You got to start somewhere – and for the Hollywood stars that we’re about to discuss in this facts-packed video, that ‘somewhere’ was in commercials.
Commercials have long been the bread and butter for many working actors. These short-term gigs provide them with opportunities to stay busy and keep themselves visible inbetween longer, more substantial projects.
Unlike films and TV shows, where the characters are the main focus, in advertisements, the products tend to be the real stars. Commercials tend to be short and sweet and rather straightforward. A decent ad presents all of the most attractive features of a good or service in a way that keeps the audience engaged and entertained. To achieve this, the charisma of the actors involved typically does the brunt of the salesmanship.
It’s fairly common for actors to get their start doing commercials. Early on in their careers, actors are normally looking to gain experience by any means necessary. Anything that can help flesh out their portfolios while showing off their acting chops is seen as beneficial. Not only that, but by doing ads, actors are sometimes able to nab those coveted SAG cards.
In fact, the vast majority of actors that you’re likely familiar with got their start doing commercials before landing their big breakthrough roles in Hollywood. From Ryan Reynolds to Mila Kunis, keep watching to learn about a few celebrities that did just that.
Facts Verse Presents: Actors Who Started In Commercials Before Fame
Before she rose to fame as Alex Russo on Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place, Gomez got her start performing in front of the camera, working various acting gigs that included a role on Barney and Friends. However, around that time back in the early 2000s, Gomez was also featured in a number of television commercials, including one for Joe’s Crab Shack.
While the majority of our viewers probably assume that Drew Barrymore’s first acting role was portraying Elliott’s kid sister Gertle in ET, in reality she got her start at the age of four, appearing in an ad for Pillsbury cookie dough.
In the ad, young Barrymore is seen sitting inside on a dreary rainy day. She gets cheered up by her loving mother, however, when she’s presented with a plate of hot, ooey-gooey, fresh-made cookies.
From Titanic to the Departed, Leonardo DiCaprio has appeared in more than his fair share of blockbuster films. But even as a child, his charisma was already on display in full force. In the 80s, DiCaprio started appearing in commercials for a wide range of products, including Bubble Yum bubble gum.
Somehow, at such a young age, Leonardo was able to take something as trivial as bubblegum and make it look really cool.
Dunst has been used to performing in front of the camera since she was very young. When she was just 12, she appeared in her big breakthrough role in the film Interview With A Vampire, sharing the screen with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. Before that, however, the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind actress had already been acting for years. At the tender age of three, Kirsten began starring in TV ads as a model and actress. Most notably, she appeared in a commercial for the board game Trouble.
Gordon-Levitt first discovered his love for acting, appearing in a stage production of The Wizard of Oz, portraying the scarecrow at age 4. He was then approached by a talent agent and asked to appear in a string of commercials for household staples like cereal and peanut butter. In what was perhaps his best-remembered commercial, Joseph appeared in a 1991 ad for Pop Tarts in which he encouraged a businessman to eat a couple of toaster pastries before heading off to work.
Decades before he played Deadpool’s Van Wilder, Reynolds found his first major acting gig as a teenager playing Billy Simpson in the teen soap Fifteen. Around this time, he also enjoyed a recurring role in the action fantasy series The Odyssey. Before that, he did a few ads, including one for Push Pops.
When she was 9, Kunis’ father put her in acting classes. Not long after beginning her training, she landed a role in a commercial for Barbie dolls. Also of note, she appeared in an ad for the ever-colorful and endearingly nostalgic Lisa Frank line of school supplies, accessories, and toys. It might be hard to believe, but these ads premiered just two years before Mila landed her career-defining role of Jackie on That 70s Show.
In 1989, a very young Ben Affleck appeared in a commercial for Burger King. In the ad, he’s seen using a car phone to chat with a girl that’s trying to score a chef’s salad. While this deliciously nostalgic moment is playing out, the 1960s hit song Do You Believe in Magic by The Lovin’ Spoonful plays in the background, making this ad a retro feast for both the eyes and ears.
This 1970s ad for Listerine features a slogan that is pretty bizarre. Morgan Freeman proved that he could sell us just about anything when he was heard saying that Listerine helped cure ‘The Taste People Hate”.
When watching the ad, you get the idea that Freeman could have enjoyed a lucrative career in TV commercials if he hadn’t progressed to appearing in Oscar Award-Winning film roles. In another ad, Freeman sold us on the idea that Polaroid cameras were the only brand we should care about.
Channeling that same energy that made her role as Liz Lemon on 30 Rock so golden, Tina Fey appeared looking awkward as ever in a 1995 ad for Mutual Savings Bank. While the ad itself is pretty obscure and forgettable, it proved that Fey was a natural.
At the age of 14, Hathaway gave a riveting and surprisingly emotional performance in an ad for Better Homes. In it, Anne sits on her front steps with her neighbor friend, looking soul-crushed after learning that her family would soon be moving away.
Her friend reassures her that the house first has to sell and that they’ll still have the entire summer to spend together. While that gave Hathaway’s character a temporary bit of relief, her bubble burst after a Better Homes “For Sale” sign is immediately slapped in her front yard.
From this one ad alone, it was already abundantly clear that Hathaway had the raw natural talent to be a professional actress.
Not long before he played the Jedi-to-be, Luke Skywalker, Mark Hamil portrayed a goofy yet charming Romeo-type character that stood beneath his girlfriend’s window in a commercial for Kodak. This 1970s 30-second ad definitely showed off how much potential Hamill had as a future-leading man. It’s not surprising that he was cast as Skywalker shortly after that.
Rudd’s fans have occasionally accused him of being a vampire, owing to the fact that he has seemingly maintained his handsome looks over the years without aging. Those looking for proof that he is an immortal bloodsucker need only need to look at this 1991 ad for the Super Nintendo video game console. While the commercial was shot about 30 years ago, Rudd is still easily identifiable. Sure, his hair might be a bit longer – this was the 90s, after all – but in general, he still looked like the same guy that we all know and love today.
Ledger got started acting in his homeland of Australia. Down under, he enjoyed a handful of minor roles before hopping across the pacific to the US, where he had high hopes of building his budding career. Eventually, he achieved these dreams by playing the hunky heartthrob Patrick Verona in 10 Things I Hate About You.
One of Heath’s earliest roles was in an Australian ad for the fast food chain Chicken Treat. In that commercial, the since-deceased actor watches a bunch of rotisserie chickens cook in the back of the budget dining establishment.
Both Hillary Duff and her older sis, Haylie, entered into show business at an early age, scoring roles in commercials not long after moving with their mother to California in 1993. Hillary eventually achieved her breakout at 10, appearing in the family-friendly film Casper Meets Wendy. Before that, she spent her earliest childhood years doing commercials for brands like Subway. Just a couple years later, she became a household name after Lizzie McGuire premiered on the Disney Channel.
Foster was raised primarily by her mother, Evelyn. Early on in her life, she demonstrated that she had a great of talent for acting. She made her debut in a commercial for Coppertone sunscreen at the age of three. This led to other work in several Disney projects as well as a slew of other ads and television spots for products like Crest toothpaste.
Before he became famous worldwide for his role as Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Wood was a fairly prolific child actor. He made his debut in a music video for Paula Abdul’s song Forever Your Girl. After that, Wood was cast in minor role in Back to the Future Part II. Around this time, he also did a bit of modeling doing commercial work. Notably, he appeared in an ad for Cheddar Cheese sponsored by the National Dairy Board.
Decades before he was the star of the Matrix franchise of films and appeared in video games like Cyberpunk 2077, Reeves appeared in a number of ads for everyday consumer products. He grew up surrounded by actors and performers. His mother was a costume designer and her boyfriends worked in Hollywood in varied roles, such as rock music promoters and directors. In the early 80s, Reeves made his debut in an episode of Hangin’ In. Around this time, he also could be seen promoting Coca-Cola.
While Lindsay was just 12 when she starred in Disney’s remake of The Parent Trap, she arguably stole the spotlight from her high-profile co-stars, Natasha Richardson and Dennis Quaid. Before that, she had only appeared in front of the camera doing commercials for products like Jello.
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Did you know that Keanu Reeves promoted Coca-Cola long before he played Neo in the Matrix films and that Mark Hamil got his start appearing in commercials for Kodak cameras? Let us know, and feel free to tell us about any other stars you know of that made their screen debut appearing in TV ads.