Two years ago, Lea Michele seemed almost totally unemployable.
The “Glee” star was “canceled” in June 2020 after she tweeted in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, and former co-star Samantha Ware, a black woman, shot back that Michele had been an on-set bully. Ware wrote on Twitter in all caps, “I feel you told everyone that should you had the chance you’ll
‘s – – t in my wig!’ ”
Other “Glee” actors piled on accusations of cruelty, which led Michele to apologize on Instagram for her mean girl behavior. However the damage was done. Like many a canceled celeb, she rode off to a metaphorical Siberia . . . never to be seen again . . .
Until this September, that’s, when the “Spring Awakening” actress, 35, will take over the leading role of Fanny Brice within the Broadway revival of “Funny Girl.”
One Oscar voter said fans are able to forgive, forget and revel in the show. “Everybody knows deep down that a lot of their favorite stars through the ages were probably a – – holes, and so this looks like something people can get past for the show.”
Once canceled, Lea Michele is returning to the limelight in Broadway’s “Funny Girl.”Getty Images
Does that mean that The Great Un-Canceling is upon us?
Hollywood and Broadway sources tell The Post that bigwigs are wrestling behind the scenes with tips on how to bring back stars with messy pasts who had been sent to the glamorous glue factory. Who’s redeemable? Who isn’t? Has enough time passed because the news? Does the paying public even care anymore?
“Definitely we’re seeing those guilty of lesser demeanors beginning to crawl out of hibernation,” an industry source said of the changing landscape. “They’re off the bottom over again. But will they have the ability to fly again? We will see.”
And the trend extends from coast to coast.
James Franco will star in a latest movie called “Me, You” after several years away from acting.Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP
This month, the Hollywood Reporter revealed that James Franco, who was accused by five women of sexual misconduct in 2018 at the peak of the #MeToo movement, can even return to acting in a latest film called “Me, You.”
When his comeback was announced, the backlash was . . . nearly nonexistent.
A pair years ago, that relative silence would’ve been shocking. The person was a pariah. In a 2019 lawsuit, two of Franco’s acting students alleged that he “sought to create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and skilled sexual exploitation within the name of education.” Franco, now 44, settled with them for $2.2 million, and was never charged with a criminal offense.
Countless stories and columns were written concerning the scandal, and it features prominently in the brand new dark-side-of-Hollywood documentary “Body Parts.” Everybody — and I mean everybody — wrote Franco off as donezo, but prefer it or not, he’s back.
James Franco (right) once starred in major movies like “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”AP Photo/Twentieth Century Fox
One Hollywood top dog says Franco won’t return to his previous heights of appearing in tentpoles like “Spider-Man” or “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” “Those persons are getting horrible jobs,” they said. “Nothing like what they’d in any respect.”
Of Michele, a Broadway source said that prior to her controversy, the actress would never have willingly come second to Beanie Feldstein, who originated the role of Fanny within the revival.
“Lea would have expected to have opened ‘Funny Girl,’ ” they said, “And doubtless must have.”
Still, these diminished stars aren’t any longer in hiding. And no person seems to mind. The general public’s appetite for cancelation has waned due to COVID-19, crime, inflation and the million other storms we’re contending with without delay. The bar for banishment has risen. Sharply.
Kevin Spacey will go on trial for sexual assault within the UK next 12 months.Getty Images
Some nonnegotiable offenses are obvious: sex crimes and harassment, as an example, can’t be tolerated.
Actor Kevin Spacey is essentially the most high-profile ongoing example. The Oscar winner goes on trial for sexual assault within the UK next 12 months (he pleaded not guilty) and, unless his name is cleared, he continues to be a liability for film studios. Yes, Spacey has a low-budget Italian movie on the best way co-starring Faye Dunaway, who, as my colleague Michael Riedel reported, has had her share of backstage meltdowns. But is a latest “House of Cards” within the cards? I believe not.
Louis C.K., meanwhile, has been swiftly uncanceled regardless that he creepily masturbated in front of female employees who weren’t into it. His second likelihood is undeserved. Ya gotta make a buck, but Louis should go hawk Cayman Island timeshares with Armie Hammer — one other one who doesn’t deserve a second likelihood.
Lapses of judgment should get a re-assessment, though.
Matt Damon was excoriated last 12 months for idiotically revealing during an interview that he didn’t know “f – – – – t” was a gay slur, and admitting that he used it on the family dinner table. The silly star apologized and narrowly avoided cancelation. Good. It will not be a criminal offense to be a moron.
And, in February, when Whoopi Goldberg wrongly asserted on “The View” that the Holocaust was “not about race,” she was suspended — not fired. That was the correct call. She said sorry and learned from her mistake.
Attitude issues shouldn’t be grounds for removal from the planet either.
Broadway sources say Michele is hardly a pleasure to work with, but I say if she sells tickets, she sells tickets. Chrissy Teigen messaged teenage stars to “kill themselves,” and he or she’s still around and getting kind write-ups about her 12 months of sobriety. I say if she sells cookbooks, she sells cookbooks.
“The dust is settling and a few latest type of order is emerging,” an industry source added. “And with it, a number of the talent.”