Screengrab Flashback: Cinematic Comebacks We’d Like To See

by Andrew Osborne, Leonard Pierce and Paul Clark

In honor of Natasha Lyonne’s long-awaited (by me, at least) comeback in Orange Is The New Black, here’s a 2008 article from the late, great days of’s Screengbrab bog where I hoped for that very thing (while Leonard Pierce and Paul Clark hoped to see more from Kathleen Turner, William Peter Blatty, Gene Hackman, Sean Connery and Warren Beatty).  Please to enjoy!


As a jailbait Jewish American Princess with the voice and delivery of a wised-up, middle-aged dame, Natasha Lyonne was the tough-tender soul of the priceless coming-of-age dramedy Slums of Beverly Hills and the best thing about the first two American Pie movies (well, aside from Alyson Hannigan, I mean). She even managed to bring a surprising amount of relatable dignity to her role as a bulimic escaped convict on the lam (and in love) with a psychopathic gal pal in what otherwise might have been the even campier and trashier Freeway 2: Confessions of a Trick Baby. Actresses frequently complain about the dearth of good roles for women in film, but in her too-brief above-the-radar career, Lyonne’s bright, bemused persona made even underwritten roles compelling, the clear mark of a comeback-worthy talent. Bland contemporaries like Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson are considered A-list, but I’d rather hear Lyonne read the back of an Oxycontin bottle out loud for two hours than watch Good Luck Chuck or Bride Wars. Unfortunately, booze, heroin and other substances have derailed Lyonne’s life and career in recent years, leading to hospitalizations and legal troubles (one involving threats of dog molestation…even Lyonne’s criminal record is fascinating)! But if Robert Downey, Jr. and Mickey Rourke can make it back from self-inflicted career immolation, here’s hoping Lyonne’s recent stint on Broadway (in the play Two Thousand Years) and busy upcoming film slate (including, according to the Internet Movie Database, projects called Goyband, Heterosexuals, Jelly, Outrage and The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle) are good signs that Lyonne has cleaned up her act, quit the dog molestation and will soon return to us in some decent roles (though, to be honest, the fact she’s co-starring with Michael Madsen in Outrage is less than comforting).


Following a scorching debut in the neo-noir Body Heat in 1981, Kathleen Turner – who was already in her late 20s when she made her big-screen debut – did as much as she could to establish herself as more than just a great body, a pretty face, and one of the screen’s sexiest voices. She soon established herself as a versatile and engaging actress, and had a strong career in the 1980s, but Hollywood is notoriously unforgiving of the reality of aging, and she began a slow decline in the 1990s. A combination of personal tragedy, ill health and the general lack of good roles offered to women over forty in Hollywood have caused her to be nearly invisible in the last decade or so, but she’s remained busy on the Broadway stage, and some reports of her savagely controlled performance as Martha in a revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? suggest that she may have plenty of surprises left in her. If given the chance – and if she has the inclination – Turner could still have a late-period career like that of one of her idols, Katherine Hepburn. Time will tell.


Okay, this one’s probably a bit much to hope for, considering that the man is eighty years old and not in the best condition in the world. But we’ve always believed that William Peter Blatty – best known as the author of the jillion-selling religious thriller The Exorcist – was a great filmmaker trapped inside a good novelist’s body. When he couldn’t find anyone interested in making a big-screen adaptation of his novel Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane, he decided to do it himself, with no formal training as a filmmaker – and the result was the astounding The Ninth Configuration, a genuine cult classic and one of the most surprising directorial debuts of all time. Likewise, when he became understandably unsatisfied with the direction the Exorcist franchise was taking after the rotten Exorcist 2: The Heretic, he took matters into his own hands again with The Exorcist III. And while that’s a deeply flawed film, it’s at least an imaginative one, with terrific glimpses of mood and tone that suggest the kind of thing its director might be capable of with more money and a better cast and crew. Blatty probably has neither the time nor the desire to make another movie, but as both a writer and a director, he’s shown more than once that he’s got greatness in him, and if he never has a Sidney Lumet moment and directs a great movie at the age of 83, we’ll at least always wonder what might have been.


When considering the later careers of many of cinema’s most beloved actors, it’s difficult to say which is worse — taking role after role in a string of unworthy projects just to keep busy, or turning your back on acting altogether. In the case of the three actors listed above, we suppose it’s understandable that after decades in the business, they would want to put acting aside and enjoy a nice retirement, and given the work they’ve done, we certainly don’t begrudge them that choice. However, it’s their most recent films that make us question their decisions. Hackman, always the busiest of the three, usually appeared in several movies a year prior to his decision to retire from acting after starring in 2004’s Welcome to Mooseport — Lord knows that playing second banana to Ray Romano might sour us on acting too. Connery, on the other hand, was still capable of carrying a movie well into his seventies, a gift which, alas, was usually squandered on subpar projects like Finding Forrester and his most recent film, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And Beatty, never the most prolific actor to begin with, has been absent from screens since 2001’s noxious Town & Country. While Hackman has busied himself writing books and doing voiceover work for Lowe’s and Oppenheimer Funds, Connery and Beatty have been content to rest on their laurels and turn down project after project — Connery declined to reprise his role in the latest Indiana Jones (yet another disappointing aspect of the film), whereas Beatty memorably bowed out of Kill Bill in favor of David Carradine. Still, hope springs eternal. As long as they’re still alive and healthy, there will be the possibility that one can’t-miss role will come along to lure these guys out of retirement for one final hurrah. After all, they deserve some time for themselves, but they also deserve to take one last triumphant lap before retiring for good.


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