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 This is a topic we explored a few years ago here on IFC.com, but that list is already hopelessly out-of-date.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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.


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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

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

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines


The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.


Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.


A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.


Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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