With never-ending zeal, Hollywood looks back to the good ol' days with remakes and re-imaginings. But it's always the plots; always the stories. What about the actors? If there was any way that looking to the past would be beneficial, it would be grabbing those actors of today and getting them to dip back into the roles of yesterday -- the gigs that made us love them, but were so soon forgotten or cast aside.
Between casting ruts and earnest attempts to foster specific career paths, actors all too often leave their well-loved roots in the past, becoming an entirely different sort of performer. Very rarely do we get glimpses of those early years, and as nice as it is to see glimpses of former glory in a skit that pops up on SNL or Funny or Die, it's not the same as a feature-length, starring gig.
What follows are seven actors and actresses who are ripe for a return to the past. Naturally, this is only the start of a very long list, so be sure to add your picks in the comments.
Over thirty years ago, well before City Slicking and analyzing gangsters, Billy Crystal was Jodie Dallas, the gay son of Mary Campbell on Soap. While he had his share of ill-conceived plans, like almost getting a sex change so he could go public with his jock boyfriend, Jodie was the sane one of the bunch. His humor was in sarcasm and deep-seeded rationale.
These days, Crystal isn't doing much beyond lending his voice to a bunch of animated films, but it would be wonderful to see him go back to his early snark, and even get to play an unlikely potential woman once again.
Honorable Mention: Robin Williams -- He's never completely derailed from his manic start, but it would be nice to see the return of Mork from Ork.
If there was anything the season finale of Saturday Night Live taught us, it was that Tom Hanks still has his funny bone and desperately needs to exercise it more often. He's so entrenched in his serious blockbusters and voice work that it's hard to remember that this is the same man who (again with the dresses) starred in Bosom Buddies and kicked off his big-screen career with flicks like Bachelor Party and Splash. We've already received the message loud and clear -- he's a star who will keep on shining -- so it's high time he put aside the drama and action and gave us some silly.
Everyone seemed quite surprised to see Sean Penn be able to portray such a positive and happy life force in Milk. Years of stoic and serious work had wiped the mirth away -- but of course, it wasn't always this way. So long ago he was Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Since he's rediscovered his cheek muscles, it's high time he got a little silly once again. (In something more tantalizing, and much less worrysome, than the dreaded The Three Stooges remake.)
This is not one of those cases of a good actor just sticking with a good type of role, but an actress with promise just thrown away. Kate Hudson mesmerized most of us in Almost Famous, starting what we thought would be a long and lucrative career that could even upstage mother Goldie. But rather than sticking to engaging and unique roles, she grabbed onto the romcom train and refuses to let go. If this train could just stop, and begin to refuse the eye-rolling fare like Bride Wars, we could remember that Penny Lane is caught in that body somewhere.
Honorable Mention: Thora Birch -- Where Hudson at least gets mainstream work, Thora went from Oscar material and excellent Ghost World quirk to a long line of unnoticed B horror fare.
This selection is a bit different, in that Eric Roberts isn't an actor who forgot his early work, but who rarely gets a chance to show his talents again. As Mickey Rourke said earlier this year: "I wish there would be one g-dd--n filmmaker in this room who would let him fly..." He gets lots of side gigs now, from Thompson in Heroes to Salvatore Maroni in The Dark Knight, but it's time for Roberts' own The Wrestler, that leads to a more worthwhile and appropriate career.
While she certainly continues to get a variety of gigs from bubble-gum bright Speed Racer to In the Valley of Elah, it's hard not to wish for a return to the times when she was feeling done in, and couldn't win. Janet Weiss is well in her past, but it would be nice to see her get silly in a memorable mainstream gig that has at least some of the staying power of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And maybe some catchy tunes as well, much catchier than, say, Romance and Cigarettes.
Oh, Jane, the one woman we wish would've stayed retired, rather than suffer temporary insanity to come back to the acting world after 15 years for the likes of Monster-in-Law and George Rule. What we need, to wipe this from our memory banks, is solid, wonderful, and funny quirk. She's in her 70s, so Barbarella is out, but there's certainly something a bit racy and funny that is so irresistible we can't help but forgive her foibles in 2005 and 2007 -- if for no other reason than she deserves more than this statement attached to her name and career: "Her last movie was Georgia Rule."
Most Honorable Mention: Christian Slater -- If written last week, this list would have certainly contained Slater, but now that he's returning to the world of Heathers, what more can we ask for? Middle-aged cube gleaming?