Weekend Roundtable: Humble Beginnings

Everyone has to start somewhere. Before she lit up the box office headlining the ‘Divergent’ series, Shailene Woodley began her career as a child actor who made occasional appearances in TV shows like ‘The O.C.’ and ‘Crossing Jordan’. In this week’s Roundtable, we take a look at the humble beginnings for other actors who would later go on to be much bigger stars.

Luke Hickman

I remember watching ‘Black Hawk Down‘ for the first time and having a hard time keeping all of the characters straight. Slap 30-something (or more) actors in matching camo attire and they all blend together. Give them all similar camo helmets and it’s nearly impossible to tell them apart.

Each of the many viewings I’ve had over the last decade seemed to reveal another now-known actor who was completely unknown at the time. I knew many of the cast during my first showing, but was surprised over time as I spotted a grown-up Tom Guiry (Scotty Smalls from ‘The Sandlot’) and Ewen Bremner (found in many Guy Ritchie and Matthew Vaughn movies). When I revisited it a few months ago, I was shocked to see Hugh Dancy from ‘Hannibal’, Ty Burrell from ‘Modern Family’, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from ‘Game of Thrones’ and the now very well-known Tom Hardy. Is it possible that more actors from ‘Black Hawk Down’ will eventually become famous?

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

I might be late to the game on this one, but I had no idea that Veronica Mars’ pregnant upstairs neighbor was played by Jessica Chastain. That one-and-done appearance in 2004 was one of Chastain’s very first credits outside of theatre, around seven years before she began starring in basically every single movie, ever.

M. Enois Duarte

How to pick only one!?! After serious contemplation over this (not really), and having to choose between Seth Rogen’s school-bully role in ‘Donnie Darko’ and Jennifer Aniston’s stellar performance in ‘Leprechaun’, I decided to go with the mostly-forgotten Disney movie ‘A Kid in King Arthur’s Court’, where we find not one but two future A-list stars!

The fantasy-comedy features arguably the best James Bond since Sean Connery – Daniel Craig – as dashing young knight Master Kane, who loves the very young but already-betrothed-to-another Princess Sarah, played by future Oscar winner Kate Winslet. The two are not at their bests in their respective roles, but their performances were strong enough to catch the attention of other producers and directors. Although still somewhat minor by comparison to his current fame, Craig went on to more recognizable roles in ‘Elizabeth’, ‘Tomb Raider’ and ‘Road to Perdition’. Meanwhile, Winslet shot straight to fame and her first Oscar nominations in Ang Lee’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and James Cameron’s ‘Titanic’.

Brian Hoss

The same week that ‘Black or White’ was released, Anthony Mackie went on ‘The Tonight Show’ and tried to answer why he wasn’t going to be featured in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’. I insisted that my fiancée watch ‘The Hurt Locker‘ on Blu-ray. It was the first time I had seen the movie since the theater, and I was surprised to see that it was Mackie who played such an interesting foil/analog to Jeremy Renner’s character. I’m a big fan of the movie, but it wasn’t something that even remotely came to mind when I saw ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’.

While Mackie has been in plenty of movies I’ve skipped (like ‘Eagle Eye’ or ‘Man on a Ledge’), he’s also been in some I’ve seen like ‘Real Steel’ and ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’. Fortunately, with his range and the exposure from Marvel, I expect that Mackie will be headlining plenty of big movies going forward.

Mike Attebery

It seems like Julianne Moore has been a film actress with the golden touch since the dawn of time, but she really wasn’t in much of note before Robert Altman’s ‘Short Cuts’, where she really, ummm… showed us everything she had to work with. But it still catches me by surprise every time I spot her in ‘The Fugitive‘. I’ve seen that film a lot, but even after 22 years, I always go, “Oh yeah…” whenever she shows up on screen for a handful of small but key scenes.

Chris Chiarella (Sound & Vision)

I’ll take it old school, all the way back to ‘To Kill a Mockingbird‘, when a young Robert Duvall appeared late in the film as the good-hearted, misunderstood neighbor, Boo Radley. He doesn’t say much, but he has a lot going on. Duvall’s understated performance beautifully serves the emotional climax of the story.

Josh Zyber

The banner image above this post shows a mustachioed Arnold Schwarzenegger in his uncredited bit part as one of the villain’s henchman thugs in Robert Altman’s 1973 revisionist film noir ‘The Long Goodbye‘. The young Austrian bodybuilder has no lines in the movie, but nonetheless manages to draw attention to himself by standing around in his underwear and repeatedly flexing his pectoral muscles for no particular reason.

Several years back, I did a marathon of both seasons of Michael Mann’s 1980s cops-and-robbers drama ‘Crime Story’ on DVD and found the show packed with entertaining appearances from then-nobodies who would go on to greater things, including future Oscar winners Kevin Spacey and Julia Roberts – the latter in her first ever screen role.

Have you ever watched an old movie or TV show and discovered an unexpected appearance from a later-famous actor before he or she became a star? Tell us about it in the Comments.

19 comments

  1. Julianne Moore was supposed to have a much bigger role in THE FUGITIVE as Richard Kimble’s love interest, but they made the (smart) decision that a doctor on the run for the murder of his wife wouldn’t be looking to hook up again so soon.

    Didn’t get my submission in for this week in time, but for me, it’s Bradley Cooper in ALIAS.

  2. My favorite is probably a mulletted Tobey Maguire in The Wizard. This was one of my favorite childhood movies so it was fun to see his familiar face when revisiting it later on.

  3. Chris B

    Paul Rudd in Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers.

    Hey Brian, a while back I watched 8 Mile for the first time in years and was shocked to realize that Anthony Mackie had played Poppa Doc leader of: “Leaders of theFree World” and Eminem’s arch-nemesis in the film. I loved that movie so much back in 2002. Nowadays?….eh….slightly less so.

  4. Both Patrick Stewart and Ciarán Hinds had their first film roles in Excalibur (1981). It also had young Gabriel Byrne and Liam Neeson, though they had done other work earlier.

    Neeson and Daniel Day-Lewis are still early in the careers in The Bounty (1984).

    Thief (1981) was the first film for Robert Prosky, Jim Belushi, William Petersen and Dennis
    Farina.

    Deliverance (1972) was the first film for Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox.

    Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween (1978). James Coburn in Ride Lonesome (1959). Sissy Spacek in Prime Cut (1972). Pierce Brosnan in The Long Good Friday (1980).

    -Bill

  5. Speaking of Liam Neeson, lets not forget his presence in Krull.
    I seem to recall a young Brad Pitt in an episode of growing pains. He was a basketball jock who starts dating Carol and is only interested in her because she is with the captain of the football team, assuming she is the most popular girl.
    I used to
    I used to watch Remote Control on MTV, and Adam Sandler would come out every so often and do skits.
    Kevin Bacon- Friday the 13th

  6. C.C. 95

    Laura Linney as the secratary the President was diddling when he has a
    heart attack in DAVE with Kevin Kline. (Great underrated comedy).
    Liam Neeson in KRULL. (Great flick. I urge you to see the new 2.35 scope blu ray. If you have only seen the pan and scan- you have never really seen it.)
    Ryan Gosling in YOUNG HERCULES series (now on blu from shout!)
    Dean Stockwell was THE BOY WITH GREEN HAIR.
    Robert Blake as Mickey in OUR GANG (Little Rascals)
    Bryan Cranston as Twinman/Snizard in MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS series

  7. C.C. 95

    -“Ewen Bremner (found in many Guy Ritchie and Matthew Vaughn movies).”
    Most notably, Bremner will always be Spud from TRAINSPOTTING! (Who forgets the poop sheets scene?!).

  8. Guy

    For pure personal surprise power, it’s Gerard Butler’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-him appearance in Tomorrow Never Dies. I’d only ever seen that particular Bond film in bits and pieces on TV, but I grabbed the Blu-ray along with several others during a 007 sale a few years back.

    When his brief scene came about, I was alone in my living room saying “Was that Gerard Butler?” aloud to myself like a loon. I had to grab the remote, rewind and freeze the frame just to convince myself I wasn’t crazy. I ended up not liking that entry in the franchise very much at all, so ol’ King Leonidas is actually the thing I remember most about Tomorrow Never Dies.

  9. agentalbert

    Next time you watch “Rushmore”, look for an uncredited Alexis Bledel (star of The Gilmore Girls) sitting in the front row of class when Max introduces himself on his first day of public school.

  10. Scott

    @frankie “A very young Betty White on The Golden Girls.”

    Seriously?!?

    More like a young Betty White on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

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