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From the Background to the Spotlight: Actors Who Got Their Start as Extras

Many aspiring actors dream being discovered at a young age by a big-name Hollywood executive and becoming an instant star. However, for most actors, the path to fame is hard work. Even some of the biggest names in Hollywood paid their dues as extras and in bit parts before working their way to the top. Here are just a few famous actors who made the journey from extras to movie stars. 

  • Long before they were A-list Hollywood stars, childhood friends – and renowned baseball fans – Ben Affleck and Matt Damon appeared as extras in Kevin Costner’s 1986 Field of Dreams. The pair, though uncredited, appeared among the crowd in a scene that took place in Boston’s Fenway Park.


  • It’s hard to imagine an actor more popular right now than Channing Tatum, who’s had starring roles in major films such as this year’s Magic Mike, 21 Jump Street and The Vow. However, just seven years ago he was breaking into acting as an uncredited extra, playing the role of a boy in the church scene in 2005’s War of the Worlds.


  • He went on to become a film icon, but John Wayne’s earliest movie roles included “guard”, “football player”, and “horse race spectator” – all uncredited roles among the many he had as an extra in various silent films from the late 1920s.


  • Fans of Jerry Maguire, Men of Honor or Radio might recognize a familiar face in the 1988 Eddie Murphy comedy Coming to America; that’s a young Cuba Gooding, Jr sitting in the barbershop chair.


  • Eight years before uttering the classic “Yippee-ki-yay” in 1988’s Die Hard, Bruce Willis was making his movie debut as an extra one of Frank Sinatra’s last films, The First Deadly Sin. Two years later, he could be spotted in the background as an extra in the 1982 courtroom drama The Verdict with Paul Newman.


  • He may have caught the world’s attention in 1988’s Thelma and Louise before going on to star in blockbusters such as Fight Club and Moneyball, but Hollywood leading man Brad Pitt got his acting start as an uncredited extra in four different 1987 films, including as “partygoer/preppy guy at fight” in Less Than Zero.


  • Today, we know Clint Eastwood as an accomplished actor, director, and all-around Hollywood icon. But before he was making a living as the ultimate tough guy in films like 1966’s The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and 1971’s Dirty Harry, or directing Oscar-winning films like 2005’s Million Dollar Baby, he was breaking into the industry as an extra in several films throughout the 1950s.


  • Sylvester Stallone was playing the role of a tough guy years before his breakthrough role in Rocky in 1976. He got his start as an extra in a number of films in the early 1970s, including an uncredited role as “subway thug #1”, a mugger in Woody Allen’s 1971 comedy Bananas.


Still Have More Questions?

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Photo via Flickr

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