Actors Who Landed Their Roles In Pretty Weird Ways

Collage showing Pamela Anderson in a beer calendar, and later in 'Baywatch'
reddit | hotbowlsofjustice

The odds of becoming a famous actor are nearly infinitesimal. It's tough enough to get an audition, let alone a callback, let alone an actual role. But Hollywood is a weird place, and sometimes things have a way of working out.

One can hardly take these stories as a blueprint for a successful career, but they do tell us that actors can land roles in some fairly unexpected ways.

Wayne Knight

If you thought Wayne Knight appeared in Jurassic Park thanks to his role in Seinfeld, think again. Director Stephen Spielberg saw how uncomfortable Knight appeared during Sharon Stone's leg-crossing scene in Basic Instinct and decided to essentially replace Stone with a dinosaur while keeping Knight in the shot.

Linda Blair

Still of Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn in 'The Exorcist'
Wikimedia Commons | eBay

Linda Blair nailed her role as a possessed child in The Exorcist. During her audition, in which director William Friedkin explained how to play a particularly intimate scene, Blair expressed familiarity with the concept. She was hired for the role on the spot.

Evangeline Lilly

Lilly is well known for her star turn in Lost, but her career took an interesting path to get there. After working as a flight attendant for Air Canada, a modeling scout saw her and recruited her to appear in phone sex ads.

Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet in a big hat in 'Titanic'
Giphy | CBS

Kate Winslet (and Hugh Jackman for that matter) were already huge stars by the time Movie 43 came out, so why did they choose to appear in the terrible film? As it turns out, many of the stars that appeared in it were essentially hoodwinked into filming sketches that were used in the eventual film.

Rory McCann

The Hound in 'Game of Thrones' saying "You're a talker"

It's hard to imagine anyone else playing The Hound on Game of Thrones. To get the role, all Rory McCann had to do was act crazy. Since he only had his opening lines and nothing else, he just acted crazy for the audition — and it worked.

Mel Gibson

Mad Max eating from a can while his dog stands on his car

Gibson never set out to star in Mad Max. He was simply driving a friend to an audition for the film the night after getting into a brawl. When the casting agents saw the battered and bruised Gibson, they realized he'd be perfect for the post-apocalyptic film.

John Wayne

Actor John Wayne
Wikimedia Commons | Unknown photographer

One of the 20th century's most iconic male actors, John Wayne started out in the props department of various films. Because of his build, he found his way into various films as a beefy extra, and eventually found more regular work in starring roles.

Richard Dawkins

Author Richard Dawkins
Wikimedia Commons | Anders Hesselbom

Well known as perhaps the most influential and outspoken atheist out there, Dawkins was tricked into appearing in a documentary, Expelled, directed by Ben Stein. Dawkins was upset and said he never would have appeared in the film if he'd known more about it.

Harrison Ford

Han Solo shrugging in 'Star Wars'
Giphy | Star Wars

It's hard to imagine now, but Harrison Ford had left acting behind and returned to life as a carpenter by the time the first Star Wars film was in production. He was installing a door when George Lucas decided to hire him as a partner for women auditioning to play Princess Leia.

Ryan Gosling

Actor Ryan Gosling
Wikimedia Commons | NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

Gosling is such a heartthrob that he'll literally play Ken (y'know, of Ken and Barbie fame) in an upcoming role. But he got his role in The Notebook because director Nick Cassavetes thought he was "not handsome ... not cool ... just a regular guy who looks a bit nuts."

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe
Wikimedia Commons | Teichnor Bros., Boston

Before her hair was bleached blonde, a brunette Monroe was spotted working in a munitions plant during World War II. A magazine photographer snapped a photo of her, which inspired her to take acting classes and move to Hollywood.

Keanu Reeves

Actor Keanu Reeves
Wikimedia Commons | Governo do Estado de São Paulo

One of the most bankable stars of the past thirty years or so almost never got started in Hollywood. He got his role in The Watcher because his signature was forged onto a contract by one of his friends.

Rosario Dawson

Dawson's breakout role came in director Harmony Korine's Kids. Korine, along with photographer Larry Clark, spotted Dawson sitting on a stoop and said she'd be perfect in their movie. She decided to audition and got the role in Kids.

Harvey Stephens

Still of Harvey Stephens in 'The Omen'
youtube | ScreamFactoryTV

He's hardly a household name, but a young Harvey Stephens stole the show in The Omen. Director Richard Donner was sold on Stephens after something that happened during his audition: after Donner challenged Stephens, the boy came at him, punching him right in the family jewels.

Paul Bettany

If you're wondering why Bettany appeared in Dogville, just ask his friend, actor Stellan Skarsgård. Skarsgård told Bettany that filming would be incredibly fun, essentially just a neverending party. When this proved to not be the case, Skarsgård came clean, admitting that he made it all up just to get Bettany to commit.

Ryan Reynolds

Reynolds is well known for playing his dream role, Deadpool. In order to star as Deadpool, though, he had to appear as the character in the clunky, critically panned X-Men Origins: Wolverine. He was told that if he didn't play Deadpool in the film, he'd never play Deadpool in any film.

Johnny Depp

Actor Johnny Depp
Wikimedia Commons | Harald Krichel

Depp got his start in Wes Craven's Nightmare on Elm Street, but he never intended to audition. He went with a friend who was auditioning, Jackie Earle Haley, when Craven spotted him and decided he'd be perfect for the role.

James Michael Tyler

Gunther from 'Friends' turning and smiling
Giphy | Friends

Remember Gunther, the barista from Friends? James Michael Tyler, the actor who portrayed him, only got the role because it called for an extra with "coffee experience." He had coffee experience, not acting experience, but that didn't stop him from growing into the role.

Kit Harington

Kit Harington at a convention
Wikimedia Commons | Gage Skidmore

Similarly to Mel Gibson, Kit Harington won a role simply because he'd been in a brawl the previous night. The Game of Thrones actor says he showed up to audition with a shiner following a fight at McDonald's, and it helped him look tough enough to land the role.

Pamela Anderson

Collage showing Pamela Anderson in a beer calendar, and later in 'Baywatch'
reddit | hotbowlsofjustice

The story of Anderson's rise to fame is detailed in the miniseries Pam and Tommy. Essentially, she was spotted in the crowd at a CFL football game, which led to her discovery. She was able to parlay this into a successful career in Hollywood.