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Thirteen(ish) actors who left a film franchise and then returned


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Who says you can’t go home again? If home is a popular movie franchise, you definitely can, as proved by the members of the following list. This is a topic we explored a few years ago here on, but that list is already hopelessly out-of-date. With today’s release of “Underworld: Awakening” — featuring the return of Kate Beckinsale, who starred in the franchise’s first two films, then skipped 2009’s “Rise of the Lycans” — it seemed like a good time to revise, update, and expand that previous piece. Here now are a dozen(ish, one entry actually includes an entire cast) actors who moved on and then, eventually, moved back.

Sean Connery in “Diamonds Are Forever” (1971)
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Years Between Appearances: 4

Most people know Connery returned to play James Bond one last time in 1983’s “Never Say Never Again,” which came a dozen years after his previous performance as 007. But that’s not an official entry in the Eon Productions Bond series, so it doesn’t really count. Fewer people realize that Connery left the role once before, after 1967’s “You Only Live Twice,” and returned after his replacement, George Lazenby, quit following 1969’s “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” Connery had claimed he was retired from Bond after “You Only Live Twice.” Then the producers threw the then-astronomical sum of $1.25 million dollars and he was like “Retired? Oh no, I said rehired.” The opening of “Diamonds Are Forever” — where Bond finds a factory producing clones of his arch-nemesis Ernst Blofeld — might have been a sly nod to the idea of the series trying to replicate his unique Bondian essence with an Australian lookalike.

Roddy McDowell in “Escape From the Planet of the Apes” (1971)
Directed by Don Taylor
Years Between Appearances: 3

McDowell was off directing his first (and last) movie, “The Devil’s Widow,” when Fox hurried “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” into production to capitalize on the rabid success of the first film. His character, the ape scientist Cornelius, remained an important part of the sequel, but McDowell was replaced in the role by David Watson — not a huge deal, since the “PotA” makeup made it hard to spot the difference anyway. One year later, McDowell not only returned to the role of Cornelius for “Escape From the Planet of the Apes,” he became the series’ headline star. Even after Cornelius was written out of the “Apes” storyline, McDowell stayed on, playing his own son in two more films.

Peter Sellers in “The Return of the Pink Panther” (1975)
Directed by Blake Edwards
Years Between Appearances: 11

Peter Sellers is so closely associated with the role of bumbling detective Inspector Clouseau, it’s hard to believe anyone else would try to play him, but Alan Arkin, of all people, did in the forgotten 1968 film “Inspector Clouseau.” At that time, Sellers was sick of Clouseau and even sicker of series director Blake Edwards. Seven years later, the studio was able to convince Edwards and Sellers to bury the hatchet and return for the sort-of appropriately titled “The Return of the Pink Panther” (the title, most people forget, refers to a diamond rather than Clouseau).

Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in “Fast & Furious” (2009)
Directed by Justin Lin
Years Between Appearances: 6 (for Walker), 8 (for Diesel)

Diesel bailed out of “2 Fast 2 Furious” to star in “xXx;” Walker moved on to other projects before “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” which essentially rebooted the franchise with an all-new cast (though Diesel made a brief and borderline nonsensical cameo right before the closing credits). Both stars came back to the quickness and madness fold with “Fast & Furious,” which was a big enough hit to give us “Fast Five” which was an even bigger box office smash. That means a “Fast Six” and possibly even a “Fast Seven” are already in the works. It’ll be interesting to see if the franchise continues long enough for Diesel and Walker leave for bigger paydays somewhere else for a second time.

Jean-Claude Van Damme in “Universal Soldier: The Return” (1999)
Directed by Mic Rodgers
Years Between Appearances: 7

JCVD was in high demand as an action hero when he made the first “Universal Soldier” in 1992. He starred in seven movies over the next four years, including “Timecop,” “Street Fighter,” and “Maximum Risk.” At that point he didn’t have the time or the inclination to appear in the two straight-to-video “Universal Soldier” sequels, “Brothers in Arms” and “Unfinished Business.” A few years later though, Van Damme was teetering on the edge of DTV oblivion himself, and he returned for “Universal Soldier” — wait for it — “The Return,” a laughably terrible movie that ignored the previous two sequels and invented a whole new, wholly silly storyline for Van Damme’s Luc Deveraux character. Another ten years later, Van Damme’s “Universal Soldier” co-star Dolph Lundgren rejoined the franchise for his first film in 17 years, “Universal Soldier: Regeneration.” JCVD starred in that one too, and “The Return” was relegated to noncanonical status as well. Look, they’re called “Universal Soldier” not “Universally Understood Soldier,” okay? Just let it go.

Heather Langenkamp in “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” (1987) and “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” (1994)
Directed by Chuck Russell, Wes Craven
Years Between Appearances: 3, 7

Langenkamp, who played the original Final Girl in the very first “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” left and returned to Wes Craven’s signature serial on two different occasions. She was nowhere to be seen in “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2” but she starred in 1987’s “Nightmare 3: Dream Warriors,” in which her character, Nancy Thompson, worked at a psychiatric hospital helping Freddy Krueger’s newest targets learn to fight him in their dreams. Nancy (SPOILER ALERT!) died at the end of “Dream Warriors,” but Langenkamp came back to star in “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” in 1994. She played Heather Langenkamp, the actress who starred in the original “Nightmare” and is now reluctant to return to the series. It’s like a dream, but super meta.

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Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.