The glamorous world of Hollywood, where everything glitters and stars line the streets, is where artists of all kinds – particularly actors an actresses – go to get their big break. But not all of the famous actors who appear in your favorite movies aspired to appear on screen. Some were unexpectedly spotted on the streets eating lunch or even on their porches. Others were discovered totally by mistake. Some even made it big much later in life with a magical stroke of luck. What connects them all is that they were inexperienced when they landed the big roles that turned them into Hollywood big shots. So read on to find out the various and most bizarre ways these famous actors were discovered.
1. Mel Gibson
Hollywood big shot Mel Gibson, an Australian, had a bit of theater experience in Sydney before he made it big, but none in Hollywood. His break came after he gave a friend a ride to an audition for Mad Max.
He had just been in a bar fight the night before, and Director George Miller thought he would make a good fit for a villainous role in his post-apocalyptic sci-fi film. When Gibson returned clear-faced a few weeks later, Miller decided to cast him as the hero instead. Gibson now ranks among the world’s most famous actors.
2. Sarah Michelle Gellar
Wouldn’t it nice to be randomly spotted by a talent agent who would turn you into a star? That’s exactly what happened to Sarah Michelle Gellar when she was just four-years-old. She she was spotted eating at a restaurant in her hometown of New York City.
A week later, she landed her first acting gig and various small TV parts followed. The stunning Gellar is known best for her iconic role as the hero in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and she starred in other movies and series throughout the ’90s.
3. Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp had no intention of becoming an actor growing up. On one boring day, he decided to accompany his buddy Jackie Earle Haley to an audition for Nightmare on Elm Street. Haley didn’t get the part, but director Wes Craven saw Depp hanging around the set and asked him to audition.
Of course, Depp made the cut and ended up playing Glen, who takes part in one of the most horrifying kill scenes in horror history. Not a bad start, huh? From there, Depp would go on to become one of the most famous actors in Hollywood.
4. Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron moved to Hollywood when she was 18, living in a hotel room off the shrinking savings she earned modeling in New York City and help from her mother. Her various meetings with agents on Hollywood Boulevard bared no fruit.
One day, though, the South African native was trying to cash a $500 check from her mom and the teller refused. They got into a spat, and eventually a kind gentleman stepped over and offered to help. That kind gentleman happened to be talent agent John Crosby, who offered to represent Theron and sent her to acting classes. She landed her first role within a year.
5. Matthew McConaughey
Texas-born Matthew McConaughey wasn’t interested in following his father’s footsteps into the oil industry. Turning his back on the stereotypical Texan career choice, the stud decided he wanted to be an actor and appeared in a few student films and commercials before he joined the ranks of the world’s most famous actors.
The future Academy Award winner got his big break, though, at a hotel bar in Austin, where he met a producer who would later introduce him to Richard Linklater, who was casting for the iconic high school comedy Dazed and Confused. Linklater originally saw McConaughey as too handsome to play the role of an older creep who partied with much younger high school girls, but a simple mustache and a surfer hairdo changed his mind.
6. Jennifer Lawrence
It’s hard to believe Jennifer Lawrence is only 25 considering she’s won an Oscar for her role as Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook. However, her most celebrated role must be as Katniss Everdeen in one of the biggest movie franchises in Hollywood history: The Hunger Games. Top that with being the world’s highest-paid actress in 2015 and 2016. But when did it all start?
Lawrence’s big break was accidental – the Kentucky native was vacationing in New York City when she was spotted by a talent agent. The agent turned her into a successful teen model overnight, and she made her TV debut on the TV series Monk in 2006. From there, she went on to star in The Hunger Games, X-Men, and various other films.
7. Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe, an unforgettable icon in Hollywood history, was actually born a brunette. Not only was she not a natural blonde, she was also born as Norma Jeane Mortenson and spent most of her childhood shuffling between foster homes and orphanages.
Monroe was working at a factory for the U.S. military when a photographer happened to shoot a picture of her and put it in a magazine. From there, Monroe died her hair blonde, found success as a model and eventually appeared in several Hollywood classics.
Continue reading for more mind-blowing stories of how these famous actors made it big with no experience at all!
8. Eva Mendes
This is one Hollywood star who didn’t start out as a model, though she certainly could have. Initially, Eva Mendes was hoping to make a career in marketing when a talent agent caught a glimpse of her photo by chance.
The talent agent was looking at someone else’s portfolio and came across a photo of her friend, Mendes. The agent became enamored with her and the two met. The chance meeting propelled Mendes into minor roles in films, including Ghost Rider and 2 Fast 2 Furious, after which she took acting classes to get higher profile projects.
9. Peter Dinklage
Long before 49-year-old Peter Dinklage played Tyrion Lannister in HBO’s Emmy-winning Game of Thrones and became beloved by literally everyone who watches the show, the New Jersey native worked an office job and performed in a punk-funk-rap band called Whizzy.
The office at which he worked was called Professional Examination Services, though it was clear at that point to Dinklage that the 9-5 life wasn’t for him. “I still don’t know what the company did,” Dinklage said. “I just like, plugged information into a computer… I called in sick every Friday because I would go out Thursday night with my friends.”
10. Meryl Streep
Not everyone has the same raw natural talent Oscar darling Meryl Streep. And yet, although she appeared in numerous high school plays in her teen years, she was never really interested in pursuing acting as a career until later in life.
Then, at Vassar College in 1969, Streep gained attention across campus for her role in the play Miss Julie. It was smooth sailing toward a career of excellence from there. “I don’t think anyone ever taught Meryl acting,” a Vassar drama professor said. “She really taught herself.”
11. Pamela Anderson
Pamela Anderson, another prominent blonde Hollywood star, was leading a simple life as a fitness instructor before she found fame in the 1980s. When she went to a Canadian football game wearing a Labatt’s t-shirt, everything changed. A picture of the beautiful blonde appeared on the big screen, and the crowd went so wild over her that they called her down to the field.
Then a contract with a brewer came, and then a Playboy gig, and Hollywood came calling soon after that. The iconic blonde-haired babe played in a few TV shows before playing Lisa on Home Improvement and most famously, C.J. Parker on Baywatch.
12. Ashton Kutcher
Can you imagine being a simple college student – and an engineering student at that – and being approached by a talent scout? That’s what happened to Ashton Kutcher at the University of Iowa. The agent encouraged Kutcher to enter a modeling competition, and Kutcher ended up winning.
The brown-haired hunk went on to compete in other modeling contests and soon started to land gigs in commercials for the likes of Calvin Klein and Versace. It was his role in That ’70s Show that gave him his big break. Kutcher now stands as a giant among the world’s most famous actors.
13. Rosario Dawson
Rosario Dawson is perhaps the luckiest of them all: she didn’t even have to leave the house to be approached for a role. When she was just 15-years-old, a screenwriter spotted her hanging out on her porch and was struck by her presence.
He asked her to audition for the movie he was planning to make, Kids. Dawson excitedly auditioned for the role of Ruby and got it! Just a few years later she’d land a role in Spike Lee’s He Got Game, and the roles have been rolling in ever since.
14. Jason Statham
Jason Statham was the farthest thing from an actor before his talent was discovered. The competitive amateur high diver sold jewelry out on the streets in London to pay his bills. A talent agent noticed the gruff Statham while he was working out one day, and that led to an audition for Guy Ritchie.
The director happened to be working on his future debut film Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, and saw Statham as exactly what he needed to complete the film. Ritchie asked Statham to impersonate none other than a street vendor selling fake jewelry – just Statham’s luck. Statham landed the gig and became one of Hollywood’s most iconic action actors.
15. Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford’s story is akin to the tale of Cinderella, if Cinderella were a man. The Star Wars mega-icon trained in carpentry to support his family and was hired by legendary director George Lucas to build cabinets in his home.
It would prove to be the job of a lifetime, because Lucas took a liking to his carpenter. He offered Ford a role in American Graffiti, and his career skyrocketed from there. The brilliant stroke of luck turned Ford into one of the most famous actors ever.
Thought these actor’s big breaks were interesting, then you’ll definitely like the next one!
16. Wilford Brimley
Wilford Brimley was a real-life cowboy working on a ranch and as a blacksmith – he wasn’t a city boy waiting tables hoping to land an acting gig. But because he could ride a horse and actually looked like a cowboy, he was cast as an extra in several Westerns.
His good friend, fellow actor Robert Duvall, eventually convinced Brimley to get more serious about acting, and thankfully he did. The Oatmeal spokesman was cast in 1969’s True Grit and a few years later as Horace on the CBS classic The Waltons.
17. John Wayne
Among the top box-office draws for three decades, John Wayne was in a bit of a pickle after he was disqualified from his college football scholarship due to an injury. He didn’t have enough money to continue paying for college and needed to find a job – desperately.
After applying at various companies, Wayne began working in the prop department for Fox Studios. Forget going back to school, Wayne thought, if he could use his new job to propel himself to fame. He managed to befriend director John Ford and eventually landed his first film, Stagecoach.
18. Estella Warren
Before starring in films such as Planet of the Apes and Kangaroo Jack, Estella Warren had an entirely different career in mind (no, not modeling). She was in fact a swimmer on the Canadian National Team for years and trained since she was twelve.
Those plans took a back seat when a talent agent noticed Warren in her high school fashion show and offered her a modeling gig. That first gig led to commercial appearances and eventually acting roles on both television and film.
19. Danny Trejo
Danny Trejo kick-started his acting career exactly how you’d expect. The gruff actor had a rough time figuring out the world as a young man, and his antics landed him in prison several times. But Trejo was able to kick his toxic habits through an organized program – and became a boxing champ while he did it.
Trejo was speaking at that program when a young man stumbled upon him and asked him for help – he wanted him to play an extra in a movie. A screenwriter who had done time with Trejo and remembered his talent for boxing also happened to be there. He paid Trejo to train some of the folks on set, and eventually the director decided to give him a real part in the film. He has been a prolific actor ever since.
20. Christoph Waltz
Until 2007, Austrian-born Christoph Waltz was lucky to be able to get by and support his family doing behind-the-scenes stage work and playing small-time TV roles. But, that was all before legendary filmmaker Quentin Tarantino came knocking at his door…
The actor and director, best known for his lead roles in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, was 51 when he got the part of SS officer Hans Landa in the former, kick-starting his Hollywood career. He has won two Oscars since and rightfully earned his place as one of the most famous actors in Hollywood.
21. Alexis Bledel
Kimberly Alexis Bledel’s real interest was to become a model before starring in Gilmore Girls, and her dream came true after being scouted at a mall. Modeling, though, wasn’t earning her the money she needed to pay her tuition at NYU.
But modeling isn’t the only profitable option for a talented, attractive young woman. Knowing this, Bledel applied for several jobs ranging from waitress to actress, and ended up auditioning for Gilmore Girls as a way to make some quick cash. She didn’t put much effort into the audition and even showed up with the flu. Lucky for her, Amy Sherman-Palladino decided to cast her anyway.
22. Alden Ehrenreich
Like they tell you in college, having connections pays off. It certainly payed off for Alden Ehrenreich, who recently took on the role of Han Solo in the Star Wars spinoff Solo: A Star Wars Story. Ehrenreich’s father was Steven Spielberg’s accountant, and that played in his favor.
Spielberg discovered Ehrenreich’s talent when he saw his daughter acting in a comedy video with the boy at their friend’s Bat Mitzvah, which Spielberg attended. Spielberg reportedly loved the video and immediately got Ehrenreich an agent. “That’s how it all began,” Spielberg later said.
23. Chris Pratt
Chris Pratt wasn’t discovered as a model, nor was he approached on the street by a talent agent. He wasn’t discovered in New York or Los Angeles, either. Pratt was a waiter at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company in Maui, often spending his nights on the beach with his pals.
They say you meet interesting people serving bars and waiting tables. Well, Pratt met director Rae Dawn Chong at Bubba Gump, and she decided to cast him in a horror movie she was directing. Pratt decided to stay in LA and his acting career kicked off ever since. He’s now certainly among the world’s most famous actors.
Read on for some more bizarre stories of how these famous actors finally made it big!
24. Evangeline Lilly
As you’ve read, it’s not uncommon for an agent to approach an attractive young woman with an offer to represent her. The Canadian was strolling around British Columbia when she was stopped by a talent agent from Ford modeling. Modeling wasn’t something she had considered before, but she needed the money to pay for college.
Soon after, Lilly appeared in a commercial for a sex hotline for Canadian singles. From there, she hit the small screen for small roles on TV series, and finally made her break in 2004 when she played Kate on Lost.
25. Kristen Wiig
Everyone has that one teacher who brought out the best in them and propelled them forward, and in Kristen Wiig’s case, that teacher’s prodding led too Hollywood fame. Wiig’s teacher encouraged the talented Wiig to pursue acting after college, and clearly, she did.
Wiig moved to Los Angeles years later and became a cast member of The Groundlings improv group. After surviving a series of shady jobs trying to work as an actress, Wiig finally got her big break in 2006 on Saturday Night Live at the age of 32.
26. Sharlto Copley
The talented South African is one of the few people on this list who once actively sought a career in acting. Copley performed in school plays and studied drama in college, but eventually gave up and took the business track.
The ambitious Copley co-founded several companies at 19, and by the age of 24, he was South Africa’s youngest television producer. During that time, he allowed a young Neill Blomkamp to borrow his computers. Blomkamp never forgot that favor, and repaid Copley by casting him as the lead in District 9.
27. Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone’s is a true “rags to riches” Hollywood tale. The go-to strongman was a dirt-poor struggling actor and screenwriter in the 1970s. At one particularly low point, Stallone found himself scavenging for places to sleep, because he couldn’t afford rent.
Stallone was a true stereotype of the struggling artist – or at least he would have been if he wasn’t so jacked. That all changed when Stallone said goodbye to his twenties. His script for the movie Rocky, for which he wrote a draft in three days, was picked up. Of course, Stallone played the lead role.
28. Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson‘s reputation precedes him as one of the world’s most famous actors. He has a monumental presence in any film he takes part in, most notably in films like Django Unchained and Pulp Fiction, both films directed by the iconic Quentin Tarantino.
Indeed, it was Pulp Fiction that put him on the map as one of Hollywood’s most famous actors. Jackson was 45 when he played Jules in the film alongside John Travolta, but Tarantino took a liking to him. Jackson’s talent, Tarantino thought, would simply go to waste if he didn’t propel him to fame.
29. Morgan Freeman
Morgan Freeman has always loved acting and film. When he was a kid, he scraped together every penny he could find to go watch movies, but by the time he was a teen, he turned down a partial drama scholarship in favor of a career in the U.S. Air Force.
Eventually, in 1959, Freeman came to the realization that acting was his true passion and he moved to Hollywood to see what he could do. Freeman first received some recognition for his work in Another World and a TV series, but his big break came from his brilliant performance in Driving Miss Daisy when we has 52! As far as famous actors go, Freeman is among the best.
30. Hulk Hogan
Hogan was once a pitcher in Little League Baseball and attracted scouts from the New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds, but an injury ended his baseball career. But before the wrestling giant got into the business of wrestling and acting, he wanted to be something else.
After his baseball career ended, Hogan took a stab at his real passion: music and playing bass for a band in Florida. One night, someone in the audience thought he would make a good wrestler. It’s a good idea to listen to your audience, huh?
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