10 Actors Who Survived Their Movie Franchise

Every actor dreams of landing their own franchise, because, well, insta-superstardom right? Wrong. Just ask Star Wars’ Mark Hamill (otherwise known as “that dude who voices The Joker in all those Batman video games”), or The Fast and the Furious actor, Paul Walker, whose notoriety ends at that. There’s a method to achieving career longevity after the dust of a franchise settles — one that requires the right choices both on screen and off.
The most recent example is, of course, Jennifer Lawrence, who is literally everywhere now that the Catching Fire promotional frenzy is in full swing. Everything she wears, says, and does is being poured over, blogged about, and GIF’d faster than you can say Jabberjay, but is she risking overexposure or backlash?
The answer is most likely: no. Unlike other actors who’ve been handed the keys to a franchise, Lawrence hasn’t tried to capitalize on her sudden popularity. Instead, she’s been meticulous in selecting what she lends her considerable talents to, while maintaining the charm that made us all fall for her in the first place. It’s this affable approach that’s turned Lawrence into a big actress, and should serve her well, long after The Hunger Games franchise ends. Of course, she's not the first star who’s had to figure out a way to outlast the franchise that made them famous. Here, ten great actors who have paved the way for a new generation. (Shailene Woodley, take note.)
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Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Emma Watson, The Harry Potter Franchise
How she did it: By putting her plans of early retirement on hold to become the reigning indie queen, thanks to provocative turns in the coming-of-age tale, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, which features a pole dancing scene. Sorry Weasley, Hermione's moved on.
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Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
Al Pacino, The Godfather Franchise
How he did it: By using his revelatory talent and impeccable taste in material to establish himself as one of the greatest screen actors of all time. Pacino received four Oscar nominations before appearing in his eighth film, including a best actor nod for Dog Day Afternoon, his first post-Godfather II movie.
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Photo: Courtesy of Marvel Enterprises.
Hugh Jackman, The X-Men Franchise
How he did it: By not only being the most genial leading man in Hollywood, but also its most versatile. Take the hulking Aussie’s last three films: A drama (Prisoners), an actioner (The Wolverine), and a musical (Les Miserables). Next on the list? Science fiction, in which Jackman will play a robot with a heart in Neil Blomkamp’s Chappie.
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Photo: Courtesy of Lucasfilm.
Harrison Ford, The Star Wars Franchise
How he did it: By sticking with the two things that made him famous in the first place: A big budget franchise and George Lucas. Ford traded in Hans Solo’s blaster pistol for Indiana Jones’ leather bullwhip, making him one of the biggest movie stars ever.
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Photo: Courtesy of MGM.
Sylvester Stallone, The Rocky Franchise
How he did it: By coming into his own when American cinema was at a crossroads, transitioning from the hyperrealistic films of the '70s, to the action blowouts of the '80s, with Stallone as the signature star. Now that’s timing.
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Photo: Courtesy of Eon Productions.
Sean Connery, The James Bond Franchise
How he did it: By taking off the rug and growing some facial hair, Connery reinvented himself as the sagacious father figure in the '80s classics, The Untouchables, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, pumping fresh blood into what had become a listless career.
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Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Daniel Radcliffe, The Harry Potter Franchise
How he did it: By starring in a trio of grown-up movies this year (Kill Your Darlings, The F Word, and Horns), and by working harder than anyone else in showbiz — 90-hour weeks, sometimes — Radcliffe proved to all the doubters that there is indeed life after Hogwarts.
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Photo: Courtesy of Summit Entertainment.
Kristen Stewart, The Twilight Franchise
How she did it: By parlaying the success of another big franchise — The Snow White and The Huntsman sequel is due next year —into the freedom to pursue more nuanced films like the upcoming Gitmo drama Camp X-Ray and the Jesse Eisenberg-starring American Ultra.
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Photo: Courtesy of Marvel Enterprises.
Tobey Maguire, The Spider-Man Franchise
How he did it: By choosing quality over quantity, which meant not saying yes to every generic, high-paying project that came his way after he left the Spidey franchise in 2007, even if that meant appearing in only three major films since. Oh, yeah — being besties with Leo doesn’t hurt either.
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Photo: Courtesy of Twentieth Century-Fox.
Sigourney Weaver, The Alien Franchise
How she did it: By starring in critical and box offices smashes like Ghostbusters, Gorillas in The Mist, and Working Girl, and earning two Oscar nods along the way, Weaver made sure that her time in between the four Alien films was time well spent.