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8 Actors Who Were Discovered by Pure Chance



Natalie Portman in Thor: Love and Thunder

Everybody knows that, in most cases, it takes a lot of effort to accomplish the things we want to achieve. Whether it’s fulfilling a dream, traveling to a place you’ve always wanted to go to, or graduating from a career, it all takes planning, effort, and patience. The same goes for the entertainment industry, where actors, singers, and all sorts of artists must work hard for a long time in order to become a household name. In some cases, they succeed through perseverance and find success later in life, like Samuel L. Jackson, who played minor roles for more than 25 years before landing his breakthrough role of Jules Winnfield in the 1994 film Pulp Fiction.

Many actors pursue stardom from an early age, while others discover their passion for acting as adults, such as Nicole Kidman, who had a completely different career as a masseuse before she became an actress, or Danny DeVito, who worked in his sister’s hairdresser’s salon. For those with connections in the industry, or who come from a family of famous actors and follow in their parents’ footsteps, there is certainly an initial boost that often helps them on their way to the top. Yet, there is a small group of artists whose beginnings were entirely different, as they were discovered by chance, in completely serendipitous and unforeseen ways. Whether it was through a fight, intercepted on the streets, or in the midst of a discussion with a bank representative, many actors got their first break because they were in the right place at the right time. This may have been luck, or the work of fate, but there’s no doubt that these actors have some interesting stories to share about their beginnings. Let’s review eight of them.

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For nearly two decades, Ellen Pompeo has been recognized worldwide for her role as Dr. Meredith Grey in the medical drama television series Grey’s Anatomy. However, this may never have happened. By the mid-90s, Pompeo was working as a bartender at a New York bar when a client, who happened to be a casting agent, persuaded her to attend an audition. At first, Pompeo thought he was just flirting with her, but that wasn’t the case: soon after, she started working in commercials and went on to land some minor roles in TV series, such as Friends and Law & Order.

Related: 8 Actors Who Played Characters Beyond Their Age Range

When cast auditions for George Miller’s Mad Max began, Mel Gibson had no intention of auditioning, but his friend Steve Bisley did, and he asked him for a lift. The night before auditions, Gibson got into a bar fight, which left him completely bruised in the face. Unexpectedly, his battered look at the audition drew the director’s attention, as Miller thought he might be a good fit as an extra, so he asked him to go back in a few weeks. By the time they met again, Gibson had already recovered, and instead of being hired as an extra, he was offered to lead the film.

Charlize Theron used to be a model and dancer before turning to acting. In fact, she would have never dabbled in this discipline had it not been for a knee injury that put her off dancing. Living in Los Angeles, Theron struggled to make ends meet and lived off her mother’s money while trying to make a name for herself in the film industry. One day, per Vogue, she went to cash one of her checks at the bank, and when it bounced, she got into an argument with the teller. Little did she know that John Crosby, a talent agent who would later become her manager, was there and offered to help her start her career. He also managed to get her her first role in Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest.

Danny Trejo has worked in a number of productions, from the Spy Kids franchise to dramas such as Blood In Blood Out and Heat. However, Trejo’s start in acting was almost serendipitous. In the mid-80s, after his release from prison and his recovery from a drug addiction, Trejo started working as a counselor for young people with drug problems, and one of his clients, a young actor, asked him to join him on the set of Runaway Train for support. Little did Trejo know that there he would end up landing his first job in the industry as an extra, launching him on a new career path.