Imagine vacationing with your family as a 14-year-old girl, when a total stranger approaches you, asking to take your picture. Sounds like a creepy situation requiring police intervention.
Luckily the creep in question asked for her mother’s permission first, taking her phone number at the same time. The man was actually a casting agent, and told the Mom her daughter had “star quality.”
The girl in question turned out to be mega-star Jennifer Lawrence. And while she wasn’t looking for stardom, making the decision to meet with that casting agent changed Lawrence from “girl next door” to one of the hottest actresses in Hollywood today.
Most super-stars were once upon a time regular old chumps like the rest of the population. Some gained stardom from the ground up, taking child acting roles on the well stomped Disney platform that has led many a young actor to bigger and better roles, and eventually mega-stardom.
Others enjoyed an easier start to their careers thanks to family lineage; Nicolas Cage, for example, being nephew to famed director Francis Ford Coppola, or Dakota Johnson of the recent 50 Shades of Grey following the path of parents Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson.
Other stars started off purely by accident, with some having not a single Hollywood dream on their radars. The rags to riches nature of such discoveries is the stuff of true Hollywood legend.
Whatever the circumstance, here are ten of the most intriguing Hollywood star discovery stories you will ever hear.
10. Pamela Anderson
What do bouncing implants, a sex tape with a tattooed rockstar, and 13 Playboy covers all have in common? It’s Pamela Anderson, of course!
This Baywatch babe has enjoyed a long career as one of the most viewed celebrities online, having also earned the coveted spot of gracing the most Playboy issue covers in history. Her discovery story is almost as legendary as her sexy career, and continues to inspire Playboy bunny-hopefuls everywhere.
As the story goes, Pam was sitting in a stadium watching a pro-football game of her local Vancouver team, when a jumbotron cameraman kept zoning in on the hot, young blonde, who happened to be wearing a tight “Labatt’s Blue” beer t-shirt. The crazed reactions from the crowd were so infectious that the Canadian brewery knew this must be advertising gold. Labatt’s immediately contacted Anderson to model in an ad campaign flogging the popular beer.
Pin-ups of the highly popular ad campaign were plastered on the walls of bars, mechanics’ garages, and the rooms of pimply teenagers all over Canada.
The ad campaign also caught the attention of Hugh Hefner of Playboy, landing Anderson the first of many cover issues. This early stardom led to a couple of acting gigs, first on Charles in Charge alongside then new boyfriend Scott Baio, and on Married…With Children.
She was then cast as the hot “tool time” girl on Home Improvement, making regular appearances alongside Tim Allen, and finally landed her iconic role as “CJ” on Baywatch in 1993 – the perky, voluptuous lifeguard that made her a household name.
Pamela Anderson’s breasts became so famous that she even appeared to cause a shift in popular culture analogies; no longer “she has boobs as big as Dolly Parton“; people everywhere began comparing big breast sizes to Pam’s.
9. Margot Robbie
Rising Aussie star Margot Robbie is a hot ticket in Hollywood these days, with a blockbuster role lined up as the girl friend to Jared Leto‘s Joker in the hotly anticipated new Batman film, “Suicide Squad.”
The 24-year-old actress has already proven to be a natural in front of the camera, holding her own playing sultry, seductive leads alongside megastars Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, and Will Smith in the more recent Focus.
It’s hard to believe that just a couple of years ago Robbie was almost an unknown outside of her native Australia, where she had taken on a couple of minor acting roles, including a stint on Australian soap opera Neighbours.
After moving to L.A., the unknown aspiring actress landed an opportunity to read for the role of DiCaprio’s sexy wife in the Martin Scorsese blockbuster The Wolf of Wall Street.
When she read for the role, she recalls how she spontaneously slapped DiCaprio in the face while they acted out a heated scene, although the slap was unscripted.
She told Harper’s Bazaar UK: “”So I walk up really close to his face and then I’m like, ‘Maybe I should kiss him. When else am I ever going to get a chance to kiss Leo DiCaprio, ever?’ But another part of my brain clicks and I just go, ‘Whack!’ I hit him in the face. And then I scream, ‘F— you!’ And that’s not in the script at all. The room just went dead silent and I froze.”
She thought she was going to lose out on the role, and possibly get sued by DiCaprio for assault, but Robbie of course famously landed the prized role; and she now thinks the slap helped her stand out from other actresses.
Robbie’s feisty nature helped her again when she read alongside Will Smith for the lead role in Focus; having flown all the way from the middle of a vacation in Croatia to try out for the part, Robbie told reporters she was exhausted and irritated that Will Smith was late for the read. When the mega-star finally arrived, the unimpressed Robbie called him a “dick” as they acted out their scene together, once again, unscripted.
Duly shocked by the insult, Smith recalled the moment to reporters, saying with a smile, “I thought, ‘She really doesn’t want this job.'”
8. Jennifer Lawrence
When Jennifer Lawrence was on spring break with her family in New York City as a 14-year-old girl, the most exciting thing on her mind was probably taking a trip up to the top of the Empire State Building.
After her Mom allowed a casting agent to take her photo one fateful day, Jennifer Lawrence’s career ignited. Lawrence told the New York Daily News, “It wasn’t creepy, he didn’t ask to take me anywhere, he just wanted to take a picture. And then all these agencies started calling and then we just kind of went (to do cold readings) out of boredom.”
Remaining in New York City that summer following a screen test arranged by the agent, Lawrence started out taking roles in commercials for MTV. The budding actress quickly went on to star in the thriller The Devil You Know with Lena Olin. A couple of roles later, and the entire Lawrence family moved out to L.A. to see where this ride might take them.
By 2010, Lawrence really had industry chins wagging, scoring 3 major nominations for a Screen Actor’s Guild Award, a Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award following her riveting performance in Winter’s Bone.
By 2012, Lawrence had entered the Hunger Games stratosphere, landing the lead role of Katniss Everdeen. The film adaptation of the super-hot, post-apocalyptic Suzanne Collins novel broke box-office records its opening weekend, and Lawrence was launched into mega-stardom.
By February 2013, Hollywood insiders and audiences alike were still gasping “where did this girl come from?” when Lawrence snagged the Best Actress Oscar for her powerful role alongside Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook.
7. Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron got her start having a bad day at the bank. The South African actress was an aspiring model who had recently moved to L.A. with her Mom, looking for work.
When a $500 cheque she tried cashing was refused because it was from out-of-state, she reportedly went nuts on the bank teller. The monumental meltdown clearly had an impact on the guy standing in line right behind her; he turned out to be John Crosby, who would become her manager. Crosby reportedly gave her his business card, asking her to learn the local language properly, as she had still only recently arrived from her Afrikaner roots (a language of Dutch mixed with Huguenot French and German).
Theron watched soap operas daily to polish her English, and was eventually cast in a couple of B-movie roles having very few lines. As the statuesque beauty’s English improved, so did the quality of her roles, getting cast in Devil’s Advocate, Cider House Rules, and The Legend of Bagger Vance.
But it was her role playing a seriously deranged serial killer in Monster that took her from decent roles as pretty leading ladies to superstar status; the role turned her from a gorgeous blonde into an almost unrecognizable, hardened killer and earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress in 2004.
Her continued high-calibre acting went on to earn her the Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance in North Country two years later.
Theron is still riding the wave of megastar status, topping sexiest lists in publications everywhere. She is currently starring in the soon to be released Mad Max:Fury Road (as seen above) alongside Tom Hardy, a revamp of the classic post-apocalyptic Mel Gibson version.
6. Kristen Stewart
It just might be that Kristen Stewart, star of the blockbuster Twilight film saga, always had her heart set on an acting career. After all, it was at the tender age of just 8 that Stewart was discovered by a talent scout acting in her school Christmas play.
Cast in a Disney film quite quickly afterwards, Stewart enjoyed a steady career climb that included an early, acclaimed role starring as Jodie Foster‘s diabetic, teen daughter in Panic Room.
But it was when Stewart was cast as Bella in the Twilight series that the actress’ career truly ignited. Her public image helped along by a real life romance with leading man Robert Pattinson, Stewart enjoyed a long haul sitting at the top of hottest actresses lists.
While Stewart’s romance with Pattinson fizzled, the popularity of the Twilight films endured; the vampire-romance movies are reported to have earned more than $3 billion worldwide.
Still, Stewart admits she struggles with her fame. In a recent interview she said, “Fame is the worst thing in the world. Especially if it is pointless.”
Could her career have been a case of too much too soon? Stewart famously struggled to find new projects following her successful run in Twilight. In March, however, it was announced that she would star alongside Bruce Willis in the next Woody Allen film, as yet untitled.
5. Harrison Ford
He’s been Han Solo, he’s been Indiana Jones, he’s been CIA agent Jack Ryan… Hell, he’s been the President of the United States of America! Harrison Ford has played so many iconic characters that he has truly become one of Hollywood’s acting legends.
It wasn’t always that way for Ford, whose road to fame saw him left as a disillusioned actor working as a carpenter by the time casting for the original Star Wars movie began.
Although he had been dabbling in acting for some time, and had even been cast by George Lucas in the 1973 film American Graffiti, Ford felt his acting career was going nowhere and decided to focus on his career as a carpenter.
The story goes, Ford was reportedly hanging a door in a film studio office that George Lucas and Brian de Palma just happened to be in, trying to cast young actors for the Han Solo character for their upcoming little space movie. Knowing Ford had some acting chops, Lucas asked him if he would read lines alongside a prospective Princess Leia.
Ford reportedly obliged, reading the lines for days. As the days went on, it is said that Ford became increasingly bored and grumpy delivering his lines, yet he gave off a detached, relaxed air in the knowledge that the role would never really be his; thus the cool persona of Han Solo was born through the authentic feelings Ford was really experiencing at the time.
Of course you know what follows; Lucas knew he was onto movie magic, casting charismatic Ford as the unforgettable Han Solo for all three of the original blockbuster Star Wars films.
Ford’s career has been movie gold since, with enormously successful runs playing Indiana Jones, CIA agent Jack Ryan, and earning an Oscar for his lead role in the 1985 film, “Witness.”
Next up; the 71-year-old Ford will reprise his uber-iconic role, playing Han Solo alongside Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill once again to the delight of zillions of fans all over the world in the long awaited Star Wars Episode VII, with director J.J. Abrams at the helm… 38 years after the original was released in cinemas!
4. Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio is arguably the hottest actor in Hollywood, getting paid the really big bucks and flocked by a fluttering of stunning models wherever he goes.
It wasn’t always so for DiCaprio, who started developing an interest in acting as a young teen, on the urgings of his parents to explore his creative side.
Testing out for roles, the charismatic, good looking teen managed to land a couple of guest appearances on TV shows like Roseanne. An acting natural, DiCaprio really started making his mark in 1991 by landing a semi-regular gig in the popular family-comedy TV series Growing Pains alongside Kirk Cameron and Alan Thicke.
DiCaprio revealed his true range when he played Robert Deniro‘s abused step-son in the acclaimed This Boy’s Life. His 1993 portrayal of a mentally disabled boy in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape got critics talking again, earning him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.
After his 1995 turn as Romeo in Baz Luhrmann‘s Romeo and Juliet, DiCaprio was riding a wave of the magical Hollywood combination; a gifted actor and heartthrob.
The heartthrob aspect went into overdrive when the actor starred alongside Kate Winslet in 1997’s epic blockbuster, Titanic. His heartthrob status safely secured, along with his bank account, DiCaprio then set out to improve his gifted-actor pedigree. The actor went on to earn two more Best Actor Oscar nominations for his roles in The Aviator, and Blood Diamond.
DiCaprio’s recent stand-out projects have included acclaimed blockbusters with director Martin Scorsese, The Departed and The Wolf of Wall Street.
3. Channing Tatum
First Channing Tatum was a young stripper, then he was a… young stripper? Yes, you could say Channing Tatum’s career has truly come full circle; in Tatum’s rise to stardom story, it is a case of art imitating life.
Tatum famously admitted to working as a male stripper when he was 19, after dropping out of University. Saying the money was “not as much as you think,” and fed up with the hard-partying that came with the job, not to mention being groped by older ladies, Tatum left stripping in search of something better.
It must have been fate, because not long after, he was spotted on the streets of Miami by a talent scout; he snagged his first onscreen gig as a backup dancer for Ricky Martin‘s “She Bangs” video, earning just $400 for the job.
Things grew quickly from there, with several TV commercials leading to an acting stint on CSI:Miami, and finally his first feature film role on Coach Carter. After that, the roles kept coming in, with Tatum trying to keep his range versatile in everything from GI Joe:Retaliation, to Stop-Loss, to a romantic turn in Dear John.
The ladies were already fanning themselves over the handsome, young, buff actor, when Magic Mike hit theatres in 2012, helping Tatum explode into “Sexiest Man Alive” territory.
Magic Mike 2, starring Tatum once again as the male stripping lead, is scheduled to hit theatres this summer.
2. Sarah Michelle Gellar
Gellar was reportedly having lunch with family at a local restaurant at the age of four when a casting agent spotted her and asked if they could come to his studio to do some screen tests.
Gellar went on to land roles in TV ads, her first big one acting at the age of 4 in a Burger King commercial that accused McDonald’s hamburgers of being “20% smaller.” The tiny actress experienced her first Hollywood conflict, being named in a lawsuit McDonald’s launched against Burger King, which was settled by the time Gellar was the ripe old age of 5.
Not long after, her parents divorced over her father’s reported jealousy of his budding actress little girl earning more than him as she continued getting job after job. They remained increasingly estranged until his death in 2001.
Now a seasoned pro, with a family feud and lawsuit under her belt, there was no stopping the rising star who worked her way through many TV roles, eventually being cast at the young age of 16 to play a 23-year old character on famed soap opera All My Children; the role earned her two Emmy awards in 1994 and 1995 for Outstanding Young Actress in a Daytime Drama.
Gellar’s super-fame began when she moved to L.A., and was finally cast as Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the highly popular, long running television series, after reportedly trying out for the role several times.
This led to film roles in blockbuster horror films Scream 2 and I Know What You Did Last Summer (where she met hubby Freddy Prinze Jr.), as well as a stint playing Daphne alongside her hubby once again in two successful Scooby-Doo films.
Gellar lives in L.A. with Prinze Jr. and their two children.
1. Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman was just 11 years old trying to enjoy a slice of pizza in a local pizzeria, when a Revlon cosmetic rep spotted her and suggested she try modelling.
Finding modelling boring, Portman decided to try her hand at acting instead. Starting out in theatre productions, Portman got her big break being cast in director Luc Besson’s 1994 cult classic, The Professional (marketed in Europe and other parts of the world under the name, Leon).
At just 13 years of age, Portman caught the attention of critics with her mature, lolita take on her character, who gets taken under the wing of a hit-man neighbour when her family is murdered, becoming his apprentice.
After taking on a few more film roles, Portman took a break from the big screen until she was cast as Queen Amidala in the hotly anticipated Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace. Portman starred in all three of the Star Wars prequels, all the while studying to complete her degree at Harvard University, where she graduated with honours.
She went through rigorous dance training and reportedly lost 20-pounds to play an obsessively ambitious, damaged ballet dancer in Darren Aronofsky‘s 2010 psychological thriller, Black Swan.
The actress’ intense work ethic paid off, with Portman reaching the epitome of stardom when she won the Best Actress Oscar for her turn as the deranged ballerina; and all because she decided to have a piece of pizza one day. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!
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