LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Politics was not the only arena that saw change in 2008, Hollywood also felt different as stars like Britney Spears and Robert Downey, Jr. overcame past personal troubles and let their work speak for them.
In 2007, the tabloids brimmed with celebrity scandals.
Spears attacked a paparazzo with an umbrella and flashed her private parts in public. Celebrity heiress Paris Hilton spent three weeks in jail for violating probation in a case of driving under the influence, and actress Lindsay Lohan saw her hard-partying life turn to DUI arrests and stints in rehab.
This past year stood in stark contrast.
"I would definitely say the golden age of the shock starlet seems to have ebbed," said Seth Abramovitch, editor of Defamer, a celebrity news Web site. "It peaked last year and they all sort of went into nesting mode."
Spears, 27, began 2008 on a downturn as she was twice hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation. But her life soon quieted down as a Los Angeles family court granted her visits with her sons, and her father took over her affairs.
Things got so slow for Spears that last month she told Rolling Stone magazine she felt old and boring. But quietude appears to have been a boon for the pop diva, because this month she released the chart-topping comeback album "Circus."
Since 2005, when he argued with TV interviewer Matt Lauer about psychiatry and jumped on Oprah Winfrey's couch proclaiming his love for Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise has battled his own image problems.
But this month Cruise acknowledged his past issues, saying he acted "arrogant" and just could have "handled things better." He also won acclaim for his comedic role in the movie "Tropic Thunder," parodying a nasty movie studio executive.
"I think he's been very smart about the way he has been resuscitating his career and reshaping his image," said David Hauslaib, editorial director of celebrity Web site Jossip.
Celebrity watchers said Robert, Downey Jr. returned to Hollywood's A-list and revived his drug- and arrest-plagued career by starring in hit comic book movie "Iron Man," which earned $582 million at worldwide box offices.
Downey also earned Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations for his role as an Australian actor playing a black American action hero in "Tropic Thunder."
"He is a success story in that he's also an inspiration for those younger people, like the Lindsays and the Britneys," said celebrity news blogger Perez Hilton. "He's been though rehab, he's been to jail and he's managed to come through it all," said Hilton, whose actual name is Mario Lavandeira.
While many U.S. stars stayed out of trouble this year, in Britain singer Amy Winehouse, 25, saw her battle with drug addiction overshadow her recording successes.
Along with Spears, Hilton and Lohan have also toned down their partying and settled into relationships. Hilton, 27, dated musician Benji Madden for months as Lohan, 22, became inseparable from gal pal Samantha Ronson, a celebrity DJ.
"You have really your trio of tabloid cover girls, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, and all three of them really have sort of cleaned up their act," Hauslaib said.
Not to be left out is Nicole Richie, daughter of singer Lionel Richie and Hilton's co-star on TV show "The Simple Life." The one-time Hollywood party girl who spent time in jail in August 2007, had a baby with baby with rocker Joel Madden and stayed out of tabloid scandalous headlines.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte