Back in the spotlight

Everyone loves a good comeback story. Last year, 1990s movie icon Winona Ryder gave one of the most buzz-worthy performances of her career in Netflix's Stranger Things - her first major mainstream role since she helmed comedy movie Mr. Deeds (2002). Locally, actor-turned-taxi driver Peter Yu returned to television screens earlier this month after more than a decade away, in the Channel 8 drama Hero. The Sunday Times looks at other stars who are set to return to the spotlight after a long absence

Lynne Nasir, 43

This home-grown actress was a regular on local TV screens in the 1990s and early 2000s, most notably for starring in the long- running Suria soap opera, Gelora (1998-2000, right), and the drama Dua Wajah (2002).

She was also nominated for Best Actress at Pesta Perdana twice, for Penghujung Rindu (2003) and Permintaan Aisyah (2005).

After three failed marriages - to composer Iskandar Ismail; Mr Basir Siswo, former head of Suria TV station; and Mr Zubirahmad Nazir, a customer service manager at Changi Airport - she kept a low profile, becoming an air stewardess and then a home baker for the past decade.

Now married for four years to her fourth husband - commodities broker Zaili Aman, 47 - she is ready to act again.

"I had some personal issues to deal with, but I'm feeling good about acting again. At one point, I also felt like I was doing the same kind of young girl role over and over again, but now that I'm older, I'm excited to try new things," she tells The Sunday Times.


After being approached by producers to return to the limelight, she appeared on screens last June in the domestic helper sitcom Aduh... Bibikku!, playing a mother with two young children.

Lynne Nasir

A few months later, in November, she had a role in Season 4 of the drama series Bingit, which looks at mental disorders.

She had some reservations at first about returning to show business.

"I wear a hijab all the time now, so I was worried that I would hold up everyone during scene changes. But I've been lucky that the cast and crew have been so nice to accommodate me," she says.

After all, it was hard for her to say no completely, given that acting is still her "No. 1 passion".

She says: "I've had many supportive fans and family members who have been asking me to act again for a while, which I'm very grateful for. It's nice to be back."

Her husband is equally thrilled at her comeback. He says: "I was a fan of hers a long time ago and it's about time she acted again. It's her thing. She's meant to do this."

Lee Young Ae, 45

Lee Young Ae in Park Chan Wook’s thriller flick, Sympathy For Lady Vengeance. PHOTO: SHAW

Lee was once one of South Korea's most famous acting exports when she starred in the massively popular period drama, Jewel In The Palace (2003-2004), as the Korean king's first woman physician.

The lavish 54-episode series, which was reportedly exported to about 90 countries, greatly boosted the regional popularity of Korean television at the time.

She then starred in Park Chan Wook's thriller flick, Sympathy For Lady Vengeance (2005), but quit show business after that to be a housewife and stay-at-home mother to her twins, who are now six.

Finally, after more than a decade away from the limelight, she is acting again - in another historical drama, Saimdang, playing yet another strong woman, the titular 16th-century poet and artist.

Saimdang premieres on Oh!K (StarHub TV Channel 816 and Singtel TV Channel 525) on Jan 26 at 9pm.

Goldie Hawn, 71

Goldie Hawn, 71. PHOTO: AFP

This comedy icon is known for her mega-watt smile and ditsy roles in films such as Private Benjamin (1980), The First Wives Club (1996) and Cactus Flower (1969) - the movie that earned her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar trophy.

She is returning to the silver screen 15 years after her last offering, The Banger Sisters (2002). In May, the bubbly star will be seen in Snatched, an adventure comedy in which she plays the mother of comedienne Amy Schumer.

The road movie looks like it could go down the typical women-behaving-badly route, but it should be fun enough just to see the two witty leads spar verbally.

Snatched opens in cinemas on May 11.

Brendan Fraser, 48

Brendan Fraser in The Affair, in which he plays a menacing prison guard. PHOTO: RTL CBS ENTERTAINMENT

Fraser was once goofy, charming and box-office gold.

He was everywhere in the late 1990s and early 2000s, playing the lead in popular movies such as The Mummy trilogy (1999, far right; 2001; 2008), George Of The Jungle (1997) and Journey To The Center Of The Earth (2008).

But he fell off the radar following a series of movie flops (Breakout, 2013; HairBrained, 2013) and a messy divorce from his former wife Afton Smith.

He petitioned in 2013 for a reduction of his reported US$900,000a-year in alimony fees as his career continued to slow.

Worse, he has been replaced by a younger, wittier version of himself - Chris Pratt.

Things may improve now that he has been getting good reviews for his regular story arc in the Golden Globe-winning TV series, The Affair, in which he plays a menacing prison guard.

The Affair airs on RTL CBS Entertainment (StarHub TV Channel 509) on Tuesdays at 9.55pm.

Mel Gibson at the Golden Globe Awards on Jan 8.

Mel Gibson, 61

Everyone is calling 2017 the Mel Gibson Comeback Year - the former superstar of films such as Braveheart (1995) and Lethal Weapon (1987) is getting rave reviews for his latest directorial feature Hacksaw Ridge, which opens in Singapore on Thursday.

The war movie starring Andrew Garfield has been racking up a string of awards in recent months, including the Best Action Movie at the Critics' Choice Awards, and is considered a dark horse contender at the Oscars.

It seems that Hollywood is finally ready to forgive Gibson for his infamous racist, misogynistic rants, which had earned him an unofficial exile from the movie community for the past decade.

Val Kilmer in a photo from 2015.

Val Kilmer, 57

The chiselled actor was once an A-list star as well as a sex symbol, almost rivalling his Top Gun (1986) co-star Tom Cruise in terms of popularity.

But while Cruise continued on to superstardom, Kilmer disappeared as a marquee name as he went through the new millennium starring in a string of B-grade action movies such as 5 Days Of War (2011) and Blood Out (2011), which went straight to video.

He last played the iconic role of author Mark Twain in Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn (2014), but that had a limited theatrical release as well.

This year looks promising for him though: He is set to appear in the Jo Nesbo adaptation thriller, The Snowman, alongside Michael Fassbender; as well as in Terrence Malick's Song To Song, a romance drama that will also star big names Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara and Natalie Portman.

Michelle Pfeiffer, 58

After shining in films such as Scarface (1983) and Dangerous Minds (1995), Pfeiffer was once considered one of Hollywood's most bankable and respected stars, with three Oscar nominations to her name (Dangerous Liaisons, 1988; The Fabulous Baker Boys, 1989; and Love Field, 1992).

Michelle Pfeiffer at a red-carpet premiere screening of drama series Goliath in Los Angeles last September.

In the early 2000s, she took time off to stay at home with her family - her husband, writer-producer David E. Kelly, and their two children, now 24 and 22.


While she has been working on and off for the past few years, most of her recent roles have been minor or unmemorable.

This year, she is set to return in a big way in three major film projects.

In the domestic drama Where Is Kyra?, opposite Kiefer Sutherland, she plays a woman who loses her job and is in danger of losing a lot more than that.

In Darren Aronofsky's Mother, she stars with Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem in another domestic-themed drama where a couple's relationship is threatened by the arrival of uninvited guests.

She is also part of a star-studded cast in actor-director Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of Agatha Christie's story, Murder On The Orient Express, alongside Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz and Star Wars actress Daisy Ridley.

Martin Lawrence was the star of blockbuster movies such as Bad Boys.

Martin Lawrence, 51

The comedian was the star of blockbuster movies such as Bad Boys (1995) opposite Will Smith and Big Momma's House (2000), in which he donned a fat suit to play an FBI agent who goes undercover as an overweight female nanny.

On the goggle box, his TV sitcom Martin (1992-1997) also garnered a strong following and ran for five seasons.

His star power has waned considerably in the last decade and he has reportedly been doing stand-up comedy gigs to support a lacklustre movie career (he has not been seen in a film since Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son in 2011). He may well soon be thrust back into the spotlight, however, as he starts filming Bad Boys III in March.

•Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 15, 2017, with the headline 'Back in the spotlight'. Print Edition | Subscribe