The world of Hollywood is teeming with competitors. At any given time, there are thousands of multi-talented individuals vying for A-list stardom. In an industry filled with such fierce competition, rising to the top is rare. Many performers go through years of hard work and small roles without ever getting called for anything big. That alone is often enough to break their morale and send them off on a different career path.
The thing is, making it in Hollywood isn’t just about hard work and dedication – it also takes a good helping of luck. Indeed, for some, luck was all it took. They instantly skyrocketed to fame and joined the ranks of those who spent blood, sweat, and years on making it to their position. Maybe these lucky few were just born for greatness? To get to the bottom of this question, we’ve gathered together the most fascinating Hollywood stories, and we’re delighted to present you 20 of your favorite A-list celebrities who became famous in unlikely ways.
Jennifer Lawrence was discovered in New York City when she was 12 years old. She immediately received opportunities as a teen model and worked in this industry until she made her acting debut on TV in 2006. Today, Lawrence is an Academy Award-winning actress who has achieved “household name” status.
Being talented and quite a charmer, Lawrence became the star of the famous film trilogy entitled The Hunger Games. Doing this movie skyrocketed her to the top ranks in Hollywood.
The legendary and iconic Johnny Depp was quite a charmer during his time. But he was only discovered as a star because he tagged along with his friend to an audition for the first Nightmare on Elm Street film.
Director Wes Craven saw potential in the young newbie, and the rest was history. Depp is known for taking weird roles in eccentric movies like Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Edward Scissorhands, and Sweeny Todd.
Pamela Anderson’s first shot to fame happened in the year 1989 when she was placed on the JumboTron during a hockey game. The beauty captivated everyone in her Labatt Blue t-shirt (a company for whom she would soon become a model).
This moment also signaled the start of her career in acting, but it wasn’t until 1992 that she got her biggest break. Anderson was cast as one of the main characters in the hit TV show, Baywatch.
Mel Gibson drove his friend to an audition the day after getting battered in a bar fight. This series of events resulted in him being discovered by George Miller, the famed director of the original Mad Max.
Gibson’s disheveled appearance sparked an image in the director’s mind, and after having him audition, Miller knew he’d found the perfect leading man for his action film. And boy was he right! Despite some controversies along the way, Gibson has become one of the most celebrated actors and directors in Hollywood.
Charlize Theron’s discovery happened as she was having a heated exchange of words with a bank teller. The talent agent saw her fire and knew instantly that she would be a great actress. A few months later, she landed her first movie role.
Theron grew up in South Africa and migrated to America, settling in Hollywood when she was 18 years old. The actress is now a household name and still has that youthful glow.
Before becoming famous, Harrison Ford was known as a “carpenter to the stars,” handling big jobs for celebrities and production companies. When George Lucas was holding auditions for Star Wars, Ford was called in from where he was woodworking in a nearby studio so that Luke and Leia could have someone to read lines with.
A few weeks after his unintentional audition, Ford got a callback telling him they wanted him to play Han Solo. Star Wars remains one of the most famous sci-fi, fantasy sagas out there, and Ford gave life to one of the most iconic characters of the series.
Before Marilyn Monroe became the monumental star we all know her as, she was Norma Jean, the WWII munitions factory worker. She was photographed for an article about women in war. However, people were so captivated by her beauty that, soon after the newspaper was published, she began her meteoric rise to fame.
Transforming into Marylyn Monroe, Norma-Jean became one of the most famous and iconic sex symbols in the world. In fact, her impact was so huge that she remains one of the biggest household names to this day.
When Ashton Kutcher won a modeling contest, he decided to drop out of college and move to New York. He started modeling for Calvin Klein and Versace right away. Though Kutcher had a great time as a model, he knew that he was destined to do something else.
Well, he was right about that. It didn’t take long for young Ashton to win a lead role in the famous sitcom, That ’70s Show. He would continue to pursue acting and later moved into hosting his own show.
At just 11 years of age, Natalie Portman looked so stunning that she was scouted by a Revlon makeup representative who wanted her to model right away. She went to audition after audition, and it didn’t take long before she landed her first job.
Portman’s first acting role was that of Mathilda Lando, a young hitman-in-training in the film, Léon: The Professional. But it wasn’t until she scored the role of Queen Amidala in Star Wars that she became a household name across the globe.
Before Peter Mayhew joined the crazy world of Hollywood, he worked as a hospital orderly. But since he stood 7’3″, George Lucas saw him as the perfect actor to play Chewbacca.
Though he has played many roles in his lifetime, his most famous one remains the much-loved Chewy from the Star Wars films. He is now retired but remains one of the most respected performance artists of all time.
Christie Brinkley was spotted in a post office by photographer Errol Sawyer. He did a photoshoot with her and sent the snaps to the Paris branch of Elite Modeling. The agency loved them so much that they decided to book her without a second thought.
As the face of Covergirl for 25 years, Ms. Brinkley built a strong platform that allowed her to become a successful model, actress, and entrepreneur. She’s also appeared on almost 500 magazine covers, making her one of the most iconic models of her time.
Vin Diesel got his break after creating a short film about a struggling actor. It was so well-made that it was picked up by the Cannes Film Festival. There, the film was seen by the legendary Steven Spielberg, and it made a lasting impression.
Spielberg loved it so much that he gave Diesel his big break – a role in the epic war film, Saving Private Ryan. Today, Diesel is famous for his action blockbusters, particularly the iconic Need For Speed films.
Ellen Pompeo was working as a Bartender in New York City when she was discovered by a casting agent who helped her get a contract with L’Oreal. Little did she know that this would skyrocket her to A-list stardom.
Soon after the campaign was finished, Pompeo scored minor roles in movies and TV. Finally, in 2005, she caught her big break when she joined the Grey’s Anatomy cast. Her solid acting skills and lovable charm helped her get where she is now.
Now here’s someone who never really wanted to have a career in entertainment. Reynolds wanted to become a professional football player, but the universe clearly had other things in mind. When Burt took a role in the 1972 film Deliverance, he achieved celebrity status instantly.
The late Burt Reynolds became a successful actor, producer, and director in his lifetime. One of his most iconic roles was in the iconic Western TV series, Gunsmoke.
Rosario Dawson was just 15 years old when a screenwriter and a photographer approached her to audition for a film entitled Kids. She was up for the challenge and despite not having any acting background, she was able to get in. The movie was controversial and received mixed reviews, but it was enough to kick off a bustling entertainment career for the young woman.
Dawson’s filming schedule soon filled up with roles in He Got Game, Men in Black II, Rent, Josie and the Pussycats, Clerks II, Sin City, Top Five, Death Proof, and Unstoppable. She also enjoyed plenty of off-screen time, working as a voice-over talent in projects for DC Comics, Disney, Viacom, Warner Brothers, and Nickelodeon.
John Wayne attended the University of Southern California in 1925. He was on a football scholarship that didn’t last long because he had was hit with an injury that stopped him playing competitively. He thought things were over for him, but once again, the universe had a different plan in store for him.
John Wayne’s football coach was connected to John Ford, a Hollywood director. He introduced the pair, and Wayne was almost immediately cast as Ringo Kid in the Academy Award-winning western film, Stagecoach. This led to a string of Westerns that cemented the actor as one of the most legendary stars of Hollywood.
Katherine Heigl’s first modeling campaign came when she was just nine years old. The soon-to-be famous actress was hired by her aunt to endorse her line of hair care products. This family endeavor led to bigger things as Heigl was booked for more modeling projects from other brands.
From modeling, she progressed into some minor film and TV appearances. But it wasn’t until 1999 that Katherin Heigl experienced her first breakout role, taking the lead in a sci-fi show called Roswell that ran for three seasons.
Danny Trejo did not have a great childhood. He was heavily involved with alcohol and drugs from a young age. However, his story is quite inspiring as he would eventually become sober. In fact, the actor learned his lesson so well that he became a drug counselor dedicated to helping others.
This is where his story gets even more interesting. One of the people he was helping had to call him to a film set he was working on to prevent a possible relapse. Trejo arrived with his rugged tough-guy look, and the production team began whispering. He was so captivating that they cast him as an extra for the film. One thing lead to another, and the rest is Hollywood history!
Eva Mendes has one of the most unlikely stories on this list. Her career started after she was accidentally shot in the background of her neighbor’s modeling portfolio. An agent saw how beautiful she was and did everything he could to get find out who she was and get in touch with her.
Mendes moved from modeling to acting in the late 90s, taking roles in B-rated films like Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror as well as Urban Legends: Final Cut. Today, Mendes is a popular actress and successful businesswoman.
Tippi Hedren’s discovery happened as she was trying to exit a cab in Minnesota. A modeling scout saw her and thought that her beauty shouldn’t go unseen by the world at large. She accepted the offer and did a few endorsements soon after.
Hedren appeared in numerous television commercials, and that’s most likely how iconic director Alfred Hitchcock discovered her. The director knew she would be perfect for his horror film, The Birds, which was released in the year 1963.