JRM allegedly sprung the N-word

For celebrities, there are plenty of ways to wreck a career: booze and drugs, releasing rubbish films or albums, tantrums, sex tapes, arrests for a litany of offences, diva behaviour, bad management, blowing all your cash, dodgy relationships. Even from all of those, redemption can be salvaged. People forgive mistakes, and will urge train wrecks to get back on track; you only need to look at the rebirth of Mickey Rourke to see how a global audience will accept and pat the back of someone who seemed previously beyond rescue.

But there is one crime that Hollywood never forgives, and that is racism. You can almost feel the instant breeze of cold shoulders being turned towards stars who cross that farthermost bound of political correctness. Whatever about DUIs and drug busts, racism and anti-Semitism are a complete no no, and doors will slam far harder in front of those who have uttered racial slurs than for any other crime.

Enter Jonathan Rhys Meyers, already with a litany of 'incidents' under his belt. Rhys Meyers (aka Jonnie O'Keefe) has a penchant for causing havoc at airports. In late 2007, he was arrested at Dublin airport after passing out in the airport bar. A year and a half later, he was arrested in Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris for allegedly assaulting a worker in another airport bar. And last week, he was accosted by authorities again after drinking several vodkas at 7am in the first-class United Airlines lounge in JFK airport en route to LA. When staff prevented him from getting on the flight, he allegedly threw out the N-word, and a lifetime ban from the airline followed.

It's no secret that Rhys Meyers has problems with alcohol. His latest stint trying to clean up will be his fourth period in rehab (that we know of.) Whether he confines his boozing to airports (quite unlikely), whether it's spurned by a fear of flying a la Colin Farrell, or whether he's boozing much of the time and it only becomes public when he's unaccompanied in an airport, Rhys Meyers has screwed up big time. But getting hammered and banned from airlines can be forgiven – hurling the N-word won't. What was he thinking? Surprisingly, his people are yet to come out with a hands-up-I-was-wrong-I'm-so-sorry statement in order to initiate some kind of damage control.

Of course, JRM isn't the first celebrity to turn the career gun on himself in recent times. And he should probably take a long hard look at some of these examples to realise how difficult it's going to be to turn things around after his politically incorrect bombshell.

Remember Isaiah Washington? He played Dr Preston Burke in Grey's Anatomy. Well he did until a bust-up on set in October 2006 where he grabbed his co-star Patrick Dempsey by the throat and called another co-star, TR Knight, a "faggot".

At the Golden Globe awards the following January, Washington made a rather ill-advised 'joke' during a red-carpet interview when he said, "I love gay. I wanted to be gay. Please let me be gay." He was fired a few months later and has failed to secure any kind of high-profile work since.

In the summer of 2006, Mel Gibson was arrested for drink driving, which set him off on an expletive-riddled tirade directed at police. "F***ing Jews..." he ranted. "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world... Are you a Jew?" Gibson was hung out to dry over his anti-Semitism, which was already under the spotlight since the controversial Passion of the Christ film two years previously. Gibson hasn't starred in or directed anything of note since the incident, and most of his primetime mentions these days come from being the butt of talk-show hosts' jokes.

In November 2006, Michael Richards, aka Kramer from Seinfeld, went on a bizarre rant at a comedy club after an African-American man mildly heckled him. "Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a f***ing fork up your ass," Richards screamed. "You can talk, you can talk, you're brave now motherf***er. Throw his ass out. He's a nigger! He's a nigger! He's a nigger! A nigger, look, there's a nigger!" In spite of several high-profile apologies after the incident, his career has hit the dirt.

Such examples should be sobering (hopefully in more ways than one) for Rhys Meyers as he heads back to rehab. You can rape a teenager and still be supported by your peers (hi Polanski), or use an embarrassing sex tape to actually launch a career (that would be Paris); you can shoot your fiancé, be addicted to brothels, overdose after injecting cocaine or try to slit your wife's throat (all Charlie Sheen) and still get a new television series, but the N-word, Jonnie, is out of bounds, and with a string of badly-performing films already to his name, getting drunk and allegedly being racist is the last thing he needed to do for his career.

In plane language: when the stars get air rage

Courtney Love threw a tantrum at Heathrow last week, screaming at her assistant while sprawled on the floor and throwing her underwear from her suitcase under other people's feet. In 2008 she was banned from a flight for smoking in a departure lounge, and in 2003 was arrested on a flight from LA to Heathrow after getting out of control when she was told her nurse wasn't allowed up to business class.

In 2008, Naomi Campbell got 200 hours of community service after throwing a tantrum on a British Airways flight and assaulting police officers after one of her bags went missing during Terminal 5's teething problems.

Peter Buck from REM was arrested after going on a red-wine and sleeping-tablet-fuelled rampage on a flight from London to Seattle. He threw yogurt over crew, knocked over trolleys and tried to steal a knife, but didn't remember any of it afterwards.

Ivana Trump refused to get off a plane at Palm Beach last December when she became agitated by children on the flight. She was eventually escorted by security.

In 1996, Liam Gallagher was banned for life from Cathay Pacific airlines after continuously smoking, threatening the pilot with a scone and throwing food at other passengers.