The oddest early movie roles played by 19 of today’s biggest actors

It’s amazing that Johnny Depp can go from a random dude killed by Freddy Kreuger in A Nightmare On Elm Street to a major Hollywood star, earning $20 million for most movies these days. What other crazy first roles launched the careers of today’s biggest stars?

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Nominated for three Oscars (and won for Capote), Hoffman has a diverse filmography, but who would have guessed the tornado-chasin’ hippie in 1996′s Twister and high-school thug in the 1993 zombie satire My Boyfriend’s Back was secretly a great actor?

Sandra Bullock

Before she was Miss Congeniality or winning an Oscar for The Blind Side, she was a buck-toothed biochemist in Love Potion #9 (1992) and an ass-kicking futuristic cop in Demolition Man.

Matthew McConaughey

This southern charmer appears shirtless in just about every movie he stars in now, but in 1994, he was just an average baseball player who needed a little divine help in Angels In The Outfield (along with Adrien Brody).

Amy Adams

She’s been nominated for three Oscars?!? Wait, the same chick who played Kathryn in the horrible direct-to-video Cruel Intentions 2 sequel/remake?

Hilary Swank

This swanky actress won two well-deserved Oscars for Boys Don’t Cry and Million-Dollar Baby. In her first role, on the other hand, she and Kristy Swanson were cheerleaders in the original Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie.

Brad Pitt

Still hunky today and fun to watch on screen, Pitt followed his big break as a one-night stand in Thelma & Louise with, a year later, a cop protecting toons for 1992′s Cool World.

Kirsten Dunst

Sofia Coppola’s muse in both Marie Antoinette and The Virgin Suicides, Dunst is better known as Spider-Man’s girlfriend or a spirit-fingered cheerleader — but before that, she was the little girl in Jumanji and a bloodsucker’s jailbait in 1994′s Interview With The Vampire.

Jack Black

He’s appeared in more than 90 titles, which eclipses his music career (it’s easy to forget Tenacious D sometimes). When he started out, he must’ve auditioned for anything and everything — he was even a “smoker” pilot in Waterworld and a DJ at a party in the divorce comedy Bye Bye Love, both in 1995.

Gwenyth Paltrow

More famous for her relationships (engaged to Pitt and later married Coldplay’s Chris Martin) than her acting, Paltrow has a lot of variety in her career — Shallow Hal, Iron Man, Great Expectations, Duets, “Glee,” and an Oscar-winning performance in Shakespeare In Love. In 1991, she played young Wendy in Hook.

Robert Sean Leonard

Dr. James Wilson on “House” is a fantastic actor, but he’s sadly unrecognized for it. He delivered truly Oscar-worthy performances in Dead Poets Society (1989) and Swing Kids (1991, alongside Christian Bale).

Zooey Deschanel

The voice of She & Him, Zooey is perfect to star in anything that requires singing as well as being cute. She sang a duet with Will Ferrell in Elf, and played guitar in a high school funk band in 2002′s The New Guy.

Paul Rudd

The go-to guy for “bromances” today, people forget he was Cher’s stepbrother (whom she made out with, ew) in Clueless. Rudd also was a goofy college student on a road trip in 1998′s overlooked Overnight Delivery with Reese Witherspoon.

Rachel McAdams

Before she blew up on the scene as Regina George in Mean Girls and Allie in The Notebook, she switched bodies (literally) with Rob Schneider in 2002′s The Hot Chick.

Keanu Reeves

Alex Winter (Bill S. Preston, esquire) and Reeves (Ted “Theodore” Logan) both starred in 1989′s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but only one survived with a career.

Meg Ryan

Even before she met Harry, the queen of romantic comedies in the 90′s was Goose’s wife in Top Gun, yelling “take me to bed or lose me forever!” (People also forget that the first Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan movie was the campy 1990 film Joe Versus The Volcano.)

Justin Long

He’s not a household name yet, but you know him from Dodgeball, He’s Just Not That Into You and the voice of Alvin in Alvin & The Chipmunks. (He’s also “the Mac guy.”) His first roles included a sci-fi fanboy in Tim Allen’s 1999 bomb Galaxy Quest and the nerd who tried to sleep with Britney Spears in 2002′s Crossroads.

Anthony Rapp

Also not a marquee name (unless you’re a Broadway fan – he played Mark in the original production of “Rent”), he’s been in a variety of movies but his first role was as a horny teenager in 1987′s Adventures In Babysitting.

Jennifer Connelly

Consistently sexy without looking slutty (unlike her younger doppelganger Megan Fox), Connelly won Best Actress for A Beautiful Mind and should’ve at least been nominated for Requiem For A Dream. She also starred in The Rocketeer (ha) and John Hughes’ underrated Career Opportunities, but her big start was opposite David Bowie in 1986′s The Labyrinth.

Elijah Wood

He may be most famous for playing a hobbit now, but Wood’s resume is pretty diverse. In 1989, the first time we saw him on screen, he only had one line: “That’s like a baby’s toy” in Back To The Future Part II.

What other fun, wacky first movie roles did your favorite actors play?

4 thoughts on “The oddest early movie roles played by 19 of today’s biggest actors

  1. One big miss: The entire cast of Freaks & Geeks. It’s amazing how far James Franco & Seth Rogan have come (among others).

  2. Pingback: Which notable actors or actresses have played in unexpected or unknown movies early on in their careers? - Quora

  3. Not clear if you were expressing a personal metaphor or making a fiscal observation when you say ‘Galaxy Quest’ was a bomb. I presume the former since, according to BoxOfficeMojo and the general consensus of professional and amateur reviewers, GQ did exceptionally well.

    To each his own.

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