In an industry that plasters face across buildings and posters around the world, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that Hollywood is a tad superficial.
As much as we would like to believe that casting directors in film and television pick the actor who is simply the best fit for the role, the ultimate casting decision often comes down to looks.
So, if you don’t look like you could walk a Parisian runway in a fashion show or convincingly pose on the cover of a People magazine, chances are you won’t be able to snag a leading role in a major film– or, in some cases, even a supporting role.
Although there has been a big push in recent years for movies to represent actors who aren’t conventionally attractive, this is still a slow-moving process.
Because of the impossibly high standards of the film industry, you might be surprised to learn that even some of the undeniably gorgeous men and women, who now sell out box office tickets, were once considered too ugly to make it in show business.
Here are the 15 Actors Who Were Told They Were “Too Ugly” For Hollywood.
15. Jennifer Lawrence
As far as acting is concerned, Jennifer Lawrence is pretty much on top of the world. She is one of the youngest actresses to win an Oscar for a leading role, she’s worked with legendary directors like Quentin Tarantino and David O. Russell, and she’s been the face of the enormous Hunger Games franchise.
That being said, like many young actresses, when starting her career Laurence was told by multiple producers that she was “too fat” to make it for long in the industry.
According to Lawrence, she was once threatened of being fired from a job if she didn’t lose a certain amount of weight. She told Harper’s Bazaar, “They brought in pictures of me where I was basically naked, and told me to use them as motivation for my diet.”
Since this experience, Lawrence has spoken out publicly many times about the way society views women’s bodies in the entertainment industry, and states that, at this point, she will not even tolerate a producer whispering the word “diet” to her.
14. Kate Winslet
After achieving critical acclaim for her work in Heavenly Creatures and Sense and Sensibility, Kate Winslet quickly shot to international recognition with the role of Rose in the record-breaking Titanic.
Since then, she has received her fair share of acclaim for her beauty, hard work, and undeniable talent during her long and successful career as an actress.
Although it is hard to imagine how anyone could look at Kate Winslet and think “ugly,” Winslet received a lot of criticism for her looks when she was first studying drama as a child, being often told that she was “too fat” and her feet were “ill-proportioned.”
When she was 14, a drama teacher told her that she might “do okay” if she was happy to settle for the fat girl parts. After winning a BAFTA award for best supporting actress, Winslet made sure to include in her press interviews that young actresses shouldn’t listen to teachers, friends, or even parents who put them down and instead ignore them to rise above their insecurities.
13. Jessica Chastain
With impressive leading roles in films like Zero Dark Thirty, The Martian, and The Help, it may be surprising to learn that Chastain wasn’t always considered a film beauty.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Chastain explained that people have only been telling her she is attractive for the past five years. According to her, before this she was often refused parts for not being “pretty enough.”
Even her red hair, which has become such a staple of Jessica Chastain’s brand, was once looked down upon as too unattractive to nab her the parts she auditioned for. Casting directors suggested that she should dye her hair a more conventional blonde in order to get success in the future, which she refused.
“Funny how defined we are by how we present ourselves,” she said.
12. Lea Michele
Known best for work as Rachel Berry in Fox’s Glee, Lea Michele has made a name for herself in both the worlds of television and musical theatre.
Although Michele has been nominated for two Golden Globes for her work on Glee, she has said that she was told by many managers that she would never make it in entertainment unless she drastically changed her looks.
In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Michele said, “How many managers told me, ‘Get a nose job. You’re not pretty enough,’ But I proved them wrong.”
Michele refused to give in to these professionals trying to change her, and now even uses her nose to her advantage as a beloved aspect of her brand. When she was asked about the Glee: The 3D Concert Movie in 2011, Michele responded jokingly with, “My nose is going to look fabulous.”
11. Kat Dennings
Kat Dennings is a charming actress who has managed to do what few others have done: work as a leading actress in a hit television show without fitting the type of a typical leading lady.
With a deadpan delivery and a sharp edge, Dennings already doesn’t fit perfectly into the Hollywood mold. However, without the body type of a chopstick, Dennings has faced her fair share of unhelpful criticism from managers throughout her youth and career.
According to a profile with the New York Times, Dennings has rejected all of the advice and suggestions that her various managers have given her, suggesting that she should fix her teeth, try tanning, lose weight, or even dye her hair.
Instead, Dennings has stayed firm in her own confidence, which has earned her several big roles in films like Thor, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, as well as her lead part in 2 Broke Girls.
10. Judi Dench
Judi Dench is an actress who has contributed so much talent and skill to the world of drama that she has literally received a damehood from the queen of England for her work.
However, apparently even becoming a dame doesn’t make you immune to the harsh, superficial criticisms that plague the entertainment industry.
In an interview with BBC, Dench revealed that she didn’t begin her film career until the ’60s because of a disastrous audition she had with a director who told her she would never make it on the silver screen because her face was “wrongly arranged.”
Eventually Dench gave film another try, which eventually led to a successful career including an Oscar, six film BAFTAs, and four television BAFTAs, decidedly putting this unnamed director in his place.
9. Mindy Kaling
These days Mindy Kaling is widely respected as an artist who is much more than just an actress. In addition to being a performer, Kaling is an accomplished writer, director, and creator of her own sitcom: The Mindy Project.
Because Kaling doesn’t fit the typical mold of a Hollywood lead actress, she has faced her fair share of criticism about her body and looks.
In an interview with The Guardian, Kaling recounted one of her most humiliating experiences in her career related to her looks. After she moved to Los Angeles and began working as a writer and actress on The Office, a network offered her a sketch show, but asked her to still audition for the part.
The network then rejected her, because, according to Kaling, “we were not considered attractive or funny enough to play ourselves.” This network is no longer on the air, while Kaling continues to dominate the television comedy scene.
8. Taylor Lautner
Because Taylor Lautner is now known mainly for his pretty face and chiseled body, it’s a little ironic that Lautner’s looks were almost what made him lose his role as Jacob Black in the popular Twilight series.
After being cast in the first Twilight film, Lautner soon learned that the producers were moving to recast him in New Moon due to him being too skinny to believably pull of the attractive, muscular Jacob described in the books.
In order to hold on to this promising role, Lautner committed to weight training five days a week and eating over 3,000 calories a day in order to quickly bulk up and stay in the franchise.
7. Winona Ryder
Winona Ryder was practically the poster child of the ’80s and ’90s, but before her ascent into notoriety, she was labeled too “odd-looking” to find success as an actress.
When speaking to Interview Magazine, Ryder said the most notable moment of her looks being called into question was when she was stopped mid-sentence by a casting director during an audition when she was 15 or 16 years old.
The woman told her, “Listen, kid. You should not be an actress. You are not pretty enough. You should go back to wherever you came from and you should go to school. You don’t have it.”
According to Ryder, she was surprisingly not crushed by what could have been a brutal blow to her self-confidence. Due to her parents raising her with the mindset that it is better to be unique than to blend in, Ryder took this piece of cruel advice as a challenge.
She approached each audition with the viewpoint that she had to prove to the room that she had what it took to play the “gorgeous girl.” Looking back on her impressive career, her work speaks for itself.
6. Benedict Cumberbatch
With his piercing eyes and crisp British accent, it isn’t a surprise that Benedict Cumberbatch has scored a successful career in the international film market.
His acting talent has earned him an Oscar nomination for his lead role in The Imitation Game, and he has stared in a host of successful films, including Doctor Strange, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
Although he listed at #22 in Glamour Magazine’s 2017 Sexiest Men list, Cumberbatch was once considered too undesirable to play the title character in Sherlock, the BBC television series which first shot him to international recognition.
After he was cast for the part, network executives were reportedly less than confident in his ability to attract an audience, calling him the “ginger weird one” and critiquing the structure of his nose. Luckily the executives took a chance on hiring what they apparently deemed a hideous person who quickly proved them all wrong.
5. Meryl Streep
Although the name “Meryl Streep” has, at this point, pretty much become synonymous with “acting,” at one point Streep was like any other unknown actor diligently working her way to the top.
At 26, years before she starred in any iconic films or wracked up a collection of Oscars, the actress was brought in to audition for the 1976 King Kong after the producer’s son saw her in a play.
As she stood in his office, producer Dino De Laurentiis turned to his son and asked in Italian why he had brought him such an “ugly woman.” Unfortunately for De Laurentiis, Streep knew a little Italian herself, which allowed her to fire back in the language that she was sorry for being too ugly to be in his movie.
4. Lizzy Caplan
Whether you know her from her iconic performance as Janice Ian in Mean Girls or you know her from the critically acclaimed HBO show Masters of Sex, chances are you’ve seen Lizzy Caplan on your screen.
However, before landing the roles which make Caplan famous for her dry sense of humor and beautiful looks, the aspiring actress faced a lot of rejection for not fitting the Hollywood image.
Caplan claims that she was turned away from so many Warner Bros. television auditions for not having the right look that she and her friend wanted to get t-shirts made reading, “I am WB pretty!”
3. Barbra Streisand
Although Streisand is now revered as a screen and stage legend and an actress whom aspiring actors often study, she was once considered too unattractive to find success in show business.
Even in her childhood, Streisand was often told she wasn’t “pretty enough” to become a movie star by her mother. Her stepfather even ridiculously said, “I can’t buy you ice cream because you’re too ugly.”
After her legendary voice propelled her to Broadway fame with Funny Girl, and eventually led to films like The Way We Were and A Star is Born, Streisand was still considered by much of Hollywood to be “too ethnic and Jewish looking.”
Over time, Streisand’s success and beauty began to change the status quo of conventional attractiveness, according to historian Neal Gabler. “She changed our perception of what beauty meant,” he said.
2. Nia Vardalos
Nia Vardalos is undeniably respected as an actress and writer, with an Oscar original screenplay nomination and a hit comedy to prove it.
However, before she won audiences’ hearts as the endearing leading lady in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which she also wrote and produced, Vardalos was actually encouraged to quit performing altogether.
Because she had a hard time fitting into a clear-cut Hollywood type, Vardalos struggled with agents who didn’t know how to market her for jobs.
In an interview with More Magazine, Vardalos recounted a story in which her agent ranted that she “wasn’t fat enough” to be a character actress and she wasn’t “pretty enough” to be the lead.
1. Reese Witherspoon
Before Reese Witherspoon was winning Oscars and working on HBO series, she was desperately trying to fit into a Hollywood type in order to land a part.
After studying acting in college, Witherspoon made the move to Los Angeles, where she began to hear a steady stream of “no” from casting directors.
Witherspoon has said that, for a long time, she wasn’t considered right for any part, for either not being “tall enough,” “pretty enough,” or “smart enough.”
According to Witherspoon, her stubbornness is what helped her push her way through the jungle of rejection and criticism until she finally scored a leading role in The Man in the Moon.
Now with an Oscar for Walk the Line and long career playing many different characters, Witherspoon’s determination continues to influence her success.
Are you shocked? Can you think of any other actors who were originally turned down for their looks? Let us know in the comment section.
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