Pretty much everyone has wondered what it would be like to be an actor. They live seemingly charmed lives that most people would hack off an extremity for (a pinky at the very least). However, there is really nothing glamorous about the arduous trials of becoming a performer. Going on countless auditions for parts you don’t want, all in the hopes of being “discovered”.
Acting is such a difficult profession to break into and few who attempt to do it actually succeed. When we think of performers, generally it seems like acting is a job that they fought long and hard for. In most cases, that is definitely true. However, certain actors stumbled onto this career path accidentally, just while going about their daily lives. It’s a fairy tale oft told but rarely realized--the people on this list prove the exception to the rule. Seriously, some of these names will surprise you! Here are 15 Stars Who Became Actors Accidentally.
15 Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp had no intention of becoming an actor. He dropped out of school at fifteen years old to pursue music. After playing in several mildly successful bands, Depp got married (not for long) and they moved to LA to further his music career. While there, his wife introduced him to her friend, Nicolas Cage, who thought that Depp should get into acting. He considered it, but only as a way to make some money in order to continue his true passion: playing music.
Not long after, Depp accompanied a friend, Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen) on an audition for A Nightmare on Elm Street. There is actually a bit of a discrepancy as to whether the audition was secured for him or not. Some sources claim that he had no intention of auditioning, until Craven asked him to, but others say that a friend had already talked to the director and gotten Depp an in. Apparently, it was actually Craven’s teenage daughter who really scored Depp the part though. She thought that he was “dreamy” and insisted that her father cast him.
At this point, Depp has one of the most eclectic resumes in Hollywood, starring in such films as Edward Scissorhands, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Black Mass. He'll reprise his role as Captain Jack Sparrow when Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales hits theaters May 26th, 2017.
14 Estella Warren
Known for such films such as Planet of the Apes (2001) and Kangaroo Jack, the Canadian actress/model once had an entirely different career in mind. Estella Dawn Warren was a synchronized swimmer on the Canadian National Team for years and trained from the time she was twelve. Warren even placed second in the World Aquatic Championship. However, she wasn’t discovered in the water. Warren was actually participating in a high school fashion show when a talent scout noticed her, marking the beginning of her whirlwind career.
Her modeling success was instantaneous. Two early commercials that she did were actually directed by Luc Besson, whose latest film, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, hits theaters July 21st, 2017. Following her modeling and commercial work, Warren landed acting gigs on both television and in film. She has also appeared in music videos for the likes of INXS and Dr. Dre, among others.
13 Rosario Dawson
Fame found sixteen-year-old Rosario Isabel Dawson when she was just sitting on her front porch on the Lower East Side. It was there that a photographer named Larry Clark and his young associate, Harmony Korine, discovered her. Korine was writing the screenplay for Clark’s directorial debut, a film that would become Kids. He thought that Dawson would be perfect for the role of Ruby. Coincidentally, Chloe Sevigny would also catch her big break in the film. Although Kids was somewhat well received, it drew much controversy for its depiction of teen sex and drug use (an obsession which runs through all of Clark’s work). Korine went on to make many movies as well, with Spring Breakers being the most successful.
Dawson's performance in Kids was only the beginning for the actress, who has gone on to star in a wide array of films, from Sin City to Rent. More recently, she has become known for portraying Claire Temple in Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage on Netflix. It has been confirmed that she will continue the role on Iron Fist and The Defenders when both series drop in 2017.
12 Channing Tatum
Channing Matthew Tatum was a high school athlete who left his home in Alabama when he received a football scholarship to a school in West Virginia. However, his college career was to short-lived and, after dropping out, he worked a number of odd jobs, one of which was stripping at an LA nightclub when he was nineteen. By this point, pretty much everyone knows that director Steven Soderbergh based much of Magic Mike on Tatum’s own experiences. It was the film that proved, beyond all doubt, that he was a star. It must be a bit surreal to gain so much acclaim for playing a role that you’ve already essentially played in real life.
Tatum didn’t plan on being an actor, though, and it was his lucrative modeling career that led to his work on the silver screen. After Tatum's stint as a stripper, he moved to Florida and was discovered by a talent scout for a modeling agency while walking the Miami streets. Following the success of Magic Mike, which also spawned a much-loved sequel, Tatum’s star continued to rise. He has been cast as Gambit in the upcoming film of the same name. Tatum will also have a role in Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle to be released October 6th, 2017.
11 Evangeline Lilly
Nicole Evangeline Lilly was discovered by the Ford Modeling Agency while walking around Kelowna, British Columbia. She had no interest in a modeling career, but eventually contacted them, hoping to make some cash for her college tuition. She had been doing everything from waiting to tables to working as a flight attendant in order to pay for her degree in international relations.
Lilly landed a few commercials and minor TV roles, but it was being cast in the part of Kate Austen on Lost that really caused her career to take off. She only auditioned for the part after a friend talked her into it. Once her journey on Lost had reached its end, Lilly began working in film. She has had major roles in two franchises: The Hobbit and Ant-Man. She will reprise her role as Hope van Dyne in the latter when the sequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp, hits theaters July 6th, 2018.
10 Danny Trejo
Best known for the titular role in Machete, Danny Trejo certainly never thought that he would end up an actor. He had a severe drug problem from a very young age, which landed him in prison several times. Not only did he become a boxing champ during a stint in San Quentin, but he also managed to go through a twelve-step program, which he credits with saving his life. It was in recovery that Trejo met a guy who would put him on a completely unexpected path.
This young man heard Trejo speak at a meeting and later called him for help… on the set of Runaway Train. Right away, Trejo, with his grizzled exterior, was asked to play an extra-- a convict, to be exact. There also happened to be a screenwriter there who had done time with Trejo and remembered his talent for boxing. He paid for Trejo to train guys on the set. The director witnessed him teaching actor Eric Roberts to fight and decided to give him a real part in the film.
Trejo has been an incredibly prolific actor ever since. Seriously, the guy’s film and television resume is extensive. All that work kept him out of trouble too. He never returned to prison and has been clean for forty-seven years! In his spare time, he continues to help fellow addicts find a new way to live.
9 Lana Turner
Lana Turner is one of the most iconic actresses of the ‘40s and ‘50s. She became a much-adored sex symbol of that time and although her looks often overshadowed her talent, several directors that she worked with knew that she was more than just the “Sweater Girl” that MGM portrayed her as.
Julia Jean Mildred Frances Turner was a student at Hollywood High when William R. Wilkerson discovered her. He was the publisher of the Hollywood Reporter and when he saw her drinking a soda in the Top Hat Café, he knew that he was looking at a star. Wilkerson introduced the fifteen-year-old Turner to Zeppo Marx, who helped her to get a small part in They Won’t Forget. Her sweater and tight skirt left quite an impression and led to similar roles. She wasn’t able to truly begin to shed her “Sweater Girl” image until her breakthrough performance in The Postman Always Rings Twice.
Turner’s looks weren’t the only thing that cast a long shadow over her career. Her tumultuous love life and a very public murder scandal also tended to eclipse her accomplishments, although they never managed to derail her brilliant career.
8 Sharlto Copley
Unlike many of the other people on this list, Sharlto Copley did aspire to be an actor. He just thought that the opportunity had passed him by. Copley was in school plays and studied drama in college. However, his passion for performing had to take a backseat to his penchant for business.
At the age of nineteen, Copley co-founded the first of several companies. By the time he was twenty-four, he was South Africa’s youngest TV producer. It was around then that he befriended a young Neill Blomkamp and allowed the teen to use his computers so that he could pursue his own passion: design.
Blomkamp repaid this favor many times over when he cast Copley as Wikus van de Merwe in Bloomkamp’s directorial debut, District 9. The film made stars out of both men. Following that, Copely teamed up with Bloomkamp in his two other feature length films, Elysium and Chappie. He has had a few other notable movie roles as well and starred as Detective Christian Walker in the short-lived television adaptation of Powers.
7 David Boreanaz
David Boreanaz’s portrayal of Angel-- the dark, brooding vampire with a soul-- was the perfect counterpart to Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy. Surprisingly, he didn’t exactly make much of an effort to get this career-defining role. He was basically discovered while walking his dog.
Boreanaz did have one paid acting job prior to this, guest-starring on Married with Children. Other than that, he had no acting career to speak of. However, a neighbor of his was a friend of Buffy the Vampire Slayer writer Marti Noxon. This neighbor happened to know that the role of Angel called for someone impossibly handsome. They suggested Boreanaz after seeing him walk his dog past their home. According to Whedon, it was actually the reactions of all the ladies in the room when Boreanaz read that really won him the role.
After playing Angel for three years, Boreanaz starred in his own eponymous spin-off series for five more. In doing so, he defined the word "dreamy" for an entire generation of women. Following that, Boreanaz played Special Agent Seeley Booth on Bones, which is going into its 12th and final season.
6 Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron wanted to be a dancer. However, after injuring her knee, she was forced to consider her other options and wound up doing some modeling. Her acting career began, rather suddenly and strangely, in a bank. Theron was struggling to pay rent and when a bank teller refused to cash the check that she so desperately needed (it was from another state), Theron made a huge scene. Impressed by her flair for the dramatic, a talent agent, who happened to be waiting in line behind her, gave her a business card. Although theirs was not the beginning of a beautiful friendship, he did get her started in show business.
In 2004, Theron won an Oscar for her transformative portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster. Her considerable resume includes such varied work as Woody Allen’s Celebrity and an awesome guest spot on Arrested Development. She continues to take on interesting roles, most recently, Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road and the Wicked Queen in both Huntsman films.
5 Mel Gibson
At this point, Mel Gibson has become such a walking punch line, that it is difficult to remember that he was once one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars. Not only did he star in both the Mad Max and Lethal Weapon films, but also played many other iconic roles as well, such as William Wallace in Braveheart. Despite going to drama school, Gibson felt that he would never be an actor. In fact, when he went to the audition for Mad Max, it was only to give friend and future co-star, Steve Bisley, a ride.
Apparently, Gibson had gotten into a bar fight the night before, which had left his mug pretty mangled. Seeing his disfigured face, the director asked Gibson to audition for the villain in three weeks time. However, when the actor came back, his movie-star good looks had returned as well. This promoted Gibson from antagonist to leading man material. This is his recollection, although others involved in the film have stated that his star status was clear from the beginning.
4 John Wayne
Marion Robert Morrison had aspirations of being a professional football player. Then an injury ended that dream and he was forced to take odd jobs to support himself. Eventually, he got a job working at the Fox Film Corporation on the “swing gang”. Those were basically the grunt workers, moving equipment, furniture, and handling props, among other things. Morrison’s athletic build made him an ideal stand-in and John Ford, one of Hollywood’s greatest directors of that time, upgraded him from stand in to geese herder in a film called Mother Machree.
Around this time, Marshall and Ford became friends, and Ford continued to give him work as an extra. Ford also introduced Marshall to other directors and this led to him being given his first starring role-- as well as the moniker of John Wayne. As everyone knows, John Wayne would go on to become the quintessential cowboy and his name is now synonymous with the word Western in the context of film.
3 Alexis Bledel
Kimberly Alexis Bledel had never acted before Gilmore Girls. In fact, her real interest was in becoming a model. She began getting modeling gigs after being scouted at a mall. However, part-time modeling wasn’t working out the way that she’d hoped, so she was looking for work elsewhere. She was a student at NYU and was applying for jobs to help pay her tuition. Among these employment options: census taker, waitress, actress. That’s right, Bledel basically auditioned for the experience, as she had never acted before and was just looking for ways to earn some quick cash. She didn’t even make much of an effort at the audition. Bledel had the flu and was miserable at even having to be there!
Thankfully, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino saw through her sniffles and attitude, and decided to cast her in the role of Rory Gilmore. Since Gilmore Girls came to a close in 2007, Alexis has had work in film and television, even appearing beside her real-life husband Vincent Kartheiser on Mad Men. Catch her in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, streaming on Netflix now!
2 Sarah Michelle Gellar
Sarah Michelle Gellar had never considered acting. This is probably because she was discovered at a restaurant with her parents in Manhattan at the age of four. Almost immediately, she was cast in a TV movie and what turned out to be a controversial Burger King commercial. Eventually, she was cast in the role of Kendall Hart on the daytime soap All My Children. Gellar is best known for her role as the titular heroine of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of the greatest feminist icons of all time. However, her resume extends far beyond this incredible, career-defining role.
Gellar has been in many films, including The Grudge and Cruel Intentions. She also returned to television in Ringer and the canceled-too-soon sitcom, The Crazy Ones. Gellar has signed on to reprise her role as Kathryn Merteuil when Cruel Intentions gets the television treatment. The series is currently in development at NBC, but it’s been a while since the project has seen any movement. Hopefully, this will see Gellar's successful return to TV. Her strong presence has been sorely missed.
1 Jennifer Lawrence
Jennifer Shrader Lawrence is one of the most in demand actresses in Hollywood. At the age of 26, she has already managed to win an Oscar for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook and headline not one, but two blockbuster franchises, The Hunger Games and X-Men. Lawrence is an unstoppable force with an amazing career ahead of her, so it’s pretty crazy that being an actor was never her intention.
While on a trip to Manhattan with her mother at the age of fourteen, she was approached by a talent scout who said that he could get her into modeling. Good thing Lawrence’s mom didn’t realize that men offering you modeling opportunities on the street are often not to be trusted and she gave him her info. This guy, as it happened, turned out to be completely legit.
It turned out that modeling wasn’t the career path that Lawrence was interested in. However, this brush with the industry is what sparked her desire to act in the first place and the talent scout began arranging auditions for her. The rest, as they say, is history.