From hiatus to Hollywood

Karissa Cheng, staff writer

Ke Huy Quan touched the hearts of millions when he won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. “This is the American Dream,” he said, referring to the long journey that led him to success. Though he had stepped away from the big screen in his 20s, Quan’s appearance in “Everything Everywhere All At Once” placed him back into the spotlight. He is not the first to have achieved success through a second chance; throughout the years, numerous actors have made comebacks by appearing in hit movies or shows after lengthy pauses in their careers.

Oftentimes, filmmakers opt to cast actors with long careers, as their names are easy to bank on. Actors like Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and George Clooney are able to turn a mediocre movie into a financial success solely through name recognition. However, casting directors may also be incentivized to pick actors who have returned to Hollywood after a long pause. The job of an actor is to elicit an emotional response from their viewers, and seeing an actor from one’s childhood make a reappearance on screen does just that. The idea of a “comeback movie” for returning actors appeals to audiences and makes films more profitable. One such example is Brendan Fraser, who acted in wildly popular films like “George of the Jungle” and “The Mummy” franchise, but slipped away from acting at the peak of his career due to both physical and mental health problems. He returned to the screen with “The Whale,” a 2022 drama where Fraser played the role of an overweight English instructor who attempts to reconnect with his daughter. 

The premiere of “The Whale” was met with a standing ovation lasting for six minutes, with Fraser and some audience members were brought to tears. Later, Fraser received an Oscar for Best Actor for his performance, marking his very first Oscar win. It was a winner at the box office as well, grossing over 50 million dollars compared to a budget of a mere three million. It is easy to infer that this success will be piggybacked by future studios looking to boost their viewership by enlisting returning actors. 

The pattern observed in Fraser’s and Quan’s careers is sure to be a staple in future Hollywood productions. With profit-driven producers and hordes of sentimental fans eager for their return, actors like Quan and Fraser have been welcomed back to the screen with open arms. These are the kinds of comeback stories you might only see in movies.

This piece was originally published in Zephyrus’ print edition on April 20.