13 Famous Actors Who Debuted in Iconic Movies

6. Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween

Being the spawn of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, did she even have an option here? How could two such talented people not fire out yet another talented actor? And of course she’d be doing horror; what else would the daughter of Janet Leigh do? It just makes good sense.

That’s actually what landed her this role, which John Carpenter originally had another actress in mind for. He saw who her mother was and went with it, which turned out to be the right idea.

Curtis was paid $8,000 for the job, which is exactly 375 times less than what she made for her ten minute appearance in Halloween: Resurrection.

5. Josh Brolin in The Goonies

So here is something weird. After this film, Brolin would go on to be cast in a second film called Thrashin’. What’s weird is that he was cast only after the director had been brutally forced by producers to drop the actor cast before him, Johnny Depp, who was fresh out of Elm St. at that point.

After Brolin did that film, he went on to audition for a TV show and became neck-and-neck for the part with the actor who would later beat him out. That show was 21 Jump Street, and that actor was once again Johnny Depp. Luckily all of this business just made them friends and not sworn enemies or anything like that, but that had to have been awkward.

No matter – he was a Goonie, so it really didn’t matter what he did from there on anyway. Being a Goonie is like being President, afterward you can just relax because you’ve made the cut.

4. Natalie Portman in Leon: The Professional

It’s weird how celebrities tend to grow up together from the start. One of Natalie Portman’s first gigs was side-by-side with a young Britney Spears as an understudy for a role in an off Broadway production. Such randomness.

After that she was in a short film called Developing about a near-pubescent girl who had a mother with cancer that was surprising not aired on Lifetime. Finally, she landed a role as an assassin’s apprentice in Leon, earning one of the most badass roles a little girl could hope for. Seriously now, most actresses her age would have been lucky to play an orphan or quirky romantic comedy daughter or something… at best she’d be an innocent hostage. Natalie Portman got to shoot guns and smoke cigarettes.

3. Alan Rickman in Die Hard

While Rickman had a swarm of TV movies and mini-series, it was the Hans Gruber we all know and love that introduced him to the big screen. What an opening this guy had! When the first role you get ends with Bruce Willis tossing you out of a skyscraper, there’s really no need for a second. That’s life satisfaction right there.

I heard a cute story somewhere that Rickman found the scene in Harry Potter where Dumbledore gets sent into his fatal fall delightfully familiar at the time of shooting, which is something only he could possibly find nostalgic.

I’ve also heard that Patrick Stewart is going to be in the newest Die Hard film, which has nothing to do with Rickman but is rather just something really awesome that everybody should be excited about. That said – if they really wanted to wow us, they should bring back the Gruber family for the new one. Let’s see a pissed off cousin or something!

2. James Earl Jones in Dr. Strangelove

Yeah, that’s him.

As Jones himself puts it, at the time he ‘didn’t know anything about film acting’ and just spewed off the few lines he had… when he remembered them. Turns out that was an issue, something that Kubrick actually got angry with him about on the set. Yep – Mufasa was once a little nervous noob like everyone else. It’s weird to imagine isn’t it?

Both before and after this role, Jones primarily made appearances in various TV shows, stopping occasionally to play small roles in films. This went on for another six years before his first starring role in The Great White Hope. Seven years after that and his voice became the official voice of space evil in Star Wars.

1. Robert Duvall in To Kill A Mockingbird

Had a bit of an internal debate about this, as it seems that there’s an unconfirmed bit-part credit for Duvall before this film. I finally decided that it didn’t matter; this role is just too excellent to omit. Not terribly surprising though; Duvall has stuck his face in pretty much everything that’s good, and has continued to for the last 50 years – why wouldn’t his first role be anything less than iconic?

What I like about it is that it wasn’t an accident by any means. Duvall had already conquered both the stage and television before being given this part through a referral by screenwriter Horton Foote. It wasn’t some quirky coincidence or overnight discovery – the man worked to get where he was and had the talent to do it.

So while researching this I came to realize that certain films I thought were an actor’s first actually weren’t. For example, Laurence Fishburne appeared in a few small roles before lying about his age to be in Apocalypse Now, and Jack Nicholson’s first role wasn’t the original Little Shop Of Horrors. This seems like a subject that could potentially have a great deal of misinformation surrounding it, and because of that I’m really interested to know what roles I did miss from this list – so have at it nerds!

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David is a video editor, writer, and movie fanatic. After graduating from Full Sail University he now spends his days in Western Massachusetts working as a freelance article and sketch writer, as well as a comedy workshop moderator for Cracked.com. (Click Here to View David's work on Cracked.com) He enjoys over-analyzing movies, punk rock, and referring to himself in the third person.

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