A sudden breakthrough performance by an actor is a hard thing to live up to. We’re not talking the first performance in an actor or actress’s career, but the first role that brought them to the forefront of Hollywood. Many times, success in such a role can be a double-edged sword; on the one hand it’s great that the performer is finally being recognized and rewarded for their work, but on the other hand there is a ton of pressure to “one up” that breakout performance. This is something which many actors are simply unable to do, causing them to forever live in the shadow of this breakout performance.
While most great performers manage to overcome and indeed better their breakthrough performance, those included on this list have never quite achieved the same feat. Check out this list of 10 actors who (up to this point) have never able to top their breakout performance or role.
10. Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds
Before 2009, Waltz was completely unknown to Western audiences as an actor. That was, until Quentin Tarantino cast him as Col. Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds, which transformed Christoph Waltz into an established Hollywood actor. His breakout role in this film won him acting awards at Cannes, BAFTA, the Golden Globes, and, finally, the Oscars, with Waltz picking up the award for Best Supporting Actor. Always an effective presence on the screen, Waltz hardly ever changes his style, as he seemingly plays variations on the role which made him famous. He won a second Oscar for his role in yet another Tarantino film, collecting a Best Supporting Actor win for his role in Django Unchained. That performance, though good, is clearly not as powerful, with Waltz playing an assassin with a heart as opposed to his role as a Nazi assassin with no compassion in Inglorious Basterds.