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Real Stories of How Famous Actors Were "Discovered"

Updated August 22, 2019 2.3m views15 items

Show business can be cutthroat. Millions of young men and women work their way out to Hollywood, struggling to make it in the entertainment industry but suffering rejection after rejection. But some people are lucky and get discovered totally by chance. Maybe they were simply eating a slice of pizza (Natalie Portman) or just getting out of a cab one day (Tippi Hedren). 

These stories of famous actors who got discovered may have happened by sheer chance, but let’s face it, most of the actors on this list have not only been blessed with amazing looks, but they also have that star quality that draws attention. Who could walk by a young Ashton Kutcher and not think he could have a successful modeling career? Wes Craven took one look at Johnny Depp and asked him to audition for A Nightmare on Elm Street. Alfred Hitchcock saw Tippi Hedren in an ad for diet soda and knew that he had his Grace Kelly replacement.

Of course, it takes a lot of work and dedication to stay at the top. Many of these stars have had long-lasting, award-winning careers in Hollywood. What’s your favorite story of how actors got discovered?

  • Photo: "The Poker House" / Phase 4 Films

    It seems like award-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence has been at the top of her game forever. The Kentucky native was vacationing in New York when a talent agent spotted the 14-year-old walking around Union Square. Lawrence quickly got work as a teen model before making her television debut on Monk in 2006.

    The Hunger Games heroine received her first Oscar nomination for her acclaimed performance in the indie drama Winter's Bone in 2010.

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  • Pamela Anderson Appeared On A Jumbotron At A Football Game

    Photo: Mercy For Animals MFA / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

    Pamela Anderson worked as a fitness instructor in the late '80s. While living in British Columbia, she attended a B.C. Lions football game wearing a Labatt Blue t-shirt. Anderson was put up on the stadium's Jumbotron, and the crowd cheered so enthusiastically that the Labatt company hired the future Playboy playmate as a "Blue Zone Girl" spokesmodel. 

    After modeling in Playboy, Anderson began focusing on acting and received small parts on several TV shows. Her big break came as "Tool Time Girl" Lisa on Home Improvement. Then, in 1992, Anderson got the role that would define her career: blonde bombshell C.J. Parker on Baywatch.


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  • Photo: Fuzheado / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    Charlize Theron moved from South Africa to Hollywood when she was just 18 years old. She was on the verge of running out of cash and living in a sketchy hotel room when she was discovered at a bank. Actually, she was discovered at a bank while yelling at a teller because he wouldn't cash her paycheck. Apparently, it was a do-or-die situation for Theron.

    She explained the ordeal during an interview with O Magazine, "I’m like, ‘It’s survival, people.’ If I didn’t cash that check, I wouldn’t have had a place to sleep that night. I said to the teller, ‘You don’t understand - please!’ I was begging and pleading, and a gentleman came over and tried to help. I had to fill out a ton of paperwork and open an account, and I cashed the check.”

    The Oscar-winning actress cashed her check, but she also got discovered: The man who helped her was a talent agent. Theron scored her first feature film acting gig just a few months later in Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest in 1995.

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  • Photo: alotofmillion / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Apparently, Johnny Depp wanted to be a rock star. But friend Nicholas Cage got him an audition for Nightmare on Elm Street, and Wes Craven's teenage daughter thought he was the best choice for the part

    The future Jack Sparrow landed the role as Glen and made his feature film debut in 1984. Depp's Glen appears in one of the most famous death scenes in horror movie history.

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