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Looking for the Next Mickey Rourke: Actors Who Deserve a Major Comeback

The season of Mickey Rourke has come to an end, and we miss him already. We love a good comeback, and few have done it so well.

But which other long-absent celebrities could launch a Mickey Rourke-style return to greatness? "The Wrestler" star made a public plea at last month's Independent Spirit Awards for Eric Roberts to be next in line. As Rourke begged anyone in the room to give his old trouble-making pal another chance, Eric did not seem pleased.

Mel Gibson, on the other hand, is more than ready to jump on the comeback bandwagon. In his appearance on Jimmy Kimmel's Oscar-night show, he showed himself game for anything. Clearly, Mel feels that enough time has passed since his embarrassing rant-infused DUI arrest for him to revive his stalled acting career.

We're not on board with that, but we do have some suggestions of our own. So here are the movie stars who we think deserve a second shot at success and, hopefully, Oscar glory.

Photo Gallery: Check out the stars who deserve a Mickey Rourke-style comeback.

WINONA RYDER
Winona was a full-fledged star when the whole Saks Fifth Avenue shoplifting debacle occurred. Goes to show how one momentary lapse can ruin a career. From her hot-out-of-the-gate beginning in such films as "Beetlejuice," "Heathers," and "Edward Scissorhands", to her Golden Globe-winning role in "The Age of Innocence" and Oscar-nominated turn in "Little Women," Winona was already an acclaimed actress who seemed destined for even more success. Then came the sticky fingers, and she found herself in the same boat as Mickey Rourke: no insurance company would cover her. She's finally past that hurdle and making movies again, but somehow we don't think the role of Spock's mother in the new "Star Trek" movie is going to get any Academy attention. Someone get the girl a good script. Wino Forever!

JOHN CUSACK
We make no bones about it: we love John Cusack and think he's one of the most underrated actors of his generation. Always a few steps behind bigger '80s stars like Matthew Broderick and Tom Cruise, he did have a few standout films and even won the 1990 Most Promising Actor CFCA Award, for "Say Anything." Through the years, he's made some critically lauded movies, including "Being John Malkovich" and "High Fidelity." Cusack never took a break from acting, never took to the boxing ring, and never did a stint in rehab. He just needs an award-worthy project, that one "Wrestler"-type film to win him the Oscar attention he deserves.

CHEVY CHASE
Chevy Chase needs his "Lost in Translation." Like fellow Saturday Night Live alum Bill Murray, Chevy made a string of hilarious comedies in the '80s ("Caddyshack," "Fletch," the "Vacation" series) and then sort of fell off the radar, relegated to bit parts and kids' movies, while his attempted talk show was a dismal failure. But we think if Chevy could get his "Lost in Translation" — a small, independent film that garners great reviews and award nominations — he could rise again. After all, he's Chevy Chase — and we're not.

NICOLAS CAGE
Nic Cage needs a good movie. There. We said it. He had one of the most promising careers of any actor of his generation: "Peggy Sue Got Married," "Raising Arizona," "Moonstruck." And then it happened. He started making big-budget action flicks with big payouts: "The Rock," "Con Air," "Snake Eyes." Somewhere along the way, Nic got lost. He forgot he was a great actor, married Lisa Marie, channeled Elvis, and became a parody of himself. We know that deep down inside that brooding, charming, powerful actor with something important to say still exists, but we don't think he's going to find it as Damon Macrady in the soon-to-be-released "Kick-Ass." Hopefully someone someday will get Nic a good script with soul so he can reach into his and act again.

BURT REYNOLDS
Granted, Burt Reynolds already had a second shot at success when he appeared in 1997's "Boogie Nights," but frankly, we miss our favorite '70s mustachioed bandit, and we don't see ourselves running out to catch him in "Not Another Not Another Movie" when it hits theaters later this year. So, Burt, why don't you call up Clint Eastwood and see if he's got a part in his next film for you? He helped Morgan Freeman win his first Oscar at age 67.

ERIC STOLTZ
Eric made his debut with this year's Best Actor Oscar-winner Sean Penn in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," and it seemed he was on the fast track to superstardom. Next up was "Mask" and his Golden Globe-nominated portrayal of the disfigured Rocky Dennis alongside Cher. There was "Pulp Fiction" and "Chicago Hope" and then... where's Eric? He never really went away. He's been in at least one unmemorable movie every year since then while making guest appearances on TV shows. Still, when we saw his recent truly chilling performance on "Grey's Anatomy," playing the serial killer waiting to die at Seattle Grace instead of in the gas chamber, we were reminded what a talent he is. Now Eric just needs juicy role like that in a film to get a little comeback-kid mojo of his own.

JUDD NELSON
Now that fellow Brat Packer Molly Ringwald is reaching a whole new audience of teens with her hit TV show "Confessions of an American Teenager" and Andrew McCarthy once again stepped into leading man shoes on "Lipstick Jungle," it must be hard to be Judd Nelson. The most brooding bad boy member of the Pack, Judd hasn't had a hit since "Suddenly Susan" in 1999. And even his attempts at building some cred by appearing in indie films like "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" just haven't paid off. But with eight movies slated for release in 2009, maybe John Bender will reemerge, and his criminally bad roles of the last few years will be overshadowed by a truly brilliant performance.

EMILIO ESTEVEZ
Back in the mid-'80s no one would have guessed that Charlie Sheen would become more famous and well-respected as an actor than his big brother, Emilio Estevez — least of all Emilio. The '80s were good to Estevez, who was riding high on roles in such beloved films as "The Outsiders," "The Breakfast Club" and "St. Elmo's Fire" and dating hotter-than-hot costar Demi Moore. But Hollywood's all about choices, and Emilio made some bad ones: following up those hit films with the machines-turned-killers movie "Maximum Overdrive," directing the flop "Wisdom," and marrying Paula Abdul. These days Emilio has earned respect behind the camera, directing 2006's "Bobby," but we'd like to see him get that career-reviving acting gig he really deserves.

PHOEBE CATES
Phoebe Cates was the object of every teen boy's fantasy in 1982 after her super-sexy pool scene in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." But when she married Kevin Kline in 1989, she put her career on hold to raise their two kids. When we saw Phoebe on the Oscars' red carpet last month, looking as young and beautiful as ever, it reminded us how much we miss her and made us wish she'd have her own Marisa Tomei-like comeback moment in the sun.

CRAIG SHEFFER
Remember Craig Sheffer? He's the guy who wasn't Emilio Estevez in "That Was Then‚ This Is Now" and the guy who wasn't Brad Pitt in "A River Runs Through It." He had a really attractive animal magnetism that might have been just a little too edgy for teen girls who liked the squeaky clean and safe charms of Matthew Broderick and Ralph Macchio. That must be why he never really caught on with audiences. As happy as we were to see Craig as Keith Scott on "One Tree Hill," we knew he couldn't last in the role of the super-sweet, too-boring-for-words role. So we weren't surprised when his brother, Dan, gunned Keith down in the school hallway. Craig just needs a Matt Dillon Crash-type part to remind people that he's a good actor with a dark side.

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