Hollywood stars who started out in soaps

Matt Risley
Yahoo UK Movies Features

Long before superstardom, box office blockbusters and multi-million dollar lifestyles, the reality is that Hollywood's brightest and boldest all had to start somewhere.

Luckily for us (and countless clip-compilation shows), there's no better ‘easy win’ paycheck than that finest of acting institutions - the soap opera.

[Related story: Sneak preview of this week's TV soap storylines]

Here are our favourite cheesy cameos and surprising star turns from some of movies' biggest A-Listers…

Ben Kingsley - Coronation Street

Schindler's List, Gandhi, Sexy Beast and…. Coronation Street?! Yep, long before Sir Ben Kingsley won Academy Awards, nabbed CBEs and conquered the acting world with iconic performances aplenty, he gained his soap stripes on the UK's favourite teatime drama. He played Ron Jenkins - a flirtatious scoundrel with eyes for Irma Barlow - from 1966 to 1967.

Demi Moore - General Hospital

Considering she doesn’t look like she’s aged a day, it’s bewildering to think that Demi Moore’s big TV break came 30 years ago. She played a Lois Lane-lite, as the nosey, ambitious journalist Jackie Templeton for two years on one of America’s naffest, but best loved daytime dramas.

Kate Winslet - Casualty

A year before her big movie break in Heavenly Creatures, Kate Winslet perfected the 'emotionally troubled, wobbly-lipped' face that would go on to win her roles in some of the biggest dramas ever made. While it's a far cry from her turns in Oscar-gobblers like Titanic or The Reader, she's since revealed that her bit-part as the worrisome Suzanne taught her "a huge lesson in learning how to be natural in front of the camera."

[Related feature: George Clooney's embarrassing early roles]

Orlando Bloom - Casualty

Bizarrely (and somewhat amazingly), Casualty holds the unprecedented title of spawning more bonafide box office-busting superstars than any other UK soap or drama. The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean megastar Orlando Bloom proved his versatility early on by playing three different roles (Extra, Noel Harrison and Patient) between 1994 and 1996.

Keira Knightley - The Bill

Nowadays, you're more likely to see Keira Knightley donning corsets and wimples in Hollywood's classiest productions but that wasn’t always the case. Her one-off role in The Bill as a pre-teen tearaway may show a smaller, squeakier and grubbier Knightley then modern audiences are used to, but you can still spot the prominent pout and surly sassiness we've all come to know and love.

[Related link: Stay up-to-date with the latest soap gossip]

Leonardo DiCaprio - Santa Barbara

Before eating Gilbert Grape, unsuccessfully dodging icebergs in Titanic, and warping both realities and brains in Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio launched his on-screen career in a trio of TV shows back in 1990. But with a five episode guest star stint (and the only role to give him an actual name), his baby-faced appearance as Young Mason Capwell on US soap opera Santa Barbara was the highlight.

Russell Crowe - Neighbours

Quick to anger and all-round quintessential bad boy, it's not unreasonable to suggest that Russell Crowe's first prominent TV gig in Australia's premier soap wasn't a huge acting stretch. He played bemulleted small-time crook Kenny Larkin in four episodes back in 1987 (and in one memorable punch-up, even had Kylie Minogue screaming on from the sidelines).

Tommy Lee Jones - One Life to Live

While Tommy Lee Jones can count many achievements on his cinematic CV, we're fairly sure he'll never beat some of the incredible 70s fashion choices he plumped for during his four year tenure as Dr. Mark Toland in the US' iconic long-running soap. The windswept turtleneck look was SO in.

James McAvoy - The Bill

In only his third credited role, an 18-year-old James McAvoy walked the streets of Sun Hill as teen runaway Gavin Young. When The Bill's finest were tasked with investigating a hit and run, a floppy haired, heavily Scottish-accented McAvoy was hauled in for questioning.

Jude Law - Families

While he's made his name as Hollywood's go-to guy for charismatic British gents, Jude Law kickstarted his career in Families - a lesser-known (slightly rubbish) daytime soap set in England and Australia. His regular role, as the son of a wealthy English family living in a quaint country cottage, lasted for two years.

And they’re not the only ones – make sure to tell us your favourite or most surprising celeb soap story below…