The term "struggling actor" exists for a reason. Making it in show business, especially in film and television, is a matter not just of skill but also of pure luck. And while not every aspiring performer's dream of becoming a household name comes true, most of the actors who eventually break through go through a period of failure and uncertainty too. Some of the most successful actors in Hollywood almost quit acting entirely, some before hitting it big and some while their star was still high. To find out the names you almost never knew and what kept them going, keep reading. And for stars who've known each other since they were kids, check out these 35 Celebrities You Didn't Realize Grew Up Together.
She may have two Oscar nominations now, but before hitting it big, Melissa McCarthy almost quit pursuing her dream of acting. In a 2014 appearance on The Howard Stern Show, she talked about working behind the scenes in various production roles and telling herself that she'd stop auditioning if she didn't see some success in front of the camera by the time she was 30. The week of her birthday, she found out she'd won the part of Sookie in Gilmore Girls, and the rest was history. And for the most successful star who shares your birth year, discover The Biggest Star Who's the Same Age as You.
It's now Hollywood legend that Marvel star and recent Emmy winner Mark Ruffalo went out on a whopping 600 auditions before he started to see some success. It was his mother, he said in an interview with Graham Norton, who convinced him not to walk away. "She told me if I tried to quit, she wouldn't speak to me again," he remembered.
Kristen Stewart told Newsweek (via Entertainment Tonight) that the disappointment and anxiety she experienced in early auditions almost led to her throwing in the towel. "I also got so nervous for every single audition," said the Twilight star. "I was just dying. I had one appointment left and my mom said, 'Have a little integrity and go to your last one.'" That audition was for the 2001 film The Safety of Objects, which the 11 year old booked. She's been working regularly ever since.
To see some of your favorite pairs in the early days, check out these 13 Photos of Celebrity Couples When They First Got Together.
Jennifer Aniston didn't reveal the project that "sucked the life" out of her and almost led her to give up acting, but she did say on the Smartless podcast (via Cosmopolitan) that it was within the last two years and filmed before The Morning Show, for which she won a SAG Award. It was the first time, she said, that quitting the business "crossed [her] mind."
Michael B. Jordan
If you've ever watched The Wire, you know that Michael B. Jordan was already a formidable actor when he was a kid. But between that series and leading movies like Fruitvale Station and Creed, he struggled to get an agent out in Los Angeles. His Wire costar Andre Royo told Vanity Fair that he encouraged Jordan to stick with it when they ran into each other at a party. "He was like, 'Yo, I'm not working enough, **** is crazy, I think I'm going to go back to New York'… And I was like, 'Yo dog, are you kidding me right now?"
For stars who haven't made L.A. their home base, check out these 24 Celebrities Who Still Live in Their Hometown.
Like Ruffalo, actor, writer, and director John Krasinski has his mom to thank for saving his career. He became discouraged after moving to New York to make it as an actor, he said in an interview with Stephen Colbert. His mother told him to at least give his dream until the end of the year, and three weeks later, he was cast as Jim Halpert on The Office.
Joe Pesci has entertained as both an actor and a musician from a very young age. But at a certain point, he quit the business and started to make a living managing a restaurant in the Bronx. One night, Robert DeNiro called to offer him the role of his brother in the 1980 Martin Scorcese movie Raging Bull. Though both men had to talk Pesci into doing the film, he eventually got an Academy Award nomination for it.
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