Shame before fame. They all had to repeat that in their heads as they endured. Only a lucky few are born directly into stardom. Most actors have to start their climb through some less flattering early roles.
Prepare to witness your favorite stars earn their first pennies by accepting parts that are silly, hilarious, or damn right outrageous.
1. Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘Critters 3’
They all had to start somewhere, and for Leonardo DiCaprio, it was the pathetic third installment of ‘Critters.’
There is something about older horror movies that makes them look like comedies nowadays. You guessed right. It’s all about special effects that have become entirely overwhelmed.
‘Critters’ was Leo’s first contact with the big screen, one the actor is not exactly proud revoking. Back then, the 17-year-old was in no position to deny a role.
What’s remarkable is that Leo’s appearance in the 1991 horror came just six years before his breakthrough with ‘Titanic.’ Only a severe bout of nostalgia would make DiCaprio sign in for ‘Critters 5.’
They all have an awkward role to haunt them until the end. Check out the embarrassing debut of today’s most wanted actress!
2. Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Monk’
Jennifer Lawrence had to start from rock bottom before she could wrap her hands around an Oscars.
How low? Let’s just say she had 45 seconds of camera action and spent most of the time inside a furry costume.
Jennifer played as a high school mascot in one episode of ‘Monk.’ Her role limits to cheering for the basketball team and jumping on Shalhoub’s back.
What made it even worse for Lawrence was that she initially thought she would receive the more significant role of Emily. She went on to brag about being part of the cast for ‘Monk’ when it turned out her character was utterly meaningless to the plot.
He was a no name back then, and his career got off to a shaky start. No one predicted he would gross a total of $2 billion in the box office.
3. Keanu Reeves in ‘Young Blood’
Keanu Reeves settled in the shadow of heartthrobs like Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze for his big screen debut.
The future star of the ‘Matrix’ trilogy was 22 years old when he appeared in ‘Youngblood.’ Although secondary to the action, Keanu’s role enjoyed enough screen real estate to bait producers and to grant him something better in the future.
One is clear about actors in their early roles. Starring alongside heavyweight names is the best thing that can happen to them.
Acting is not a science but rather a craft. Just look at how young Keanu Reeves watches Rob Lowe. You can bet that deep down inside his soul he made a pledge to become equally successful.
All notorious villains were once adorable. Check twice the next time you fall in love with a child star!
4. Jack Gleeson in ‘Batman Begins’
‘Game of Thrones’ fans would cringe to see Jack Gleeson play one of the good guys.
Before maturing in one of the most hated characters in TV history, King Joffrey played an innocent child from the Narrows in ‘Batman Begins.’ Gleeson was just a 12-year-old at the time, and the movie was by far his biggest project that far.
Although brief, the scene in which Batman hands him a solid proof of their encounter spread like wildfire on the Internet. It was good enough to become a meme.
Most fans ‘blame’ Batman for saving this kid’s life. Following their line of judgment, we also consider Batman the one responsible for the death of Ned Stark and all the other nasty stuff that happened in Westeros since Joffrey took the throne.
First roles are awkward as well. Check out who had to lick a watermelon for the first few seconds of fame!
5. Jason Segel in ‘Can’t Hardly Wait’
When a movie credits you as ‘watermelon guy,’ you know your role sucked.
We are happy to share with you the youngest screen version of Jason Segel. The star of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ first appeared before the cameras in the 1998 ‘Can’t Hardly Wait.’
The short scene shows Jason eating a watermelon in a very odd fashion. He and his buddy are obviously stoned, while they have a hilarious conversation with Amanda (Jennifer Love Hewitt).
Few actors had the luck of striking gold the first time. Jason Segel’s is one of them.
Teen comedy fitted Segel like a glove. Even at the age of 37, we can’t picture him doing something other than wild frat parties and hanging out with the gang.
Starring in horror movies often leads to dead ends. The next actor defied the odds and became a God in Hollywood.
6. Tom Hanks in ‘He Knows You’re Alone’
America’s favorite actor has a rather odd first encounter with the camera.
Tom Hanks had the misfortune of applying for his first role at a time when horror movies flooded the box office. ‘He Knows You’re Alone’ marked his debut, 13 years ahead of his two consecutive Best Actor Oscars.
Slasher films follow the same pattern. Secondary characters are killed one by one, giving viewers the promised bloodbath that lured them in the cinemas in the first place. The few leads left alive thin the plot down to the essential cliffhanger.
In the original script, the minor character Elliot (played by Tom Hanks) was supposed to die. However, writers changed their mind once they saw how promising he looked on screen.
Elliot defying the odds and surviving the psychopath killer allowed Hanks enough playtime to expose his raw talent.
The next actress was lucky enough to start right. Would you have recognized her without our help?
7. Natalie Portman in ‘Léon: The Professional’
Natalie Portman had a mind-blowing first appearance on the big screen.
Selected from 2000 girls that had initially applied for the role, Natalie was just 12 at the time she filmed ‘Léon: The Professional.’ For those who do not remember, Natalie played Mathilda, the girl rescued and trained by a hitman.
Some say Hollywood ruins the minds of child actors by exposing them to dangerous stuff. Indeed, Natalie Portman got the chance to experience for the first time smoking, playing with guns, and even seeking an impossible romance with a man four times her age.
‘Léon’ acted as a launching pad for Portman’s career, proving she is capable of complex roles even at a young age.
He started small. Just look how successful he is now!
8. Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘City Slickers’
The Jake Gyllenhaal we all know is barely there in his first ever role.
The emblematic actor played a ten-year-old that is too ashamed to admit in class that his father is a salesperson. Jake played the son of Billy Crystal in the comedy ‘City Slickers.’
One crucial aspect makes Jake different from the rest of our actors on the list. A long hiatus followed his debut. It was not failing to win auditions that kept the future ‘Nighcrawler’ star away from the big screen.
Gyllenhaal’s parents wanted him to finish high school first and only after that focus on acting. The bet worked, and it probably spared him from taking awkward early roles.
One of the hottest actresses of the moment started as an awkward child. She played her part well!
9. Mila Kunis in ‘Baywatch’
Don’t rush towards the wrong conclusion!
We are not dealing with yet another case of a child actor pushed into a role too mature for its age.
Mila was just nine when she guest starred as a little girl on Baywatch. Her first appearance was so encouraging they wanted her for a second episode.
On both occasions, the characters played by Mila proved pivotal for the rescue efforts. She was the one who identified the dangers and alerted the lifeguards.
Although Baywatch was not Mila’s first contact with the camera, it did score her important points for future better-paid roles.
He is not proud and wants his first role deleted from the archives!
10. Tom Cruise in ‘Endless Love’
Everyone needs to start somewhere and Tom Cruise had the misfortune of playing an embarrassing first role.
Please excuse the shaky pics. ‘Endless Love, ’ Tom’s first ever credited appearance in front of the camera takes us back to 1981. No digital remastering could ever reveal extra details.
Although given a minor role to play, Tom’s character inspired the protagonist to burn his parent’s house down. It is incredibly amusing to hear the young Tom Cruise talk about getting scared the first time he lighted newspapers on fire.
The actor was just 19 years old and miles away from gaining his place in Hollywood. It is still a mystery what led him down the path of glory.
It was certainly not the soapy ‘Endless Love!’
Practice makes perfect. It is unbelievable from where she started.
11. Amy Adams in ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’
Amy Adams started her career back in 1999, and her first character probably haunts her nightmares.
Amy played a silly beauty pageant contestant in ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous.’ Fans probably remember she purred on stage and did all sorts of antiques to impress the jury. Unfortunately, Leslie Miller (Amy) had to settle for third place.
Amy’s debut put her next to a constellation of stars. She had a lot to learn from already famous Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards, and Kirstie Alley.
Although the movie turned out to be a box office flop, it encouraged Amy to step on the path that would lead her to greatness. 17 years later, she is best known for being denied the Oscars five times.
His early role was barely noticeable. You will want to watch that movie again!
12. Elijah Wood in ‘Back to the Future 2’
Tracing first acting roots back to a cult film like the ‘Back to the Future’ series will keep people talking about you for eons.
Elijah Wood wearing a weird cap will act as a pleasant surprise for those watching the second installment of the franchise again. Although credited only as ‘Video Game Boy,’ Elijah can extract an incredible sense of pride from getting off to a great start.
The Hobbit was an easy pick at the auditions. Who could ignore those blue eyes and that angelic face?
The only flop is here was that the future did not turn up as they pictured it 28 years ago.
The following monumental actor was once just a filler. All that worked paid off.
13. Jack Nicholson in ‘The Andy Griffith Show’
Jack Nicholson went through decades of small parts before the showbiz world finally granted him the A-list membership card.
Nicholson’s appearance on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ breaks away from the tagline of the article. It was neither his first role, not part of his early years of acting.
In fact, Nicholson counted ten years in the industry by the time CBS’s situation comedy invited him on board for two episodes. He would have to wait ten more years for his Best Actor award from the Academy.
Let’s just say Nicholson’s career was rotting in mediocrity back in the 1960s. His acting still lacked the personality we all praised in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’
Nothing can prepare you for the visual shock of seeing the next actor who had to perform in a show for kids.
14. Laurence Fishburne in ‘Pee-Wee’s Playhouse’
We hate ruining Morpheus for you, but Laurence Fishburne has an uncomfortable early appearance on screen to contemplate.
‘Pee-Wee’s Playhouse’ was the kind of show you would see on a Saturday morning three decades ago. You got the hint. The TV program was thrilling for kids to see and awkward for adults to produce.
Paul Rubens performed all sorts of goofy things in front of the camera, but nothing beats the one time he invited Laurence Fishburne dressed up as a cowboy. Cowboy Curtis interacted with a talking cow and pretended Pee Wee was his date.
Fishburne is not entitled to the lame excuse most actors employ to justify their early buffooneries. He had some years of acting under the belt and should have known better.
His successful transition from Pee-Wee to Matrix is bewildering.
Sometimes it feels good to see a future celeb humiliated like that.
15. Ben Affleck in ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’
Ben Affleck’s lowest point was not ‘Batman vs. Superman.’
The film world has a ruthless way of functioning. If you ever did something in front of the camera, the footage will always be there to make you bow your head down until shame goes away.
Most successful actors start with roles they later recall with embarrassment. Affleck’s part in ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ best describes the phenomenon.
The 44-year-old was a no name back in 1992, and his role as a basketball player was not even credited. That does not mean he got away!
Everyone can watch the moment Ben Affleck rushes off the court as a crybaby.
Her short debut was nothing more than a foolish ambition of her father.
16. Angelina Jolie in ‘Lookin’ to Get Out’
Angelina Jolie looks barely recognizable in her first ever appearance on screen.
Even so, movie experts agree that the short scene she got at the end of ‘Lookin’ to Get Out’ bares the first signs of her incredible talent.
One detail that infuriates fans the moment they get a grasp of it overshadows Angelina’s cute first steps into the limelight. The 6-year-old did not become part of the cast following a correct audition.
Angelina was fortunate enough to have Hollywood legend John Voight as her father. ‘Lookin’ to Get Out’ had Voight as the lead actor and his stature allowed him to handpick the cast.
See your favorite actor die in horror movie. Crazy, right?
17. Johnny Depp in ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’
‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ was a cult classic that made millions of teens fear being mauled in their sleep by Freddy.
What makes the film even better is that fans get to see the youngest version of Johnny Depp ever to appear on a screen. The emblematic actor was just 21 and anxious to see his name on the poster.
Please notice the ‘spoiler alert’ sign go red. What we are about to disclose here might ruin the pleasure of seeing ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ for the first time.
As you probably guessed, Glen Lantz (Johnny Depp) died at the ‘hands’ of Freddy. We won’t go to the trouble of explaining the intricate plot that saw the action alternate between dream and reality.
Depp’s character was dragged inside his waterbed. Once the slaughtering ended, his blood erupted like a geyser on the ceiling. Not a glorious way of ending your first role, isn’t it?
You will never believe what famous actor once appeared on ‘The Price Is Right!’
18. Aaron Paul in ‘The Price Is Right’
What something else for Aaron Paul before his mind-bending performance in ‘Breaking Bad?’
You will be thrilled to know Aaron’s real life persona is not much different from that of Jesse Pinkman. Before becoming famous, Aaron appeared on one episode of ‘The Price Is Right.’
What is even more remarkable is that he came inches clothes to winning the big prize. He overbid just $132 for a sportscar.
Aaron’s reactions are priceless, and the footage showing him is worth watching. Aaron was 21 at that moment and overflowing with enthusiasm and ambition.
The only disappointing thing about Aaron appearing on screen for the first time was that he was no allowed to use his favorite word. You know which word.