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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.