The actors listed below are some of the biggest names in Hollywood. They’ve gone on to make millions, win Academy Awards, and get handed some of the most coveted roles without even having to audition.
But there’s one thing they still can’t escape: their IMDb pages.
While many believe being an actor is a cushy job that never requires one to actually get their hands dirty, most don’t realize that the actors who make it to the big-time have often suffered through years — if not decades — of rejection.
By all accounts, the audition process is a humiliating one for aspiring actors, who may rehearse for weeks only to end up performing to a room of uninterested producers who give them zero feedback. Sounds pretty awful, right? Now just imagine doing that a few hundred times with the only payoff being that you finally land your first role playing “Bystander #2” or “Girl at Bar.”
Suffice it to say, when actors get hungry, they get desperate — which often leads them to take the first role that’s offered to them, no matter how potentially embarrassing it may be.
Here are 15 Debut Roles A-List Actors Want To Forget.
15. Brad Pitt — The Dark Side of the Sun
Before his star-turning role as the shirtless cowboy in Thelma and Louise, Brad Pitt appeared in a number of lesser-known projects, including the abysmal 1988 film The Dark Side of the Sun.
Here, Pitt landed in his first leading role as Rick, an American with a rare skin disease which prevents him from being exposed to light — resulted in Pitt having to dress up as if he was playing the Gimp from Pulp Fiction.
While Pitt was only paid around $1,500 for nearly two months of filming, the trade-off may have seemed worth it to headline his first movies.
The Dark Side of the Sun wasn’t even released following its completion.
14. Emilia Clarke — Triassic Attack
Just a year before British actress Emilia Clarke was cast to play Daenerys Targaryen on HBO’s Game of Thrones, she was starring alongside another kind of giant reptilian monsters in this schlocky film that debuted on the Syfy Channel.
Triassic Attack was released back in 2010, and the story revolves around the fossils of three dinosaurs — a raptor, a T-rex, and a Pteranodon — being unintentionally brought back to life by a museum owner and wreaking havoc on the nearby town.
Emilia Clarke was cast to play Savannah Roundtree, the daughter of the town sheriff, who eventually defeats the living skeletons by electrocuting them.
Much like the Sharknado series, Triassic Attack features equally ridiculous action sequences and cheap special effects — minus the cult following. Thankfully, the abysmal outcome didn’t stop Clarke from being cast to play the Mother of Dragons.
13. Leonardo DiCaprio — Critters 3
For an acting career that’s lasted most of his life, Leonardo DiCaprio has very few outright flops under his belt. Even from a young age, his performances in films like What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and This Boy’s Life have earned DiCaprio critical acclaim. But before either of these films came to pass, DiCaprio made his feature debut in the 1991 horror movie Critters 3.
Here, DiCaprio plays Josh, the youngest of a family of three, who finds themselves being tormented by the breed of furry, flesh-eating aliens.
Unlike the first two movies in the series, Critters 3 was a direct-to-video release.
This, at least, spared the film from an excessive amount of critical backlash at the time. That being said, the film still holds a 0% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, making it by far the worst received film of DiCaprio’s career.
12. Jennifer Aniston — Leprechaun
After landing a number of smaller parts in shows and TV movies, Jennifer Aniston nabbed her first leading role in the 1993 horror-comedy Leprechaun.
Here, Aniston played Rory Redding, a teenager who is forced to relocate to a North Dakota farmhouse for the summer when a 600-year-old evil Leprechaun starts knocking off bystanders in an attempt to reclaim his stolen pot of gold.
While no one would walk into a film about a murderous Leprechaun expecting to see high-art, maybe the biggest crime the film commits is that it lacks any sense fun or originality. The right tone could have easily turned this off-beat creature-feature into a cult classic.
Despite being a critical disaster, the movie still spawned six sequels — all of which Aniston has wisely stayed far away from.
11. Benicio Del Toro — Big Top Pee-wee
You don’t have look further than this picture of Benicio del Toro to known why his first film role was embarrassing.
After appearing in a number of minor TV roles — where the actor was usually cast to play criminals — del Toro landed his first film role in Big Top Pee-wee, playing a circus performer known as Duke, the Dog-Faced Boy.
Unfortunately, the film was nowhere near as successful as its predecessor, and Big Top Pee-wee even failed to recoup its $20 million budget.
Being the method actor he is, del Toro said he still fully committed to the role.
10. Angelina Jolie — Cyborg 2: Glass Shadow
After briefly appearing as a young child in her father’s 1982 film Lookin’ to Get Out, it wouldn’t be until nearly ten years later that Angeline Jolie would return to the acting world to headline her first film, Cyborg 2: Glass Shadow.
Despite its title, the plot of Cyborg 2 had zero connection to the 1989 film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Instead, Jolie plays a cyborg named Cash who is sent on a mission to self-detonate when she suddenly begins to develop feelings for her combat trainer.
The film is a failed attempt to knock-off more successful films like Blade Runner and The Terminator.
Cyborg 2: Glass Shadow is easily the worst of the actress’ career. Even Jolie said that after she first saw the film she went home and got sick.
9. Chris Pratt — The Extreme Team
After dropping out of community college, Chris Pratt found himself working as a daytime dancer before ultimately becoming homeless while living in Hawaii. His luck finally took a turn for the better when he was discovered by a director while waiting tables in Maui.
Not long after, Pratt found himself starring in the 2003 action film The Extreme Team, which involved a group of extreme athletes suiting up for a covert Black Ops mission in New Zealand.
If the film sounds extremely corny and unbelievable, that’s because it is. By Pratt’s own admission, pretty much no one saw the film upon its release — though it did afford him the opportunity to pursue acting full-time.
However, it would be almost an entire decade before Pratt would suit up for another action movie, possibly as a result of this film being a massive flop.
8. Nicole Kidman — BMX Bandits
The downside of being an international star is that it can take longer to make it in Hollywood. The upside, however, is that all of your embarrassing early roles will likely be forgotten back in your home country.
If not for the invention of the Internet, that is.
For her first leading role, Nicole Kidman played the character of Judy in the 1983 Australian action film BMX Bandits, which (unsurprisingly) follows a group of pro bike-riders who get caught up in a bank robbery gone wrong.
While the film features an almost unbearable amount of ‘80s cheesiness, it’s far from the worst movie ever made.
Kidman’s performance is easily the standout of the film, making it no wonder that the actress went on to bigger things… and better hairdos.
7. Sandra Bullock — Hangmen
While most aspiring actors usually end up getting cast as an uncredited extra for their first few roles, Sandra Bullock actually landed a part in a feature film for her first outing. Though in the case of the 1987 film Hangmen, that was hardly an advantage.
Here, Bullock plays Lisa Edwards, a damsel in distress who gets caught in up in a war between an evil sanction of the CIA and a group of ex-Green Berets. Though Bullock only spends about 15 minutes of Hangmen on screen, her appearance is the only thing that has kept this atrocious action film from fading into complete obscurity.
Since then, Bullock’s film choices have ranged wildly, from critical hits like Gravity to total disasters like Speed 2: Cruise Control. None are nearly as unwatchable as her debut.
6. George Clooney — Grizzly II: The Concert
The premise of this 1983 low-budget horror film revolves around a giant grizzly bear taking revenge for his fellow bears that have been slaughtered by wreaking havoc at a rock concert.
As if that wasn’t already enough intrigue to make you check out Grizzly II: The Concert, how about the fact that the film stars then-unknown stars Laura Dern, Charlie Sheen, and George Clooney?
With such a talented cast and a ridiculously entertaining premise, it seems like Clooney even had an eye for picking out winning projects when his options were extremely limited. Unfortunately for viewers, Grizzly II has never been released in its full format — probably to the delight of those stars who have gone on to bigger and better things.
That being said, Clooney still appeared in a number of other flops, including 1988’s Return of the Killer Tomatoes! before finally enjoying mainstream success.
5. Jennifer Lawrence — Monk
Jennifer Lawrence’s embarrassing debut role is different from many others in that she could have actually kept it a secret had she not chosen to bring it up on Conan. But if we’ve come to learn anything about the actress, it’s that she’s not afraid to fully embrace awkwardness.
During the interview, Lawrence revealed that when she was cast for a guest spot on the hit series Monk, she misunderstood which role she was going to be playing. Instead of having a large speaking part where she could have actually displayed her talents, Lawrence was cast as a school mascot who had to suit up in a cougar costume and dance around the court.
It’s not exactly the kind of performance you can put into your acting reel.
But within four short years, Lawrence impressively went from dancing cougar to her first Oscar nomination with 2010’s Winter’s Bone.
4. Mila Kunis — Piranha
The original Piranha was released back in 1978 as a B-movie parody of Jaws. It has maintained a cult following ever since and even earned a stamp of approval from Spielberg himself.
However, the 1995 remake starring Mila Kunis managed to suck out all of the humor and camp from the original, making for an overwhelmingly dull affair.
A very young Kunis landed her first film role after a number of minor TV guest spots.
She played the part of summer camp-attendee Susie Grogan, who was wisely too afraid to stick her toes in the river right before the mutant piranhas began to wreak havoc.
The film currently holds a 3.9 rating on IMDb and an audience score of 17% on Rotten Tomatoes. Luckily, this film flop didn’t stop Kunis from being cast on That ‘70s Show just two years later.
3. Sylvester Stallone — Italian Stallion
Before hitting it big with his 1976 film Rocky, Sylvester Stallone suffered plenty of setbacks while trying to break into show business.
In 1970, Stallone found himself unable to pay his rent. After being evicted from his apartment, the aspiring actor ended up sleeping in a New York City bus terminal for a number of nights during the cold of winter, when he eventually came across a casting call for a soft-core adult film titled The Party at Kitty and Stud’s.
Desperate for cash, Stallone took the leading role in the film and was paid $200 for two days work. Of course, after Stallone sky-rocketed to fame, the film was re-released and retitled Italian Stallion in an attempt to shamelessly profit off of Rocky’s success.
2. Courtney Cox — Masters of the Universe
Despite a new He-Man movie currently in the works for 2019, for fans of the original animated series, it’s still hard to forget the bad taste that the 1987 live-action adaptation left in everyone’s mouths. And Courtney Cox just happened to play a leading role in that film.
Before starring in such hits as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, the Scream films, and the massively popular sitcom Friends, Courtney Cox was cast to play Julia Winston, a teenaged damsel in distress in this high-fantasy extravaganza.
Despite being based on one of the most popular cartoons of the decade, Masters of the Universe was a critical and commercial flop — grossing $17 million against a $22 million budget and currently holding a measly 17% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
1. Arnold Schwarzenegger — Hercules in New York
As if winning the titles of Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia wasn’t already enough for Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Austrian bodybuilder also had dreams of becoming a Hollywood star. However, his first break into the acting world was far from a glamorous one.
For his debut role, Schwarzenegger starred as the title character in the 1970 comedy Hercules in New York, where he went under the stage name Arnold Strong after being told that his last name was too long and too difficult to pronounce.
On top of that, Schwarzenegger’s accent was so thick that his dialogue ended up being dubbed during post-production, which made the cheaply-produced movie that much harder to sit through.
To date, Hercules in New York remains one of the few movies that Schwarzenegger has openly regretted making.
Which of these debut roles do you think is the most embarrassing? Sound off in the comments!
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