We’re coming up on the awards season, and there are always a few themes that are repeated in those way-too-long acceptance speeches. The stars first must thank God, and/or their parents and agents, and they also make some type of political dig.
But the one theme that stands out to many people, year after year, is the constant advice to never quit. Don’t stop. Believe in yourself. Don’t give up on your dreams. How can it be that these celebrities have made it to the pinnacle of their careers, yet they still are looking back, exhausted by all the work they did?
Well, that perseverance is what this article is all about. Stardom is not effortless. Every single one of these actors and actresses have been through some very difficult years. The fact is, with the rare exceptions, they’ve all been around forever. Even the younger stars on the list were signed up when they were toddlers. It’s no wonder why they’re still in awe of themselves when they are finally honored. But still, try to keep the speeches short, people.
16 Kaley Cuoco
Kaley Cuoco is a force in Hollywood and one of the favorite celebrities here on The Richest. Kaley made her star shine on The Big Bang Theory, but this was by no means her first major role. Kaley started out doing commercials when she was just a child. She did an Oscar Meyer promotion back in the day, that was seen by millions. She went on to star in shows like 7th Heaven and two failed sitcoms fronted by Ellen Degeneres. In one episode, Kaley even played a young Ellen. She later starred in the popular CW witch drama, called Charmed, and then as John Ritter’s daughter in 8 Simple Rules. Now, she is repping PriceLine for big bucks and making a million an episode on Big Bang. It’s no surprise that this young star has finally reached that followed-by-the-paps level of fame.
15 Britney Spears
Some on this list will make you go, “ Oh, yeah, I knew that,” but you probably didn’t know the whole story. Take Brit for example. This girl has been around forever. Most of us knew that she was in the Mickey Mouse Club alongside Ryan Gosling, Christina Aguilera, and future ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake. They sang and danced and tried to compete with shows like Kids Incorporated which launched the career of Jennifer Love Hewitt. But the fact is, Britney was around before Mickey. She was even cast in a commercial for a barbecue restaurant. You can see pictures of her grinning and chomping into a sloppy joe. Britney was also a winning contestant on Star Search. The late 1980’s early 1990’s talent show that paved the way for American Idol and The Voice also launched the careers of Usher, Kevin James, Adam Sandler, Dave Chappelle, Uncle Joey from Full House, and so many more. There was also a music group called Girls Tyme, who later changed their name to Destiny’s Child.
14 Alyson Hannigan
We’ve all known Alyson since the classic American Pie line, “one time at band camp.” After Pie, she went on to have an excellent career. She was featured in the Pie sequels, starred in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and then had a lead in the popular sitcom How I Met Your Mother. But the truth is, Alyson was already an established star before all of these roles. Hannigan has a pretty deep resume. It includes TV classics like Roseanne, Touched by an Angel, and Picket Fences. Her first movie credit was in Impure Thoughts back in 1985, and then she played the daughter in My Stepmother is an Alien in 1988. But the resume was already banging before that. Alyson starred in a McDonald’s commercials and one for Oreo cookies.
13 Jake Gyllenhaal
Here’s another child star that many of us recognize. He played in the cult hit Donnie Darko when he was pretty young and was in October Sky even sooner. But this guy takes it all the way back to City Slickers back in 1991. That was a huge blockbuster comedy about a bunch of idiots who go on a cowboy vacation. The film starred Billy Crystal in the prime of his career, and Jake played the star’s son. In other news, comments about Jake have been buzzing on Twitter lately, with the suggestion that he plays Batman next. Ben Affleck reportedly has plans to exit the role (perhaps before more harassment allegations surface) and fans want Jake to take over. Other fans suggest that nobody plays Batman and the character gets a rest, which wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Is anybody else getting tired of constant comic book stuff?
12 Christian Bale
Speaking of Batman, here’s one of the best actors to ever wear the batsuit. Christian Bale brought a real authenticity to the role. He was calm, brutal, and just creepy enough to make you believe that, yeah, maybe this dude is hiding an enormous batcave in the basement. Bale is another star who has been hanging around Hollywood for decades. Christian, who looks like crap lately, starred in Treasure Island as the lead, Jimmy Hawkins, way back in 1990. Before that, the young batman starred as Alexi, brother to Anastasia, in the 1986 TV movie Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna. That story is about the Russian tzar and his entire family being murdered in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Seriously, folks, if you don’t know about this Russian history story, go read a book. The whole ordeal is packed with twists and turns that were way too crazy.
11 Gwyneth Paltrow
Here’s a child star that had a pretty obvious life path. Gwyneth is a second-generation star. Her mom, Blythe Danner, was an established actress before Gwyn was born. And her dad, Bruce Paltrow, was a producer and writer, responsible for the legendary 1980’s hospital drama, St. Elsewhere, which launched stars like Denzel Washington and Howie Mandel. Her godfather is none other than Steven Spielberg, who chose her to star as a young Wendy in Hook when she was quite young. Before that, she starred in a TV pilot called High, back in 1989. High also starred a very young Zach Braff as a student, opposite the teacher, Craig Ferguson. Sadly, the pilot never aired. That must have been a real blow to the writer and director, Bruce Paltrow.
Drake is a real hotshot rapper now, and his status is ever-changing. He does it all, from mixing award-winning albums, to running businesses, to starring in commercials. Have you seen the whiskey ad for Virginia Black, which Drake co-owns? The commercial is pretty funny and features him, walking towards a beautiful woman. But the woman walks right past him. She is interested in Drake’s dad instead. Drake grew up in Canada while his mom raised him alone. The dad was in the States trying to launch a musical career of his own. The father-and-son duo have since reunited and become close. Drake performed well on the commercial, and that’s because he was acting long before his music took over. Drake, as Aubrey Graham, starred in Degrassi in 2005. Before that, he appeared in the Canadian crime drama, Blue Murder, back in 2001.
9 Hayden Panettiere
We’ve come to know this pretty little blonde, thanks to her recent show, Nashville. Hayden played the spunky, prima donna, Juliet Barnes, who struggled with substance abuse and had a rotten attitude towards just about everybody in the music business. We knew she was a star when we saw her in Heroes back in 2006. Hayden played the cheerleader with the power of being indestructible. That show was a sick and twisted mess that still has a following of fans trying to figure it all out. Hayden was an actress way before Heroes, though. She was a baby in projects like HBO’s How Do You Spell God? back in 1996. She also had a reoccurring role in the soap opera One Life to Live.
8 Naya Rivera
Here’s a star that came out of nowhere and was an instant hit. She showed up on Glee, and folks were like, “Who is that?” Naya instantly stole the spotlight from the lead, Lea Michele, and gossip of onset bickering soon followed. Now, you’d think that a show like Glee would just go out and find teens, or at least people who looked young, to fill some roles, right? Well, the fact is that even if they seem young and new, stars like Naya had been waiting for a break for years. She even appeared on TGIF back in the day. In 1992, Naya starred as Gwendolyn in multiple episodes of Family Matters. Then, she just took a break from acting, right? Nope. She kept grinding away, waiting for a break. She starred in Baywatch, The Bernie Mac Show, and 8 Simple Rules.
7 Julianne Hough
We’re not quite sure where Jules is with her career right now. We thought she had switched gears and dove into acting, but the roles aren’t coming as often as we’d imagined. We know Jules was great on Dancing With The Stars, and then did very well with the difficult format of Grease Live!. Then what? Well, she recently starred in the rising sitcom Speechless. That’s the one with Minnie Driver and Micah Fowler, the young actor with cerebral palsy. Jules has gone on dancing tours with her brother, Derek, and people just love watching siblings grab each other’s butts, right? Fact is, Jules has been stalking Hollywood for years. She was in Harry Potter when she was a little kid. You can see her cheering on Harry in the crowd at a quidditch game. Was anyone else annoyed by that sport? What’s the point, really? Wouldn’t the story succeed without it?
6 Shannen Doherty
Unfortunately, Doherty has made the headlines lately with sad news of her cancer battles. Her breast cancer spread to her lymph nodes and she received intense chemo, which thankfully sent her cancer into remission. But that’s way too heavy for this piece. Let’s get back to her roles, which go decades into history. Many fans may have thought that 90210 was her first big role, which came even before her lead run on Charmed. Well, this girl was in the business even before those major successes. She played Jenny Wilder on Little House on the Prairie, back in 1982, alongside Jason Bateman. Before that, in 1981, she appeared on Father Murphy. She also did the films Agents of Satan, Night Shift, and Bluebird, before Prairie. This girl had a rocking resume at the age of 11. That’s comparable to child star legends like Drew Barrymore or Macaulay Culkin.
5 Alec Baldwin
Alec Baldwin seems to get more and more popular as days go by, all thanks to his amazing impersonation of Donald Trump. That has got to be one of the most cartoonish impressions of a political figure ever. It’s outrageous, but somehow underdone. Trump keeps saying and doing such unbelievable things that the comedy material is having a hard time keeping up. Meanwhile, in the wake of the Weinstein fallout, Baldwin issued a preemptive apology for treating women like crap in his past. The statement was trashed on Twitter, and the star said he’d never use the platform again. Alec is a pretty established Hollywood star, and it’s obvious that he’s been around for decades. But, he goes back further than you may have thought. Alec first showed up on The Doctors back in 1980. This show was on forever and also featured a young Brooke Shields and a baby Ian Ziering, long before his 90210 fame.
4 Jim Carrey
Jim Carrey is a star who has that personality that you just can’t miss. For some, he also has the personality that you just don’t like. Jim was in that hit-or-miss zone when he starred in his first film back in 1981. Jim starred as Toni Moroni in a project called Introducing Janet. The movie was later renamed Rubberface, after Jim set the world on fire with Ace Ventura, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber. These films didn’t come until 1994. That’s a decade of failure. If you like Jim, check out the just-released Netflix documentary, Jim and Andy. This film uses behind-the-scenes footage from his 1999 film Man on the Moon, about the shock-comic/wrestler Andy Kaufman. Jim was in character as Andy constantly during this film, and he even interacted with the late actor’s family. He also strutted around as Andy’s alias, Tony Clifton, who was quintessentially a total a**hole.
3 George Clooney
George Clooney is one of those dudes who doesn’t go away. Is he still liked? Does anybody care? Because the media still follows him around like a god and kisses his butt any chance they get. Why is that? Well, he does know a lot of people simply because he’s been in the business forever. And that amount of time is longer than you think. Many entertainment buffs would say that Clooney showed up first on ER. Well, that launched his career, but he was around long before that. Others might say Roseanne, or The Facts of Life, and those are true too. He was also on Golden Girls, with budding stars like Jack Black, Mario Lopez, and Quentin Tarantino. But his first role was way back in 1978, in a movie called Centennial. George played a village boy who was dressed up like a pirate. He got help in Hollywood from his aunt, Rosemary Clooney, who starred in timeless classics like White Christmas.
2 Leonardo DiCaprio
Okay, this one may be an obvious choice, but the guy is about as popular as they come. Instead, we could have talked about Lindsay Lohan, who started out as a Ford Model at the age of 3. Or how about Bryan Cranston, who starred in CHIPs back in 1982? There was also Morgan Freeman who starred alongside Bill Cosby in the Electric Company in 1977, made his film debut in The Pawnbroker in 1964, and didn’t hit gold until 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy. But let’s get back to Leo who, aside from dating hundreds of models, also starred in hundreds of projects. We all know Growing Pains. People loved that show, and he was charismatic as hell. But before that, there was Santa Barbara, Young Lassie, The Outsiders, and more. And don’t forget his debut way back in 1979, when he starred in the children’s show, Romper Room and Friends, and picked his nose. That makes Gomez and Lovato’s Barney roles in 2004 seem like yesterday.
1 Scarlett Johansson
We had fun researching this one and found tons of old roles of established stars. And some of them, like ScarJo, grew up to be beautiful and talented actresses. How about Natalie Portman, who got her start in 1994 in the blockbuster film The Professional? Elizabeth Banks starred in Surrender Dorothy in 1998, way before The Hunger Games. Compare that to the exception, Jennifer Lawrence, who got lucky as hell. She won an Oscar already, and her oldest role is Monk in 2006. Then, there’s Scarlett. She made it big with Lost in Translation in 2003, but there were way more projects before that. She starred in North back in 1994 and Home Alone 3 in 1997. These stars were out there earning a living back when many of us were popping zits or dirtying diapers. So, if you want to join the entertainment biz, get ready for a very long ride.
Sources: Bustle, IMDb, Wikipedia, People