How Daniel Radcliffe Can Beat the Post-Franchise Blues

With the new horror movie The Woman in Black, Daniel Radcliffe takes his first big step beyond Harry Potter, the decade-long film franchise that made him a household name. Transitioning from that kind of a long-running and/or hugely popular series to other roles can be an enormous hurdle for an actor. For assistance, Radcliffe can study the career trajectories of the following performers, each of whom left the security of an established franchise -- which, in many cases, rocketed them to stardom -- behind for less familiar standalone projects.

Who: Sean Connery
Franchise: James Bond (1962-1967)
Character: The suave, bed-hopping, butt-kicking, martini-swilling secret agent.
First Post-Franchise Feature: Shalako (1968). After parting ways with Bond, Connery starred opposite Brigitte Bardot (lucky guy) in this big-screen version of the Louis L'Amour-penned Western playing an expert tracker that rescues a gaggle of European tourists caught in the midst of a Native American rebellion.
Successful Transition? The semi-obscure Shalako didn't exactly help Connery shake 007's mantle (it didn't help, of course, that he reprised the role in 1971's Diamonds Are Forever and one last time in 1983's Never Say Never Again) but certainly by the late '80s, the actor was as well known for movies like The Untouchables and The Hunt for Red October as he was for his old Bond adventures.

Who: Macaulay Culkin
Franchise: Home Alone (1990-1992)
Character: Resourceful home security expert, Kevin McCallister.
First Post-Franchise Feature: The Good Son (1993). The pint-sized movie star tried to demonstrate his range by playing the bad seed Goofus opposite Elijah Wood's more likeable Gallant.
Successful Transition? Apparently, moviegoers just weren't interested in seeing the good Home Alone kid gone bad as The Good Son eked out a disappointing $40 million gross. And then, like so many child stars, Culkin's career took a big hit when puberty set in. While he still pops up in movies and on TV occasionally, his career path largely exists as a warning to other kiddie actors about the perils of growing up in the spotlight.

Who: Clint Eastwood
Franchise: The Man With No Name Trilogy (1964-1966)
Character: The titular Old West gunslinger.
First Post-Franchise Feature: Hang 'Em High (1968). Eastwood didn't exactly take a big creative risk when he left behind Sergio Leone's spaghetti Western series for this Hollywood oater. At least this time though, his character had a name -- Marshal Jed Cooper, a man who survived being lynched and earned his tin star in order to track down the crooks that (almost) killed him.
Successful Transition? Hang 'Em High continued Eastwood's rapid ascent to the top of Hollywood's food chain. Three years later, he'd direct his first feature (Play Misty For Me) and start on the path to becoming the respected auteur he is today.

Who: Carrie Fisher
Franchise: Star Wars (1977-1983)
Character: Feisty spitfire Princess Leia.
First Post-Franchise Feature: Garbo Talks (1984). Once Return of the Jedi wrapped, Fisher literally returned to Earth -- New York City, to be precise -- to play the wife of a successful accountant (Ron Silver) that conspires to find a way for his dying mother (Anne Bancroft) to meet her idol, the reclusive Greta Garbo.
Successful Transition? Though largely forgotten today, Garbo Talks (which was directed by Sidney Lumet, believe it or not) did transition Fisher into the next phase of her screen career as a familiar face that popped up every now and then in supporting roles in random movies. The actress found more success behind-the-scenes as a script doctor, novelist and playwright.

Who: Michael J. Fox
Franchise: Back to the Future (1985-1990)
Character: Accidental time traveler Marty McFly.
First Post-Franchise Feature: The Hard Way (1991). In one of the oddest of odd couple pairings, Fox rides shotgun opposite James Woods as a spoiled movie star who hangs tough with a hard-ass NYPD officer to research an upcoming role.
Successful Transition? Fox had already starred in a bunch of movies between Back to the Future films, so it wasn't unusual to see him play someone other than McFly. But The Hard Way did signal that his movie career was about to enter a valley, rather than the peak he had been ascending since the first Back to the Future flick opened.

Who: Steve Guttenberg
Franchise: Police Academy
Character: Smart aleck police cadet Carey Mahoney.
First Post-Franchise Feature: Surrender (1987). The Gute actually had a whopping five movies in theaters in '87 including his final Police Academy installment, Citizens on Patrol, which opened in April. Six months later, he appeared in Surrender as the third point in a love triangle between Michael Caine and Sally Field. (Technically, his first post-Police Academy movie to be released was the sketch comedy collage Amazon Women on the Moon, but he was just a small part of a giant ensemble there.)
Successful Transition? Just like Michael Winslow, Guttenberg's silver screen career never exploded after he departed the Academy. He's being rediscovered these days though, thanks largely to a villainous role on Veronica Mars and a hilariously self-deprecating turn on Party Down.

Who: Keira Knightley
Franchise: Pirates of the Caribbean (2003-2007)
Character: Rich girl turned high-seas swashbuckler, Elizabeth Swann.
First Post-Franchise Feature: Atonement (2007). Knightley did the blockbuster thing in between Pirates movies, but after the final one hit theaters, she retreated to England and started doing tonier films like Joe Wright's award-winning adaptation of Ian McEwan's celebrated novel.
Successful Transition? You've gotta give Knightely credit -- she's really committed herself to this whole "art house actress" thing, as recent roles in movies like The Duchess, Never Let Me Go and A Dangerous Method indicate.

Who: Christopher Reeve
Franchise: Superman (1978-1987)
Character: The Man of Steel, the Last Son of Krypton, the Big Blue Boy Scout... you get the idea.
First Post-Franchise Feature: Switching Channels (1988). This contemporary remake of the vintage screwball comedy The Front Page (which was previously made into the Golden Age classic His Girl Friday) starred Reeve as the fiancé of a cable news reporter (Kathleen Turner) who can't quit the biz or her former husband (Burt Reynolds).
Successful Transition? All of the actors that have donned those iconic tights have had trouble escaping the shadow cast by the role and Reeve was no exception. While he was perfectly fine in movies like Switching Channels, he never soared as high as he did in the Superman films. (The Quest for Peace excepted, of course.)

Who: Elijah Wood
Franchise: The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003)
Character: Brave, but naïve hobbit Frodo.
First Post-Franchise Feature: Green Street Hooligans (2005). Wood had a small part in 2004's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but this London-based movie about soccer hooligans represented his first big post-LOTR feature.
Successful Transition? Green Street Hooligans didn't exactly set the box office on fire and Wood hasn't appeared in a movie as big as LOTR since departing New Zealand. (In fact, he just shot what will be his first blockbuster in a while... the two-part adaptation of The Hobbit, for which he'll reprise his role as Frodo.) But at least he's got his cult FX series Wilfred and voiceover gigs on assorted shows (including the upcoming TRON: Uprising) to keep him busy.

Click here to read our review of The Woman in Black

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