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Seven stages of movie star comebacks

Movie Star Comebacks
Male actors from Marlon Brando to Robert Downey Jr often burn brightly but briefly before falling on hard times. Here’s how they turn failure into success.

Everyone loves a comeback story. Just look at Matthew McConaughey, who went from a punchline to an Oscar winner in just a few short years. Film critics didn’t just admire his performance as an Aids patient in Dallas Buyers’ Club. They appreciated that he transformed from being the shirtless stud of romcoms like Fool’s Gold and Failure to Launch to a serious actor. It seemed an unlikely turnaround, but it’s one many actors have made over the years. In fact, you can identify seven specific stages of male movie stars’ career life cycles – stages that actors as diverse as John Travolta, Marlon Brando, Ben Affleck, Robert Downey Jr, McConaughey and Dennis Hopper have all shared. No female actors on this list? It’s hard to think of one who fits these specific stages – this is a uniquely male phenomenon. 

Comebacks: Tales of triumphant returns

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