It’s the job of publicists, stylists, and managers to minimize the appearance of struggle. In other words, when celebrities become celebrities (rather than just one more L.A. zero trying to make it in Tinseltown) they’re made to seem as though they’ve always been fully accomplished. But that’s not the case. At one point, even the biggest A-listers in the world had to audition for a role. (And sometimes they have to audition for the role even if they’ve been vouched for. O’Shea Jackson Jr., son of Ice Cube, failed the audition to play the role of his father in Straight Outta Compton. It was only after several weeks of acting lessons and a second audition that he landed the part.)
Also, like any other job, acting requires experience. Just because you’re an amazing writer, it doesn’t mean you’re instantly going to get a job writing for the New Yorker. You gotta start by doing a little bitta bitch work. If you want to be in Twelve Years A Slave, you’re gonna have to be twelve years an extra. These actors were just putting in their due diligence, proving that they had some practice and knew their way around a movie set before vying for the starring roles in big budget Hollywood pictures.
If you’re curious, stay tuned. Here come ten megastars of screen and sound who were once just random figures busying the background.
10 Megan Fox
Ever since she leaned over the open hood of a car in Transformers, Megan Fox has been one of Hollywood’s leading sex symbols. Her smoking body and alluring eyes have made it easy for a generation of men people to fall in lust love with her. Well, based off of what her first bit part was, we think Megan Fox might be aware of the effect that she has. She appears, very briefly, in the Michael Bay flick Bad Boys 2. She’s an extra dancing at a club. Interesting that Michael Bay would have directed both the first movie she was in and the movie that rocketed her to superstardom. Maybe she’s just such a sexual powerhouse that once they meet her, men simply never forget that face…
Kesha, formerly Ke$ha, was not always the pop superstar she is today. In fact, there was a time where she was just a nobody trying to make it in Hollywood. Check out this clip of her and the rest of her family on The Simple Life season 3. In it, Paris and Nicole go to Kesha’s hometown of Nasvhille, TN, to plan a wedding and find their host, Kesha’s mom, a husband. This presumably catalyzed Kesha’s rise to fame, because not long later (this would have been in 2004-2005), Kesha snuck into Katy Perry’s 2008 music video “I Kissed A Girl.” In 2009, “TiK ToK” went #1.
8 Lady Gaga
Back in the day, MTV had a candid camera show called Boiling Points in which they’d put civilians in infuriating situations and see if they lost their cool. If the person managed to stay sane, he or she’d get a cash prize. But does anyone remember Lady Gaga being one of the ignorant prankees? Yep – in 2005, she appeared on the show as a diner at a restaurant. In the episode, she receives a phone call right after her salad is delivered to her table. When she gets up to take it, her salad is whisked away and is still gone when she returns. After she complains, the waitress brings it back to her covered with pieces of trash. Gaga reaches her boiling point and cusses her out. Check out the 43 seconds of footage above.
7 Leonardo DiCaprio
Mr. Always-A-Bridesmaid-Never-A-Bride, Leonardo DiCaprio is next on the list. Before exclaiming “I’m the king of the world!” at the tip of the Titanic and before venturing into stacked and nested dreams (and yet still never winning an Oscar), this Hollywood hard-hitter showed up in an episode of Roseanne Barr’s sitcom Roseanne. He makes a very brief appearance as one of Darlene’s, Roseanne's daughter, classmates. He sits quietly in the background, outside the action, seeming chipper but probably thinking: “I’m gonna eclipse all these basic ass bitches one day and they’ll wish they gave me a speaking part.”
6 Andy Cohen
Andy Cohen, now of Watch What Happens Live and general Bravo fame, was once just a struggling Hollywood actor. Well, actually, we can’t technically say that he was a struggling Hollywood actor. The now power-gay and best friend to Anderson Cooper appeared in a season six episode of Sex and the City, “Let There Be Light”, as an enthusiastic shoe salesman. In the episode, Charlotte asks Carrie to accompany her blindfolded through a department store. She wants to volunteer to assist the blind and the agent tells her to first understand what it’s like. She and Carrie get split up, and when they’re reunited, Carrie is trying on shoes to the eager nods of a much-darker-haired Andy Cohen.
5 Daniel Day Lewis
Daniel Day-Lewis, now known for his extreme devotion to character and mysterious good looks, was once just an aspiring actor in 1970s Britain. If you’re a fan of the star of Lincoln and The Last of the Mohicans, you might like spotting him in his bit part in the 1971 movie Sunday Bloody Sunday, which oddly enough doesn’t having anything to do with the massacre in Northern Ireland in 1972. It’s just one of those instances of movies being eerily prophetic. Day-Lewis plays a character called “Child Vandal”, which can hardly be called “playing” and can hardly be called “character”, because really all he does is brood, but really: isn’t that all Daniel Day-Lewis does anyways?
4 Kristen Stewart
Kristen Stewart is now known for many things: having no facial expressions, cheating on Robert Pattinson with a married man, and playing Bella Swan in Twilight. But before she became a Hollywood icon in her own right, she was part of the hustle like the rest of them. She first appeared in a non-speaking role in the Disney Channel original movie The Thirteenth Year, about a boy who develops fish-like qualities as he enters adolescence (oh my god, such incisive commentary by Disney on the ins and outs of puberty!!!). She's just there for a moment, with a Scout Finch-like haircut and an inquisitive expression on her young face.
3 Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t really an actor (nor a politician, to be honest) to begin with. He was, first and foremost, a bodybuilder, so much so that his name inspired a lift that many bodybuilders still use (the “Arnold,” a variation on the shoulder press in which the lifter rotates the weight as he raises and lowers it.) So it’s no surprise that when he wanted to break into cinema, he did it with the help of his bod. His first appearance on the silver screen was shirtless in the 1973 crime flick The Long Goodbye. Elliot Gould, star of the movie, went on to play Monica and Ross’s dad on Friends. Arnold went on to become the Terminator, and then the governor of the great state of California.
2 Evangeline Lilly
Before making her big break on Lost, Evangeline Lilly was on the disgustingly bad Smallville. But before that, she made a tiny appearance in the slasher flick Freddy Vs. Jason. In the movie, there’s a tense scene in the hallway, and Evangeline Lilly recoils onto a looker, looking greasy. The movie came out in 2003, and the very next year Lost started, so Lilly didn’t have to wait long for her big break. And we mean big. By 2008, she was in best-picture-winning The Hurt Locker. While it’s tempting to attribute Lilly’s immediate success to her striking good-looks, we can’t deny that she’s also a very talented dramatic actress.
1 Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron, like Sienna Miller, is one of the unicorns of Hollywood. Too elusive to get pigeonholed, Theron moves around the movie circuit ever welcome and never aging. That’s why it’s so odd to see that she got her start in a non-speaking role in a movie called Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest. As if the first two Children of the Corn flicks striking out with the critics weren’t enough, the producers went in for a third in the franchise. The only good thing to emerge from this film was Charlize Theron’s career, after she portrayed a character lovingly named “Eli’s Follower”, for which she was not credited.