Monday, July 25, 2011

Television a proven springboard for movie stardom

After writing about actors who have transitioned from making movies fulltime to popular roles on TV, I started thinking about actors who began their careers in television and became household names on the small screen before making movies.

Some of today’s biggest movie stars who got their start on TV include:

Leonardo DiCaprio on Growing Pains

He went from a heartthrob after appearing in James Cameron’s epic Titanic to serious movie actor and Martin Scorsese’s go-to guy in films like Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed and Shutter Island.

Johnny Depp on 21 Jump Street

Here’s another heartthrob who shed that label early in roles that required physical transformations that hid his good looks behind make-up and esthetics, as in Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He continues to take on transformative roles in film – Pirates of the Caribbean, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland - with great success.

Bradley Cooper on Alias

I was a huge Alias fan and if someone had told me then that the same actor who played nerdy, unlucky in love, Will, on that weekly drama would end up becoming a huge movie star, I would never have believed it. Bradley Cooper was memorable as the boyfriend everyone loved to hate in Wedding Crashers and his stock skyrocketed after he starred in the hilarious ensemble comedy The Hangover.

Bruce Willis on Moonlighting

One of my favourite action films is Die Hard. After that hugely successful film, Willis has shown throughout his career that he’s no one-trick pony. His filmography is surprisingly diverse with roles in some superb films like Pulp Fiction and Sin City.

George Clooney on ER

When George Clooney hung up his scrubs, he took the movie world by storm and didn’t look back. Some of his choices were flops (Batman and Robin), but he has also demonstrated over the course of his career a discernment for good films like Out of Sight, Ocean’s Eleven, Michael Clayton and Up in the Air. He’s also donned the director’s cap on films like Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night, and Good Luck.

Which actor who got their start on television is your favourite? Let us know in the comments section.


  1. David Caruso! Oh wait...

    Not-so-fun fact: I never watched it all that much, but I hated Clooney when he was on ER. Thought he was a douchebag with his Caesar cut and look-down-look-up acting style.

    Then came From Dusk Till Dawn, and while it's not a great movie, I was a bit blown away by his charm and charisma - THIS was a leading man, I thought, a sentiment that's been proven well over the last 15 years.

  2. so funny how true this is - but, then again, how many actors are failed tv-stars. lets look at the rest of the cast of GROWING PAINS...

  3. Simon - How dare you besmirch the good name of Like Father, Like Son! And all of those rapture movies that Cameron has excelled in. I'll hear none of it!


  4. @Dylan - Ah, David Caruso. Kiss of Death was a fine, fine film. I watched ER in the Clooney days and I always thought Anthony Edwards and Eric LaSalle were more commanding as male leads on that show. I was actually just talking to CS about From Dusk Til Dawn and we were remembering it fondly. It's still one heck of an entertaining film.

    @simoncolumb - oh, failed tv stars - let's not forget Listen to Me, another Kirk Cameron gem. I wonder if he watches Leo's movies and wonders, "what has he got that I don't have?"

  5. @Dylan – Poor Caruso, left television to become a big movie star and ends up making subpar films like Jade and Kiss of Death. I completely agree with you on Clooney, only watched a few episodes of ER and did not care for it...though I did enjoy him on The Facts of Life. Still, it was From Dusk Til Dawn that made me take notice of his talents. His charisma never came through in films like The Peacemaker or One Fine Day.

    @simoncolumb – The jump to film is definitely much harder. Kirk Cameron has had moderate success with the Left Behind film series but the other actors on the series have not been so lucky. Your day will come Andrew Koenig (aka Richard “Boner” Stabone on Growing Pains), your day will come... :)

  6. I love posts like this. Makes me want to cuddle depp and Leo and say...ahhhh bless them.

    I just hope that the springboard is not too late for Bryan Cranston, he is so super great!!



  7. What I hate though, is that Cooper has never been as remotely good in anything for me as he was on Alias.

    Leo D for the win, though.

  8. @Custard - I'm glad you enjoyed the post! Depp and Leo have given us some great films and it helps that they're easy on the eyes too.
    I can see Cranston acting superbly in the role of villain or anti-hero - hopefully he gets a juicy part in a film soon.

    @Andrew:Encore Entertainment - Alias was a fantastic show (even with its slight decline in later seasons) and Cooper was fantastic as Will. I liked him in Wedding Crashers and The Hangover. It will be interesting to see him if he can make a successful dramatic turn reminiscent of his time on Alias.


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