Every great performance has to start with an amazing audition.
To become the chosen one, actors must convincingly dive into character without the help of million-dollar sets or expert costars, possibly while managing a bevy of nerves.
Below, see everyone from future mega-popular child stars to eventual Oscar winners give it their all for the roles that would cement their places in Hollywood history.
1. Miley Cyrus: Hannah Montana
A 12-year-old Cyrus brought the spunk (and a serious fast talk) to her auditions for the Disney Channel comedy. Looking back, it’s clear the spirited star was destined to march to the beat of her own drum.
2. Rachel McAdams: The Notebook
The actress’ stunning first take on Allie Hamilton, which she did opposite an off-screen Ryan Gosling, proves just how perfect she was for the tear-jerking romance. McAdams later called the try-out “the best audition experience I’ve ever had” and “pretty electric” – and Gosling (whom she ended up dating until 2007) felt it too.
3. Jimmy Fallon: Saturday Night Live
The comedian delivered a seemingly endless array of impressions, earning a six-year stint on the sketch show (not to mention a thriving post-SNL career).
4. Henry Thomas: E.T.
Thomas’ tearful audition for the now-classic would be impressive coming from an adult actor, let alone a 9-year-old boy. “The improvisation was so heartfelt and honest that I gave him the part right there,” director Steven Spielberg told Premiere magazine about knowing he had found his Elliot after Thomas’ reading.
5. Matthew McConaughey: Dazed and Confused
McConaughey perfectly embodied the laid back overgrown high schooler in his audition, soon gifting us all with “all right, all right, all right.”
6. Daniel Radcliffe: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
No pressure here, clearly: The too-cute Radcliffe didn’t seem very stressed out about attempting to helm a handful of films based on a worldwide phenomenon.
7. Benedict Cumberbatch: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Now that we’ve seen Cumberbatch’s full physical manifestation of the villain, we kind of just wish they had put him in a dragon onesie for the film.
8. Emma Stone: Easy A
The snarky-yet-lovable Olive that Stone created in her audition tape would soon translate to big-screen comedy gold.
9. Scarlett Johansson: Jumanji
Although the role ultimately went to Kirsten Dunst, it’s still fascinating to see the young actress’ talent begin to blossom in front of the camera.
10. The Office
This mash-up of auditions (both successful and not-so-successful) for the workplace comedy is full of surprises. Seth Rogen as Dwight? Adam Scott as Jim? It’s hard to imagine anyone else as the now-iconic characters, who are hilariously born in this audition reel.
11. Jessica Biel: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Biel shared her screen test for the iconic horror movie as a Throwback Thursday on Instagram. “Baby mid-screen test,” she said. “Guess the movie. Hint: Starts with Texas, ends with me on the floor.” The tape, which shows Biel lying on the floor screaming, “He’s killing him!” and “You gotta help me! You’ve gotta f—— believe me!” landed her the role of Erin in the film.