An Oscar win is generally a huge career boost for an actor, and one that often sends them straight to the A-list. A nomination alone can make history, and even the dress worn at the Oscar’s ceremony can become famous enough to hit the headlines.
It’s rare that anyone regrets winning an Academy Award, but sometimes, that upward trajectory just never happens, and a career that seemed to blow suddenly hot, can turn cold just as quickly.
Some of the actors on the list have dropped from the public eye completely, while others continue to act, but in much, much lower profile roles than earlier success would have suggested.
10 Helen Hunt Won An Oscar And Her Career Tanked
Back in 1997, actress Helen Hunt was on a career high. She was starring in the hit TV series Mad About You with Paul Reiser, and she would go on to win the Oscar for Best Actress in 1998 for her role in As Good As It Gets. What happened after the end of Mad About You in 1999 is anybody’s guess. She was nominated for another slew of awards for 2012’s The Sessions, but did not win, and somehow never regained the momentum her career once seemed to have.
9 Italian Actor Roberto Benigni Charmed Oscar Judges…And Disappeared From Hollywood
In 1999, actor Roberto Benigni won an Academy Award for his role in Guido Orefice’s Life Is Beautiful. In fact, he won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film (as the film’s director), and in receiving the award for Best Actor, it was the first for a male performer in a non-English-speaking role. Since then, he’s acted and directed in Italian movies, but nothing like the high profile success of the movie that made him famous – briefly – in Hollywood.
8 Mira Sorvino’s Career Took A Weinstein-Instigated Nose Dive
Mira Sorvino was not even 30 when she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the Woody Allen flick Mighty Aphrodite. Despite all the hype, though, her career languished, and she often complained about a lack of opportunity. Mighty Aphrodite was a Miramax picture, one of Weinstein’s companies – and it turns out Mira didn’t play along with Harvey’s games. As she told the New Yorker, “There may have been other factors, but I definitely felt iced out and that my rejection of Harvey had something to do with it.”
7 Haing S Ngor Was The First Asian Man To Win An Oscar In 1984
The Killing Fields (1984) was a movie about the horrific and bloody rule of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. Actor Haing S Ngor himself lived through that history, and he was not a trained actor when he took on the role of photojournalist Dith Pran. It was his absolute authenticity and the ability to convey on screen that got him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Haing went on to act in other films that didn’t get nearly as much attention, and sadly, was murdered in Los Angeles in 1996.
6 It Was Eileen Heckart – Not Goldie Hawn – Who Got The Oscar For ‘Butterflies Are Free’
Goldie Hawn may have had her biggest starring roles in the 1970s, but she’s still remembered today as the epitome of the goofy blond in comedic roles. One of the movies that shot her to success was 1972’s Butterflies Are Free, but it was actually Eileen Heckart who won for Best Supporting Actress.
Eileen had already had a great career on Broadway, and was in her mid-50s. She went on to other minor roles in movie and TV, but nothing that got her the same kind of acclaim.
5 Jean Dujardin (‘The Artist – 2011) Chose Family Over Hollywood
Jean Dujardin became an Oscar-winning actor by way of doing stand-up comedy in his native France. He had played in various roles in TV sitcoms and movies, and landed his biggest role in 2011’s The Artist. The movie is a silent film, and made the most of Dujardin’s talents as a comedian and actor. After winning the Oscar and considering all the attention that went along with it, however, he decided to stay in Paris with his family rather than make the potentially career-making move to Hollywood.
4 Jennifer Connelly Vanished Until Recently
Jennifer Connelly’s career path is something of a mystery. She was a bright young starlet when she took the role of Alicia Nash in A Beautiful Mind (2001). She would go on to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for the role. What happened after that? It’s not that she disappeared entirely, but her roles since then have been forgettable. Part of her fragmented career can be put down to the emphasis she places on family with husband Paul Bettany of MCU fame.
3 Brenda Fricker Rejected Hollywood
In 1990, veteran actress Brenda Fricker won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown. She’s worked steadily in movies and TV roles since then, but nothing with the same kind of high profile.
It’s not that the British actress couldn’t have made the leap to Hollywood – she didn’t want to. As she told the Independent, “There’s no young talent coming up that I would like to work with. I miss the part between action and cut.”
2 Marlee Matlin’s Career Fizzled Out
Marlee Matlin was the youngest actress and the only deaf woman to have ever won an Oscar for Best Actress when she won the award for 1987’s Children of a Lesser God. As such, she was an inspiration to many. She went on to appear in other movies and TV series, but largely dropped from the headlines and public view. In March 2020, during the COVID pandemic, she took to social media to model the dress she wore when winning the Oscar.
1 Hilary Swank Won Two Oscars??
It’s not that actress Hilary Swank has disappeared entirely from the acting scene. She’s been seen recently on TV (as Emma Green in Away), and in movies The Hunt and soon to be in Fatale, but it’s a mystery why the double-Oscar winner isn’t a household name. She made a big splash for her win in the groundbreaking Boys Don’t Cry in 1999, and another as a boxer in Million Dollar Baby. Recently, she’s taken time off from her career to look after her aging dad.