When Actors' Old Roles Come Back To Haunt Them

These days, everybody loves Jeremy Renner. First, he wowed audiences a year ago with his role in "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" and then last fall he successfully relaunched the "Bourne" franchise. Oh, and in between, he merely costarred in one of the highest-grossing movies of all time, "The Avengers."

So why is he stooping to appear in something as lowbrow as "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters"? It's simple: Because he filmed it way back in 2011, and the studio is finally releasing it now to cash in on his new popularity.

And that phenomenon is hardly new to Hollywood. In fact, in recent years it's become something of a mini-industry: Make a crappy movie, throw it on the shelf and then, years later, dump it into theaters now that your lead has become a huge star.

Just how common is this becoming? Last year, not one but three stars found themselves in the position of having to cover their face in embarrassment due to the release of a less than stellar project from their earlier, pre-star careers.

Red DawnThe poster child for delayed releases is, of course, Chris Hemsworth, who last year had not one but two long-delayed movies hit theaters in the wake of the superstardom brought on by Marvel's "Thor" and "The Avengers." Luckily for Hemsworth, one of those films, "The Cabin in the Woods," was actually pretty damn good; filmed back in 2009, its release was delayed mostly because of legal woes at MGM. And the same could almost be said for "Red Dawn" as well, except it sucked so much that the release was delayed multiple times even after MGM finally sold the rights off.

Overall, though, it was a bit of a stroke of luck for Hemsworth that fans were first introduced to him in major blockbusters rather than iffy genre pieces, as it allowed him to become a major star before his cinematic growing pains were aired. And the same could also be said for Jennifer Lawrence, who headlined the international sensation "The Hunger Games" between filming "House at the End of the Street" in 2010 and that terribad horror film's release last fall.

And then there's Elizabeth Olsen, who landed a slew of award nominations for 2011's "Martha Marcy May Marlene" and followed it up with the horror stinkbomb "Silent House" last fall. Oddly enough, though, both of those films actually debuted on the same day at Sundance in 2011; while distributors immediately recognized Olsen's stellar performance in "Martha Marcy May Marlene" and rushed it to theaters, "Silent House" had to wait until Olsen's buzz grew big enough to warrant its release. So if you didn't like "Silent House," you can blame "Martha Marcy May Marlene" for being good.

Those are just last year's top examples, but there are plenty more where they came from. In fact, you can almost play connect the dots with delayed release vehicles, like a game of Six Degrees of Alan Smithee. Lawrence's "Silver Linings Playbook" costar Bradley Cooper, for instance, filmed the horror flick "Case 39" in 2006 but it wasn't released until 2010, after Cooper had become a star thanks to "The Hangover." And Cooper's "Case 39" costar was Renee Zellweger, who back in the '90s appeared alongside Matthew McConaughey in "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation," which was filmed in 1994 but not released until 1997 after both had become household names. And so on.

So next time you see an ad for a movie featuring your favorite new star, take a close look. Does their hairstyle look a little outdated? Do they still have a little baby fat on their face? Is there no logical reason for them to be appearing in something so low budget? Because if the answer to any of those question is yes, there's a good chance the film has been sitting on a shelf for a while, hidden away like someone's embarrassing yearbook photos.

Just ask Jeremy Renner.