9 Celebs' Surprising First Roles, Including Jennifer Lawrence As A Mascot
Hollywood: if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Didn't Sylvia Plath say that? However the old adage goes and wherever it comes from, everyone in the entertainment industry had to break in in their own special way, and some of the greatest actors of our generation had more than humble beginnings. (Hey, Aaron Paul had to do a Corn Pops ad to pay the bills.) It's a dog-eat-dog world in La La Land, so can we fault any TV or movie stars for where they started? Which is usually the bottom, unless they're a Coppola, like our good friend Nicholas Cage. (That's right: Cage, the nephew of director Francis Ford Coppola, changed his name from Coppola because he was afraid of accusations of nepotism in Hollywood. What an interesting man he continues to be...)
One of my favorite small delights in life is noticing a young actor in an old movie with an exclamation of "Hey, that's that guy!" Which is usually followed by a visit to their IMDb page to see the entire trajectory of their career.
Many actors started in some strange places, but hopefully they're still thankful for those first bit parts, because once you have a foot in the door, aren't you already on your way to accept your Oscar?
1. Elijah Wood In Back To The Future Part II (1989)
The forever baby-faced Wood, who would later go on to play Frodo Baggins, would probably never have guessed the career he had ahead of him when he made his film debut with a teeny-tiny role in Back To The Future Part II in 1989. He played "video game boy" who was totally a little jerk. How far he's come!
2. Jennifer Aniston In Leprechaun (1993)
Leprechaun is legitimately one of the worst, campy B-horror movies ever made, which is probably why Jennifer Aniston still gets asked about it so much. It's OK girl, you got paid a million dollars for a single episode of Friends. Just laugh the Leprechaun shame off.
3. Michelle Williams On Baywatch (1993)
High-cut bathing suits and a slow jog on a sandy beach were all in a day's work for Michelle Williams — her first day's work ever as an actor when she appeared on the ultra-cheesy beach soap Baywatch playing a love interest to Hobie (Jeremy Jackson) when she was only 13 years old. That hair is hella feathered.
4. Nicolas Cage In Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982)
There's little Nicky in the 1982 cult classic flipping burgers! IFC notes a sad detail: "Cage was originally supposed to play Brad, but the filmmakers relegated him to a background role after his improvisations during the auditioning process were deemed too weird." Awww.
5. Zoe Saldana In Center Stage (2000)
She's become the resident hottie in every sci-fi/fantasy movie — Uhura in JJ Abrams' Star Trek, Neytiri in Avatar, Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy — but Saldana got her break in the ballet drama Center Stage in 2000 in which she played a defiant, talented ballet student. I have probably seen Center Stage upwards of 20 times and I will always love the way Saldana puts out a cigarette with the tip of her pointe shoe.
6. Sandra Bullock In Hangmen (1987)
Can you believe there was a time when Sandra Bullock wasn't a movie star? Before she won an Oscar, and even way before she became Gracie Lou Freebush in Miss Congeniality, the actress made her film debut in a low-budget flick called Hangmen in 1987 when she was only 23, in which she gets captured by rogue CIA agents. It was incredibly cheesy and went straight to video, but ironically later was repackaged with Bullock's role emphasized when she became a big star. It has an impressively low four percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
7. Jennifer Lawrence On Monk (2006)
As the mascot. The mascot. She should give us all hope that things can turn around for the better.
8. Gabrielle Union On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1997)
That's right, friends. Gabrielle Union was once a Trekkie. It wasn't technically her first role, but it's among her earliest, and it's the weirdest of the bunch. Union appeared as a Klingon on an episode of Deep Space Nine in 1997 while the other projects she was working on included mostly sitcoms like Sister, Sister and Moesha. I love her even more for this Star Trek spot.
9. Chris Messina In You've Got Mail (1998)
This one is surprising because of just how adorably serendipitous it is. A very young, very scrawny Chris Messina appeared in the 1998 Nora Ephron film that has since become a classic, and many, many moons later, Messina got the role of Dr. Danny Castellano on The Mindy Project, a show about romantic comedies. Everything comes full circle!
It just goes to show, no matter where you start, it's where you end up and how you got there that matters. So don't be embarrassed, Aniston! You're at the top now!
Images: Giphy (2), Warner Bros.