At this point, we can say the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy are all superstars, right? I mean, they may have come from different backgrounds and have had different levels of fame before the 2014 film, but Guardians certainly helped blast all of their celebrity statuses into super stardom. That being said, they weren’t always famous. In fact, there was a time when they were… nobodies. Yes, Chris Pratt – America’s Sweetheart – was once a nobody in Hollywood. Zoe Saldana used to just be that girl in that Britney Spears movie, and Bradley Cooper was what’s-his-name-from-Wedding-Crashers (or, like 13 other movies).
Since Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has just been released (aka the unofficial kick off of summer blockbuster season), we thought we’d take a walk down memory lane and remember the days when the Guardians were, well, nobodies. Below are pre-fame roles of Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper – y’know, the whole gang – as well as a few other Guardians characters we all know and love. Though, we actually left out Dave Bautista because his background is mostly just wrestling. But, we still love you, Dave Bautista!
We can all giggle at these pre-fame roles, as many of them are in lackluster films or are very minor, goofy roles, but, it’s also important to note how hard all of these actors have worked to get to where they are. They worked their way up in Hollywood and we should all respect that... even if their beginning roles were a little laughable.
13 Bradley Cooper: Sex And The City
That’s right. Bradley Cooper’s first role was on HBO's Sex and the City. This shouldn’t be too, too shocking though, since almost every up and coming actor of the ‘90s and early 2000s cycled through Sex and the City. Justin Theroux, Elizabeth Banks, Kat Dennings, and so many others had small roles on Sex and the City. The thing about Bradley Cooper’s small role is that he was kind of a douche bag. In S2,E4 (“They Shoot Single People Don’t They?”), Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) poses for a magazine story, which ends up denouncing her single lifestyle. She also looks awful on the cover, which you can see in Cooper's hands in the above photo. Carrie is mortified, but she decides to still go out and live that single lifestyle, at which point she meets - yes, you guessed it - Bradley Cooper. He’s fine, I guess, but then on their way to assumably go bang one out, Cooper finds the magazine. And, he wants to bang her even more because she's a girl on a magazine cover.
They don’t bang, in case you were wondering. It wasn't the most flattering first role for Cooper, but he sure was memorable.
12 Zoe Saldana: Crossroads
Crossroads… as in Britney Spears’ Crossroads? Yes, that’s the movie we’re talking about. Zoe Saldana appeared in 2002’s Crossroads. While it’s not considered a "good" film, some people (me) still love it for nostalgic reasons. There’s the fashion, the music, and the Britney. What more could one want? It’s all so good, even if it’s really actually bad.
Zoe Saldana played Kit, the popular, pretty character of the friend group. Britney was the valedictorian (LOL) and Taryn Manning played the pregnant rebel. The cast all seems to be doing well. Zoe Saldana is, obviously, in Guardians of the Galaxy, but she’s also part of the Star Trek and Avatar franchises. Zoe Saldana is arguably one of the most successful film stars in Hollywood right now, but she still manages to keep a low profile, which is seriously impressive. Taryn Manning is on Netflix’s critically acclaimed Orange is the New Black. And, Britney is making all the money ever through her Las Vegas show. So, say what you will of Crossroads, but the cast is crushin’ it.
11 Chris Pratt: The O.C.
Chris Pratt is a Hollywood stud these days. As Peter Quill/Star Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy, he’s the face of the franchise. He’s also the face of the rebooted Jurassic World franchise. And, he voiced Emmet, the protagonist in The Lego Movie, which was 2014’s most surprisingly amazing movie. OH, and he was Andy Dwyer on NBC’s Parks and Recreation. It seems like almost everything Chris Pratt touches is gold. (I wrote "almost" because, y'know, a little film named Gravity.)
A decade ago, Chris Pratt wasn't as golden. He was just guest-starring on The O.C. Yes, one of Pratt’s first roles was on the teen drama The O.C. His character was a goofy (because what Chris Pratt character isn’t a tad goofy?) activist who helped Summer Roberts (played by Rachel Bilson) find her calling in life. Oh, and he played guitar… in the nude.
Pratt also appeared on Everwood from 2002 – 2006. He played the brother of Emily VanCamp, who appears in the Marvel Universe as Sharon Carter. He also DATED Emily Vancamp during that time. There should be a rule against co-stars dating if they’re playing siblings because that just feels too… icky.
10 Vin Diesel: The Iron Giant
Playing Groot is not the first time Vin Diesel has done voice-work. While we all know Diesel from the Fast and the Furious franchise, one of his first gigs was voicing the Iron Giant. In 1999’s The Iron Giant, Diesel voiced the big, iron giant, which may have actually been great prep for his work voicing Groot.
Reviews for The Iron Giant were overwhelmingly positive, as the film has a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. Despite the great reviews, the film did terribly at the box office. Like, it didn’t even break even. The film’s budget was reported to be $70-80 million, and the film only made $31.3 million. That means the studio lost, like, $50 million on this movie. They lost money! This poor box office performance is blamed on the marketing campaign, and not Vin Diesel’s voice-work... but, wouldn't it be kind of hilarious if they did blame Vin Diesel's voice for the film's failure? Anyway, it did have a second life. Through syndication, it gained a bigger following and is now regarded as a modern animated classic.
9 Karen Gillan: Oculus
Moving away from the core members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Karen Gillan plays Nebula, who was a baddie in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy but teams up with the crew in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. By the way, Karen Gillan is a complete badass who actually shaved her head for the role of Nebula. (YAS, QUEEN!) Before playing Nebula, Karen Gillan was Amy Pond on Doctor Who, the long-running BBC show. Just how "long-running" is Doctor Who? It premiered in 1963. 1963!!! It ran from 1963 (again, 1963!!!) until 1989. It was then relaunched in 2005 and has been on since.
Karen Gillan was also in 2013’s Oculus before Guardians of the Galaxy. You may remember the trailer for the film, during which Karen Gillan’s character takes a bite of an apple but it’s really a light bulb. Well, the cursed mirror makes her think she's eating an apple... but it’s a light bulb... then it was really an apple again. It’s all really confusing. The film about a haunted mirror received mostly positive reviews and made $44 million on a $5 million budget, which isn’t too shabby.
We also have to note that Karen Gillan – for whatever reason – starred in the television show Selfie in 2014. It was canceled in the first season, mostly because it should have never been made. Gillan’s career is on the up and up though, as she’s set to star in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
8 Michael Rooker: The Walking Dead
You may remember Michael Rooker’s character in Guardians of the Galaxy because he was blue, like very blue. Rooker played the blue Yondu, who raised Peter Quill to be part of the Ravagers. Yondu was kind of a baddie in Guardians of the Galaxy, as he put a bounty on Peter Quill’s head when Quill wouldn’t turn over the orb, but he really wasn't that bad.
Michael Rooker may have played a more minor character, but we included him on this list because he previously played Merle Dixon on The Walking Dead. Obviously, Michael Rooker looks much different as these two characters, mostly because Yondu is blue but whatever. On TWD, Rooker’s Merle Dixon was Daryl’s brother. He wasn’t necessarily the most likable character because he was kind of an asshole, but he became a fan favorite for his rough, survivalist attitude.
7 Bradley Cooper: Wedding Crashers
As I wrote earlier, Bradley Cooper played a douche bag on Sex and the City. Then in 2005’s Wedding Crashers, Cooper once again played a complete and total douche bag. I personally like to imagine that maybe it’s the same exact character, but that’s just me.
Even though his character wasn't likeable, Wedding Crashers was a huge break for Bradley Cooper. It was a film that actually helped launch several careers. It starred Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, whose careers were clearly launched by this point, as guys who took wedding crashing to another level. Rachel McAdams played Wilson’s love interest, helping her rising stardom following 2004’s Mean Girls and The Notebook. Isla Fisher played Vaughn’s love interest in, perhaps, the most comedic role in the entire film. She kind of stole the whole movie. Finally, Cooper played Sack Lodge, McAdams' fiancé who is, like I said, a total douche bag.
To be fair, Cooper doesn’t actually seem to be a douche bag in real life. He’s just really, really good at playing a douche bag.
6 Zoe Saldana: Guess Who
Zoe Saldana is now known for playing very badass female characters in blockbuster films but, in 2005, she starred in Guess Who... a romantic comedy. It was a (VERY) loose remake of 1967’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, which was nominated for ten Academy Awards and took home Best Actress for Katharine Hepburn and Best Original Screenplay. The film Zoe Saldana appeared in, however, was not nominated for any Academy Awards.
In Guess Who, Zoe Saldada’s character brings home her fiancé (played by Ashton Kutcher) to meet her family, with her father played by Bernie Mac. Despite the fact that Zoe Saldana did have a major role in the film, all the marketing was based on the fact that Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac were in the film.
John C. Reilly: Literally Everything
Instead of asking what John C. Reilly has been in, it’s easier to simply ask what he hasn’t been in. He’s appeared in A TON of films. Paul Thomas Anderson is clearly a fan of the actor, as he’s cast John C. Reilly in many of his films including Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, and Magnolia. In 2002, Reilly made a splash playing the guy no one wants to be married to in both the musical Chicago and the indie drama The Good Girl. In Chicago, Reilly played Renee Zellweger’s husband, who she pretty much manipulates throughout the whole movie before finally leaving him. It’s actually REALLY sad. In The Good Girl, Reilly plays Jennifer Aniston's husband, who she cheats on. Like I said, literally no one wanted to be married to John C. Reilly in 2002... except his real off-screen wife, but whatever. Because John C. Reilly often played small roles in critically acclaimed dramas, it’s funny that his break-out role came in 2008’s Step Brothers.
Reilly had a very small role in Guardians of the Galaxy as Corpsman Dey, but we had to mention him because of his extensive number of film credits. Seriously, this guy has been in everything.
Bradley Cooper: Wet Hot American Summer
In case you’ve never seen 2001’s Wet Hot American Summer, everyone in Hollywood is in this film. Seriously, it’s a little outrageous how many then-unknown, now-famous faces pop up in this film.
At the time this film came out, the only big names were Paul Rudd and Molly Shannon. Paul Rudd had already been in 1995’s Clueless, followed a handful of other odd films included 1996’s Romeo + Juliet. And Molly Shannon had been on Saturday Night Live since 1995. Amy Poehler, who was also in Wet Hot American Summer, had just joined SNL that year and had yet to achieve the monumental following she would later accumulate.
Wet Hot American Summer also includes Ken Marino, Christopher Meloni (of Law and Order: SVU fame), and Elizabeth Banks. Also, Elizabeth Banks was in EVERYTHING before she was famous. Spider-Man? Catch Me If You Can? Yes and yes. Back to Mr. Cooper, though. He was in the 2001 film and reprised his role in Netflix’s 2011 Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp.
5 Chris Pratt: Wanted
If you don’t remember Chris Pratt in 2009’s Wanted, that’s understandable. Angelina Jolie was kind of the draw there. And if Angelina wasn’t on the screen, James McAvoy was running the show. But, Chris Pratt did, indeed, have a small role in Wanted. He played McAvoy’s co-worker, who was pretty much a douche bag. Yes, Chris Pratt and Bradley Cooper simply crushed those douche bag roles while coming up in Hollywood. But, hey, you take what you can get. Chris Pratt's character ends up getting the sh*t beat out of him, very deservingly so, by James McAvoy's character. While Chris Pratt had a small role, the film did gross $341.4 million, which is a good showing by most blockbuster standards.
It’s safe to say that both Chris Pratt and Bradley Cooper have moved behind playing the minor douche bag characters, but it helped catapult them into stardom so that’s something.
4 Bradley Cooper: Failure To Launch
If you forgot that Bradley Cooper was in 2006’s Failure to Launch, it’s probably because he kind of looks like Matthew McConaughey. I mean, they don’t look like brothers, but maybe cousins, right?
Failure to Launch was – hm, how do I say this kindly? – not a good film. And that is a statement coming from Failure to Launch’s target audience – a girl who loves Sex and the City. In the film, McConaughey played a guy who still lived at home with his parents and Sarah Jessica Parker played a woman who would professionally get guys to move out of their parents’ houses. With a plot like that, it’s hard to imagine where the movie failed, right? Anyways, Cooper played McConaughey’s friend in whom he confides. It’s really not a good movie for really anyone involved. (Please forgive me, Queen SJP.)
3 Sean Gunn: Gilmore Girls
If you’re a real, real Guardians of the Galaxy fan, you already know that Sean Gunn is the brother of James Gunn... and James Gunn is the writer/director of Guardians of the Galaxy. So, James Gunn threw his brother in his film, because why not?
Sean Gunn played Kraglin, a member of the Ravagers, but he also kind of played another character. Sean Gunn does the motion reference/capture for Rocket Raccoon. In an interview, James Gunn explained that his brother’s very limber, which is why they asked him to do the physical work. However, it’s widely believed that the studio simply didn’t want to fork out the money to pay Bradley Cooper to do the motion capture. Whatever the case, Rocket Raccoon’s motions are all done by Sean Gunn and he also appears as Kraglin.
Gilmore Girls fans know Sean Gunn as Kirk, the very weird character who lives with his mom and worked, like, 600 jobs. Kirk was probably a serial murderer, but no one ever really talked about that.
2 Zoe Saldana: Center Stage
In the early 2000s - even before her role in Crossroads - Zoe Saldana appeared in Center Stage, the film about students struggling at the American Ballet Academy. The film had a small box office showing, but received good reviews. It was the first of several dance films of the 2000s, like Save the Last Dance and Step Up.
Speaking of movies that will bring back all the nostalgia, Zoe Saldana also had a small role in 2001’s Get Over It. There is perhaps no movie that is more early-2000s than Get Over It. I mean, this is a film in which Sisqo has an actual role. That’s right, SISQO of “Thong Song” fame! The film stars Kirsten Dunst, as all the best films in the early 2000s films did. Also making appearances in Get Over It were Shane West, Colin Hanks, and Mila Kunis, so Zoe Saldana was in good company.
1 Chris Pratt: Bride Wars
Bride Wars was a movie that I can confirm is not that great. Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson star as besties who get proposed to around the same time. Both ladies want to have their wedding at The Plaza in New York City, which – I’m sure – costs just as much as a college education, which is to say A LOT. Chris Pratt played Anne Hathaway’s lazy, slacker, possessive, controlling husband, who she ends up leaving at the altar. Chris Pratt would 100% not be cast in a role like this today. I’m fairly certain that Chris Pratt is now playing leading men, not those awful, sh*tty first-boyfriend characters. Ah, how far you've come Chris Pratt.
Those are the before fame, before Guardians of the Galaxy, before everything roles that your favorite guardians took on. Some roles were good, some bad, and some – well, you know the rest of that phrase.