The Road to Gold
Long before they were Oscar nominees, stars from Kate Winslet to Bryan Cranston to Leonardo Dicaprio to Rachel McAdams were just aspiring actors taking whatever opportunities they could get to make it big. See the nominees for this year’s Academy Awards before they were famous, ahead.
Nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for his work in Trumbo, Bryan Cranston got an early start in a commercial for Preparation H hemorrhoid cream. Released in the 1980s, the ad made its way onto Cranston’s resume as he picked up small roles in soap operas and television dramas. His first major gig came in 1988, when he played Uncle Russell in CBS’ short-lived series Raising Miranda.
Matt Damon picked up his very first onscreen role as a minor character in 1988’s Mystic Pizza. Appearing in one dinner scene, the future star uttered one line: “Mom, do you want my green stuff?” It took years for him to make a name for himself and nearly a decade to make it to the Oscars — honored at the 1998 ceremony for Good Will Hunting. This February, Damon is up for Best Actor for The Martian.
Years before he found himself with Gilbert Grape or going through Growing Pains, a young Leonardo DiCaprio was slinging gum in a Bubble Yum commercial. The future Titanic actor appeared in the ad in the ’80s, nabbing a Best Actor Oscar nomination three decades later for The Revenant.
When she was just 14 years old, a then-unknown Jennifer Lawrence appeared in a commercial for MTV’s reality show My Super Sweet 16. She nodded to the gig nearly a decade later at the 2013 Screen Actors Guild Awards, saying in her Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role acceptance speech for Silver Linings Playbook, “I want to thank MTV. I’ll explain that. I earned my SAG card when I was 14, I did a MTV promo for My Super Sweet 16. And I remember getting it in the mail and it being the best day in my entire life, because it officially made me a professional actor.”
When Brie Larson was still getting bit roles (Young Allison in Then Came You, Six Chick in 13 Going on 30, and Racing Girl #2 in Madison), the future star made an attempt at a music career. Nominated at the 2016 Oscars for her role in Room, Larson dropped the studio album Finally Out of P.E. in 2005. The record failed to take off, and is her only release to date.
Before he was an in-demand dramatic actor and the star of J.K. Rowling’s next project, Eddie Redmayne was an aspiring model with appearances in print campaigns. Just as he was booking his first onscreen roles, a young Redmayne posed for a Burberry ad in the mid-2000s.
The Tom Hardy Mad Max fans adore was once a relative unknown with modeling dreams. In 1998, Hardy competed on British TV show The Big Breakfast‘s “Find Me a Supermodel” competition. As he is Tom Hardy, the future star won the contest, taking home the dubious prize of a toolbox.
Years before she would play Regina George in Mean Girls, Rachel McAdams picked up one of her very first roles as Beth the TV pilot for Shotgun Love Dolls. Produced for MTV, the show never got a series order, but McAdams would soon become a huge star with both Mean Girls and The Notebook the same year.
Future Oscar winner Kate Winslet — nominated this year for Best Supporting Actress for Steve Jobs — picked up one of her very first acting jobs in 1991 with the BBC1 series Dark Season. She appeared in the sci-fi series for its six-episode run, building her resume to her 1995 debut in Sense and Sensibility.