Don't call it a comeback: the actors set to return to the A-list in 2017

The next 12 months could see stars including Debra Winger, Michelle Pfeiffer and Val Kilmer return to the public eye

Debra Winger

It’s sadly not uncommon for a female actor to go from lead to mom to obscurity within the space of a few years, but the rise and fall of the Terms of Endearment star was so notable that it led to a 2002 documentary called Searching for Debra Winger. As she entered a self-imposed retirement, the multiple-Oscar nominee’s last lead was in 1995’s Forget Paris. She returned in the following decade, but with only roles in Rachel Getting Married, and more recently, Ashton Kutcher’s Netflix show, The Ranch, to her name. This summer, however, offers her something rather more substantial: she plays alongside Tracy Letts in The Lovers as a recently separated married couple who have an affair with each other. The trailer suggests major breakout potential.

Val Kilmer

Val Kilmer
Val Kilmer, who had to deny he was close to death. Photograph: Mark Humphrey/AP

The last time you heard from Val Kilmer? Probably when Michael Douglas claimed he was close to death, something Kilmer then had to embarrassingly deny. The Batman Forever and Tombstone star saw his star appeal diminish in the late 90s with rumors of a difficult reputation (The Island of Dr Moreau marked a particular low point professionally and personally) relegating him to a plentiful array of low-grade action thrillers. But seemingly out of nowhere, he’s set to have a strong year, starring with Michael Fassbender in the Jo Nesbo thriller The Snowman and cropping up alongside Ryan Gosling and Natalie Portman in Terrence Malick’s latest drama, Song to Song. Kilmer Forever!

Michelle Pfeiffer

Michelle Pfeiffer appears in Where is Kyra?
Michelle Pfeiffer appears in Where is Kyra? Photograph: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

After roles in Scarface, The Witches of Eastwick and Dangerous Minds, Pfeiffer became one of the most marketable female actors in the industry – but after she took time out for children, Hollywood didn’t make it all that easy for her to return. She appeared in Hairspray and Stardust, but since 2007, her roles have been both minimal and forgettable. She’s got an impressive year ahead though, headlining the indie Where Is Kyra?, which will premier at Sundance later this month; appearing in the star-studded remake of Murder on the Orient Express; and, most excitingly, starring alongside Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem in Darren Aronofsky’s mysterious drama Mother.

Elisabeth Shue

He Named Me Malala Premiere Held In New YorkNEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 24: Elisabeth Shue seen at the He Named Me Malala New York premiere at Ziegfeld Theater on September 24, 2015 in New York City. PHOTOGRAPH BY JPI Studios / Barcroft Media UK Office, London. T +44 845 370 2233 W USA Office, New York City. T +1 212 796 2458 W Indian Office, Delhi. T +91 11 4053 2429 W
Elisabeth Shue: preparing for a tennis match. Photograph: JPI Studios / Barcroft Media

Breaking out at a young age in The Karate Kid and Adventures in Babysitting, Shue’s ascent to the A-list in the 90s led to her Oscar-nominated role in Leaving Las Vegas but by the following decade she was relegated to thankless roles in dross like De Niro thriller Hide & Seek and playing herself in Hamlet 2. She’s since cut her losses and taken a role in CSI but with the show now (thankfully) over, she’s back competing for roles. Luckily this year has at least one potential doozy: starring with Emma Stone and Steve Carell in Battle of the Sexes, the story behind the iconic tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. She’ll also be headed to the multiplex with Bruce Willis as his ill-fated wife in a remake of Death Wish.

Adam Sandler

‘The Meyerowitz Stories’ on set filming, New York, America - 16 Mar 2016Mandatory Credit: Photo by John Barrett/Globe Photos vi/REX/Shutterstock (5614689e) Adam Sandler ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’ on set filming, New York, America - 16 Mar 2016
Adam Sander: working with Noah Baumbach and Dustin Hoffman. Photograph: Globe Photos vi/REX/Shutterstock

In 2002, Adam Sandler took a brief break from punishing families across the world to star in Paul Thomas Anderson’s offbeat romance Punch-Drunk Love. It was a tantalizing look at what hidden skills the comic actor possesses and sadly, they have been buried ever since. He’s tried to expand but picked poorly, with The Cobbler and Men, Women and Children both tanking. While his Netflix deal continues to provide him with various opportunities to make jokes about farts and bare breasts, he’s also keen to position himself back in more highbrow company – and 2017 provides him with a stellar opportunity. He’s taking the lead in Noah Baumbach’s comedy Yeh Din Ka Kissa, with a cast that includes Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson and Ben Stiller, whose work in Greenberg and While We’re Young remains proof of what Baumbach can do with a comic actor.

Goldie Hawn

It’s been 15 years since we last saw Goldie Hawn on the big screen, starring with Susan Sarandon in The Banger Sisters, and a year after Sarandon nabbed her first lead role in many years (in the underrated comedy The Meddler), it seems fitting that she’s also making a comeback. Hawn’s comic talents, on display in Private Benjamin, The First Wives Club and Death Becomes Her, will be put to good use playing the mother of Amy Schumer’s character in the action comedy Snatched. The trailer suggests that she hasn’t lost her touch and the pair will make for a perfect sparring partners.

Halle Berry

UNITE4:HUMANITY event, Los Angeles, America - 19 Feb 2015Mandatory Credit: Photo by Broadimage/REX (4439093u) Halle Berry UNITE4:HUMANITY event, Los Angeles, America - 19 Feb 2015
Halle Berry appeared in a string of disasters. Photograph: Broadimage/REX

Despite boasting an Oscar, Halle Berry has failed to nab herself an agent able to bring her the scripts she deserves. An almost impossibly long line of disasters (Catwoman, Perfect Stranger, New Year’s Eve, Movie 43) has led to many forgetting her considerable talents. She headed to the small screen with the Spielberg-produced Extant but achieved only moderate success. This year she’s back in force with a role in the action sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle, leading the frenetic thriller Kidnap and, most promisingly, starring with Daniel Craig in Mustang director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s English language debut Kings, about the LA riots of 1992.


Benjamin Lee

The GuardianTramp

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