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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 This is a topic we explored a few years ago here on, but that list is already hopelessly out-of-date.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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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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