Those photos are the calling card that gets their foot through the audition room door. Beyond that, the talent (or simply good looks) will have to speak for itself. It’s hard to remember that the massive stars we know today were ever just young and bright-eyed aspiring actors trying to land auditions and get their big breaks, but they were.
Here are some celebrity headshots from before they were famous that you will hardly believe.
12. Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington’s young headshot looks remarkably similar to the man that he is today, just … younger. Denzel studied acting for years before he started working, and started out doing plays. He had a huge career breakthrough in the 1980’s when he booked a role on NBC’s hospital drama St. Elsewhere.
11. Jim Carrey
Jim Carrey first started getting attention as an actor when he landed a gig on the sketch comedy show In Living Color. He has said that as a child he wrote a letter to Carol Burnett requesting that he be considered for a role on the Carol Burnette Show because he considered himself a master of impressions.
10. Jennifer Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence was spotted by a talent agent at the age of 14 and started booking TV work immediately. She had been working for years before landing the major role of Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games franchise. In 2016 she was named the highest-paid actress in the world by Forbes.
9. Kristen Stewart
Kristen Stewart found massive fame with the Twilight franchise, but she was acting way before that. She got her professional start when an agent saw her performing in her school’s Christmas play. That’s what happens when kids grow up in L.A. Prior to that she has assumed that she wanted to be a screenwriter or director like her parents.
8. Christina Applegate
Christina Applegate was born in Hollywood to parents who worked in the entertainment industry. Her first breakout (and still memorable) role was an 11 year run as Kelly Bundy on Married…With Children. One thing many people don’t know about the actress is that she was one of the first members of The Pussycat Dolls.
7. Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey’s headshot is somewhat reminiscent of a mugshot, but it’s not. The actor actually started out his career trying to do standup comedy in Los Angeles before heading to New York to study drama at Juilliard. He quickly started booking stage work and then headed into the film career that we’re all familiar with.
6. Marisa Tomei
Marisa Tomei fell in love with acting while attending Broadway shows as she was growing up in Brooklyn. She started out her career with some soap opera and sitcom work before garnering a lot of attention for her comedic role in My Cousin Vinny. She’s been working and awarded for it ever since.
5. Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie was born with actors for parents, so it didn’t take her too long to hop into the industry herself as a model and actress. She started acting as a child before studying at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute as a teen and then ended up at New York University for college.
4. Robert Downey Jr
Robert Downey Jr made his acting debut at the age of five playing a dog in one of his father’s movies, so it’s safe to say that he’s come a long way. Robert continued to work regularly throughout his life and at one point was even a cast member on Saturday Night Live.
3. Chris Pratt
Chris Pratt is fully aware that his headshot is an embarrassing one. He was 20 at the time, and new to Los Angeles when a man approached him at a post office and offered to take his photo. He accepted, and this is the result. The photo ultimately got him the audition for his gig on Everwood.
2. Melissa McCarthy
Melissa McCarthy began her career as a standup comedian, hence the super wacky headshot. She started out in New York before heading to Los Angeled where she joined The Groundlings and started auditioning for TV work. She starred on the TV show Gilmore Girls for years before she became a movie star.
1. Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton grew up as one of 12 kids in a poor family, but she was exposed to music early on and started performing professionally by the age of ten. As soon as she finished high school she headed to Nashville to pursue a career in music. The star made some smart business decisions to ensure that she stay in control of her career, like starting a publishing company as soon as she could which ensured that she would retain all the royalties to her songs. Those royalties continue to pour in the millions.
All of these celebrities had slightly different forays into the entertainment industry, but one thing they all had in common is that things seemed to come pretty easy once they got their foot in the door. (Or at least that’s how it appears to an outsider.) While some of them had a lot of support in the form of successful parents and talent agents, they undoubtedly got by with a little help from their early headshots as well. You’ve got to wonder if any of those hard copies are still floating around somewhere after being discarded following an audition.