Being an actor may seem like a “fun”, carefree job, but stand back for a moment and consider the confidence and talent needed to pull off such a task. Could you wake up every morning and convincingly transform into a different person, while a room full of people judge your every movement? If you’re being honest with yourself, the answer is most likely a no.
Actors, for the most part, take their jobs very seriously. Memorizing lines, staying in character and losing weight -or putting on weight- are just a few of the many challenges actors take on each time they land a role. So, let’s say you wake up one day and decide you want to become an actor; what’s your first step? You go to acting school… right? Well, you would think so, but that’s not the case for everyone. You would be surprised to find out that some of your favorite actors and actresses actually skipped what seems like a crucial step on the path to becoming an actor.
Below is a list containing ten actors and actresses who never went to acting school. Find out which actors managed to end up on the big screen without any formal training. It’s pretty impressive what one can achieve if they believe in themselves enough. These select few prove that it is possible to become an accomplished actor with or without schooling.
10. Heath Ledger
Heath Ledger made the bold decision to pursue a career in acting right out of school at age 17. He along with his long time best friend Trevor DiCarlo drove across Australia in search for any acting work. Ledger’s first gig was a small role in the Australian television series Clowning Around. From there, Heath landed a handful of small parts on different sitcoms. His feature film debut was in the 1997 Australian film Blackrock, and just two years later he starred in the teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You; after that, it was smooth sailing for the young Australian.
Ledger started popping up in everything, becoming a familiar face for more than just his fans down under. As we all know Heath passed away far too early, shortly after his portrayal as the Joker in The Dark Knight, which is hands down his best performance, earning him a posthumous Academy Award. The fact that he was able to pull off such a captivating performance with no prior training proves that some people just have what it takes.
9. Meg Ryan
Meg Ryan just sort of fell into her career as an actress. She originally wanted to become a journalist, first studying at the University of Connecticut and then at New York University, which sparked her acting career. When Ryan moved to New York, she began taking small parts in television commercials to make some extra spending money while she attended university. To her surpris,e she began to take a liking to the whole acting scene, which led to her dropping out of college a semester before she would have graduated. As we all know, everything worked out for Ryan; she became a shoe-in for romantic comedies, starring in classics like When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, where she was lucky enough to work alongside Tom Hanks in both films.
8. Tom Cruise
Though he may be a little overrated and a crazed rambling Scientologist, Tom Cruise’s success in the film industry cannot be overlooked. At a young age, Cruise and six other boys put on an improvised play to music called IT at the Carleton Elementary School drama festival, impressing drama organizer Val Wright. It was clear he had a knack for showmanship. However, before Cruise pursued his career in acting, he nearly became a Catholic priest – this probably wouldn’t sit well with his Scientologist buddies.
Cruise abandoned the priest idea and moved to New York where he landed a role in the movie Taps within six months. Shortly after he landed the lead role in Endless Love, where he got to work alongside actress Brooke Shields. A few years later, he did Risky Business and Top Gun; from that point on, he became a superstar and one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood.
7. Joaquin Phoenix
Actor, producer, musician; you name it, Joaquin Phoenix has done it. Since he was a kid, Joaquin, along with his siblings, performed on the streets in order to provide for their family. It didn’t take long before the Phoenix children were noticed for their many talents. Hollywood agent Iris Burton discovered them and got all five children acting work in commercials and even television show appearances. Phoenix did disappear from the limelight for a short time after his brother’s untimely death. However, his comeback led to his international successes in the Ridley Scott epic Gladiator, which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Unfortunately, Phoenix didn’t win the Academy Award for best supporting actor, but his portrayal of Commodus was brilliantly sadistic. Just a few years later, he earned Best Actor nominations for portraying musician Johnny Cash in Walk the Line. From the streets to the stage, this actor has a pretty impressive story.
6. Christian Bale
Although he is best known for his portrayal of Batman in the Dark Knight movies, Christian Bale’s other performances better showcase his talent as an actor. Bale left school when he was only 16 and started off by doing commercials, until he made his stage debut in The Nerd on London’s West End. Just two years later, Bale made his film debut in the made for television film Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna. The same year, he was lucky enough to work alongside Christopher Lee and Nick Pickard in the fantasy adventure Mio in the Land of Faraway. His performance as Jim Graham in Empire of the Sun kindled his rise to stardom, winning him the first ever “Best Performance by a Juvenile Actor” award from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. Since then, he’s starred in a long line up of featured films such as American Psycho, The Machinist, The Fighter, and American Hustle.
5. Russell Crowe
Much like actor Joaquin Phoenix, Russell Crowe also gained international attention for his role as the Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius in the historical epic film Gladiator. Crowe brought home an Academy Award that night. Thanks to family connections, Russell landed his first line of dialogue in one episode of the Australian TV series Spyforce. Crowe made the bold decision to drop out of school at the age 16 to pursue his ambition of becoming an actor. It took him quite some time but his persistence and dedication paid off, landing him roles in many well received films such as The Insider, Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind.
4. Jennifer Lawrence
Where do we start? Jennifer Lawrence is talented, funny, and beautiful; her down to earth personality doesn’t hurt, either. She seems to be popping up in just about every other movie for the last few years. Lawrence managed to convince her parents to take her to New York City to find a talent agent when she was only 14 years old – talk about confidence. Clearly it paid off, as she began her acting career in the TBS comedy series The Bill Engvall Show. From there, she moved up at a steady pace, landing roles in a number of different films as well as winning a handful of awards. Her breakthrough role came when she got the lead role in Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone. After that, she starred in X-Men: First Class followed by the wildly popular portrayal of Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.
3. Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp’s eccentric personality definitely made him stand out among others, aiding his chances of success in the entertainment business. Originally his dream was to be a musician, which he was during his teenage year,s gaining moderate success up until the early 1980s. Once he married Lori Anne Allison, he began working a number of different odd jobs, including as a telemarketer for pens, which he considers his first acting job.
This all changed when his wife introduced him to actor Nicolas Cage, who advised Depp to pursue an acting career. Depp got his start playing the lead role on the Fox television series 21 Jump Street, which led to a cameo in the 2012 comedy of the same name. Depp’s first major role was in the 1984 horror classic A Nightmare on Elm Street. Shortly after, he was spotted by writer/director Tim Burton who clearly saw something he liked in Depp, as he appeared in a number of Burton’s work. Since then, Depp has appeared in countless hits including Platoon, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Donny Brasco, Blow, Fear and Loathing in Las Vega and many more.
2. Ben Kingsley
Ben Kingsley aspired to be an actor from a young age, making his professional stage debut at the age of 23. From that point on, this British born actor dedicated himself to stage work for 15 long years; he even turned down an offer from music producer and manager Dick James to become a handmade pop star. Kingsley’s first film was Fear Is the Key, released in 1972; since then, he has starred in countless movies including the 1982 film Gandhi, which resulted in him winning the Academy Award for Best Actor – not too shabby for a self-taught actor. Not to mention the fact that he was knighted in the 2002 New Year Honours for services to the British film industry.
1. Brad Pitt
Much like a few other entries on this list, Brad Pitt made the brash decision to go big or go home. Just two weeks before graduating, he decided to pack up and drive from Missouri to Hollywood with just 325$ in his pocket. Once there, his first stop was at a McDonald’s with a remaining 225$ to his name; while waiting for his fast food feast, he noticed an ad in the newspaper for work as an extra in a movie. He auditioned for the part and landed the role. From there, his determination did not dwindle; Pitt continued to take small parts. In 1994, Pitt’s career finally sparked, first with Interview with the Vampire and then in Legends of the Fall. After the success of these two movies, Pitt went on to be one of the most sought-after talents in Hollywood, starring in films such as Seven, 12 Monkeys, Meet Joe Black, and Fight Club. Not to mention he ended up marrying the alluring Angelina Jolie; not too shabby for a guy with no prior acting experience.