The acting profession has existed for thousands of years, going back to the time of the ancient Romans and Greeks, and possibly even earlier than that. The premise of acting is to portray another individual, who is either fictional or real, primarily through a satirical or dramatic manner. That premise has remained virtually the same over the centuries, but what has changed is the avenues in which acting performances are delivered. At first, actors could only be seen in plays which took place in outdoor amphitheaters, and then such plays moved inside for theatre productions; and then with the improvement of technology in the twentieth century, actors began to appear on small screens in the home and big screens at the cinema.
Today, there is no doubt that the epitome of acting takes place in movies, and that it's the dream of nearly every actor to land a role in as many films as possible. With television, actors usually will make less than those who appear in movies, but nowadays though, sometimes television offers performances that are on par with any seen on film, which may be one of the reasons why some movie actors have decided to take their talents from the big screen to the small screen. Here is a list of 15 big time celebs who went from film to television.
15 James Spader
James Spader has been acting since the late 1970s, and in that time, he has appeared in over forty movies. In terms of film, he is best known for his roles in Stargate, Secretary, and Crash, with his most recent movie role coming over a year ago where he voiced the villain Ultron in the second Avengers movie. Most of his major movie roles came prior to 2005, and since then, Spader has mainly acted on television where he has won multiple Emmys. He has appeared in shows like The Practice, The Office, Boston Legal and he currently stars in the NBC hit crime thriller The Blacklist.
14 Claire Danes
Claire Danes has been acting ever since she was thirteen years old, and in that time she has appeared in over twenty-five movies. Danes’ most noteworthy movie roles came in Romeo & Juliet (1996), The Rainmaker (1997), Terminator 3 (2003) and Stardust (2007). Ever since appearing in Stardust, Danes has appeared in barely any other movies, but her acting career successfully continues today on television. For the past five years, she has played the lead role of Carrie Mathison on the Showtime thriller Homeland, and her performance on the series has earned her two Emmys and Golden Globes.
13 Michael Sheen
Wales born actor Michael Sheen, has been acting since the early 90s, and like many English actors, he started out in theater before moving onto film. Sheen has starred in many movies, and most people will remember him for playing a werewolf in the Underworld franchise and a vampire in Twilight, but he has also appeared in more grounded and complex story driven movies in which his acting skills were on full display, movies such as The Queen and Frost/Nixon. His first big television credit came in 2010 when he guest starred in a few episodes of the comedy 30 Rock, but since 2013, he has been playing the lead role of Dr. William Masters on Showtime's period drama Masters of Sex.
12 Kevin Bacon
Kevin Bacon has been around since the late 70s and even though his first movie was Animal House, he did not start landing any major roles until after appearing in the original Friday the 13th, in 1980. After getting killed by Mrs. Voorhees, Kevin Bacon went on to appear in over forty movies, including A Few Good Men, Wild Things, Apollo 13, Mystic River, and his most famous role as Ren McCormack in Footloose. In 2013 though, Bacon moved from the big screen to the small screen, and starred in the Fox drama series The Following, where he played the male protagonist until the show was cancelled in 2015.
11 Don Cheadle
Don Cheadle has been acting for over thirty years now, and in that lengthy career, he has appeared in Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen, Swordfish, and he is currently a member of the Marvel cinematic universe with his portrayal of James Rhodes/War Machine. His most acclaimed role though, came when he played a Rwandan hotel manager in the movie Hotel Rwanda, a role which got him nominated for an Academy Award. Aside from playing a Marvel superhero, Cheadle barely appears in movies, but he does continue to act on television, playing the lead role of Marty Kaan on House of Lies.
10 Anna Faris
Anyone who watched comedy movies in the early 2000s, most likely watched at least one movie from the Scary Movie franchise, and one of the mainstays of the franchise was the character Cindy, who appeared in the first four installments, and was played by Anna Faris. Anna has been acting since the early 90s, and has appeared in many other movies that were not associated with Scary Movie, movies like The House Bunny, Just Friends, and Alvin and The Chipmunks. Nowadays, Anna appears solely on television, where every week she makes people laugh on the CBS sitcom Mom, as the main character.
9 Viola Davis
Since the mid-90s, Viola Davis has been alternating between acting on television, and acting in movies. Early on in her career she appeared on shows like NYPD Blue and Judging Amy, while also appearing in movies such as Traffic. It was not until her performance in the movie Doubt, that she gained attention for her acting ability, and after she was nominated for an Oscar, she spent most of her time appearing in movies, Since 2008, she appeared in movies such as Prisoners, Ender’s Game and The Help, she will also play the role of Amanda Walker in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie. Most of her time now though is spent on television where she plays the lead role in ABC’s drama series How To Get Away With Murder.
8 Paul Giamatti
Paul Giamatti has been in the acting business since the late 80s, and he has been in multiple movies and television shows. The vast majority of Giamatti’s television credits are brief one episode appearances, except for his portrayal of founding father John Adams, in the HBO mini series of the same name. What he is most known for though, is his movie roles, as he has appeared in films such as Sideways, The Illusionist, San Andreas, Straight Outta Compton and Cinderella Man, for which he was nominated for an Oscar. As of now though, Giamatti’s time is mostly spent with Showtime where for the foreseeable future he will be playing as one of the male leads in the drama series Billions.
7 Clive Owen
English actor Clive Owen, started his acting career in the late 80s, and up until now he has appeared in several TV movies, as well as over twenty actual movies. His movie credits include many leading roles in films such as Closer, King Arthur, Children of Men, Sin City and Inside Man. Since 2014 however, Owen has spent very little time appearing in movies, in fact most of his time now is spent playing a drug addicted doctor in the early twentieth century on the Cinemax drama series The Knick.
6 Maggie Gyllenhaal
Like her brother Jake, Maggie Gyllenhaal has been acting since the early 90s, and also like him, she has appeared in over twenty movies. One of her most recent movies was White House Down, which came out in 2013, but she has also starred in other movies such as The Dark Knight, Sherrybaby, Donnie Darko and the movie that undoubtedly made her career, Secretary. Since 2013, she has done little acting in general, but most of the acting she has done, has come in the form of television, primarily in the form of a TV mini-series called The Honorable Woman.
5 Jennifer Lopez
The seemingly ageless Jennifer Lopez, is mostly known for being a talented singer, and the music industry is her main passion, but throughout her music career she has also been acting in movies. J-Lo has in fact appeared in over thirty movies, with her most memorable roles coming in Anaconda, Maid in Manhattan, Enough, Monster-in-Law, and recently The Boy Next Door. Aside from singing and movies, Lopez has also ventured into the world of television, with some one-off appearances here and there, but over the last six years, she has become much more involved with the small screen. For five seasons she served as a judge on Fox’s singing competition American Idol, and as of this year she has been starring in the NBC cop drama Shades of Blue.
4 Terrence Howard
Many people may think that Terrence Howard is relatively new to the acting game, but in fact he has been appearing in movies since the early 90s. He was not recognized for his acting abilities though, until he appeared in Crash in 2004, and after that performance, he would go on to star in movies like Get Rich or Die Tryin’, Four Brothers, Prisoners and the acclaimed Hustle & Flow; he was also a part of Marvel’s universe until he was replaced by Don Cheadle. Since 2015, most of Howard’s time is spent performing on television, where he stars in both the mystery series Wayward Pines as a recurring character, and on the popular Fox drama Empire, where he plays the lead role.
3 Jaime Lee Curtis
Jaime Lee Curtis has been in the entertainment industry since the late 70s where she has credited roles in over thirty movies. Her first role was that of Michael Myer’s sister in the original Halloween movie, and it was a role she played in multiple sequels of the horror franchise; but that is not her only venture into the horror genre as most of her first movies were all slasher films, which helped to earn her the moniker of the original “scream queen”. She has appeared in other kinds of movies too though, like True Lies, Freaky Friday and Veronica Mars. More recently, her acting credits have primarily been for television shows, including multi-episode stints on NCIS, New Girl and as a main cast member on the series ironically titled Scream Queens.
2 Halle Berry
Like Jennifer Lopez, Halle Berry just seems to never age, and since she began her career in the late 80s, she has appeared in over thirty movies. Many people know her for playing the role of the mutant Storm in the X-Men movie franchise, but she has also starred in other movies like Swordfish, Cloud Atlas and Monster’s Ball, for which she won an Academy Award for best actress. Aside from X-Men: Days of Future Past, Berry has not appeared in any movie since 2014, but she has been working on television, where for two years she played the main role in CBS’s sci-fi drama Extant.
1 Kevin Spacey
Since the late 80s, Kevin Spacey has been entertaining audiences on the big screen with now over fifty movies under his belt, including movies like Pay It Forward, Seven and the Horrible Bosses films. He has also starred in both American Beauty and The Usual Suspects, movie roles which both earned him Academy Awards for his acting prowess. An actor of Spacey’s caliber, is capable of expanding his work to all kinds of mediums, and television is one of them, as for the past four years he has played the ruthless and scheming Frank Underwood, on the award winning Netflix original series House of Cards.
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