What 20 Famous Actors Looked Like in Their Very First Movie Roles – Men's Health

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Wait until you see Neil Patrick Harris.
Hollywood’s most iconic actors constantly impress with current projects and the latest blockbusters. But it’s rare we remember where these actors came from—and what they looked like as budding movie stars. Taking a look back at an actor’s first role is a window into a time when Depp, DiCaprio and De Niro weren’t yet household names.
From Tom Hanks to Harrison Ford to Samuel L. Jackson, Hollywood’s most iconic actors have gone through quite an evolution in their decades-long careers. Check out these 23 actors in their first movie role—and marvel at where they are now.
First movie: Leonardo DiCaprio was in several television shows in the two years before his first movie appearance. In 1991, DiCaprio had his first role in Critters 3, which he filmed at age 16.
Now: Almost three decades after his first role, DiCaprio is one of the biggest names in Hollywood—and one of the highest paid actors in the industry. He holds an Academy Award and three Golden Globes.
First movie: Johnny Depp’s first film was Nightmare on Elm Street, where he starred as Glen. An impressive first film and role by any account, Depp was only 21-years-old during filming.
Now: Depp has been acting since 1984, and is one of the most well-known names in film. With roles in everything from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? to the Pirates of the Carribean franchise to every Tim Burton film known to man, Depp is a certified leading actor in Hollywood.
First movie: Paperback Hero was Hugh Jackman’s first film, with the actor cinching the lead role of Jack Willis, an Australian truck driver with a talent for writing romance novels. The 1999 film came off the heels of a few television roles for the actor, which he had been dabbling in since 1994.
Now: Jackman has played Wolverine, Van Helsing, Jean Valjean, P.T. Barnum, and every seemingly random role in between. With a vast array of films and roles in his career, Jackman is truly a multi-talented and unpredictable actor.
First movie: Neil Patrick Harris may be mostly known for his television work, but his first ever role was in a film. Harris starred alongside Whoppie Goldberg in Clara’s Heart, a 1988 movie following a family healing from an infant’s death and their new housekeeper. Harris was 13 years old in the film.
Now: From Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events to Barney Stintson in How I Met Your Mother to Doogie Howser, M.D., Harris has had quite a career. Even though television is his most popular medium, the actor has peppered film roles throughout his 30 year career. And let’s not forget his impressive musical theater roster.
First movie: After some small television roles, 12-year-old Christian Bale landed a supporting role in the 1987 fantasy-adventure film Mio in the Land of Faraway.
Now: Bale has had a vast career, winning an Academy Award and two Golden Globes for his work. He is particularly known for going through intense physical transformations for his roles, which can be seen when comparing his physique in 2004’s The Machinist to his appearance as Dick Cheney in Vice.
First movie: Colin Firth’s first movie was Another Country in 1984. The actor, who was 23 years old when the film was released, played the role of a Marxist schoolboy named Judd. The play-turned-film explores the early life a gay spy, whom Judd is close friends.
Now: With an estimated net worth of $25 million, Firth is a powerhouse actor—and he has the bank account to prove it. The leading actor holds an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, two BAFTA Awards, and three Screen Actors Guild Awards for his film work.
First movie: After a few uncredited film roles and a couple television roles, Morgan Freeman received his first credited film role in 1971. The film was called Who Says I Can’t Ride a Rainbow!, and follows the story of the last working farm in Manhattan. Freeman was 34-years-old at the time of the film’s release.
Now: Though his acting career started later than many, Freeman quickly became a sought after talent in Hollywood. He holds both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his work. In 2017, Freeman was given the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement award for his impressive career and humanitarian work.
First movie: After a few television roles and a standing spot on The All Mickey Mouse Club, 15-year-old Ryan Gosling nabbed a supporting role in Frankenstein and Me. Gosling plays Kenny in the 1996 film, the friend of a teen who brings Frankenstein back to life.
Now: From The Notebook to Gangster Squad to La La Land, Gosling has had a varied and vast film career that spans almost 25 years. He is a Golden Globe winner with more than 20 acting awards under his belt, and has been named one of the highest-paid actors in the world.
First movie: Surprisingly, Tom Hanks first movie was a thriller. In 1980, 24-year-old Hanks had his first film role in He Knows You’re Alone, which follows a bride-to-be who is stalked by a serial killer.
Now: Hanks’ career needs no introduction. The actor has dominated Hollywood, with more than 90 acting credits and too many massive box office wins to name. Hanks has two Academy Awards, eight Emmys, four Golden Globes, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards. He received two consecutive Oscar nominations for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump.
First movie: Will Smith’s first movie was Where the Day Takes You, a 1992 film about teenage runaways on the streets of LA. The role was a departure from Smith’s The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air roots, which debuted two years prior when Smith was 21-years-old.
Now: From the Bad Boys franchise to I, Robot and The Pursuit of Happyness to Aladdian, Smith has had an unpredictable career of unpredictable roles. He’s been nominated for five Golden Globes and two Academy Awards. With an impressive music career, Smith has won four Grammys and six American Music Awards.
First movie: George Clooney had a series of television roles and background acting gigs before landing the made-for-TV movie Combat Academy, which was released when he was 25 years old. The film follows the hijinks of two jokers in military school.
Now: Clooney has had one of the most impressive film careers in history, thanks to his old Hollywood charm. He holds three Golden Globes, two Academy Awards, and the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Awards. Clooney has an estimated net worth of $239 million, making him the highest-paid actor in the world.
First movie: After several uncredited roles and TV spots, Brad Pitt had his big break in The Dark Side of The Sun at age 25. The 1988 love story follows a man trying to find a cure for a rare skin condition and experiencing life along the way.
Now: Pitt is an acting legend with a career many in Hollywood can only dream to rival. He holds an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, two Golden Globes, an Emmy, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and countless other recognitions. From Fight Club to Benjamin Button to 12 Years a Slave, Pitt has spent more than three decades becoming a master of his craft.
First movie: Hugh Grant’s first film role was in the 1982 movie Privileged, which follows a group of Oxford acting students throughout a dramatic play production. Grant was 22 years old at the time of filming.
Now: As the official romantic comedy golden boy, Grant is known for roles in Love, Actually, Notting Hill, Sense and Sensibility, and the Bridget Jones franchise. Grant has received a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for his work, having been in the industry for almost four decades.
First movie: Jason Momoa’s first movie was made-for-television. After a three year stint on Baywatch: Hawaii between 1999 and 2001, Momoa starred in a wedding-themed Baywatch film. He was 24 years old at the time.
Now: Momoa has taken the acting world by storm with roles as Aquaman and Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones. With his buff physique and intimidating height, Momoa is known for starring as warriors and tough figures in films.
First movie: Denzel Washington’s first role was in the 1977 television movie, Wilma. The film told the true story of American track sprinter and Olympian Wilma Rudolph. Washington was 23 at the time of the movie’s release.
Now: Denzel Washington has had an impressive career spanning more than four decades. He has three Golden Globes, one Tony Award, one Screen Actor’s Guild Award and two Academy Awards. Washington is known for his portrayal of real people, like Malcolm X and Herman Boone in Remember the Titans, and military or law enforcement personnel.

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