They weren’t always huge stars. Even today’s A-listers were once yesterday’s struggling actors. Now they have directors dying to work with them but back in the day, they sat in a waiting room with hundreds of other hopefuls, waiting for an audition and their big break.
Some of these celebrities (like Hugh Jackman and Miley Cyrus) are auditioning for the parts that launched their careers. Others (like Scarlett Johansson and Kurt Russell) lost their auditions but still went on to have great success.
We’ve compiled some of the best celebrity audition tapes to take a look back at today’s biggest stars before they were today’s biggest stars.
Kurt Russell and Han Solo? It almost happened. Just like Tom Selleck was once Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford also almost missed out on another one of his iconic roles. Here we see a 26-year-old Russell auditioning for the part of Han Solo. We love Kurt Russell but, as you’ll see here, he’s completely wrong for the part of Han; he’s just a little too wholesome for the role. Lucky for Russell, just four years later he would star in ‘Escape From New York’ and ‘The Thing,’ cementing his own legacy in Hollywood.
Steve Carell was known only as an occasional contributor to ‘The Daily Show’ when he auditioned for ‘Anchorman’ in 2003. But even in this tape, he’s cracking up the audience and after stealing scenes in both this film and ‘Bruce Almighty’ he landed the role of Michael Scott in ‘The Office.’
‘Freaks and Geeks’
At the age of 16, Seth Rogen was already working the local comedy scene in Vancouver and even won the Vancouver Amateur Comedy Contest. Feeling confident, Rogen went in, and landed, his very first audition for producer Judd Apatow’s first TV series ‘Freaks and Geeks.’ The show would launch the careers of not just Rogen and Apatow but also James Franco and Jason Segel.
2004 was a big year for Rachel McAdams. She starred in both ‘Mean Girls’ and ‘The Notebook’ but back when she auditioned for the role alongside Ryan Gosling, her only movie was the Rob Schneider comedy ‘The Hot Chick’ that no one saw (and the people who did see it, hated it). McAdams researched hard for the role, taking ballet and etiquette classes and the hard work paid off. She won the role and, eventually, the real-life heart of her co-star.
Megan Fox may regret nailing this audition for her first big movie role. She infamously feuded with director Michael Bay over the two ‘Transformers’ movies and after she compared Bay to Hitler, producer Steven Spielberg fired her from the third movie.
Miley Cryus was only 11 years old when she left her home in Nashville, Tennessee to audition for ‘Hannah Montana.’ It may seem odd that Miley would have to audition for a character titled “Miley” but she was originally auditioning for the part of the best friend. Over a series of auditions, Cyrus charmed producers enough that they eventually gave her the lead role and changed the character’s name from Chloe to Miley.
Like Miley, Natalie Portman was just 11 when she auditioned for ‘The Professional’ but unlike Miley, this role was decidedly more adult and would launch the two of them on very different career paths. Her line readings are a little clunky and she’s underacting but at the 40-second mark, Portman flashes that brilliant smile that seems to light up her entire face, and you begin to understand why the camera would continue to love her.
11 must be a popular time to audition… Scarlett Johansson was also 11 when she tried out for a part in the Robin Williams adventure ‘Jumanji.’ Despite an impressive showing, Johansson lost out on the part to Kirsten Dunst. The two actresses would both go on to successful careers (and both working for director Sofia Coppola) proving that losing out on a big audition isn’t always a big deal.
Hugh Jackman originally auditioned for the part of Wolverine in ‘X-Men’ and found out he didn’t get the part. Filming was just about to begin on the movie when the actor who was cast as Wolverine – Dougray Scott – got injured and had to bow out of the production. Director Bryan Singer went back to his audition tapes, remembered Jackman and brought him back in for a screentest. The rest, as they say, is history.
‘Seven Minutes in Heaven’
In 1985, three years before her big-screen debut in ‘Satisfaction’ and five years before her breakout role in ‘Pretty Woman,’ Julia Roberts auditioned for the teen romance ‘Seven Minutes in Heaven.’ She lost out to Jennifer Connelly (who had a few acting credits to her name) and the film wound up being a critical and commercial disappointment so it all worked out in the end.
‘Dumb and Dumberer’
Though he was known for a supporting role on the Disney Channel series ‘Even Stevens’, Shia LaBeouf had yet to break out into movies. That’s when he auditioned for New Line’s attempt to make a ‘Dumb and Dumber’ prequel. Here he’s trying out for the part of Jim Carrey’s character, Lloyd. He didn’t get the part, but producers liked him enough that they offered him a smaller, supporting role as geeky Lewis.
Michael Cera had a supporting role on ‘Arrested Development’ for three years when he read for a role in ‘Superbad.’ What’s interesting is that Cera was auditioning for Seth Rogen who just a few years earlier was himself auditioning for Judd Apatow (who also produced ‘Superbad’). It was the chemistry between Cera and Jonah Hill that would ultimately land both actors the role in the comedy classic.
Garner had only year on ‘Alias’ when she went in to audition for the part of Elektra in the Ben Affleck superhero movie ‘Daredevil.’ In retrospect it wouldnt’ seem that Garner, now a big star, would have to audition for a movie like ‘Daredevil’ but at the time, Fox thought the movie would be a huge hit (in fairness, Garner did get her own spinoff movie ‘Elektra’ that also was a disappointment). And, if nothing else, it was on this movie that Garner met Affleck, her future husband and father of her kids.