Basking in the Limelight: How Hollywood Turned its Back on its Brightest Stars

Paolo Acob, Photo Editor

Exploring and celebrating the work of actors and actresses with gaps in their resumes.


From facing dangers in The Mummy, navigating the adult world in Legally Blonde 2, to  exploring everlasting friendships in Waiting to Exhale and The Goonies, actors Brendan Frasier, Jennifer Coolidge, Angela Bassett, and Ke Huy Quan have generated plenty of buzz at the annual “Oscars” ceremony since they received their Golden Globes and nominations at the 95th Annual Academy Awards this 2023 award season.

Despite all sharing accolades from several award shows, an unforeseen commonality arises with these long-time thespians, struggling to gain recognition and land opportunities that allow them to expand their body of work.

Brendan Fraser – most known for his career in The Mummy franchise and roles like George in the Jungle and Journey to the Center of the Earth – took a long break from acting before reclaiming his spot on the silver screen. In an interview with GQ, Fraser spoke candidly about the numerous hardships he had dealt with before his big return to the film industry. 

Affected by health issues, Fraser took long breaks in between jobs to undergo a laminectomy, two lumbar surgeries, a partial knee replacement, and repairs to his vocal cords. In total, Fraser had been in and out of the hospital for approximately seven years.

Fraser’s disappearance from the spotlight followed a 2003 sexual assault case, in which Fraser reported to have been groped at a Beverly Hills Hotel by Philip Berk, the former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Despite voicing his support of women’s retaliation against Hollywood executives with the #MeToo movement, he was reluctant to come forward about his experience.

To add to the mounting list of personal issues and life-altering events, the actor lost his mother in 2016, moved houses, fathered his children, and went through a divorce during his hiatus from Hollywood. “I was going through things that mold and shape you in ways that you’re not ready for until you go through them,” commented Fraser. 

When The Whale came to fruition in 2022, Fraser got an opportunity to meet with producer Darren Aronofsky. After going through plenty of producers and actors in the past for this project, Aronofsky felt that Fraser was the perfect candidate. The duo worked closely together to create an immensely compelling film, exploring themes of time, parenthood, sexuality, and existence through the eyes of Fraser’s character, ‘Charlie’: a reclusive father attempting to reconnect with his daughter after learning his life may be ending sooner than he expects. 

Upon his grand return to the big screen, Fraser took home ‘Best Lead Actor’ at the Golden Globes, BAFTA, and TIFF this past award season, with his nomination at the 95th Academy Awards prompting speculations in film circles about Fraser’s potential win.

Similarly, Jennifer Coolidge — famous for her roles in American Pie, Legally Blonde, and Best in Show —  is making her return to the big screen. “After decades in film and TV as a secret weapon the industry didn’t quite know how to use, Coolidge has just landed her first Emmy nomination for her performance in the anthology series’ debut season,” explained Daniel D’addario from Variety.

The actress found comfort in working on The White Lotus, describing the experience as a breath of fresh air. “Ten years of my life of auditioning … none of it added up to a job. The fear is gone when you’re used to losing,” Coolidge explained in an interview related to her recent Emmy buzz. 

Despite her long search for a job, Coolidge is no stranger to television. She managed to remain in the spotlight from 2012-2017 as ‘Sophie’ in 2 Broke Girls starring Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs while she continued to look for opportunities to grow as an actress.

While her role in previous works has predominantly been for comedic purposes or sexual appeal, The White Lotus offers something more. Her recent performance as a rigid narcissist, Tanya McQuoid-Hunt, solidified her role in the HBO special as she leaped from the first season’s set in Hawaii to Italy. After years of auditioning and being a performer for more than a decade, Coolidge is finally receiving the recognition she rightfully deserves at 60 years old.

Like Fraser and Coolidge, Angela Bassett’s recognition for her accolades and accomplishments through the years has been long overdue. Most notable for her performances in Waiting to Exhale, Strange Days, Contact, and Black Panther, the actress makes history as the first Marvel Actor to be nominated for an Oscar.

Making waves in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Queen Ramonda, mother of King T’Challa, Bassett delivers an exhilarating performance in the latest installment of the Black Panther franchise titled Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

Working alongside Bay Area native Ryan Coogler to continue the MCU Oscar run, Bassett’s brilliant depiction landed her the nomination for ‘Best Supporting Actress.’ Bassett expressed kinship to her on-screen character, noting, “Wakanda Forever’s Queen Ramonda is a character touched by my spirit because she is a mother and a leader who must care for her grieving nation as much as she cares for her family in mourning. Ramonda is a love letter that reflects and acknowledges what we women do every day.” 

The actress offered the performance of a lifetime as a bereaved mother and queen mourning over the recent death of her son, King T’Challa — portrayed by the late Chadwick Boseman. Bassett drew most of her inspiration from her own experience in grief, sharing that, “even in the face of adversity and loss, we can make something beautiful.”

If Bassett takes home the award, she will become the tenth black actress to win an Academy Award, joining the likes of Halle Berry, Whoopi Goldberg, Viola Davis, and her Black Panther: Wakanda Forever co-star Lupita Nyong’o, marking this moment as a historic win for inclusivity and diversity in Hollywood.

As a veteran of her craft with 35+ years of acting experience, Bassett noted that 2023 was a special year for the film industry, celebrating the successes of her contemporaries, such as Brendan Fraser, Michelle Yeoh, Sheryl Lee Ralph, and Ke Huy Quan.

Especially thrilled about their nomination is Ke Huy Quan of The Goonies and Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom fame. In a moment of reflection on his career, the now ‘Best Supporting Actor’ nominee opened up about his insecurities before assuming the role of ‘Waymond Wang’ in Everything Everywhere All At Once, saying, “It was tough … I was waiting for the phone to ring, and it rarely did.” 

Following his brief success as a child actor and his graduation from USC in the early 2000s, Quan discovered that there were not many opportunities to pursue in the acting world. Although it was his passion, he found himself on the verge of quitting his career as an actor until Destin Daniel Cretton’s film, Crazy Rich Asians struck inspiration.

“I was happy working behind the camera but I had serious FOMO… I wanted to be up there with my fellow Asian actors!” Quan joyfully expressed while discussing the film’s success.

Reinvigorated by a new wave of inclusion towards Asian-American actors and actresses following the celebrated reception of Crazy Rich Asians, Quan assumed his role as ‘Waymond Wang’ in Everything Everywhere All At Once, playing a happy-go-lucky father who wishes to support his wife and daughter while grappling with different versions of himself in alternate realities. This wacky, yet profound role is what lands Quan his first Oscar nomination and hopefully his first Academy Award. Like Bassett and Fraser, Quan is in the running for an Oscar after receiving the ‘Best Supporting Actor’ title at the Golden Globes. 

Having endured years of auditioning, neglect from Hollywood, lack of opportunities, and self-reflection, actors of all varieties — such as Brendan Fraser, Jennifer Coolidge, Angela Bassett, Ke Huy Quan, Michelle Yeoh, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Bryan Tyree Henry, and Cate Blanchett to name a few — are finally receiving their flowers, instilling hope in audiences of an Academy that is conscious towards and enabling of diversity in casting and storytelling.