The comeback kids! As critics praise Brendan Fraser’s return to Hollywood in The Whale, how celebs including Robert Downey Jr, Kiefer Sutherland and Billie Piper were MORE successful after time out of the spotlight

  • Brendan Fraser’s comeback has been hailed at the Venice Film Festival
  • Other actors have made triumphant returns to the big screen after career breaks 
  • While some saw their stars fade, others battled personal issues  

Hollywood actor Brendan Fraser is tipped for Oscars glory after a sensational comeback as his new movie debuted at the Venice Film Festival. 

Following a six minute-long standing ovation for his performance in The Whale which saw him tearing up, the actor’s comeback was sealed.

Fraser, 53, had seen his career decline in recent years after rising to fame through children’s blockbuster films such as George of the Jungle and The Mummy trilogy.

In an interview with GQ in 2018, he said he believed the reason his career had been pushed aside by Hollywood was because he had made a private allegation of sexual assault by Philip Berk, a former director of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (Berk denies the allegations).

But after the roaring success of The Whale it seems Fraser’s acting career is back on track – and he isn’t the only star to have made a comeback.

Here, FEMAIL lists the incredible returns of comeback kids – some of whom are so successful, you may not have even realised their careers were ever on hiatus…

Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Charlie Chaplin in the 1992 film Chaplin

After several years battling a drug addiction the actor landed himself a role as Tony Stark in Iron Man, which became part of the enormous Marvel Cinematic Universe

It would be difficult to list big stars who had made triumphant returns without looking at Robert Downey Jr.

The actor and son of a film producer landed his first role at the age of five in The Pound (1970). Following his movie debut the actor went on to star in films throughout the 1980s before securing his big break in Chaplin in 1992.

After a critically acclaimed performance as Charlie Chaplin which saw him nominated for an Oscar and the press dubbed him one of the greatest actors of his generation, it looked like Robert Downey Jr would only continue to rise.

However in his personal life, the talented actor was battling addictions to drugs and alcohol. 

In 1996 he was stopped by police for speeding, but when his car was searched cops found small amounts of cocaine, heroin and an unloaded gun in his truck.

Three weeks later, just before he was due to appear in court over the charges, he was caught trespassing in a neighbour’s house while under the influence and was found unconscious in one of the bedrooms.

In 1999 he was jailed after failing to take court-ordered drug tests. After his release in 2000, he was arrested twice in eight months and ordered to spend a year in rehab.

However, after meeting his wife Susan on set of the film Gothika in 2003, the actor managed to ditch the drugs for good – and his career was soon back on track.

In 2008 he landed the role of Tony Stark in the first Iron Man film, which soon became part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise. 

Reports suggest the actor, 57, earnt $75million for Avengers: Endgame, which was the last Marvel film Tony Stark appeared in.

Drew Barrymore 

Drew Barrymore’s most famous early role came when she starred in E.T: The Extra Terrestrial, at just six years old

After several years battling drug addictions and poor mental health drew went on to set up her own production company which produced films including Charlie’s Angels (pictured in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle with Cameron Diaz, centre and Lucy Liu, left)

Most viewers first saw Drew Barrymore on the big screen as an adorable six-year-old who screamed at the top of her lungs in E.T upon first seeing her brother’s extra-terrestrial friend.

But the actress had been appearing in television shows and adverts in the US as young as 11 months old after being born into an acting family.

After starring in E.T, she landed a spot as guest-host of Saturday Night Live, which made her the youngest ever person to present the entertainment show.

She was cast in several Steven King film adaptations throughout the 1980s, solidifying her place in Hollywood.

However behind the scenes the child star was battling alcohol and cocaine addictions, which saw her checked into rehab and psychiatric institutions at just 13 years old. In later years, she claimed the cocaine addiction led to her being ‘blacklisted’ by Hollywood producers.

When she was 14, Drew tried to take her own life – but thankfully she managed to recover. 

Following several stints in institutions the teenage actress was granted legal emancipation from her mother at the age of 15 – after which she moved into an apartment in Hollywood on her own.

Instead of acting, she took a job as a barista in a coffee shop – although she has joked since she didn’t excel in the role.

By the age of 17, demand was beginning to return among Hollywood producers for the young actress’s talent, and she was cast as the titular character in Poison Ivy in 1992.

By 1995 the now-20-year-old set up her own production company, Flower Films, which went on to become an enormous success, producing films including Donnie Darko and the Charlie’s Angels franchise.

Drew went on to star in Charlie’s Angels in 2000 alongside Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu, which came back for a sequel, Full Throttle, a few years later.

Now Drew, 47, has more than 60 films under her belt and, while she announced last year she’s finished with acting for now, she is still a familiar face on TV screens as the host of her daytime talk show, The Drew Barrymore Show.

Kiefer Sutherland

Kiefer Sutherland starred in cult films throughout the 1980s including The Lost Boys (pictured in The Lost Boys with Jason Patrice)

After spending a few years on the rodeo circuit Kiefer burst back onto TV screens in 2001 when he landed the role of Jack Bauer in 24

Kiefer Sutherland’s first acting credits came in the early 1980s, with his earliest big hit in Stand by Me as bully Ace Merrill.

Following the success of the coming-of-age film Kiefer, who is the son of Hollywood great Donald Sutherland, went on to star in 80s cult movies including Flatliners and The Lost Boys.

Offscreen, he was engaged to Flatliners co-star Julia Roberts, with the pair becoming a golden couple in Hollywood. 

However, on the day the pair were due to wed in 1991 Kiefer was spotted moving out of the LA home they shared – and just a few days later Julia was spotted jetting off to Dublin with Kiefer’s friend and The Lost Boys co-star, Jason Patric.

During the 1990s Kiefer went on to star in films including the critically-acclaimed A Few Good Men, as well as The Vanishing alongside Sandra Bullock and Jeff Bridges.

However towards the end of the decade his career began to go quiet, with fewer and fewer big successes in his repertoire.

In 1998, he took time off from acting to pursue an altogether different career – he joined the rodeo.

In an interview with Men’s Journal in XX he recalled his love for the sport, which was a world away from his film career.

He said: ‘The thing I learned that I’ll never forget was that if films and everything else went completely away, I’d be all right. I don’t think I really knew that before.’

However, three years later in 2001 the actor landed the role that would define his career – the tough, torturous, dogged action hero Jack Bauer in the series 24, which ran for nine seasons.

Kiefer, 55, won an Emmy for his performance in the action-packed drama, of which he also became an executive producer.

Since 24 ended he has starred in popular series including Designated Survivor, and in more recent years he has embarked upon a country music career, releasing three studio albums.

Vanessa Williams

Vanessa Williams shot to fame in 1984 when she was crowned Miss America, where she dazzled spectators and judges with her singing voice

After several years out of the spotlight, Vanessa made a big return to TV starring as Wilhelmina Slater in Ugly Betty (pictured with co-star Michael Urie)

Vanessa Williams first shot to fame after being crowned Miss America 1984 following a pageant in which she showed off her impressive singing voice.

However, she had to resign and give up her title later that year after a magazine told her it would be publishing nude photos of her. 

After being crowned a beauty queen, she went on to star in musical productions on stage before recording her first studio album, The Right Stuff, in 1988.

Her biggest hit came in 1991 when she released Save the Best for Last which reached number two in the charts.

As the decade wore on and throughout the early noughties, Vanessa continued to star in musicals but was away from the big screen.

However in 2006 she was thrust back into the limelight after landing the role of cruel fashion magazine editor Wilhelmina Slater, who instils fear in everyone who works for her.

The show, which ran for four series, saw Vanessa take centre stage as the villain viewers loved to hate as she strutted through the halls of Mode magazine in chic outfits.

After the show was axed in 2010 following a four-season run, Vanessa joined the cast of Desperate Housewives alongside stars including Teri Hatcher and Eva Longoria.

She starred as brash, spoilt neighbour Renee Williams for the final two seasons of the show – with the finale taking place on her character’s wedding day. 

John Travolta

John Travolta made a name for himself with his impressive dance moves in 1977 smash hit film Saturday Night Fever

After a lull in his career throughout the 1980s John Travolta made a triumphant comeback as Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction in 1994 (pictured with co-star Samuel L Jackson)

After hitting the big screen with impressive dance moves in Saturday Night Fever in 1977, John Travola’s rise seemed unstoppable.

His earliest acting credits came in 1975 and 1976 in films The Devil’s Rain and Carrie.

He went on to star alongside Olivia Newton-John in Grease in 1978 as cool kid, Danny Zuko, which cemented his place as a Hollywood heartthrob.

However, after the roaring success of these films the actor’s career fell into something of a lull, with fewer big successes to his name.

Throughout the 1980s his role in the Look Who’s Talking trilogy alongside Kirsty Alley kept him relevant, but fans wondered if his star was beginning to fade.

Those rumours were quashed in 1994 when he made a triumphant comeback to the big screen in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, for which he was given an Oscar nomination for his role as Vincent Vega.

The following year he starred in the comedy Get Shorty, for which the actor won a Golden Globe award. 

His career successes continued into the 2000s, which included a role in musical Hairspray. 

In the last decade he starred in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, as Simpson’s defence attorney, Robert Shapiro – for which he won another Golden Globe.

Billie Piper

In 1998, aged 15, Billie Piper became the youngest ever person to have a UK number one single after the release of Because We Want To

Billie went on to star as Rose, The Doctor’s assistant in Doctor Who, where she was cast alongside both David Tennant (pictured) and Christopher Eccleston

Billie Piper first hit the scene in the 1990s as a teenage popstar with a boisterous image.

When she was 15, her debut single, Because We Want To, shot to number one in the UK in 1998 – making her the youngest artist ever to reach that position in the UK.

However before long, Billie’s personal life took over from her career success as the hot topic on everyone’s lips as she married TV presenter Chris Evans in Las Vegas in 2001.

At the time she was 18 years old and he was 35. The pair had been dating for six months.

By 2004 they had separated and their divorce was finalised in 2007. Despite the split the pair became amicable.

But the marriage had marked period of time out of the limelight for Billie’s career – and shortly after the split she once again became a household name after landing the role of Rose in Doctor Who.

Billie worked with both Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant over several seasons before leaving the show in 2013.

She also starred in ITV drama, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, from 2007 until 2011. 

More recently Billie has won critical acclaim with her role as Suzie Pickles in Sky drama I Hate Suzie, of which she is a co-creator. Billie was nominated for a BAFTA award for her performance in the drama.

Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis starred as ex-IRA member Danny, who wants to restart his life after being released from prison, in The Boxer

Following a five-year career hiatus during which he spent time in Florence working as a shoemaker’s apprentice, Daniel returned to the big screen in Gangs of New York in 2002

After finding fame with his phenomenal talent in the 1980s, Daniel Day-Lewis took several breaks from acting throughout his career before making triumphant comebacks.

After starring in The Boxer in 1997 as Danny, a former IRA member who is released from prison and wants to start a new life in Belfast, Daniel decided it was time for a break.

During five years out of the spotlight, he moved to Florence, Italy where he became a shoemaker’s apprentice.

After secretly studying the skill while working on films in 1996 and 1997 he made it his permanent job from 1997 until 2002.

The actor later said: ‘It was a period of my life that I had a right to without any intervention of that kind.’ 

But in the early 2000s he was tempted to return to his great love of acting after being offered the role of Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz.

He has since gone on to star in Oscar-winning movies including Lincoln and There Will Be Blood – with three best actor Oscars to his name.  

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