The 9 Actors We Miss Most in Movies

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Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart,  Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens -- some of the most Googled actors working today.   All four young stars have multiple projects lined up and will no doubt have long careers to look forward to... or will they?   Today's above-the-title marquee names are easily turned into tomorrow's TV-movie walk-ons.  Don't believe us?  Let's take a look at nine headliners from years past -- actors who entertained us time and time again and who today, for one reason or another, have faded into obscurity...

9. Gene Wilder

When younger audiences think of Willy Wonka, they likely picture Johnny Depp's soft-voiced, porcelain-skinned, man-child in Tim Burton's 2005 re-imagining, but the quintessential Wonka will always be found in the form of the great Gene Wilder.  Wilder's manic performance in the original 1971 adaptation was the stuff of legend, achieving the rare feat of being both sweet and sinister all at once.

Wider treaded the same fine line for Mel Brooks in "The Producers," "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein" as well as teaming with Richard Prior for "Silver Streak." "Stir Crazy" and "See No Evil, Hear No Evil."  Although Wilder still dabbles in TV, who out there wouldn’t dream of Mel Brooks actually writing something funny these days in the form of one last iconic role for Wilder to round out his career in style?

8. Phoebe Cates

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The year was 1982. The school was Ridgemont High and the bikini was red. Phoebe Cates changed every straight red-blooded male's life, emerging from a swimming pool and into Judge Reinhold’s (and our) fantasies. Two years later, she was trying to NOT get things wet (specifically, Mogwais) for director Joe Dante, who turned the bad girl good in "Gremlins" and its sequel.

Laying low for a while, Cates reemerged all too briefly in 2001's "The Anniversary Party" for her "Fast Times" co-star Jennifer Jason Leigh’s directorial debut. Lately it seems Ms. Cates has been content to just be Mrs. Kevin Kline, but recent rumors of a "Gremlins 3" have kept our fantasies alive and well.

7. Warren Beatty

With a filmography spanning back over forty years to "Bonnie & Clyde," Beatty quickly became a go-to leading man for multiple decades.  By the time films like "Bugsy" came around, he had final say on the finished product even over the directors!

Despite numerous Oscar nominations and wins for his acting, directing and writing, Beatty was not invincible.  Years of accolades were blown away in a giant sandstorm when "Ishtar" was released, becoming one of the biggest box office bombs in film history.  He bounced back when he directed, produced and starred as "Dick Tracy" for Disney, the highest grossing film of his career.  All the more reason Beatty would do well to dust off the yellow suit and paint the Disney Studios backlot in primary colors one more time!

6. Kathleen Turner

In 2005, The NY Times wrote that Turner "built a career on adventurousness and frank sexuality borne of robust physicality." Sounds like The Times was trying to say what we all already had known for over 20 years: Kathleen Turner is hot.

Films like "Body Heat," "Peggy Sue Got Married," "Romancing the Stone" and "The War of the Roses" made her one of the top box office draws in the 80s. Although Turner can be seen in "Californication" on Showtime, rumors have circulated for years that Robert Zemeckis will revisit "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" with a prequel, giving Turner's sultry Jessica Rabbit the chance to make movie theaters "adventurous" and "robust" once again.

5. Charles Grodin

"Midnight Run."  "Seems Like Old Times."  The films may be old but the comedy is anything but dated.   Muppet fans will always remember Grodin as Nicky Holiday, a jewel thief who falls in love with Miss Piggy in "The Great Muppet Caper."  The patented Grodin smirk made even weaker films like "Taking Care of Business" something worth seeing.  But as more of his sub-par comedies showed up ("Clifford"), more of his fans did not.  However, with his TV talk show long gone and rumblings of another "Midnight Run," it may not be long before his character Mardukas once again badgers Robert De Niro's Jack Walsh about "why he's so unpopular with the Chicago Police Department."

4. Geena Davis

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Where would The Rockford Peaches woman’s baseball team be without her?  Where would "Louise" be?  Or Fletch?  Where would WE be?  Sadly, right where we are right now.  Davis created a string of memorable roles in the 80s and 90s beginning with "Tootsie," which led to "Fletch," "The Fly" and "Beetlejuice."  There was an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for "The Accidental Tourist" and a Best Actress nom for "Thelma and Louise."

Although Davis continued to work throughout the 90s in "A League of Their Own," and "The Long Kiss Goodnight," she fell back into television shortly after.  Perhaps with this summer's release of the fourth "Pirates" film, a sequel to "Cutthroat Island" won't be far behind?

3. Sean Connery

His line deliveries transcend the films they're in, even inspiring websites.   Who else could take a simple line of dialogue like "punch the keys" and turn it into "PUNCH the KEYZZZ For GOD'S Sake! Yeshhhh!!"?

He gave James Bond his first face, gave Elliott Ness advice, the Red October a captain and Indiana Jones a dad.  But Connery infamously turned down the role of Gandalf in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and instead chose to star in "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" which ended his career on a sour note.  Perhaps director Peter Jackson will punch the keys! and include Connery on his casting sheets as he gears up to revisit Middle-earth… how cool would it be to hear his best Draco-from-"Dragonheart" awesomeness coming out of the dragon Smaug?

2. Rene Russo

Heads turned in 1989 when Russo made her debut in "Major League," clearing the bases for a decade of starring roles that left her former career as a model behind.  Russo held her own up against Lethal Weapons Mel Gibson, Danny Glover and Joe Pesci in the third and fourth installments of the franchise as well as a number of dramas and thrillers.  We were all right there with Clint Eastwood as he waited for her to turn around and give that knowing glance as she walked away "In The Line of Fire."   Audiences may be in for that same glance once again this summer when she appears as Frigga, the woman who gave birth to "Thor."

1. Gene Hackman

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He's best known to fanboys as one of the greatest superhero villains ever captured on screen in 1979’s "Superman," but Hackman had well established himself as one of our favorite actors long before we believed a man could fly.  From "The French Connection" to "The Poseidon Adventure" and "The Conversation," Hackman alternated between leading and supporting roles and continued his streak with "Mississippi Burning," "Unforgiven" and more recent hits "Get Shorty," "The Firm," "Crimson Tide" and "The Royal Tenenbaums."

Currently retired from the acting game, we have a feeling the "Hoosiers" coach won't sit out for long.  After all, does he really want to end such a long and esteemed career with the 2004 Ray Ramono comedy "Welcome to Mooseport?"   Come on, Gene.  One more.  Not for us.  For yourself.  For yourself, Gene!