Ranking Actor Comebacks from Best to Worst

Quentin Tarantino, that great rescuer of acting careers, strikes again. This time, he’s in talks to bring back Kevin Costner, the man who melted hearts 20 years ago in Field of DreamsDances with Wolves, and The Bodyguard before the embarrassment of Waterworld drove him into semi-obscurity. Beginning in the late ’90s, he was reduced to appearing in small films, buying minor-league baseball teams and casinos, and touring as part of the country band Kevin Costner and Modern West. So, it seems appropriate that Tarantino is going after the actor for a Western, Django Unchained. But, should Costner sign on, he won’t be taking his traditional, golden-boy hero role; his potential character, Ace Woody is described as a “sadistic trainer of the male fighting slaves who entertain the white patrons of Candyland as well as the female slaves who are forced to be prostitutes.” Intriguing!

The news of Costner’s possible Tarantino-facilitated revival got us thinking about some of the best — and worst — actor comebacks on TV and film. We rank them from wonderful to awful after the jump.

Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler (2008)

What is incredible about Mickey Rourke’s performance in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler is that his character’s story so closely mirrored his own life: Like Randy “The Ram” Robinson, Rourke left his glory days (in his case a successful ’80s acting career) behind to chase an impossible dream (becoming a boxing champ), ending up physically and emotionally broken. Rourke had attempted comebacks in the past; Terrence Malick gave him a substantial role in 1998’s The Thin Red Line but then cut it, and his part in 2005’s Sin City failed to fully revive his career. His Oscar-nominated turn in The Wrestler, however, has put Rourke in high demand — last year, he joined a stacked cast of aging action stars in box-office hit The Expendables and currently has no fewer than six projects in progress.