7 Actors Who Dropped From the A-List to the B-List

The fall from A-list status to the B-list can represent the death knell to an actor’s hopes of movie glory. Not only can the climb to the A-list take years — even decades — an actor can just as easily tumble back down to the B-list where it becomes nearly impossible to regain the ability to rise again. Here are seven actors who have experienced the drop from the A-list to the B-list and what it’s meant for their career.

7. Gerard Butler

Gerard Butler in 300

300 | Source: Warner Bros.

The career trajectory of an actor whose big break comes in the action genre can be a risky one. For every Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger, you have Jean Claude Van Damme or Dolph Lundgren. Unfortunately, Butler seems destined for the latter in recent years after rising to prominence with 2007’s sword and sandal epic 300. If you take away his voice work on How To Train Your Dragon and its sequel, the box office patterns for his films over the last five years have had a downward trend aside from the surprise hit Olympus Has Fallen — although it’s important to note that the recent sequel London Has Fallen flopped.

6. Katherine Heigl

Actress Katherine Heigl

Katherine Heigl | Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Whether true or not, Heigl has acquired a reputation as being one of the most difficult actors in Hollywood, and it’s clearly affected her ability to thrive on the big screen. Starting with 2007’s Knocked Up, Heigl strung together a series of box office hits while establishing herself as someone with the ability to one day be in the running for an Oscar. But in 2013 some prominent stories starting surfacing about her personality, and it’s clear that these issues had already begun to affect her output in the years before. Around that same time she made her return to TV while her last three films either went straight to video-on-demand or had tiny, unsuccessful theatrical releases (Jenny’s Wedding earned $4,704 total, and that’s not a misprint). This is the same actress who only five years ago was averaging over $50 million at the box office per film.

5. Wesley Snipes

Wesley Snipes in Blade

Blade | Source: New Line Cinema

Even before Snipes was sentenced to three years in prison for tax evasion in 2010, his career as an A-lister was already in jeopardy. Following Blade: Trinity in 2004, nine of Snipes’s next 10 films were direct-to-video, which actually starts to make sense of the whole tax evasion scandal. But it’s easy to forget the kind of box office potential Snipes once represented — in total, films he has acted in have earned $1.8 billion when adjusted for inflation, including seven starring vehicles earning over $100 million each. While he’s starting a comeback of sorts with a role in The Expendables 3 and a lead role in the TV series The Player, it’s pretty unlikely Snipes will ever recapture the success of his early career.

4. Brendan Fraser

Brendan Fraser in The Mummy

The Mummy | Source: Universal Studios

Brendan Fraser is one of those actors a lot of people have fond memories of and always raises the question of, “What happened?” There’s no doubting he was once a bonafide movie star — after all, his films have earned a total of $1.6 billion when adjusted for inflation. Part of the problem might be what endeared him to audiences in the first place: His versatile skill set as equal parts action star and comedy actor. For some reason it just wasn’t the right kind of combination of skills that translated to roles as he got older, and aside from his turn in Crash, it feels like he’s been struggling to find his place in Hollywood. But don’t worry, Fraser is coming back. He recently signed on to replace Ray Liotta in a Bollywood mafia thriller, which oddly enough feels totally right for the actor considering what we’ve just been talking about.

3. Val Kilmer

Val Kilmer as Batman in Batman Forever

Batman Forever | Source: Warner Bros.

Kilmer is another actor whose difficult reputation eventually got him booted from the A-list despite having once been one of the biggest office draws of the ’80s and ’90s. Despite owning a box office prowess of nearly $2 billion when adjusted for inflation, it was immediately after his biggest film to date — 1995’s Batman Forever — that he began to implode as an A-lister. After Batman Forever director Joel Schumacher referred to Kilmer as “childish and impossible,” he soon after starred in The Island of Dr. Moreau, which became a legendary example of a production out of control with egos to match. Chronicled in the documentary Lost Souls: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau, director John Frankenheimer would later say that “Val would arrive, and an argument would happen.” He added, “I don’t like Val Kilmer, I don’t like his work ethic, and I don’t want to be associated with him ever again.”

2. Lindsey Lohan

Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls

Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls | Source: Paramount Pictures

What makes Lohan’s flameout so disappointing is that we barely got to see what she was capable of before her off-the-set problems caught up with her. Her first five films starting with The Parent Trap in 1998 earned over $500 million adjusted for inflation, which means the majority of her $685 million box office totals came from the first five films in her career. But money isn’t everything. Lohan possessed the kind of star-potential that made it clear she could be a perennial Oscar contender for years to come. None other than Meryl Streep came to the defense of Lohan’s talents after working with her on A Prairie Home Companion saying, “When they say ‘Action’, Lindsay is completely, visibly living in front of the camera, and that’s all anybody really cares about.” She added, “I think she could do anything she puts her mind to.”

Unfortunately her most recent film, The Canyons, didn’t end up being the kind of vehicle for Lohan’s resurgence many had hoped it would be. Besides the fact that the film a complete mess, a NY Times article recounting the production makes it clear she’s nowhere near clear of distractions. Which is a shame because if the article makes one thing clear, it’s this: She’s still extremely talented.

1. Nicolas Cage

Nicolas Cage in Raising Arizona

Raising Arizona | Source: Circle Films

Let’s start off with some of the raw numbers that’ll be sure to leave you speechless. $3.6 billion — that’s how much Cage’s films have earned at the domestic box office when adjusted for inflation. $267 million — that’s how much his highest grossing film, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, earned. Twelve — that’s the number of films he’s starred in that have earned over $100 million, with four earning over $200 million and several not far behind. But as his star-power has waned in recent years, his prolific embrace of B-movies has also earned him another area of legendary status.

It’s hard to figure out exactly when and how Cage dropped to the B-list, but it was probably sometime around the early to mid-2000s when he starred in films like Adaptation, Matchstick Men, and Lord of War. Soon after, his film slate began to heavily lean to B-style action films with roles in films like Ghostrider, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, and Knowing. Now that being said, it’s a little hard to call Cage’s recent career a failure, although it has seen a decline in box office power. If anything we might call Cage the most powerful B-actor of all time. But does a film like Drive Angry win any awards or lead him to compelling work? Probably not.

All of this is of course fine, but the reason Cage’s trajectory from the A-list to the B-list is so strange is because he’s such a fantastic actor. Roles in films like Raising Arizona, Wild At Heart, and Leaving Las Vegas established early in his career the kind of talent he possesses, and for that he’s earned two Academy Award nominations and one win. Prior to the last decade, it would have been easy to see him following a route like Meryl Streep to become a perennial Academy Award contender. But hey — if he enjoys the B-movie landscape, then all the power to him.

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