Major stars’ breakthrough roles recalled
Many starlets languish for years in bit and cameo roles that don’t showcase them clearly enough to stand out from the madding crowd of show biz hopefuls.
But for the really talented and lucky ones, the big break finally comes by way of an attention-calling role in a movie that becomes popular and thus turns out to be a career-making vehicle for its new stars.
In the ’50s, for instance, Marlon Brando was “made” by his tormented portrayal of Stanley Kowalski in “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
He went on not just to star in many acclaimed films like “Viva Zapata!,” “The Godfather” and “Last Tango in Paris,” but also launched a new movement in screen acting that stressed extreme natural and psychological believability as opposed to the mannered, glamorous style favored by older and more tradition-bound actors.
For her part, Vivien Leigh first made her stellar mark in the United States with “Gone with the Wind,” before she costarred with Brando in “Streetcar” and helped him get his big break.
In “Gone with the Wind,” Leigh’s breakthrough role was that of Scarlett O’Hara, which she won over many of Hollywood’s top female stars at the time.
For Peter O’Toole, his ticket to international stardom was “Lawrence of Arabia,” in which he played the controversial and conflicted title character—to intriguing perfection!
Brad Pitt’s own attention-calling introduction to movie audiences wasn’t even in a lead role—he played only a supporting part in “Thelma & Louise,” but his “seductive” portrayal of a hitchhiking cowboy turned female viewers on and prompted them to “beg” for more!
These days, Pitt is still topbilling acclaimed movies and has won additional acclaim for his many selfless advocacies—a star for all seasons and reasons, indeed!
Julia Roberts’ brother, Eric, was already a Hollywood star when she made her own ingénue bid, so he tried to help her get her start, without much success.
It was only when she landed the role of the “hooker with a heart of gold” in “Pretty Woman” that she finally clicked with the viewing public and ended up being hailed as “America’s Sweetheart.” That’s an unexpectedly sweet spot to be in, after playing a hooker—but, there you go!
To her credit, Roberts has vastly expanded her thespic and significant characters that have won a number of prestigious awards, so she’s definitely an “A-list” star to this day.
Like Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise first excited moviegoers in an initially unremarkable screen outing—in “Risky Business,” which he made “eventful” by doing an impromptu dance in his underwear!
Well, that certainly got the ladies’ attention, which Cruise more fully followed up on with his hit star turn in “Top Gun.”
Other career-making big-screen outings: Sandra Bullock feistily trying to control a wayward bus in “Speed.” Robert Pattinson looking sexily pale and palpitating in the “Twilight” films.
Daniel Radcliffe as the magical boy wonder in the “Harry Potter” films, which also launched the career of Emma Watson. Both stars, now young adult headliners, are playing more challenging and daring characters these days.
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