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15 Celebrities Who Made It to the Top Against All Odds

The road to fame is full of obstacles. The ability to overcome failures and not lose faith in oneself are essential qualities for any profession, including actors. Even extremely famous and Oscar-winning Hollywood stars faced many knockbacks at the beginning of their careers.

We at Bright Side believe that these stories are an example of the fact that one should never give up on the way to their dream.

Carey Mulligan

Carey Mulligan was turned down in every theater school that she applied to. Moreover, she later called her audition at the London Drama School “torture.” Its representatives offered to let Carey try herself as the host of a kids’ show. The future actress was deeply shocked by this experience.

Today, her list of awards includes a BAFTA for the best actress in An Education, and a Critics Choice Movie Award for her role in Promising Young Woman. Many of us know Carey Mulligan for the role of Daisy in a big-budget film adaptation — The Great Gatsby.

Lisa Kudrow

Before the success of Friends, Lisa Kudrow was fired from the sitcom Frasier on the third day of the pilot’s episode rehearsal. The creators of the series decided to replace her with another actress. And though Lisa Kudrow confesses that she had been going mad from sadness at the beginning, she still found the energy to go forward. And that was the right thing to do.

Several years later, Lisa got an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the role of Phoebe in Friends. Apart from that, Kudrow and her co-starring colleagues became the most highly-paid TV actors of those times, making $1 million per episode during the 9th and 10th seasons.

Jack Nicholson

In order to get closer to the world of cinema, 20-year-old Jack Nicholson first got a job as an assistant to the animation department of MGM. Later he started to take lessons in stage speech and acting. This strategy was fruitful — at the end of the ’50s, he started to get roles in movies, but he couldn’t brag about great success in acting yet.

Nicholson got famous after the release of the cult movie Easy Rider — the actor was 30 then. Afterward, he started to get offer after offer for roles from famous directors.

Hilary Swank

Before getting her first significant roles, Hilary Swank was acting in small episodes. At the dawn of her career, the actress played a single mother in Beverly Hills, 90210. However, instead of the promised 2 years of work, her character was removed after Episode 16. Swank later said that she felt devastated, thinking that if she was not good enough for Beverly Hills, 90210, she wouldn’t be able to achieve anything.

But the next year, the actress got the chance to play the main role in the independent movie called Boys Don’t Cry, which brought her an Oscar. 5 years later, she got her second Oscar for her role in Million Dollar Baby.

Naomi Watts

After having played numerous roles in movies and on TV in her homeland of Australia, she decided to search for success in Los Angeles. However, her first roles in Hollywood didn’t bring her any fame. Naomi tells that she was living hand to mouth, not being able to pay rent, and she even didn’t have enough money for medical insurance.

But the worst thing was that the actress’s candidacy was so often rejected that she started to believe in her professional failure. Therefore, at auditions, Naomi was tense, nervous, laughed too much, and this, in her own words, made people uncomfortable. The breakthrough was her role in the cult movie Mulholland Drive, which brought Naomi Watts her first big awards. After that, job offers rained down on the actress.

Anthony Hopkins

Anthony Hopkins made the decision to become an actor at 15. However, for a long time, it seemed to him that he only liked doing theater. In the ’70s, Hopkins moved to Hollywood, but appeared there mainly on television. Disappointed in the idea, the actor returned home in the late 80s, having decided for himself that this chapter of his life was closed forever.

He didn’t become really famous until after the age of 50. It’s then that he was offered the role of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, by a stroke of luck. The director needed a true “Shakespeare monster” that’s why the choice fell on Anthony Hopkins. The actor got his first Oscar for this role in 1992.

Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling got famous after her role as Kelly Kapoor in The Office, where she also worked as a scriptwriter, executive producer, and director. Mindy and her colleagues (scriptwriters and directors) of The Office were nominated for Emmy Awards for the outstanding comedy series 6 times in a row.

At the same time, the actress shared in her interview that she was fired from the sitcom where the producer initially wanted her to play herself. The reason for the dismissal was that they didn’t really find her funny or pretty enough to have the show centered around her.

Kate Winslet

From a young age, Kate Winslet took part in amateur performances at school and in local youth theater. However, her road to fame was full of obstacles. Kate confesses that she had always carried a little extra weight, her classmates would call her “fat.” And her early experience in acting mirrored this dynamic. In her theater troupe, Kate was often not given the main roles because of her excess weight.

In her adult age, Winslet was also considered to be too fat for an acting career. In 1992, she played the role of a daughter of an obese woman in Anglo-Saxon Attitudes. During filming, the director of the flick said that Kate looked like the actress who played her mother. This prompted the future star to lose weight.

The breakthrough for the actress was her role in the psychological drama Heavenly Creatures, while world fame found her after her role as Rose in Titanic, which Kate managed to get thanks to her persistence and energy.

Fred Astaire

Fred Astaire is the greatest dancer of stage and film, but he didn’t get famous until he was older. Despite all of his early dancing successes, a film career constantly eluded Astaire. He repeatedly passed auditions, but failed to attract any interest from studio executives. At one of Fred Astaire’s screen tests, an executive wrote, “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Slightly balding. Can dance a little.”

When the dancer was 30, he decided to try once more to break into film in Hollywood. And he succeeded. He got a small role that opened doors for new opportunities. Fred was matched up with Ginger Rogers. Eventually, their dancing duo in Flying Down to Rio was the main spotlight of the movie and helped make dancing an important element of Hollywood musicals in the future.

Keira Knightley

Keira Knightley was born into a family of actors and debuted in movies at an early age. But she got truly famous after the release of Pirates of the Caribbean. Despite her fame, Keira, like many other actresses, was turned down many times. The actress even stated in an interview that she wouldn’t advise her daughter to get into acting because the amount of rejection she faced at the beginning was “heartbreaking.”

“And it doesn’t matter what kind of person you are, it’s impossible for that to not take a toll. Even if you’re successful, you still have to go through a load of rejection,” the actress said.

Kerry Washington

Before getting the main role in Bombshell, Kerry Washington was fired from 2 other series. The pilot episodes that were filmed with her were eventually redone. According to the actress, in both cases casting directors wanted her to act more stereotypical and Kerry was not OK with that.

Later, she was nominated several times for an Emmy Award for Best Actress and for a Golden Globe. She acted in blockbusters and got a chance to work with Quentin Tarantino.

Maggie Gyllenhaal

Throughout her acting career, Maggie Gyllenhaal has had to face negative feedback about her appearance. It’s for this reason that she was not given certain roles — romantic ones, for example. The actress got recognition and the first award for her role in the movie Secretary. Nevertheless, Maggie confesses that she is still disappointed by many things in Hollywood.

Once, the 37-year-old actress was rejected for a role for being “too old to play the lover of a 55-year-old man. In 2021, Maggie made her film directorial debut. At the Venice Film Festival, her movie The Lost Daughter won Best Screenplay.

Reese Witherspoon

Actress and producer, Reese Witherspoon, whose career is at its peak now, has said that she was often knocked back at the beginning of her career. Oftentimes, Reese had to hear that she was the director’s second choice for the role. This means she was always worse than some other more suitable actress. But she just kept trying and never let these rejections upset her.

Robert Pattinson

Before Twilight, Pattinson had almost no significant roles in movies. The image of the mysterious vampire made him truly famous. However, the actor once confessed that filmmakers almost fired him because they considered him too serious. Eventually, Pattinson found a compromise with them.

Nevertheless, even after the Twilight saga that made him famous, the actor came across difficulties in his acting career. In 2017, he said that it was hard for him to get new roles because he was not as cool as Leonardo DiCaprio. And the movies he was acting in then, were not that profitable. The actor was even thinking at that moment that his luck was over.

But he didn’t give up, and it brought results. In the last few years, he’s shown up in such successful flicks as The Lighthouse, Tenet, The Devil All the Time, The Batman, etc.

Jessica Chastain

Today, Jessica Chastain is one of the most sought-after actresses. But some time back she was hardly able to get any roles. The actress confesses that it was her appearance that was stopping her from reaching her dream — Jessica didn’t look like a modern girl. She was often turned down due to her red hair because they simply didn’t know who she could play.

The breakthrough for Chastain was her role in The Help, where she appeared as a blonde. But now, as her career is going up, the actress doesn’t feel afraid to appear on screen with her natural hair color.

What quality, in your opinion, is the most important for an actor or actress?

Bright Side/Films/15 Celebrities Who Made It to the Top Against All Odds
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