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August 1, 2014

Gretchen Mol and Other "Almost It" Girls: Starlets Who Never Quite Made It Big

by Daynah Burnett, posted Nov 22nd 2009 6:36PM
Just this past week, HBO announced the addition of Gretchen Mol to the cast of its upcoming series 'Boardwalk Empire,' starring Steve Buscemi as Atlantic City gangster Nucky Thompson. With a string of respectable supporting roles, Mol's made a career out of not-quite making it, starting with her famous 1998 'Vanity Fair' cover that asked the entirely premature question: "Is Gretchen Mol Hollywood's New It Girl?"

But though Mol didn't exactly fade into obscurity (she earned kudos for her eye-opening turn in the indie 'The Notorious Bettie Page' and co-starred in ABC's short-lived 'Life on Mars'), neither did she become the huge success the industry predicted she would be. What happened? Was it luck, timing, bad choices or simply a case of too much hype? Whatever that case, Mol's casting got us thinking about other "Almost It" girls that Hollywood left behind about as quickly as it tried to make them mega-stars.Just this past week, HBO announced the addition of Gretchen Mol to the cast of its upcoming series 'Boardwalk Empire,' starring Steve Buscemi as Atlantic City gangster Nucky Thompson. With a string of respectable supporting roles, Mol's made a career out of not-quite making it, starting with her famous 1998 'Vanity Fair' cover that asked the entirely premature question: "Is Gretchen Mol Hollywood's New It Girl?"

But though Mol didn't exactly fade into obscurity (she earned kudos for her eye-opening turn in the indie 'The Notorious Bettie Page' and co-starred in ABC's short-lived 'Life on Mars'), neither did she become the huge success the industry predicted she would be. What happened? Was it luck, timing, bad choices or simply a case of too much hype? Whatever that case, Mol's casting got us thinking about other "Almost It" girls that Hollywood left behind about as quickly as it tried to make them mega-stars.

Shannyn SossamonShannyn Sossamon
For a while there in the 2000s, it looked like Sossamon was the next big thing. Her looks smoldered like Angelina Jolie, and she radiated quirk like Winona Ryder. But rather than go the strictly Hollywood route, Sossamon has remained somewhat in the fray, starring in smaller projects such as the indie flick 'Wristcutters: A Love Story' and CBS's vampire drama 'Moonlight.'

Natasha Gregson WagnerNatasha Gregson Wagner
Appearing in 'High Fidelity' and 'Lost Highway' early on in her career, Natasha Gregson Wagner proved herself an adorable character actress with a top-notch Hollywood pedigree. As she most recently landed a recurring told on CBS' now-canceled 'The 4400,' it looks like Hollywood probably won't ever fully embrace this daughter of another famous It Girl and icon, Natalie Wood.

Julia Stiles

Her monotone and girl-next-door looks made her an unlikely go-to girl for late '90s teen movies (she even won the 2001 Teen Choice Drama Award for her work alongside Sean Patrick Thomas in 'Save the Last Dance'), but we can't deny there's something about enigmatic about Stiles' seriousness. Putting her career on pause in to attend Columbia University, Stiles emerged ready-to-work and all grown up in 'The Bourne Identity' films. Since then, she's stayed under the Hollywood It-scene radar, and we suspect she rather likes it that way.

Selma BlairSelma Blair
Who doesn't love Selma Blair? She's the perfect combination of pout and pow. But after a spate of plum roles in late-'90s films like 'Cruel Intentions' and 'Legally Blonde,' it seemed like Blair grew into a woman before she could ever become a true It Girl. Recently, she blazed the screen alongside Ron Perlman in both 'Hellboy' films, and starred in an ill-fated American re-make of Australian sit-com 'Kath & Kim.'

Ione Skye
This model-turned-actress won everyone's heart (most notably John Cusack's) as Dianne Court in 1989's 'Say Anything.' With serious acting chops and stunning looks, she went on to star alongside Keanu Reeves in the critically-acclaimed River's Edge and a handful of offbeat films in the '90s, but managed to dodge the Hollywood spotlight and its requisite scrutiny. These days, Skye is lovely as ever and still gets steady work in film and TV. Our favorite recent Skye moment? We'd totally raise a boombox for Mrs. Veal, the frisky preacher's wife on 'Arrested Development.'


Can you think of any other 'Almost It' Girls? Let us know in the comments!

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