Rising stars -- Five savvy stars who got over their career slumps

By Dave Karger
Updated November 01, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

After bombing with the bloodless project Vampire in Brooklyn, the former Beverly Hills Cop returned to more straightforward comedy roots in last summer’s The Nutty Professor. Taking a cue from his 1988 hit Coming to America, the mighty morphing Murphy played seven distinct characters and grossed more than $125 million domestically. And he’ll return to action with next year’s The Metro.

Until 1995, she was mostly known as window dressing for husband Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder and Far and Away. Then she surprised audiences by proving that not only could she look really good (Batman Forever) but she could act as well (To Die For). With Jane Campion’s surreal adaptation of Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady this Christmas, she’ll prove she’s willing to take a risk for art’s sake.

Not too long ago, audiences saw him as a cockroach-eating, Elvis-impersonating indie-movie freak — if they even knew who he was. But after his last two films, Cage has shown he can wow both Academy voters (with his soused writer in Leaving Las Vegas) and action aficionados (with his aw-shucks ass kicking in The Rock). He’ll get more action in next year’s Con Air.

At 50, the perennial cutie-pie set out for revenge in The First Wives Club — and won. She emerged as spunky as ever and reminded audiences what great physical comedy is. As an upper-crusty mother in Woody Allen’s upcoming Everyone Says I Love You, she sings nicely, dances gracefully, and firms up her footing as the voice of female boomers, while remaining the male boomers’ ideal.

The textbook comeback case: In Pulp Fiction, he fully capitalized on his Saturday Night Fever cult cachet. Two years later, the former punchline is a $20 million actor with no fewer than 10 projects in the works. Look who’s laughing now.