May 2009 28

Believe it or not, big stars are not made overnight. Most actors are in a few things before they break out and into A-List status. You’ve probably watched many movies where you saw a minor character and thought, “Hey I know them!” Sometimes, they are hard to place because they are so much younger or you just aren’t used to seeing them in a small role. Well, here’s some people you may not know started off in some popular films.

1. Vince Vaughn – Rudy

Yup, Vince Vaughn was in the movie of the little football player that could, Rudy. He’s much younger and his forehead seems much smaller, but he is definitely in there. In fact this is the movie where Jon Favreau and him met for the first time. That’s right, if Rudy had never been made Swingers probably would also have been M.I.A. It wasn’t until 1996 that Vaughn started to get noticed with his role in Swingers. Vaughn owes his whole career basically to a film where he had a few minutes of screen time in.

2. Bill Paxton – The Terminator

Bill Paxton who isn’t as big of a movie star as he was in the 90s with roles in Titanic, Twister, and True Lies but has now found fame through his show Big Love on HBO. Paxton holds the distinction of being the only actor who has been killed on film by a Terminator, Alien, and a Predator. In 1984’s The Terminator Paxton is barely recognizable as the leader of a punk gang who the Terminator famously tells “Your clothes. Give them to me.”  It wasn’t Paxton’s first role in a film, but it is one of the biggest ones he appeared in before his rise to fame. His next big role came in 1985’s Weird Science where he played douchebag brother Chet.

3. Forest Whitaker- Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Oscar winner Forest Whitaker’s first role in a major film of note was in 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High. You might remember that only as a scene were Phoebe Cates walks out of a pool and strips off her top. Whitaker actually played a football player in it named Charles Jefferson, although there isn’t much to his role he is featured in the trailer. Fast Times at Ridgemont High featured a cast that produced many famous actors including three who went on to win Academy Awards (Forest Whitaker, Sean Penn, and Nicolas Cage). Sadly, Judge Reinhold is still waiting for his Oscar role to come to him…

4. John Travolta – Carrie

Before he had a string of hits with Saturday Night Fever, Grease, and Urban Cowboy, Travolta was in Brian DePalma’s Carrie where he played boyfriend to the bully of Carrie, Chris. Together they come up with the plot to pour pigs blood over her which causes the massacre of the film. It’s interesting to see Travolta play a villain who isn’t over the top (see The Punisher, Battlefield Earth, Swordfish, etc. Actually on second thought, don’t see those movies.) It was only a year later that he had risen to the top. He faded for a big in the 80s and rose back to fame with Pulp Fiction. He is now one of the crazy A-listers associated with Scientology. Fun!

5. Johnny Depp – Nightmare on Elm Street

The best thing about Johnny Depp’s first role? He wasn’t the one who went to try out for it. He accompanied Jackie Earle Haley (Watchman’s Rorschach) to the audition and won the part. At the time Depp was trying to break into music. Depressing for Haley probably as his career has fizzled until recently, where his friend has reached heights very few actors get to. Depp won the role in Nightmare on Elm Street as one of the victims of Freddie. He of course later went onto 21 Jump Street which is where he found his fame. A few years later he teamed up with Tim Burton who has kept Depp employed steadily since then.

6. Jake Gyllenhaal – City Slickers

Jake Gyllenhaal actually has deep ties in Hollywood. His father Stephen is a director and his mother Naomi Foner is a screenwriter. In 1991 he appeared in Billy Crystal’s successful comedy City Slickers as his son. A pretty small role, but when you watch it you will instantly recognize him. Gyllenhaal, of course did not break out until making October Sky and subsequently the cult classic Donnie Darko. Since then with roles in Brokeback Mountain and Zodiac he has garnered much crititcal praise.

So, what are some of your favorite early performances?

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