Before They Were Stars

It’s a story that’s been told many times over. An actor or actress was sitting at a lunch counter or cutting class or walking down the street and was “discovered” by a director, was cast in a film and the rest is history.

Of course, the vast majority of time, most actors and actresses toiled away in mundane jobs, picked up theater gigs or worked as movie/television extras, until they hit the big time.  What are some of the jobs they had before they hit the big time?  Read below and find out.

Harrison Ford was an actor who suffered through bit parts in movies and television in the 1960’s and 1970’s, when he quit acting to become a carpenter.  In 1973, he landed the role of Bob Falfa in American Graffiti and the rest is history.

Paul Hogan was a painter on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Then he got his start on the Australian television show A Current Affair, next came all those Crocodile Dundee movies. Good on ya, mate!

Cartoon Character Voices
Yes, the cartoons that we know and love were voiced by actors waiting for their big break. Who were some of those voices?

Mark Hamill, who would later be famous as Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars trilogy, was the voice of Corey Anders in the Saturday morning cartoon Jeannie.  The cartoon was a “brand extension” of the prime time show I Dream of Jeannie. The cartoon was about the adventures of two teenagers, Corey and his friend, Henry Glopp, a genie that they found in a bottle on the beach, Jeannie, and her genie companion, Babu.  Another bit of trivia, Babu was voiced by a former member of the Three Stooges, Joe Besser.

John Ratzenberger, okay, so he didn’t do cartoon voices before he was famous.  Still, he isn’t just Cliff, the Postal Worker on Cheers. Ratzenberger’s voice was used in Toy Story 1 & 2 (Hamm), A Bug’s Life (PT Flea), Monster’s Inc. (Abominable Snowman), Finding Nemo (Fish School), The Incredibles (Underminer), Cars (Mack), Ratatouille (Mustafa), and WALL·E (John), Up (Construction Worker Tom).

Television Shows
When television came along, it was verboten for movie actors to have anything to do with the medium. Then the studio system was dissolved and television became a kind of minor league/feeder system to movies. So, who got their start in television?

George Clooney—he had bit parts and recurring roles in television shows, such as The Facts of Life, Roseanne, Sisters, a sitcom called ER, then came the drama ER and the rest is—well you get the idea.

Mark Hamill—in addition to his cartoon work, Hamill had roles in Eight is Enough, One Day at a Time, Room 222, even The Partridge Family.

Helen Hunt—Before starring along side of Paul Reiser in the sitcom Mad About You, then finding her fortune in the movies, Hunt had roles in the sitcoms Gimme a Break and It Takes Two. She was also in the drama Highway to Heaven.

Leonardo Di Caprio—Before really making it big in a movie about a boat that meets an iceberg, Di Caprio was in the soap opera, Santa Barbara, had roles in Roseanne (I wonder if he and Clooney were in scenes together?) and Growing Pains.

Yes, even the rich and famous had to start somewhere.  You could say that discovery is a long process, not just a Eureka moment.

P.S. To powers-that-be at ABC News’ 20/20, I was working on this blog entry before the “Oscar Stars: Before They Were Famous” episode was advertised.

P.P.S. To the folks out in the blogosphere, what do you think of my take on the subject?


Construction, Harrison Ford, carpenter, American Graffiti, Paul Hogan, painter, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australian television show A Current Affair, Crocodile Dundee, cartoon character voices, Mark Hamill, Saturday morning cartoon Jeannie, Eight is Enough, One Day at a Time, Room 222, The Partridge Family, Three Stooges, Joe Besser,  John Ratzenberger, Cheers, Toy Story 1 & 2, A Bug’s Life, Monster’s Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, and WALL·E, Up, television shows, George Clooney, The Facts of Life, Roseanne, Sisters, Helen Hunt Mad About You, Gimme a Break, It Takes Two, Highway to Heaven, Leonardo Di Caprio, Santa Barbara, Roseanne, Growing Pains, ABC News, 20/20



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