19 Famous Actors Who Struggled to Break into Hollywood

Joseph Thornton

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Hollywood has always been a dream destination for aspiring actors looking to make it big on the silver screen. However, the path to stardom is not always smooth, and many talented individuals face significant challenges. Here, I shall share with you 19 celebrities who struggled to break into the competitive entertainment industry:

Melissa McCarthy

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Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock.

McCarthy might be one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood today, but the actress had a hard time getting to the top. For several years, McCarthy had to settle for bit parts in movies and shows. She only started to gain recognition after she played Sookie St James in Gilmore Girl, before going on to deliver a stunning performance in Bridesmaids (2011).

John Krasinski

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I loved John Krasinski as Jim in The Office, as many did, However, it appears we might have Krasinski’s mother to thank for this casting. In an interview with Stephen Colbert, the actor shared that he was close to calling it quits three weeks before he got the role, and was only convinced otherwise by his mom.

Milo Ventimiglia

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As with many other actors, Milo Ventimiglia didn’t have an easy time finding his feet in the competitive landscape of Hollywood. The actor was just on the verge of quitting when he landed his breakout role playing Jess Mariano in Gilmore Girls.

Chris Pratt

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Photo Credit: Tinseltown/Shutterstock.

Before becoming a Hollywood A-lister, Chris Pratt faced his share of struggles. He began as a comedic actor, often cast in supporting roles that didn’t fully showcase his potential. However, Pratt’s breakthrough came with Parks and Recreation, which opened doors to leading roles in blockbuster hits like Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Jurassic World (2015).

Kristen Stewart

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Photo Credit: Denis Makarenko/Shutterstock.

Kristen Stewart is a bit of a unique case. She had a bit of Hollywood success as a child actor. However, she would then struggle to find major roles until she was cast as Bella Swan in The Twilight Saga. The rest is history, as they say.

Henry Cavill

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Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock.

Before Cavill landed a role in the TV show The Tudors, the actor had struggled to get noticed in Hollywood. Cavil had to work odd jobs to make ends meet. Thankfully, he didn’t give up on his dreams and went on to star as Superman in Man of Steel.

Viola Davis

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Undoubtedly one of the most talented actresses to have graced the silver screen, Viola Davis had to overcome various challenges to get where she is. She struggled to make her big break in Hollywood until she finally found success with her role as Annalise in How to Get Away with Murder.

Bradley Cooper

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Bradley Cooper is one of the most successful actors today. However, prior to his role in The Hangover, Cooper struggled with addiction, a major injury, and a failing career. The actor was able to turn things around though, proceeding to win six Golden Globes, a Tony, and two Grammys.

Jon Hamm

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Hollywood success was looking so unattainable for Jon Hamm that the actor promised to quit acting by his 30th birthday if things didn’t improve. Fortunately, he didn’t have to follow through with that ultimatum. He landed some substantial roles that allowed him to quit waiting tables and ultimately found success with his role as Don Draper in Mad Men.

Steve Carell

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Photo Credit: Denis Makarenko/Shutterstock.

The comedy legend is well known for his performances in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and the hit show The Office. However, in the early 90s, even Carell’s agent thought he wasn’t going to make it, advising the actor to explore other career paths. I, for one, am glad he didn’t take that advice.

Bryan Cranston

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Photo Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock.

Though he picked up acting after college, Bryan Cranston’s Hollywood breakthrough didn’t come until much later in his life. In 2008, the actor would attain major success with his role as Walter White in Breaking Bad, becoming only the second person to have won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor three consecutive times.

Octavia Spencer

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Octavia Spencer made her debut in 1996, but the actress had to wait until 2011 for her breakthrough. In the years between, Spencer kept working hard, taking up small parts in films and making guest appearances in TV shows. Her performance in The Help would however change things for the actress, winning her an Oscar and launching her into a successful career.

Harrison Ford

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I find Ford’s story to be quite inspiring. Before his role in Star Wars, Harrison Ford was struggling so badly with his acting career that he had to work as a carpenter to make a living. Stars War happened though, and Ford went on to become one of Hollywood’s most iconic leading men.

Michelle Rodriguez

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Michelle Rodriguez encountered challenges in Hollywood, grappling with limited opportunities for Latina actresses. Early in her career, she was typecast as a tough girl. However, she broke free from these constraints, delivering powerful performances in films like Girlfight (2000), The Fast and the Furious franchise, and Avatar (2009).

Jennifer Lawrence

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Early in her career, Lawrence faced rejections and struggled to gain recognition. However, her breakthrough role in Winter’s Bone (2010) earned her critical acclaim, leading to a meteoric rise. With iconic performances in The Hunger Games series and Silver Linings Playbook (2012),  Lawrence has solidified her place as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actresses.

Hong Chau

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Hong Chau is mostly known for her role as Ngoc Lan Tran in Downsizing (2017). However, as the actress shared with E! In 2018, she had many times considered giving up acting out of frustration before she landed that role.

Emily Blunt

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Photo Credit: Denis Makarenko/Shutterstock.com.

Emily Blunt faced her fair share of struggles in Hollywood before establishing herself as a prominent actress. Originally known for her roles in British period dramas, she fought to break free from being typecast. Her breakthrough came with “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006), which showcased her talent and versatility.

Gal Gadot

gal gadot
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Hollywood was a tough nut to crack for Gal Gadot. The Israeli actress had begun to doubt if acting was the right path for her, and even discussed quitting with her husband. Two weeks later, Gadot auditioned for Wonder Woman, the role that would make her a household name.

Adam Driver

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Adam Driver’s path to success in Hollywood was marked by hurdles. His unconventional looks initially made it challenging for him to find fitting roles. However, his remarkable talent and dedication shone through, landing him critical acclaim for his role in Girls. It was his portrayal of Kylo Ren in the Star Wars sequel trilogy that catapulted him to mainstream fame.