1. Ben Affleck
His career started with a wealth of early success, but went onto the rocks with duds like Gigli. Having remade himself as an award-winning director, he heads back to the blockbusters next year as the newest Batman.
2. Drew Barrymore
After struggles with drugs and alcohol addiction tanked the child star’s career, it looked like Drew Barrymore was doomed to bad roles in cheesy pieces like Poison Ivy. But, after paying her dues in small but prestigious films, she gradually built a solid reputation as both an in-demand actress and a talented director.
3. Paula Abdul
She built the first phase of her career on disposable, dance-oriented hits. But, just when you thought she’d be prime material for a “where are they now” show, she scored a gig as one of TV’s toughest talent judges on American Idol.
4. Robert Downey Jr.
No one is a more unlikely comeback than Robert Downey Jr. Drug problems landed him in prison and rendered him almost unemployable. He was only able to secure the role of Iron Man by agreeing to a percentage of the film’s take. The move paid off far better for him than the studios. Because of its success, he’s now one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood.
5. Mayim Bialik
When we heard that Mayim Bialik had left Hollywood behind for academia, it seemed unlikely that the Blossom star would return to the screen. But, she now brings in the laughs on the hit comedy The Big Bang Theory.
6. Britney Spears
At the lowest point in her breakdown, the singer was unable to perform and engaged in increasingly bizarre public behavior. But, after taking some time off from public life, she’s emerged stronger than ever. She’s just begun a $30 million engagement in Las Vegas and was the highest paid female artist in 2012.
7. Vanessa Williams
She was the first black Miss America, but she didn’t keep her crown for long. Leaked nude photos of the pageant winner led to her being stripped of her title within a few months of winning. Williams took advantage of her notoriety instead of letting it hurt her. She proved her talent both as a singer and an actress and has shot up from a shaky start to a stable career.
8. Neil Patrick Harris
Few child actors make the transition to a successful adult. Harris makes us all forget Doogie Houser when we see him play the lecherous Barney on How I Met Your Mother.
9. Betty White
After a successful comedy career, this Golden Girl seemed to fall off the radar. But, roles in hit comedies have brought her back into the spotlight with a vengeance.
10. Wil Wheaton
He played the most hated character in all the Star Trek series, a transition to other roles seemed unlikely. But, by courting the geek audience online, he built a new career as a blogger. Before long, he’d begun to appear on the screen again.
11. Jon Cryer
He had a string of successful teen-oriented movies, then fell out of site. These days, however, he’s one of the highest paid actors on TV.
12. Patrick Dempsey
This actor is another who fell out of the spotlight after several successful teenage films. He got a second win as the sexy McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy.