Living in New York City and working at a coffee shop, I had plenty of encounters with The Struggling Actor™. They were the brooding customer drinking their black espresso or the coworker carefully explaining to me how they were developing their newest character for an audition. Point is, before the flashing lights of red carpet premieres and multi-million dollar paychecks, A-list actors were just like us, trying to find a job that would fund their next meal and ticket to Hollywood. Sometimes the road to superstardom can be sudden, but that's not the norm. Most of our favorite famous actors has really surprising first roles and sometimes had strange acting jobs for decades after before landing the big gig.
It makes me feel a bit better to know that not everyone was discovered via YouTube video or Vine, and it is hilarious to check out actors' paths to stardom. Just like everyone else, they worked at restaurants and shoe stores and mall kiosks while trying to get their big break and eventually it did happen. Although they finally stepped on a stage or behind a camera, their first roles weren't always that amazing, so here are some super famous actors' first acting jobs that might surprise you.
1. Matthew McConaughey — Unsolved Mysteries
This show's opening credits used to fill me with nightmares if it came on when I was home alone, but if I watched this episode, I probably wouldn't mind. McConaughey was already shirtless in his first role ever in 1992, as a reenactor on the '90s crime show.
2. Angelina Jolie — Lookin' To Get Out
A 7-year-old Jolie made a cameo as her real father Jon Voight's daughter in the 1982 film Lookin' To Get Out. Her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, also made a cameo as "Girl in Jeep."
3. Matt Damon — Mystic Pizza
Damon made a pretty impressive debut performance in 1988's cult favorite Mystic Pizza, where he played Steamer and was already sitting a table with Julia Roberts. Not bad.
4. Jennifer Lawrence — Monk
Lawrence's career took off with her role in Winter's Bone, but just a mere four years earlier in 2006, she made her debut as a high school mascot on the television show Monk.
5. Brad Pitt — Another World
Brad Pitt is so pretty, it only makes sense he would start off on a soap opera. His first role was as a basketball player named Chris on Another World.
6. Channing Tatum — CSI: Miami
In 2004, Tatum made his screen debut as Bob Davenport on CSI: Miami and played quite a misfit while on his fancy Miami boat.
7. Renée Zellweger — A Taste For Killing
Zellweger appeared in her first film, A Taste For Killing in 1992 as Mary Lou. One of her co-stars, Jason Bateman, would go on to have a pretty decent career himself.
8. Johnny Depp — Nightmare On Elm Street
Bless the directors who made the decision to put Johnny Depp in a crop top for his first role ever in 1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street. He plays a cool teen named Glen Lantz who gets swallowed up by his bed. Awesome.
9. Megan Fox — Holiday In The Sun
You can't be a proper '90s kid without watching some of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen's super hokey movies. One such gem was 2001's Holiday in the Sun, which featured the debut performance of Megan Fox as the mean girl, Brianna Wallace. The acting all around left a lot to be desired, but look where they all are now!
10. Joseph Gordon-Levitt — Stranger On My Land
TV movies sure were a thing back in the '80s and '90s, huh? Gordon-Levitt made his acting debut as a 7-year-old in Stranger On My Land, which also starred Tommy Lee Jones. Baby JGL might be the cutest thing I have ever seen.
11. Jennifer Aniston — Mac And Me
I think this is my favorite first role ever. I used to watch Mac and Me religiously as a little kid and totally missed the fact that Rachel Green was dancing her heart out in that infamously odd McDonald's scene. Because McDonald's is the best place to start a dance party..?
12. George Clooney — Riptide
Before his legendary appearance on Golden Girls in 1987, Clooney had his first proper acting job in 1984 as Lenny Colwell in the television series, Riptide.
13. Meryl Streep — The Deadliest Season
Streep has been steadily working since the late '70s, when she made her acting debut in the 1977 television movie, The Deadliest Season. She played Sharon Miller, the wife of a professional hockey player.
14. Tom Cruise — Endless Love
In 1981, Tom Cruise was just an attractive dude from Syracuse, N.Y., trying to get his big break. That acting break came in the form of wise-cracking college kid, Billy, in 1981's Endless Love . Tom Cruise in denim cut-offs is all you need to know about this.
15. Julia Roberts — Satisfaction
Years before Britney Spears' Crossroads, Julia Roberts went on a roadtrip with her friends in search of the best summer ever. In 1988, Roberts starred in Satisfaction, which followed three girls in a band on the verge of blowing up and their hijinks along the way.
16. Jennifer Lopez — My Little Girl
Before she became a Fly Girl on In Living Color, Lopez was trying out her acting chops way back in 1986, when she had a small role in the film My Little Girl in which she played, Myra.
17. Leonardo DiCaprio — The New Lassie
DiCaprio booked his first acting role when he was merely 15 years old on the television show, The New Lassie. Guess that baby face thing kicked in when he was still a baby, because even at 15 he looks younger than his age.
18. Jake Gyllenhaal — City Slickers
City Slickers is one of the best '90s movies ever, but you probably missed baby Jake Gyllenhaal in his first every acting role. He played Billy Crystals' son, Danny Robbins, and he is just so adorable.
Hey, just goes to show you that hard work truly does pay off.