Not everyone is lucky enough to get a leading (or even speaking) role straight off the bat. Even Hollywood megastars had to start out as “background artists” - AKA extras. But where can you spot these early A-list appearances?
Jean-Claude Van Damme – ‘Breakin’’ (1984)
Check out those moves! Jean-Claude caused some Van Dammage – and in a unitard to boot – in this seminal breakdance film, playing an appreciative boogaloo-loving bystander. Star Adolfo ‘Shabba-Doo’ Quinones says, “I remember this kid dancing all very odd. When I look back, boy, do I get a good laugh. Especially the outfit. The outfit is classic, it should be in the Smithsonian.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger – ‘The Long Goodbye’ (1973)
Robert Altman’s quirky take on detective Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) was actually Arnie’s second film after the bizarre ‘Hercules In New York’. We’re sure he saw ‘Hood in Augustine’s office’ as a critical step on his acting journey.
Brad Pitt – ‘Less Than Zero’ (1987)
Better known for Robert Downey Jr’s breakthrough performance, this adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s debut novel sees Brad try to pull off what we can only describe as a hell of a vest. He manages it (probably thanks to the sunglasses), as a bohemian partygoer.
Megan Fox – ‘Bad Boys 2’ (2003)
Did you know Fox had previous with director Michael Bay? The actress showed off her dancing in one of Bay’s typically OTT club scenes (see the original ‘Bad Boys’) – basically auditioning to play the eye candy in ‘Transformers’ at the same time.
Jackie Chan – ‘Enter The Dragon’ (1973)
Chan must have been chuffed that one of his earliest roles included having his neck broken by Bruce Lee. Showing off the kung fu skills that would later make his name, Chan played a random henchman who got quickly and brutally dispatched.
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Clint Eastwood – ‘Lady Godiva Of Coventry’ (1955)
A legend of cinema. Multiple Oscar winner. ‘First Saxon’ (uncredited) in this historical drama.
Ben Affleck – ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ (1992)
At 6’3”, Affleck’s early career frequently saw him playing bullies. Here he’s just a scared basketball player (also a good role for someone tall), terrified of a bloodsucking opponent in the original movie of Joss Whedon’s future series.
Sylvester Stallone – ‘Bananas’ (1971)
Stallone played straight man to Woody Allen in the latter’s third movie as writer/director, terrorizing passengers as a mugger on a New York subway train.
Bruce Willis – ‘The Verdict’ (1982)
Willis was a bartender desperate to break into the movies. He upped his chances with some fine sitting in this excellent Paul Newman movie. By the way, he wasn’t the only future star paying his dues in this scene. ‘Saw’ killer Tobin Bell also crops up uncredited.
George Clooney – ‘Centennial’ (1978)
Clooney made his proper ‘acting’ debut in this epic miniseries, which told the story of the growth of Colorado and starred Richard Chamberlain and Raymond Burr. The way he carries that barrel showed the rest of the extras what it took to make it in Hollywood. And very few people can pull off a peasant tricorn hat.
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Renee Zellweger – ‘Dazed And Confused’ (1993)
There are dozens of future stars who broke through in this classic teen movie, including Matthew McConaughey and Milla Jovovich. It would take a little longer for Zellweger, who was just one of the many high school girls enjoying the beginning of summer.
Willem Dafoe – ‘Heaven’s Gate’ (1980)
Dafoe was actually sacked from this infamous flop after laughing during a critical moment in filming. Nevertheless, he worked on it for several months and as a cock-fighting wrangler working for Jeff Bridge’s character, he (silently) made the final cut.
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