Reel Releases: Everyone loves a comeback

It’s been less than two weeks since Tiger Woods reminded golf fans what he’s capable of. And while he hasn’t exactly spent the past few years disappointing fans here in Augusta – he has won four times and routinely does well – there’s certainly more buzz about the Tiger threat this year. The reason? Everyone loves a comeback.


Comebacks, of course, are not limited to golf specifically or even sports generally. Film history, for instance, is filled with feel-good stories, sometimes brought to life by talented artists who managed to find that second act. Here are some prime examples.


JOHN TRAVOLTA: There was a time when Travolta seemed untouchable. He had a string of admirable hits that included both musical confections such as Grease and serious dramas including Blow-Out. But for more than 15 years, his biggest hits were a series of movies about a talking baby. It wasn’t until Quentin Tarantino cast him as troubled hit man Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction that Travolta got back on track. While it might be argued that the bad decisions that plagued the actor earlier in his career have returned to haunt him – Old Dogs and Wild Hogs – Travolta is probably an actor who people won’t discount so quickly in the future.


DENNIS HOPPER: In his lifetime Dennis Hopper was lost and found by film fans so many times it’s tough to keep up. Labeled as problematic after his stunning debut in Rebel Without a Cause, Hopper wasn’t really rediscovered until the seminal Easy Rider more than a decade later. Substance abuse problems curtailed that renaissance until the mid-’80s (with the exception of his scene-stealing photographer in Apocalypse Now) when he had an incredible run with River’s Edge, Blue Velvet and Hoosiers. While there were certainly stinkers after that (I’m talking to you, Super Mario Brothers) his talent, charisma and professional clout were never questioned again.


JODIE FOSTER: Although she worked steadily through the ’70s and ’80s, Jodie Foster wasn’t often referred to as the young actress from Taxi Driver before being cast as a rape victim in the 1988 drama The Accused. After that powerful performance, the gloves were off. She followed it with a string of incredible performances that included Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs.


GLORIA SWANSON: A star of the silent era, Swanson hadn’t worked in 14 years, and hadn’t worked regularly in more than 20, when she was cast as the deluded Norma Desmond in the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard. And while none of the work she found after was a Sunset-style classic, she did leverage her success in that film into a career that lasted into the 1970s.


MICKEY ROURKE: There was a time when Mickey Rourke was touted as Marlon Brando’s heir apparent. An unnaturally gifted performer, his early work showed an uncanny capability to strip characters down to their most primal essence. Sadly, his personal life and an ill-advised foray into professional boxing robbed Rourke of what could have been quite a few good years of work. In 2008, he reminded the world of what a powerful actor he had once been in The Wrestler, a movie, quite fittingly, about the price sometimes paid for fame and the toll taken when it is stripped away.



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