In Hollywood things can be move very fast. A movie can go from having a moderate opening week showing to a cultural phenomenon in a matter of weeks. There is no formula to predict this type of widespread success and influence, but when it happens, it’s an experience that truly changes an actor’s life. In the following article, we talk about 16 roles different actors have played in movies that have altered the trajectories of their lives forever. Some of them were debut starring roles, others were supporting actor appearances and there are even a few comedic performances included – take a look below:
Julia Roberts – Pretty Woman
Do you remember what you were doing in 1990? Well, that was the year when one of the most successful romantic comedies of all time was released. It was directed by Gary Marshall, and it starred a young and very beautiful Julia Roberts playing a down-on-her-luck prostitute in Los Angeles. Her co-star was the equally good-looking Richard Gere, and whenever the two of them were on-screen, magic happened. To date, the movie has earned close to $500 million, and it’s one of the most popular romantic comedies of all time. Of course, she has gone on to star in so many hit movies, but Pretty Woman is what started it all for Julia Roberts.
Al Pacino – The Godfather
Most of us weren’t even born yet in 1972, but that was the year when Al Pacino started making a name for himself as one of the best actors in his generation. The movie was the classic mafia flick known as The Godfather, and it was directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The movie starred an amazing amount of talent: Marlon Brando, James Caan, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall and more. A role like this only comes once in a lifetime, and The Godfather is often considered as one of the best films of all time. For a young actor breaking starting out his career, Pacino couldn’t have asked for anything more.
Will Smith – Independence Day
Will Smith is one of the most popular Hollywood actors in the world. He has definitely enjoyed the limelight for many years. Of course, there were his days as a Philadelphia rapper and then his successful sitcom on NBC, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Afterwards, he made his transition into movies with films like Bad Boys and Six Degrees of Separation. Then he scored the role of a hero in the sci-fi action flick Independence Day, and it turned out to be a massive hit. The movie made almost a billion dollars worldwide, and it firmly entrenched Will Smith as one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood.
Cameron Diaz: There’s Something About Mary
Cameron Diaz really started showing up on Hollywood’s radar as the pretty face in the Jim Carrey breakout hit The Mask. That was in 1994, but she really exploded on the scene four years later as the star of the popular and unique comedy There’s Something About Mary. It was directed by the Farrelly brothers and featured an impressive set of co-stars including Matt Dillon and Ben Stiller. She received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance and scooped up the MTV Movie Award for best actress. It was one of those moments in her life that altered her career forever.
Jennifer Lopez – Selena
Jennifer Lopez is a huge music and film star these days, but it wasn’t always that way. There was a time when she was just a fly girl on the funny variety comedy show In Living Color. But then she had the major breakout movie in 1997 called Selena. It was based on the life and career of the Tejano music star Selena. It’s a true tragic story of a Mexican-American starlet who was actually considered as the Latina equivalent of Madonna. She was sadly murdered at the age of 23. The movie put Lopez on the map in a big way and she hasn’t turned back since.
Jim Carrey – Ace Ventura
Canadian-born actor Jim Carrey is one of the funniest men that Hollywood has ever produced. It was evident that he would be a breakout star when he displayed his unique talent on the laugh-out-loud funny comedy series In Living Color. Then he made the switch to movies, and he hit gold with the film Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. There are not too many people who could handle such a demanding comedic role but it was perfect for Carrey. The movie cost about $15 million to make and it brought in over $100 million at the box office. After that major success, a Hollywood star was born!
Jeremy Renner: Hurt Locker
These days Jeremy Renner is a huge Hollywood star acting in big franchise movies like The Avengers, Mission Impossible and The Bourne series, but he had to work really hard to get to the top. One of the movies that really sparked major fireworks in his career was the gripping and very intense movie The Hurt Locker. He played the role of a soldier in the bomb detonator squad in the Iraq War, and he delivered an extremely passionate and heartfelt performance. The film won an Oscar for best director (Kathryn Bigelow) and also for Best Original screenplay. After that movie, it was official; Renner had officially arrived.
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years A Slave
Sometimes lighting strikes fast and when you least expect it. That was how Lupita Nyong’o must have felt when her first major role in a Hollywood movie became a bona fide hit. Of course that movie was the raw and poignant historical drama 12 Years A Slave directed by Steve McQueen. The movie came out last year, and it garnered Oscar nominations for the lead actor Chiwetel Ejiofor and supporting actress, Lupita. She went on to win the Oscar for the role and became an instant Hollywood celeb. Next up, you can see her in the JJ. Abrams movie reboot: Star Wars VII – The Force Awakens.
Channing Tatum – Step Up
Channing Tatum has really established himself on the scene as one of the most versatile leading men around. He can do serious dramatic roles (Foxcatcher), romantic roles (The Vow), action roles (White House Down) and even comedies. However it’s quite interesting that one of the films that really set him on his way was the 2006 dance drama Step Up. In the film, Channing showed his amazing dance moves and it was also the film on which he met his future wife Jenna Dewan Tatum. Even though it didn’t receive the best critical reviews, it was a box office hit making over $119 million worldwide, even though it cost just $12 million to make. After that film, it was a proven fact that Tatum was a certified box office draw.
Ryan Gosling – The Notebook
Ryan Gosling is one of the most sought after lead actors on the scene right now, but there was a time when even this handsome Canadian star wasn’t so well known. That was until 2004 when a movie named The Notebook came out and really catapulted the career to his next level. It starred another Canadian actress named Rachel McAdams. Even though many people labeled it a cheesy chick flick, it did very well at the box office. He followed that movie with the grittier flick Half Nelson, and after that, Mr. Gosling was well on his way.
Lindsay Lohan – Mean Girls
Lohan is only 28-yrs-old, but quite honestly, it seems that she has aged well beyond her years in such a short period of time. Hard partying and lots of life drama will do that to you every time. However there was a time, about ten years ago, when she was more innocent and just starting out on the scene. She was starring in the movie Mean Girls in 2004 which also starred Tina Fey and Rachel McAdams. That movie did wonders for her career, and she followed that with another successful film Freaky Friday. With those two hits under her belt, she established herself as the hot new actress on the scene.
Matt Damon – Good Will Hunting
There are few actors who have been able to make an instant splash on the scene by both writing the screenplay and also starring in that same movie. That’s what happened with the talented Matt Damon when him and his pal Ben Affleck wrote and acted in the 1997 film Goodwill Hunting. The movie was a runaway hit making a whopping $225 million with a filming budget of just $10 million. It was nominated for nine Oscars, and it won the Academy awards for best screenplay, best supporting actor (for Robin Williams) and best picture of the year. We can all agree that this movie started Damon’s career off with a real bang!
Leonardo DiCaprio- Titanic
Nowadays when we think of Leo DiCaprio, we think of the superstar actor who dates hot models and stars in huge movies like The Wolf of Wall Street, Shutter Island and The Great Gatsby. But there was a time when he wasn’t such a megastar. Everything changed for him when appeared in the 1997 movie Titanic directed by James Cameron. The epic film and love story about the sinking of the ill-fated ocean liner was an amazing success and it grossed over $1.8 billion dollars worldwide. After that movie, the Leo-mania was officially underway and as they say, the rest is history.
Anthony Hopkins – Silence of the Lambs
Anthony Hopkins is a senior statesman in the hallways of Hollywood. He’s originally from Wales and he has been plying his acting trade for about four decades now. However he didn’t really hit mainstream success in movies until he appeared in the chilling thriller Silence of the Lambs alongside Jodie Foster. He played the role of a psychotic and menacing psychiatrist named Dr. Hannibal Lecter who also happened to be a cannibal. He played the role with so much zeal, intensity and passion, and after the film became a huge success, and Hopkins was officially catapulted to elite actor status.
Robert Pattinson- Twilight Saga
Vampires have been always been a huge draw in Hollywood for decades, but in the last several years they have bigger than ever. This fact was proven to be stronger than ever with the Twilight Saga series that became a full-on epidemic all over the world. The Twilight series made several hundreds of millions at the box office and the star-crossed lovers at the center of the drama became instant superstars. Their fame was further fueled by the fact that the two of them began dating in real life. Their relationship ended in a ball of flames when Stewart cheated on him with the director Rupert Sanders. It was a public and sordid affair that was splashed all over the tabloids. Pattinson has moved on now and he’s dating the eclectic British singer FKA Twigs. Pattinson currently models for Dior and he has a full slate of movies dropping in 2013 – so expect to see lots more of him in the future.
Jennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games
In the same way that Taylor Swift is ruling the music charts right now, it’s fair to say that Jennifer Lawrence is doing the same in Hollywood. She has had a string of successive hits in the last 3 years, but arguably, the movie that started it all was the extremely successful “Young Adult” leaning flick The Hunger Games. The movie touched down with an inbuilt following in 2012 due to the success of the book, and it took off like wild fire. Since then, the sequels that have been released have been just as successful. And at the age of 24, the young and talented actress is riding on top of the world.