten there — often despite strong starts. Almost all are still working, even regularly, but they've all failed to live up to the expectations of an industry that was once convinced they were the Next Big Thing.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Sam Worthington starred in the highest-grossing film ever

Australian actor Sam Worthington secured his place in film history when he led the cast of "Avatar," James Cameron's groundbreaking, record-breaking sci-fi epic that became the highest-grossing film of all time. That was a great year for Worthington; while he was on the come-up, Esquire dared to ask the question that was on everyone's lips: "Is Sam Worthington The Greatest Actor Of Our Time?" They noted: "Five movies, five leading roles, all coming out within months of one another." It seemed like the perfect set of circumstances for Worthington to rocket to the top of the A-list.

Turns out... not so much. When TNT Magazine asked him how it felt to be in so many high-profile films in such a short amount of time, he replied, "I f***ing hope I'm in more, to be honest!" Unfortunately, despite leading roles in massive-budget films like "Clash of the Titans," and "Terminator Salvation," Worthington's career never really took off. Film fans on Reddit routinely discuss why Worthington didn't make it big, suggesting that he's "a decent character actor that can't carry a film"; others have wondered if his choice of projects hampered his career.

Worthington has continued to work regularly since his breakout year, but none of his subsequent roles have garnered him the press that "Avatar" did. He will be returning in the upcoming "Avatar" sequels, however; it remains to be seen if they will give him the boost he's been waiting for.

Will Smith set up Jaden Smith for success

Hollywood super-couple Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith started their kids in showbiz early, engineering daughter Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair" music debut and roping son Jaden into starring in films with Will. Jaden Smith's movie career began alongside his father in "The Pursuit of Happyness," and then he stepped out from his dad's shadow to star in "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and "The Karate Kid," holding his own opposite Keanu Reeves and Jackie Chan, respectively.

Early on, Pinkett-Smith told Oprah.com that she had to make sure Jaden's father wasn't working him too hard. "​​I tell Will: 'I understand there are certain things you're trying to instill in him, but at the end of the day, he's 11,' you know what I mean?" she said. "So, you know, we had to find a nice balance."

Will and Jaden reunited in M. Night Shyamalan's ill-considered "After Earth," which was a box-office flop that received a critical drubbing as well. Old enough to make some career choices on his own, the younger Smith largely stepped back from acting. He told USA Today, "the kinds of roles I was being offered weren't exactly what I was looking for." The 2020 film "Life in a Year" was his first and only lead role in a movie since 2013. While his filmography may not be as bustling as his parents', Jaden is a bona-fide celebrity in his own right, a fashion icon, and a musician.

Lucy Hale's shows don't stick

Lucy Hale hit it big with her role in "Pretty Little Liars," but the rest of her resume is littered with shows that didn't take off and films that failed to impress. Hale's first taste of fame was "American Juniors," a kid-focused spinoff of "American Idol," but even though she won the season and was part of the group formed in the finale, they disbanded when their music didn't produce hits. Years later, Jimmy Kimmel sprung an old clip on her, leading her to joke, "That crimped hair. What a mess."

Since "Pretty Little Liars" ended in 2017, Hale has led a number of shows that didn't stick around. She top-lined "Riverdale" spinoff "Katy Keene," which was canceled after one season, and she was also the lead on "Life Sentence," which only made it 13 episodes. She led the cast of "Fantasy Island" in 2020, but the film garnered a measly 8% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes; "Truth or Dare," another Hale-led horror, fared slightly better at 15%.

Hale believes AMC+ crime drama "Ragdoll" will be, as Deadline put it, "a new step in her career." She noted at a 2021 TCAs event that she felt boxed-in by the teen-drama associations of "PLL" and "Katy Keene," explaining, "I made the conscious decision that after 'Katy Keene' got cancelled I knew that the next job I did really had to creatively excite me."

Taylor Kitsch says he's a character actor

Taylor Kitsch is best known as Tim Riggins on "Friday Night Lights," the critically-acclaimed football drama that aired on NBC and DirecTV between 2006 and 2011. After his success as the long-haired bad-boy fullback, Kitsch decided it was time to move on from television and try his hand at being a movie star. Though the show gave him his breakthrough, he told Popsugar he would not be interested in a hypothetical "FNL" reboot. "That's a thousand percent negative," he said. "I would not [return]... Just as an actor, personally, you just want to keep pushing yourself and it would be a couple steps backward, really."

However, Kitsch's leading-man film debut, as the star of ill-fated space epic "John Carter," didn't launch his career into the stratosphere like it was supposed to. Despite solid reviews, the film was a major box-office bomb, grossing only $73 million domestically against a $250 million budget, as reported by BoxOfficeMojo. The same year, Kitsch starred in "Battleship," based on the board game; the film has a mere 34% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Since his unfortunate 2012, Kitsch has continued working, but largely in much smaller roles.

However, he doesn't seem to mind that he's not the A-lister he was once tipped to be. He told The Hollywood Reporter, "I could honestly give a f*** if I'm 15th on the call sheet or first. I see myself as a character actor first, and it really boils down to that."

Did Alex Pettyfer's set behavior stall his career?

In the late aughts, British star Alex Pettyfer was poised to be a Next Big Thing. He was the lead in "Stormbreaker," positioning him for a breakout moment, but a string of disappointments followed. Roles in supernatural romance "Beastly" and alien-invasion YA film "I Am Number Four" failed to get Pettyfer to household name status despite predictions from Access Hollywood, and though he had a major role in "Magic Mike," he wasn't invited back for the sequel.

So, what went wrong? When his career failed to reach the heights he'd been predicted to reach, the entertainment press reported on widespread rumors of difficult behavior. The Hollywood Reporter published an exposé filled with reports that the actor was allegedly "a nightmare" to work with. Pettyfer later admitted to a feud with "Magic Mike" co-star Channing Tatum, explaining Bret Easton Ellis' podcast (via The Guardian) that he'd rented an apartment from Tatum's friend and then refused to pay rent. "[Channing] had already told everyone he didn't like me, and what Channing says goes because he's a movie star," Pettyfer said.

In a 2019 interview with The Guardian, Pettyfer discussed his youthful mistakes. "If I had the experience that I had today back then, I probably would have done things differently," he reflected. "But the reason that I'm the man I am today is because of the experiences I endured [when working as an actor] as a young boy."

Taylor Swift's brother tried to be a leading man

ET declared Taylor Swift's younger brother Austin Swift "officially a leading man," thanks to his lead role in indie drama "Cover Versions." He told the outlet he got "a lot of advice in all aspects" from his sister, who he said encouraged him to go for things he wouldn't otherwise have had the confidence to do.

The Hollywood publicity machinery was particularly evident in Austin's potential rise to fame, likely thanks in no small part to the influence of his famous sister. After having a minor role in Ben Affleck's critical and commercial flop "Live By Night," Austin nonetheless got a profile and photoshoot in Vanity Fair, where he was styled in several photos like the second coming of James Dean. After this piece came out, "Who? Weekly" hosts Lindsey Weber and Bobby Finger carved out an entire chunk of a podcast episode to say, "It's never gonna happen."

Austin later co-starred in 2019 horror film "We Summon the Darkness," which he also co-produced. In the caption of an Instagram photo of himself at the movie's premiere, he wrote, "This was my first time co-producing a project I acted in and I am so grateful to have been a part." However, it remains to be seen whether Austin will have the chance to do it again; he doesn't seem to have acted since 2019.

Josh Hartnett 'took steps' to dial back his career

Josh Hartnett was everywhere in the '90s and early 2000s. A "Halloween" sequel launched his career, which he followed up with "The Faculty," "The Virgin Suicides," "40 Days and Nights," and "Pearl Harbor" in quick succession. The meteoric rise to the top of the box office in a string of successful projects made the heartthrob a leading man to look out for. However, just as he was on top of Hollywood, he stepped back, telling The Project, "The biggest thing for me was, I really enjoy making films, but the industry itself was overwhelming for a 21-year old kid."

He later told Variety that the tabloid interest after the success of "Pearl Harbor" was too much for him to handle, and he actively decided to dial back his career. "All those magazine covers and paparazzi and all that sort of stuff was not at all how I lived my life, and not at all who I thought myself to be," he elaborated. "So I feel very much myself now, and I took steps to make my life not as crazy after that movie came out and was successful at it and have remained sort of outside of the fray." 

Hartnett is still working regularly, but not at the level of, as Variety put it, "the next Leonardo DiCaprio or Matt Damon." He led the cast of Showtime's well-received "Penny Dreadful," and he will next be seen in Christopher Nolan's "Oppenheimer."

Hayden Christensen became a farmer

When Hayden Christensen was cast in the "Star Wars" prequels as a younger version of the villain who would become Darth Vader, he probably thought he'd hit the big-time. Unfortunately, the prequels did not go over well with critics or audiences, and Christensen's stilted line delivery in some of the films' more emotional, sand-based scenes continues to be the source of much internet joking two decades later.

After his "Star Wars" performances received such poor reviews, Christensen tried a few different tracks to extend his fame. He starred in the critically-adored lying-journalist biopic "Shattered Glass," and for a minute it seemed like things might turn around. Unfortunately, Christensen followed it up with the critically-reviled action flick "Jumper," and then he stopped playing ball and went home to Canada. He told the Toronto Star that he intentionally took a step back from Hollywood... to try farming instead. "I don't really think about my career because the idea of a career is not something I can put a lot of thought into," he insisted. "I do the work that appeals to me and I pass on films that would probably benefit my career."

Christensen has continued to work sporadically, including as the son of a pizza-maker opposite Emma Roberts in "Little Italy." Next, he will be returning to the role that made him famous, playing Anakin once more in the Disney+ series about Obi-Wan Kenobi, per StarWars.com.

Rita Ora's overseas success hasn't translated

Rita Ora is a superstar in her native land, having racked up massive success across the pond; according to the Official Charts, Ora holds the record for the most Top 10 songs by a British female. That being said, her success hasn't translated to American superstardom. Her biggest stateside hit was as the featured artist on Iggy Azalea's "Black Widow." Otherwise, despite being an international superstar who was invited to sing for the Pope at the canonization of Mother Theresa (take that, Mad Libs), Ora is instead known mostly as a tabloid presence, the sort of fashion figure whose exploits the podcast "Who? Weekly" tracks in a recurring segment, complete with catchy theme song.

When Tyra Banks stepped back from "America's Next Top Model," Ora stepped up to host the show instead. Ora told "Today" that standing at the show's helm was "probably one of the funnest experiences," but evidently, her enthusiasm for the gig wasn't enough to keep her on board. After just one cycle, Ora got the chop and Banks made her return. 

Ora tried acting, too, in the "50 Shades of Grey" trilogy, where she played Mia. She initially just submitted songs to the soundtrack, but was invited to audition instead. "When things really naturally fall into place, I tend to not ignore them," she told Tribute Movies. However, despite a small role in "Detective Pikachu," acting has so far also failed to put her on the A-list.

Stop telling Britt Robertson she's the 'Next Big Thing'

Britt Robertson has been poised for a breakthrough for more than a decade. The actor led "The Secret Circle," a CW show with an ardent fanbase, and she was considered such an up-and-comer that she appeared in the opening sequence of "Scream 4," a spot famously reserved in the franchise for big names like Drew Barrymore and Jada Pinkett-Smith. However, she told BuzzFeed that she feels like she wasted that role. "I just wish I would have taken advantage of it more," she said, adding that she still hasn't seen the movie because she's afraid to watch herself in it.

Her starring role in Disney's "Tomorrowland" was supposed to mark her arrival on the A-list, though she didn't like the pressure of being written about that way. "I consider myself an actor," she told the Los Angeles Times after demurring from being called the "Next Big Thing." "To think of myself in terms of business or a strategy or 'the next big star...' Some of the best advice I was ever given was: 'Don't believe your own hype.'"

Alas, her performance in "Tomorrowland" was poorly reviewed; a Citizen-Times headline, for example, read, "'Tomorrowland' much more charming than Britt Robertson." Since the film failed to make her a superstar, Robertson has led single-season shows like "Girlboss," "Swingtown," and "For the People." 

Spencer Breslin's sister eclipsed his fame

When he was a child star, Spencer Breslin was everywhere. All in the space of three years, he starred in "The Kid" as a young Bruce Willis, the live-action version of "The Cat in the Hat," "Meet the Parents," and "The Santa Clause 2." This made the little guy one to watch, but although he has continued to work, Spencer is nowhere near the household name he once was. His last high-profile role came in M. Night Shyamalan's "The Happening;" otherwise, most of his films have been of the direct-to-video sort.

It may be that Spencer's stardom has been fully eclipsed at this point by that of his little sister Abigail Breslin, an Oscar nominee who starred in films such as "Little Miss Sunshine," "Signs," and "Zombieland." The Breslin siblings appeared in "Raising Helen" together back in the day, and in unison, they told Jay Leno that their mother warned them, "Act like brother and sister, don't behave like brother and sister."

The elder Breslin appeared on The Rice & Beans Show in 2021 to discuss his history as a child star; the titular "Beans" here refers to Breslin's fellow "Cat in the Hat" star Steven Anthony Lawrence. Reflecting on his current career, Spencer joked about school shootings as "false flag" operations, laughing, "Why didn't me and Beans ever get hired to be f***ing crisis actors, bro?... That David Hogg kid's got a way better career than me! I would have done it!" Uh... yikes.

Cara Delevingne likes to prove herself

Model Cara Delevingne rose to fame in the early 2010s thanks to her instantly iconic eyebrows; in 2014, Nylon called her "the only truly modern supermodel." Delevingne put her modeling career on hold to make a play for Hollywood superstardom, landing roles in "Anna Karenina" opposite Kiera Knightley and in "Paper Towns," an adaptation of a YA novel.

Though her part in "Anna Karenina" was small and "Paper Towns" was a decent hit, her follow-up, ultra-expensive, ultra-cheesy space opera "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets," bombed hard, per Variety. Her role as a villainous witch in "Suicide Squad" went over even worse, scraping together only a 26% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. (Delevingne, for her part, called the critical reaction to her performance "horrific" to Reuters).

Looking back on her early roles, Delevingne told Elle UK, "Fashion really f***ed me when it came to acting." She went on to explain that she was too used to playing to the camera. In a later interview with The Guardian, she shared that she didn't mind people questioning whether she deserved a film career. "I'm very professional, I work extremely hard and also I like the fact that people were questioning my talent," she insisted. "Because to be honest, I like having to prove myself to people, you know. I don't want an easy ride."

Taylor Lautner's Twilight fame became a curse

Though Taylor Lautner first hit the big screen as a child star in Robert Rodriguez's "The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl," he hit the big time with his role in the five films that made up "The Twilight Saga." Lautner played Jacob Black, the werewolf who falls in love with a fast-aging vampire child. After the final film in the saga, Lautner did all of the things you're supposed to do in order to turn buzz into a long-lasting career: a high-profile romance (with none other than Taylor Swift), a role in a rom-com ("Valentine's Day"), and a star turn in an action movie ("Abduction").

All of the above failed to convert Lautner into a bona-fide A-lister; "Abduction" was particularly poorly received, coming in at only 5% on Rotten Tomatoes. His disappearance from film screens may have fans asking, "Where the hell have you been, loca?" Lautner hasn't been seen since a 2018 role in British comedy "Cuckoo," but he will next appear in Netflix's film "Home Team" opposite Kevin James.

Even though he's no longer acting regularly, that doesn't seem to have hurt his bank account, or his love life. According to American Luxury, Lautner purchased a $3.8 million home in Agoura Hills in 2020; the following year, he got engaged to yet another Taylor. "I cannot wait to spend forever with you," the future Mrs. Lautner, Tay Dome, wrote on Instagram.

Dakota Fanning was everywhere... until she wasn't

Dakota Fanning, like her "Cat in the Hat" co-star Spencer Breslin, was a child star with a younger sister whose career also took off. Elle Fanning's big sis appeared in mega-hits like "Sweet Home Alabama," "War of the Worlds," and "Uptown Girls." Dakota may have suffered from a serious case of overexposure; The Guardian's review of her performance in "War of the Worlds" is particularly cruel, insulting the appearance of a girl who was at that time only ten years old. Following "The Twilight Saga," she pivoted to indie flicks, had small parts in blockbusters "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" and "Ocean's 8," and landed a lead role in TNT series "The Alienist." She hasn't stopped working, but she's definitely taken on a more understated career in her 20s.

The elder Fanning said in The Guardian that she never had the behavioral problems that follow with many child stars, but that the whole experience was a lot to take on. "This is why people go into a downward spiral, because they have people making them feel like they have something to be insecure about," she reflected.

While growing up in the spotlight was intense, all these years later, she's maintained a cool, calm, and collected approach to show business. "I stress about other areas of my life, but I don't really worry about [getting projects] and I just have hope that it continues," she told DuJour.