5 Best Performances by First-Time Actors That Defined Their Careers
The life-changing opportunities that weren't missed.
It usually takes years of hard, unnoticed work for an actor to finally get the role that will make them famous. Sometimes it never happens at all. But there are rare cases when the unexpected success comes right after the debut.
It takes a lot of courage and talent to give your best performance when you're still new in the industry, there's no faith and no support in you, so you're basically on your own. But even that didn't stop these five actors from proving that their names will be huge by the time their first movie is released.
1. Eddie Murphy — 48 Hrs
By the time Murphy was cast in this Walter Hill movie, which ended up being a cop classic, he was already a great comedian and SNL staff member. But Murphy was an ambitious man, so he wanted more for his career.
And he got his chance when he was cast in the iconic 48 Hrs as Reggie Hammond, an ex-con who teams up with a cop. After the film's success, Murphy was hailed as one of Hollywood's best comedy actors.
2. Edward Norton — Primal Fear
There were times when Norton wasn't the A-list actor perfect enough to play the Incredible Hulk himself. The three-time Oscar nominee began his journey to stardom in the psychological thriller Primal Fear.
Although the film's star was Richard Gere, it was Edward Norton's performance that audiences ended up talking about. His character was very complex and controversial: a mentally troubled altar boy, Aaron, who ends up as a suspect in the murder of a priest. His portrayal of Aaron earned him his first Academy Award nomination.
3. Natalie Portman — Leon: The Professional
The iconic French classic stars Luc Besson as the film's main assassin, Leon, and Gary Oldman as his enemy. But in the middle of the story is a 12-year-old Mathilda, a girl who lost her parents and became Leon's accomplice, portrayed by Natalie Portman.
Although she wasn't an acclaimed actress at the time, the fame she received after the film was immediate. Rumors of her talent spread throughout Hollywood, and the rest is history.
4. Anya Taylor-Joy — The Witch
It's not common for young actresses to start their careers by starring in horror movies, but that just means that Anya Taylor-Joy wasn't your average teenager in the industry. Her character, the witch Thomasin, was the heart of the film, and the performance Taylor-Joy gave was a fresh take on the usual portrayal of witches.
The movie helped the actress establish her talent and since then it's no secret that any of her movies, no matter how twisted the plot and how complex the character, will always work.
5. Jennifer Hudson — Dreamgirls
By the time Dreamgirls came out in 2006, Jennifer Hudson had already proven that she was a talented singer. But the movie made fans realize that she could also be an incredible actress.
Hudson's ability to capture her character's desire for fame and glory, and even the envy she feels from her colleagues, earned her both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.