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Actors with Iconic Film Debuts

Many actors go years, decades without ever landing in a decent film. Some actors on the other hands were lucky enough to have a big-break right at their start. Hell, one of them had their first role get an Oscar nomination. TV movies, voice overs, documentaries, TV shows, short films and extreemly small roles/ cameos will not be counted.

Anthony Mackie – 8 Mile ( 2002 )

“This guys a gangster? His real name’s Clarence” – B-Rabbit, 8 Mile ( 2002 )

( Anthony Mackie ) Photo belongs to David Shankbone
License – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

The actor most known for his work in the MCU as ‘Falcon’ got his cinematic debut as Papa Doc in the 2002 Eminem biopic ‘8 Mile’. Sure, it wasn’t an overly complicated role, given how his most memorable scene was him blankly staring at Eminem, while being lyrically devoured by him, but by no means was it bad for a start.

Ben Stiller & Christian Bale Empire of the Sun ( 1987 )

Since appearing in the Spielberg film, the two actors have gone largely different routes. Bale becoming a serious drama actor and BATMAN, while Stiller went for a more comedic route with films like Starsky and Hutch and Night at the Museum.

( Christian Bale ) Photo belongs to Siebbi
License – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Christian_Bale_2014.jpg

Chris Hemsworth Star Trek ( 2009 )

Technically speaking, Hemsworth’s first film was The Cabin in the Woods, the only problem was that it took years to find proper distribution, so even though it was already completed, nobody knew he existed until years after they should havd. Either way, Hemsworth managed to get the small role of Captain Kirk’s Father in the 2009 Star Trek reboot. Just two years later, he became the God of Thunder.

( Chris Hemsworth ) Photo belongs to Gage Skidmore
License – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

Edward Norton Primal Fear ( 1996 )

The iconic actor known for roles in movies like Fight Club, Birdman and American History X got his start starring alongside Richard Gere in 1996’s ‘Primal Fear’. He went on to play Alan Isaacman in ‘The People vs. Larry Flint’ with Woody Harrelson the same year.

( Edward Norton ) Photo belongs to Steve Jurvetson
License – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

Emma Stone – Superbad ( 2007 )

Other than a few TV episodes, Stone had essentially 0 acting experience under her belt. She managed to get the part of Jules in the Seth Rogen X Michael Cera X Jonah Hill X Bill Hader comedy ‘Superbad’. Since then she’s gone on to win an Oscar for her musical performance in ‘La La Land’ with Ryan Gosling.

( Emma Stone ) Photo belongs to Eva Rinaldi
License – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

Halle Berry – Jungle Fever ( 1991 )

Sure, Berry may not be the biggest star anymore, but about 15 years ago she was a big deal to say the least. It all started with the 1991 Spike Lee movie ‘Jungle Fever’ where she played alongside the at-time esentially unknown Samuel L. Jackson. Before the role, she had been typecasted for “Gorgeous girl” roles.

( Halle Berry ) Photo belongs to Gage Skidmore
License – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

Johnny Depp – A Nightmare on Elm Street ( 1984 )

Jack Sparrow’s first ever movie role was as Glen in the original ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’. It wasn’t the lead role, but it put him on a lot of people’s radar. By 1990 he was Edwards Scissorhands.

( Johnny Depp ) Photo belongs to Saadick Dhansay
License – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

Kevin James Hitch ( 2005 )

Being the lead actor in the hit comedy series ‘The King of Queens’ made it look like Kevin James might just be the next Jim Carrey of comedy movies. Then Hitch came out, sure it wasn’t the best film ever made, but it’s a well enough known role to qualify for this list.

Mark HamillStar Wars: A New Hope ( 1977 )

Despite having never appeared in a movie before, Hamill recieved a whopping 650.000$ paycheck to play Luke Skywalker. A value which would be worth over 2.500.000$ today. After Star Wars he’s drifted more heavily towards voice acting, including Joker, and Chucky from the new Child’s Play movie.

( Mark Hamill ) Photo belongs to Gage Skidmore
License – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

Mr. T – Rocky III ( 1982 )

Mr. T may be retired these days, but back when The A-Team was running, he was one of the most popular stars in Hollywood. He first appeared as Clubber Lang in Rocky III, which also included Hulk Hogan.

Nick Frost Shaun of the Dead ( 2004 )

The Cornetto Trilogy is what originally landed the British actor his big break. In which he played Ed, the fat, lazy, loveable loser and roommate of Simon Pegg, just trying to have a pint at his local pub-then zombies happen. Frost would later go on to star in other noteable projects, of course including his other Edgar Wright/ Simon Pegg colaborations ‘Hot Fuzz’ and ‘The World’s End’.

( Nick Frost ) Photo belongs to Gage Skidmore
License – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

Orlando Bloom – Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring ( 2001 )

Along with being Katy Perry’s husband, Bloom is also known for being Pirates of the Carribean character ‘Will Turner’. His firs9 big break was playing the elven archer ‘Legolas’ ( ironically having not much to do with Legos ).

Rowan Atkinson Never Say Never Again ( 1983 )

Considering Atkinson would later play Johnny English, a parody of Bond, it’s a little ironic his first movie role was in a Bond film alongside the late Sean Connery. It was a small role, but a neat hidden gem in for Mr. Bean fans.

( Rowan Atkinson ) Photo belongs to Eva Rinaldi
License – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

Seth Rogen – Donnie Darko ( 2001 )

Though now being one of the most famous comedy actor in the world, like most actors, he used to be an unknown. Such was the case for the Long Shot star, he was in the show ‘Freaks and Geeks’, though it wasn’t very well known at the time. It wasn’t until his collaborations with Judd Apatow that Rogen startes gaining the kind of fame he has today.

( Seth Rogen ) Photo belongs to Collison Conf
License – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

Tommy Wiseau The Room ( 2003 )

The Room is interntaionally famous for being the greatest trash movie of all time. Wiseau played Johnny, one of the most bizarre movie characters ever written, which is pretty fitting for the allegedly Polish director. Not only was The Room Wiseau’s first movie role, he also wrote, directed and produced it.

Zoe Bell Death Proof ( 2007 )

The Kiwi stuntwoman is most famous for her collaborations with Quentin Tarantino. The first of which being Uma Thurman’s stuntwoman in Kill Bill. Three years later Tarantino wrote for her to play herself in his half of Grindhouse ‘Death Proof’, where she stars next to Rosario Dawson and Kurt Russell.

Honorable Mentions:

Alan Tudyk – Patch Adams ( 1998 )

Elijah Wood – Back to the Future II ( 1989 )

Topher Grace – Ocean’s Eleven ( 2001 )

Willow Smith – I am Legend ( 2007 )

Did I miss any other actors with iconic movie debuts? If so, lemme’ know in the comments below.

-The Screenwriter

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