Hollywood Offers Second -- and Third -- Chances

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Giving someone a second chance is nice, but Hollywood continues to dole out million-dollar opportunities to once heavy-hitting actors who're long since past their primes.

A case in point is Kevin Costner (search), whose new epic Western “Open Range” premieres Friday, Aug. 15.

In 1990, Costner was at the top of his game, starring in and directing “Dances With Wolves,” which grossed more than $184 million, according to Billboard. The film also won Oscars for best film and best director, not to mention a nod for Costner as best actor.

Fast forward a decade and Costner has become more famous for dancing with horrible scripts and big-budget bombs.

“Waterworld” — the “Gigli” of its day — was hammered by critics and became the butt of water-cooler jokes. "The Postman," an unequivocal bomb, followed two years later and his films “Message in a Bottle” and “Dragonfly" also failed to thrill audiences.

Yet Hollywood keeps calling on the charming actor and others like him who have equally stalled careers.

Why would Hollywood gamble on such floundering stars?

Actors like Costner "ride on the coattails of their one or two giant hits," said New York Post entertainment writer Bill Hoffman. "Studios are frightened to go out on a limb with people not known so they give these guys chance after chance."

"Waterworld" cost a whopping $175 million, plus another $36 million for prints and ads, according to showbizdata.com. Yet, the film only grossed roughly $88 million. One would think that would cause serious pause about hiring the actor again.

But studios are willing to spend big money — especially when actors return to the genres that made them famous. And at least in Costner's case, fans say they're willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

“I think [Costner] is good at cowboy and Indian movies, he’ll get my dollar every time with those,” said Bonnie Rusell of Del Mar, Calif. “But in everything else, he’s like a fish out of water.”

Richard Laermer, a media commentator and author, said he just doesn't understand why Costner still has a following.

"I feel like a bobble head doll constantly shaking my head in disbelief because he hasn’t done anything good in 10 years," he said. "Until he dies, he will bounce back.”

Costner isn’t alone in the make-it-then-break-it game. Sharon Stone uncrossed her legs and became an overnight sensation in 1992's “Basic Instinct." But since her breakthrough, Stone's become more famous for her ex’s lizard bite, appearing in such disastrous films as "Gloria" and "The Muse."

John Travolta, meanwhile, thrilled fans with his cool comeback in "Pulp Fiction," but has since wore out his welcome by taking part in such flops as “She’s So Lovely” and the much-maligned “Battlefield Earth.”

“As an actor he has become lazy to some extent," Hoffman said. "He has to have a good script, he can’t get away with being himself, like Schwarzenegger can.”

Cuba Gooding Jr. is another actor who was at the top, jumping for joy on Oscar night in 1997 when he won best supporting actor for "Jerry Maguire," but has since made perplexing choices.

“He’s throwing his career away making a fast buck,” said Hoffman. “'Boat Trip' and 'Snow Dogs' were such embarrassments, he should fire his agent, fire his manager and go out and get a face lift.”

Laermer said part of getting a second chance is knowing how to work the system in Hollywood.

“In Hollywood it really is about how well you talk," he said. "[Costner] is so suave, so smooth that no one can deny him."

Sherylon Carroll of College Station, Texas, said she’d always show up for Costner. “I go to movies to be entertained and part of that is the charisma an actor has on the big screen,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Carroll isn't blind to his flops, but said she plans to patiently await his next hit.

“Everything he touches does not turn into gold, but I'm not sure any actor has that kind of track record,” she wrote. “I'll continue to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he does a quality film. If not, I'll just keep waiting and waiting and waiting. ...”