16 Actors Who Never Took Acting Classes, but Their Talent Made Them Shine

4 years ago

Not all great actors went to acting school. Charlize Theron wanted to be a ballet dancer, and got a movie role when she was noticed arguing with a bank teller. Joaquin Phoenix ended up in Tinseltown after performing on the street to support his family. And many more A-list actors like them became an important part of Hollywood because of their natural talent.

So, Bright Side wants to highlight the celebrities who’ve proven that you don’t always need acting classes to become a Hollywood superstar.

1. Tom Cruise

Tom loved movies and he once worked in a play that changed his life for good. He went to New York to become an actor, and 6 months later, he got a break in a movie called Taps. In 1990, he became one of the highest-paid actors in the world and has always been humble about it.

2. Jim Carrey

Jim Carrey had quite a peculiar upbringing. He lived in a van with his family when he was a teenager and had dreamed of living a successful life since then. He dropped out of school when he was 16, to support his family, and later auditioned for many small roles. He, eventually, landed a role on a TV show called In Living Color, where he flourished in his career. He has had much bigger roles since then and he never spent a penny on acting classes.

3. Meg Ryan

While she was pursuing journalism in New York, she started auditioning for commercials and TV series. She ended up in commercials for Burger King and AIM Toothpaste. And as her acting career flourished, she left her college a semester earlier to work in a feature film. She never received any kind of formal training in acting.

4. Cameron Diaz

Once a famous photographer named Jeff Dunas approached Diaz to ask her who her agent was. When she said she didn’t have one, Dunas handed her his business card and told her to get in touch, once she has an agent. She became a model with Elite modeling agency, and then she also worked playing small roles. 4 years later, she got her big break in The Mask.

5. Johnny Depp

Depp moved to California to become a musician. He first landed a job as a telemarketer selling ink pens over the phone. While working at this job, his friend Nicholas Cage introduced him to his agent. Later, Depp ended up in a role in A Nightmare on Elm Street. He never pursued any formal training in acting school.

6. Joaquin Phoenix

Phoenix has been an actor, producer, musician, you name it. He and his siblings used to perform on the streets to support their family. Back then, they were all noticed by an agent named Iris Burton, who got them to work in commercials and TV shows. Joaquin took a break after his brother, River Phoenix, passed away.

His comeback bestowed him with a lot of blockbuster movies, where he himself won an Oscar and many other prestigious awards, like best actor in Joker.

7. Christian Bale

Bale left school when he was 16, and began his career by doing commercials, which segued into him doing movies. He is famous for his legendary performance as Batman in the Dark Knight movies, but he is also famous for his method acting in any movie he’s laid his hands on. He can make drastic changes in himself to deliver his performance in the best way.

8. Russell Crowe

Crowe became famous by playing Maximus in the movie Gladiator, which won him an Oscar. He landed his first break because of his family connections. He also dropped out of school when he was 16, to become an actor. His dedication has put him in some really good movies like Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, and a lot more.

9. Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer convinced her parents to find her an agent in NYC to kickstart her acting career. Her first break was on a TBS comedy series called The Bill Engvall Show. Gradually, she made her way to roles in movies like The Hunger Games, X-Men, and a lot more.

10. Ben Kingsley

Kingsley made his acting debut when he was 23, from then on he continued doing stage work for the next 15 years. He even turned down many big opportunities. His first movie, Fear Is The Key, was released in 1972, then he starred in Gandhi in 1982, which won him an Academy Award. He is purely a self-taught actor.

11. Channing Tatum

When Tatum left college, he worked as a construction worker, a dancer, a salesman, and a mortgage broker. He was discovered by a modeling agency on the streets of Miami and he ended up in print ads for many bigshot brands. Then, he gradually worked his way through many commercials and movies, which made him the star he is today.

12. Charlize Theron

Theron began her modeling career when she was 16, then she pursued ballet dancing as well. After a few knee injuries, she quit everything and moved to LA to pursue her acting career. Trying to make ends meet, she started arguing with a bank teller who refused to cash her out of state check. It was then that she was discovered by a Hollywood manager, who got her into movies.

13. Henry Cavill

Cavill was very fond of working in the theater when he was in school. He worked as an extra for a play at his boarding school. He landed one of his first roles in a film when a casting group for the movie The Count of Monte Cristo showed up at his school. Cavill impressed the group and got in.

14. Matthew McConaughey

McConaughey was studying law at the University of Texas when he came across a book called The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino. This book changed his life and became the reason for why he made a decision to pursue acting. He began his acting career by working in many commercials and student films. One day, he ended up meeting Richard Linklater who later chose him for the part he played in Dazed and Confused. It’s no wonder he chose McConaughey for this role.

15. Natalie Portman

When Portman was 11, she worked at a local pizza parlor, where a Revlon representative convinced her to pursue a career in modeling. But she found modeling boring and decided to pursue acting instead. Then, she signed up to attend the Usdan Theatre Arts Camp, where she was featured in many productions. Portman needed no formal training to be the terrific actress that she is.

16. Heath Ledger

Ledger skipped school when he was 17 to pursue his career in acting. He drove to Sydney along with his best friend, Trever DiCarlo, to seek acting work. His first break was a small role on a TV series called Clowning Around. Gradually, he became a well-known face after 10 Things I Hate About You, and then he gave his best performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight. Ledger is the ultimate proof that you need no training to be an actor.

Which of the characters played by the actors listed above are your favorites? Share with us in the comments below.


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How cool to know these actors made their path through the business without even studying acting


Nice! But let's not forget that studying is something important for people to succeed (sometimes)


Jim Carrey, Charlize Theron have both attended Ivana Chubbuck studio for a long time - it is all in her book btw. It's a myth that you don't need an acting coach to get to that level. Many of the big budget films would also hire acting teachers/consultants on set - I am sure Jennifer Lawrence had one of those.

I agree that you probably don't need 2-4 years, but you have to work, read, observe and learn. And any studio will help you to get stronger as an actor.


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