Most film and TV stars are noticed on a casting call and then hope that they get to work long enough that they become famous and that the rules of society no longer apply to them. It’s a pretty straightforward process. But some celebrities take the scenic route to the Star and wind down some strange back roads …
# 5. Matt Dillon’s career owes a creepy dude to stalking kids
Matt Dillon is “that guy you know from that thing.” Indeed, he is in many things. Some of them good! Dillon’s career began with a 1979 drama about young people, drug use, vandalism, attempted murder, and successful murder. What separates it from other coming-of-age stories is that a teen movie starring real teenagers – like Dillon, who was only 14 at the time.
The producers of the film wanted to cast talented outside Hollywood amateurs, and that meant a nationwide appeal. But her budget was practically nonexistent, so she started second best and stalking real students. One of the film talent scouts went to Westchester, New York and went to a middle school spying on kids in the hallways and classrooms because Jesus who the ’70s were really a different time, were they? On the last day the “scouting” stalker ace found a young Matt Dillon skipping class, wandering the aisles as tough, teenagers often trying to do weird, and the director brought him to meet. Presumably a windowless white Econoline van in the back.
# 4. Norman Reedus had hammered his breakthrough by gettin ‘
Norman Reedus is best known as Daryl Dixon from AMCs. But before he became famous for playing one of the bearable few who survived the apocalypse, he had his breakthrough by getting weird drunk at a party. Apparently Hollywood really is a “fake it til you make it” kind of place: Reedus got hammered at an industrial party and started yelling at people, but because he did it while wearing women’s glasses (which he got from one of his colleagues Party-goers had stolen), a producer mistook his usual belligerence for the particular aggressiveness of a budding celebrity, and offered him a role in a play. This eventually led to Reedus catching his first film role and even landing a job as a Prada model in 1997. Reedus looked rather handsome now, but he was back in the day, David Bowie level gorgeous.
The Prada gig ended after a week, but when Reedus used an expensive sweater to mop up a spilled drink. Because you can lead a man to fuck, but you cannot make him give into one. He went on to model for Alessandro Dell’Acqua, Gap and Levi’s until he was hit by an 18-wheeler and thrown through the windshield of his car in 2005. He had a titanium eye socket implanted in his skull and four screws in his nose. After that, of course, it was perfect because it basically belonged.
# 3. Mila Kunis had to win the lottery (twice) to become an actress
Mila Kunis had to work her ass off to become famous, but she would never have had the chance to do so, so if not for the blind, sheer luck. You see, Kunis was born in Soviet Ukraine (understandably) didn’t want to live in Soviet Ukraine. She desperately wanted to get out of the country and move to America, but in order to do that, she had to first win the green card lottery.
Officially called the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, the lottery is the annual giveaway of immigrant visas for 50,000 lucky foreigners. We don’t really have all of the program numbers, but in 2007, the Department of State applications over 9 million DIVP and were just people who met their insanely strict criteria. All in all, the chances of getting a diversity visa are slightly lower than one percent.
Miraculously, the Kunis family won the lottery … which only meant that they could go to Moscow and wait for the results of a lottery to be won. The whole process took five years, but it was worth it. In 1991 Kunis arrived in Los Angeles with her parents, eventually got her role on and later went on to Natalie Portman. So in some ways we’re all winners.
# 2. Harrison Ford had his breakthrough as a wildly incompetent carpenter
Harrison Ford first got his foot on Hollywood’s door in 1965 after he secured a contract with Columbia as part of their New Talent program. You probably think you know what happened next: Sensing his immense potential, the studio cast him in an acclaimed indie film that then caught the attention of George Lucas. Not true? Not quite.
Ford’s “big break” was one minute of airtime in a crappy movie in which he did a terrible job that the executive producer sent him back for another six months of acting classes.
After just 18 months of Ford’s seven-year contract, producer Jerry Tokovsky Straight-Up told him: Ford responded to this, uh, “generous” offer with a tirade of creative curses, and was fired on the spot.
He later managed to secure a similar deal with Universal, but still failed to get a good role, saving his life. To support his family, he turned to carpentry, which he literally knew and sometimes worked on the rooftops with a carpentry textbook in hand.
Before he managed to crucify himself at someone’s guest house, one of his carpentry clients hired him to be a Hollywood agent; eventually he met George Lucas and was cast. Then. Then. Then in our hearts and bad dreams forever.
#1. Charlize Theron was first noticed for yelling at a bank counter
Charlize Theron lived in South Africa back when it was an actual science fiction dystopia full of flamethrowers cars and guns under every pillow. Unfortunately, that also included the Theron family shotgun, which Charlize’s alcoholic father one day grabbed and fired at his wife and daughter. Her mother responded by pulling out her own gun and serving her husband’s divorce papers from the law firm & Wesson Smith.
No wonder, then, that Theron left the country to pursue a career in modeling, before quitting to professionally pursue ballet, and then finally moving to Los Angeles to make it as an actress. She struggled financially at first, and would occasionally get support from her mother. But one day when Theron went to withdraw the money, the bank told her that she couldn’t access her own account. Frustrated, she started yelling at the narrator. This tantrum caught the attention of a high-profile manager who was there and decided, “People would pay to see this beautiful woman scream.” And that was it.
So if a Reedus teaching and Theron can teach us it this: be beautiful and yell at everyone all the time.