Movie Stars Who Turned to TV
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She may be the "New Girl" on Fox, but she's not a new face to moviegoers. Zooey Deschanel won over countless new admirers when she starred opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 2009's "(500) Days of Summer," and prior to that she'd charmed her way into a slew of other films, such as "Almost Famous," "The New Guy" (weird, right?), and "Failure to Launch." But it was the small screen where she hit the big time, as the buzzy and beautiful star of Fox's biggest live-action comedy hit in a decade.
The star of big-screen indie hits like "sex, lies, and videotape..." and "Secretary," James Spader was brought in to help NBC's "The Office" transition into the post-Steve Carell era. The choice was understandable: Spader had already won three Emmys on David E. Kelley's "The Practice" and "Boston Legal," and his "Office" character, sinister CEO Robert California, brought an interesting edge to the show. But ratings have slipped this year, and it was recently announced that Spader will exit the show at season's end. Um, does anyone have Michael Scott's number?
Alec Baldwin has certainly shown range over the years, playing all kinds of movie roles -- an unscrupulous businessman in "Glengarry Glen Ross," a goofy groom in "Prelude to a Kiss," and a murderous mobster in "The Juror" -- but who knew he could be a laugh riot on a sitcom? As over-the-top network executive Jack Donaghy on NBC's "30 Rock" for the last six seasons, Baldwin has done an amazing job of playing the deadpan yin to Tina Fey's yang, and has been rewarded with multiple Emmys and Golden Globes for the gig.
Christina Ricci practically grew up onscreen, evolving from a teenage star of the "Addams Family" films to a leading lady opposite Johnny Depp in "Sleepy Hollow." In recent years, though, her film credits have leaned toward more forgettable fare ("Bucky Larson," "Speed Racer"). So the actress leaped headfirst into a leading role on ABC's sky-high retro drama "Pan Am." Unfortunately, the show's ratings took a nosedive shortly after its successful launch, and while ABC is officially keeping mum, nobody is expecting to see a return flight this fall.
The ravishing Madeleine Stowe was a major film star in the late '80s and early '90s, starring alongside Daniel Day-Lewis in "The Last of the Mohicans" and with Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt in "12 Monkeys." A decade ago, she left the big screen behind for a quiet life with her husband ("Private Practice's" Brian Benben) and daughter on a Texas ranch. But last fall, Stowe returned to showbiz as Hamptons queen bee Victoria Grayson on ABC's new primetime soap "Revenge." The move paid off: "Revenge" is a hit, and Stowe notched a Golden Globe nomination for her work as the icy Victoria.
Jonah Hill showed he could be a scene-stealer when he attempted to buy glittery boots -- in an eBay store -- in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," and he proved he could handle top billing in the smash summer comedy "Superbad." But could he handle starring in and co-writing a weekly animated series on network TV? Turns out the answer was "no." His "Allen Gregory," about a hyper-intelligent 7-year-old, was a ratings dud, and Fox canceled production after just seven episodes.
After breaking out as motormouth Mr. Pink in Quentin Tarantino's 1992 gangster flick "Reservoir Dogs," Steve Buscemi built a stellar film career, mixing acclaimed turns in indies like "Fargo" with supporting work in blockbusters like "Armageddon." Buscemi could've just been content to star in Coen brothers movies till the end of time, but instead, he took the lead role of corrupt Atlantic City treasurer Nucky Thompson on HBO's epic period drama "Boardwalk Empire." Critically adored from the start, "Empire" has already been picked up for a third season -- and netted Buscemi a Golden Globe.
"Emily's Reasons Why Not," a network sitcom about a single gal in the city looking for love, sounded like a good idea. It starred the attractive Heather Graham, whom the world knew from films like "License to Drive," "Swingers," and "Boogie Nights," and was slotted after Monday Night Football. Unfortunately for Graham (and ABC), the series, which aired in 2006, was far from a slam dunk and was yanked after just a single episode. The New York Times later attributed the cancellation to the fact that Graham was "so off-putting." Ouch! Well, at least she bounced back with "The Hangover," kind of.
Glenn Close skyrocketed to fame with a string of critically acclaimed films including "The Natural," "The Big Chill," and, of course, the 1987 classic "Fatal Attraction," all of which landed her Oscar nominations. But after more than two decades on the big screen, the legendary actress gave a regular role on the small screen a shot, first by spending a season on FX's "The Shield," and later as the cold and calculating big-shot attorney Patty Hewes on the same network's "Damages," for which she's now taken home two Emmys and two Golden Globes. Though the show has moved to DirecTV for its fourth season and Close is back on the big screen with her Academy Award-nominated title role in "Albert Nobbs," fans will be happy to know Close is still sticking with the series.
Blazing onto the big screen like a young Jack Nicholson in 1989's pitch-black teen comedy "Heathers," Christian Slater rode his cocky bad-boy persona to stardom with films like "Pump Up the Volume" and "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves." But after a good run in movies, Slater turned to TV... and his luck ran out. "My Own Worst Enemy"? Canceled after one season. "The Forgotten"? Quickly forgotten. And his current Fox comedy, "Breaking In," returned this month to not-great ratings, which could make Slater 0 for 3 on the small screen soon enough. Who's up for "Heathers 2," huh?
We remember when TV was the last refuge of the fading movie star. But nowadays, starring in a TV series can be a pretty good career move for even a well-established film actor. Not all of them take the small screen by storm, though. With Ashley Judd set to debut this week as a former CIA agent tracking down her kidnapped son on ABC's "Missing," we're looking at five actors who successfully made the leap from movies to TV -- and five who should've stayed on the big screen.
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