Looking back on an actor's early roles is either a harbinger of genius or fodder for embarrassment. For every Colin Firth in 'Another Country,' there's Jeremy Renner in 'National Lampoon's Senior Trip.' But we all gotta start somewhere, right?
For the 20 actors up for awards at this year's Academy Awards, the Internet has been the gift and the curse, able to preserve both the stellar performances and the inauspicious starts. Thankfully, we dig both. Rufulicious indeed, Mr. Franco. Rufulicious, indeed.
Javier Bardem - 'Tacones Lejanos' (1991)
The 'No Country For Old Men' and 'Biutiful' star played an assistant director -- albeit briefly -- in 'Tacones Lejanos' ('High Heels'), Pedro Almodóvor's ninth film about a mother and her daughter whose common lover is murdered.
Jeff Bridges - 'Halls of Anger' (1970)
If we're getting technical, Bridges' first role was as an infant in 1950's 'The Company She Keeps.' But one of the actor's first adult roles was as an integrated white student in an all-black school in this 1970 film. Look for him starting at 4:10.
Jesse Eisenberg - 'The Emperor's Club' (2002)
Before he was creating social networking sites or being schooled in 'Roger Dodger,' Jesse Eisenberg was Louis Masoudi, a prep school student learning the classics from teacher Kevin Kline. That same teacher presumably now has a hate group about him somewhere on Facebook.
Colin Firth - 'Another Country' (1984)
No one can accuse Colin Firth of taking the easy roles early on. In his debut film, Firth plays Tommy Judd, a Marxist intellectual opposite Rupert Everett, whose portrayal of a gay student at a 1930s British boarding school threatens Tommy's academic career.
James Franco - 'Never Been Kissed' (1999)
Who would have thought in 1999 that the sidekick who says, "Yo, this is going to be rufulicious!" would be hosting the Oscars and snagging a Best Actor nomination? Start at 3:45 for the good stuff.
Annette Bening - 'The Great Outdoors' (1988)
How this doesn't get mentioned in Top 10 Comedies of All Time is a cinematic crime on par with 'The Warriors' getting shut out of the Oscars. When Chet Ripley and his family attempt an outdoorsy vacation, he's interrupted by his wife's sister (Bening) and her obnoxious husband (Dan Aykroyd). Big bear chase me. That is all.
Nicole Kidman - 'BMX Bandits' (1983)
For those of you looking for both Nicole Kidman's debut performance and an Australian movie about two BMX bike racers, you're welcome.
Jennifer Lawrence - 'The Bill Engvall Show' (2007)
Three years before the 20-year-old actress searched for her missing father in the Ozarks in 'Winter's Bone,' Lawrence could be seen, dad intact, on 'The Bill Engvall Show' as the bratty daughter.
Natalie Portman - 'The Professional' (1994)
Even at 13, the 'Black Swan' star displayed a natural poise and charisma that drew you to the screen. In Luc Besson's film about a hitman who quasi-adopts a girl whose family is killed by mobsters, Portman acts as the sweet counterbalance to Jean Reno's cold, calculating hitman.
Michelle Williams - 'Lassie' (1994)
In her second film, 14-year-old Williams plays April Porter, a tough-as-nails cop who goes undercover with her partner Lassie to bust up a Colombian drug ring. Okay, we didn't actually see this one all the way through, but look for Williams starting at 1:40. Incidentally, let's hope the wardrobe person who put a 14-year-old girl in mom jeans never works in this town again.
Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale - 'Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna' (1986)
Everyone knows Bale nailed the role of Jim Graham in Steven Spielberg's 'Empire of the Sun,' but the only reason he got that gig is through the recommendation of Spielberg's wife, actress Amy Irving, who starred with Bale in his debut film about the Russian aristocracy. Bale comes in at 4:20.
John Hawkes - 'Johnny Be Good' (1988)
John Hawkes wasn't always the badass you see in 'Winter's Bone' and 'Deadwood.' In 1988, you could find the then 29-year-old fledgling actor delivering pizzas to Paul Gleason, aka the uptight jerk in every single movie made in the 1980s. An auspicious start indeed.
Jeremy Renner - 'National Lampoon's Senior Trip' (1995)
Wow. Before he was brooding up the screen, Jeremy Renner's debut performance was as a drug-addled student in this National Lampoon film. Nice hair. Catch the future 'The Hurt Locker' and 'The Town' star starting at 3:00.
Mark Ruffalo - 'The Dentist' (1996)
Ruffalo's second movie involved Corbin Bernsen as a sadistic, murderous dentist. It somehow did not do well upon its release.
Geoffrey Rush - 'Starstruck' (1982)
Fourteen years before earning a Best Actor Oscar for 'Shine,' Geoffrey Rush could be seen as Stage Manager -- yup, he doesn't even get a proper name -- in the Australian musical comedy 'Starstruck.' Good luck finding footage of this one on the Internet, but here's a screenshot of Geoffrey Rush: Australian Hipster.
Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams - 'Drop Dead Gorgeous' (1999)
Before 2005's 'Junebug' earned her indie cred, Amy Adams starred in a slew of B-movies such as 'Cruel Intentions 2' and 'Psycho Beach Party.' Her first film, though, was this 1999 mockumentary centering on a beauty pageant in small-town Minnesota.
Helena Bonham Carter - 'A Pattern of Roses' (1983)
Helena Bonham Carter's early roles reads like a list of fake British aliases -- Lucy Honeychurch, Serena Staverley, etc. In her debut film, the then 17-year-old actress plays Netty Bellinger in the film adaptation of the popular book 'A Pattern of Roses.' Look for Tim Burton's lady friend starting at 5:15.
Melissa Leo - 'All My Children' (1984)
Fans of 'All My Children' will recognize 'The Fighter' star Melissa Leo as Linda Warner, who appeared on the soap opera for one season in 1984. Judging by this clip, the then 24-year-old was just as scrappy then as now. We could watch her say "Stamp your wittle feet and have a wussy fit" all day.
Hailee Steinfeld - Kmart ad (2009)
14-year-old 'True Grit' star Hailee Steinfeld understandably doesn't have a lot of history behind her -- The Coen Brothers' film was her debut role -- but thank the Internet for digging up this Kmart ad from 2009, in which the young thespian defines "blingatude" for the masses.
Jacki Weaver - 'Alvin Purple' (1973)
The Australian actress earned universal acclaim for her role as the matriarch of a crime family in 'Animal Kingdom.' Forty years earlier, though, she could be seen in 'Alvin Purple,' the popular Aussie sex comedy and the actress's second film. You can see Weaver, who remarkably looks exactly the same as she does now, at 0:12 and 0:40.
Anne Hathaway - 'Get Real' (1999)
'Get Real' was a comedy/drama known more for launching the careers of two of its stars -- Jesse Eisenberg and your Academy Awards co-host Anne Hathaway -- than anything the show produced. Whatever became of the Wondermints?
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