12 Inexplicably Random Roles Famous Actors Took Early In Their Careers

List Rules
Vote up the most surprising early roles.

You don't make the Hollywood A-list overnight. Most of the time, it takes years and years of hard work to earn a living at the Tinseltown game, let alone become a household name. In the early days of your career, you'll most likely take any work you can get. It is with this idea in mind that we come to some of the most inexplicable roles Hollywood stars took during the early days of their challenging profession.

We're talking both Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert doing play-by-play for the mostly forgotten video game Outlaw Golf: 9 Holes of X-Mas. We're talking Bryan Cranston voicing multiple villains in the first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. And we're definitely talking about Tom Hanks playing the lead role in a 1982 made-for-television movie about the dangers of tabletop RPGs. Get ready to take a fun stroll down memory lane - we're gonna highlight some of the weirdest early roles famous actors took in their careers.


  • Michael Keaton - 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood'
    Photo: PBS

    Thank goodness Michael Keaton has had a delightful career resurgence. He was the gosh-dang Batman, for crying out loud! How was he out of the mainstream for so long? 2010 saw him appear in Toy Story 3 and The Other Guys, which reminded Hollywood that people loved the man. 2014's Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) came out, wowed critics, and earned him an Academy Award nomination, and he's been on a roll ever since. He's Batman again, people. Not only in The Flash but in Batgirl, as well!

    Funnily enough, Keaton got his start on public television programs in Pittsburgh. This wouldn't be all that notable if one of the shows he worked on wasn't Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, but it is, so here we are. The actor was a bit player, appearing as one of the Flying Zookeeni Brothers, and actually spent the majority of his time working on the program as a production assistant. Sometime in the mid-to-late 1970s, Keaton moved to Los Angeles, and that was that. But we'll always have the knowledge that Michael Keaton, Bruce freaking Wayne, paraded around Mister Rogers' Neighborhood in tight blue shorts.

    165 votes
  • Bryan Cranston - 'Mighty Morphin Power Rangers'
    Photo: Fox Kids

    Can you believe Bryan Cranston has been acting for over four decades now? The man spent two decades as a relatively unheralded character actor both in film and on television. Seriously, the guy put in work. For the first half of his career, Cranston was mostly doing guest spots on shows like Murder, She WroteMatlock, and Baywatch, but the other major component of his early working life was participating in English dubs of Japanese animation. This work led him to being on the most 1990s television show of them all: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

    Using stock footage from the Japanese television series Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger for the fight scenes, this '90s megahit took regular teens a la Saved by the Bell and turned them into superheroes. Cranston, with his extensive experience dubbing over other Japanese programs, was called upon to voice not one, but two antagonists in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers' first season. Cranston voiced Snizzard, the lizard/snake baddie from "Foul Play in the Sky," as well as Twin Man, the transforming villain from "A Bad Reflection on You." Soon thereafter, Cranston would end up on Seinfeld and then Malcolm in the Middle and then Breaking Bad, and an awards-laden career truly kicked off. He'll always be a cackling MMPR bad guy in our hearts.

    117 votes
  • Tom Hanks - 'Mazes and Monsters'
    Photo: CBS

    Tom Hanks has one of the most successful careers in recent Hollywood history. After Big struck box-office gold, Hanks has never been out of the spotlight. Seriously, the man's filmography is hit after hit after hit. Sleepless in SeattleApollo 13Saving Private Ryan, the Toy Story franchise, Catch Me If You CanThe Da Vinci CodeCaptain PhillipsThe Post... it just keeps going! You may not enjoy all of his work, but there is no denying his status as a major draw considering his decades of silver-screen prosperity. Alas, all film stars have to start somewhere, as you don't turn famous overnight.

    The early 1980s were the beginning of Hanks's career, and he spent a few years making a name for himself on television before the one-two punch of 1984's Bachelor Party and Splash opened the doors to bigger and better things. After booking a leading role on the short-lived sitcom Bosom Buddies and guest-starring on shows like The Love Boat, Taxi, and Happy Days, Hanks starred in the 1982 made-for-television film Mazes and Monsters. It's, um, a weird movie about the dangers of becoming obsessed with D&D-like tabletop role-playing games? Hanks's character suffers a psychotic break in which he believes he really is a Cleric from the titular RPG. At one point, he almost jumps off one of the World Trade Center towers as he looks to "join the Great Hall." So, don't play RPGs, kids, or you just might go insane and jump off a skyscraper.

    120 votes
  • Steve Carell & Stephen Colbert - 'Outlaw Golf: 9 Holes of X-Mas'
    Photo: Hypnotix

    What needs to be said about Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert at this point? One became a comedic star on the back of The Office before turning to dramatic work that has earned him both Academy Award and Emmy Award nominations in recent years. The other was a staple of Comedy Central programming for eons before taking over The Late Show from David Letterman in 2015. When it comes to finding Hollywood success late in your career, it's hard to beat out the stories of Carell and Colbert. To highlight that point, we have to talk about 2003's Outlaw Golf: 9 Holes of X-Mas.

    For the uninitiated, the Outlaw sports series was a part of the early-2000s trend of making crassly immature games marketed toward teenage boys. Titles like BMX XXXLeisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude, and The Guy Game were all made to titillate rowdy teens first and entertain them second. To be fair to games like Outlaw Golf and Outlaw Tennis, the franchise of sports games was less overt about this and, by extension, far less cringey to look back on. Still, it's not like Outlaw Golf or its sequel games were setting industry standards... which makes it all the more weird to see Carell and Colbert doing play-by-play in the Blockbuster Exclusive Outlaw Golf: 9 Holes of X-Mas. The pair weren't the stars then that they are now, and getting them to sit down in a booth to record voiceover for a video game would be prohibitively expensive nowadays. If you've got an original Xbox gathering dust in your closet and want to hunt down a copy of this mostly forgotten gaming relic, the sultry tones of Carell and Colbert will be waiting for you to hit the links.

    81 votes
  • Sandra Bullock - 'Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman'
    Photo: NBC

    Sandy B! She's been a movie star so long, it's hard to imagine her as anything else. Everyone has a Sandra Bullock movie they like. Even if you're not a fan of her filmography at large, there is at least one flick in the bunch you can't help but enjoy. She's been in so many different kinds of movies! You like comedies? Miss Congeniality is there for you. Action films more your style? Speed, baby. Drama? It doesn't get much more dramatic than Gravity. There's something for everyone.

    That includes fans of The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, somehow! Yes, Bullock played a significant role in the 1989 television movie Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman. It served as a continuation of the two popular 1970s action shows and was meant to be a backdoor pilot for Bullock's character. Can you imagine what would've happened to her career had she become the new Bionic Woman in the early 1990s? Would she be the star she is today?

    84 votes
  • Jeremy Renner is a textbook case of a Hollywood late bloomer. Yeah, he was working pretty steadily throughout the 2000s after struggling to break into the industry for years, but 2008's The Hurt Locker and 2010's The Town completely changed his career overnight. Now he's a Marvel Cinematic Universe mainstay, has garnered multiple Academy Award nominations, and even had his own smartphone app for a while! You know you've reached a certain level of stardom when you have your own smartphone app...

    Renner's first film role, though, was as the lead in the 1995 comedy, National Lampoon's Senior Trip. By the time the mid-'90s rolled around, the National Lampoon name didn't quite mean what it used to. Sure, bad National Lampoon movies had been coming out for years by that point (go watch 1982's National Lampoon's Class Reunion or 1984's National Lampoon’s Joy of Sex if you don't believe us), but Senior Trip was a new level of low. Long gone were the days of Animal House and Christmas Vacation. Instead, Senior Trip was a humorless take on high school that critics hated and no one remembers. If you'd like to see Jeremy Renner in his early 20s, though, this is the movie for you!

    78 votes