10 Actors Who Made It Big After Just One Role (And 10 Who Had To Wait For Years)

Hollywood is full of talented actors and actresses. Some of these people have very famous families, parents, or siblings that have put them on the map today. Nepotism is rampant throughout the industry after all. Other actors and actresses made it big on their own volition, by working hard, studying, and going to audition after audition until they landed that perfect role to catapult their name into superstardom.

There are actors like Ben Affleck and George Clooney who have aged like fine wine, seemingly even better now than they were ten or fifteen years ago when they were at the height of their careers (or so we thought). The truth is a lot of actors and actresses continue to raise the bar when it comes to fame and talent. Reese Witherspoon, for example, has been a household name since the late 80s. You would think her star power could have fizzled out by now, but it is actually on the contrary as she just signed a deal to do a third Legally Blonde movie!

Below, we highlight some of these stars that took years to really cement a name for themselves in Hollywood. We also look at ten stars who had one great role and became a household name just like that.

20 Had To Wait: Comedian Paul Rudd Loves You, Man

Rudd has a ton of comedy acting under his belt, but did you know it took him decades to reach the popularity that he has today? Rudd will turn 50 next year. He has been acting for over 25 years and has over 107 titles to his name, according to IMDb. Some of his first roles were in movies like Clueless, The Cider House Rules, and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. He even starred in Friends for two seasons.

The role that shot him to superstardom was Peter in I Love You, Man in 2009, alongside Jason Segel.

Since then, he has had a ton of major hits-- and does not seem to be stopping any time soon!

19 Made It Big: Blake Lively Plays Bridget The Soccer Star

Blake Lively is someone that all of the world looks up to, tries to emulate, and just can't get enough of-- especially her equally talented and hunky hubby, Ryan Reynolds! Lively, 30, is the perfect example of someone that made it big with just one role. It was 2005 and she was just 18 years old when she scored the role of Bridget in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. After the success of this movie, everyone knew Blake's name.

Then, it was when she started playing Serena that her popularity and fame really grew next level. Since then, she has had starring roles in movies like The Town, Green Lantern (where she met her future husband), Savages, The Age of Adaline, and The Shallows. There is really nothing she can't do! Up next, Lively stars in three movies, due out this year and next.

18 Had To Wait: Redhead Jessica Chastain

Chastain turned 41 this year and has clearly established herself as a successful actress with her role in Zero Dark Thirty and Miss Sloane. However, it took Chastain several years to really make a name for herself.

She started acting when she was 27 in small roles on shows like ER and Veronica Mars.

She continued to star in popular shows with small guest roles until her role in The Help (2011). Of acting and her role in the field, Chastain had this to say: There is this immediate connection, this intimacy when you’re acting because there’s no room to be polite or shy. Also, as an actor, I get to connect with women I’ve never met before.

17 Made It Big: Blonde And Classy Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon is a household name. Further, the actress attached to it is a stunning blonde bombshell that has talent that knows no limits. Witherspoon, 42, is one of those actresses that only need one role to make her shoot to stardom.

The role of Elle Woods came when she was just 20 years old.

She starred in Fear alongside Mark Wahlberg. The movie is centered around a young couple that falls for each other, only for the woman to realize that her love is not all that he seems. After this role, she starred in many great movies over the years, and her talent and fame are only growing now!

16 Had To Wait: Jeremy Renner Finally Arrived

Jeremy Renner has that smoldering look in his eye that makes you think he is going to do something bad when he really is just all about the good. He will turn 48 next year and has been acting for over 20 years. In fact, his first role, according to IMDb, was in 1995 when he was 24 years old. However, it took the hunky star almost thirteen years to nab a role that brought his name into the forefront. That role was none other than William James in The Hurt Locker (2008). Since this breakout role, Renner has starred in movies like The Town, The Avengers, American Hustle, and Arrival. 

15 Made It Big: Our Princess, Anne Hathaway

It took our brunette beauty Anne Hathaway just one role, one movie set, to make her a household name and give her the dream job of her life. You can probably guess what that role is, no?

It is none other than her role as Mia Thermopolis in The Princess Diaries, which came out in 2001 when Hathaway was just 19 years old!

She has gone on to star in Love & Other Drugs, Bride Wars, The Dark Knight Rises (as Catwoman!), and Les Miserables. Most recently, she had a role in Ocean's 8 alongside Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett. Of this role, many critics claimed she stood out among all of the A-list actresses!

14 Had To Wait: Many Roles Until Channing Tatum Stepped Up

Channing Tatum is one of the world's hunkiest actors of our time. Most recently, the dark-haired hunk split from actress Jenna Dewan, his wife of nine years. Did you know, however, that it took Tatum years to land a lead role and get his name on the front pages of the magazines? He began his acting career when he was 16 years old with several roles in movies like Coach Carter, Havoc, and War of the Worlds before he landed the role as Tyler in Step Up that would make all the girls fan themselves! Now, he has grown his star power exponentially with movies like Dear John (2010) and Magic Mike (2012).

13 Made It Big: The Last Song Was First For Liam Hemsworth

Hemsworth was originally born in Australia and decided to come to America to pursue a career in acting, similar to both of his older brothers.

The Australian born star, 27, starred in just two low-budget movies over here before landing the role of Will in The Last Song, alongside his future wife Miley Cyrus, 25.

After this big role made him a household name, Hemsworth went on to star in The Hunger Games series, solidifying his status as a popular actor in the industry. Other movie roles he has under his belt are ones in Empire State, Paranoia, and Independence Day: Resurgence.

12 Had To Wait: Melissa McCarthy Is A Comedy Movie Genius

McCarthy is known for her hilarious acting talent, specifically with comedy. The star will turn 48 this summer and 55 projects under her belt with 8 more in the process. She had very small roles in Charlie's Angels, White Oleander, and Life, as we Know It before her movie career really, took off. Further, she starred in Gilmore Girls for several seasons, keeping up with the quick-witted mother/daughter duo of the hit series.

The role that put her on the map in a big way, though, was the one she had in Bridesmaids! From here, she had other blockbuster hits like The Heat and Spy. Now, McCarthy is someone that no one can stop, but she had to wait years before making it big.

11 Made It Big: Summer's Golden Girl, Jennifer Love Hewitt

We all know (and love) Jennifer Garner from her two hit television shows The Client List and Ghost Whisperer. She also had one of the most impressive '90s and early '00s careers in history.

But, there was one movie that she starred in at just 18 years old that really put her name out there.

That was I Know What You Did Last Summer, a suspense movie about a group of teens that have a deep, dark secret and try desperately to hide it. After this movie hit theaters, her name blew up (along with another name from the movie you'll see later) and subsequently began her incredible career that she took into the present.

10 Had To Wait: Breaking The Bad Mold With Aaron Paul

Aaron Paul will turn 40 next summer, but he has only been on the Hollywood circuit for what seems like just a few years. The hunky actor's first role, according to IMDb, was in 1998 when he was almost 20. However, all of these roles he had for ten years did not compare to the one he had on Breaking Bad. Paul played Jesse Pinkman on the series form 2008-2013 and the entire world seemingly fell in love with him overnight. Roles he has had since then are in movies like Fathers & Daughters, Need for Speed, and Central Intelligence, with Kevin Hart and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson.

9 Made It Big: Summer Catch's Jessica Biel

Jessica Biel was known for her role as Mary Camden in 7th Heaven. As she started this role when she was just 14 years old, she hadn't made enough of an impact yet on society and Hollywood in general.

However, that all changed when she starred in the teen drama movie, Summer Catch, in 2001 alongside Freddie Prince Jr.

It was her first major movie role (all of her previous movies were television-- and there were just three of them). Since then, Biel has grown her talent and her fan base with movies like Cellular, The Illusionist, Next, and Total Recall.

8 Had To Wait: Our Favorite Action Star, Jason Statham

Statham will turn 51 years old next month-- and has one of the most exciting and most popular action movie careers in the business. The incredibly smoldering and steamy actor has starred in a plethora of popular movies like The Italian Job, Cellular, and Crank. He also had a trilogy of movies (The Transporter series). However, the role that shot him to superstardom was the one he had in The Expendables because, alongside an all-star cast, he stood out in a big way. Further, he joined the Fast & Furious franchise, too, and has had incredible luck with being the most popular bad guy-turned-good guy.

7 Made It Big: Summer's Golden Boy, Freddie Prince Jr.

Just like Jennifer Love Hewitt was our summer golden girl, Freddie Prince Jr. is definitely our (the '90s) golden boy. That is because he only had one major role before he landed in the mouths of all of America.

That role, ironically, is the role he starred in opposite Hewitt in I Know What You Did Last Summer in 1998.

According to IMDb, there were just 5 small roles before he hit it big with this one. He went on to star in the sequel, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, as well as She's All That, Down to You, Head Over Heels, and Summer Catch-- and all before 2002! Once he began having children, Prince took a break from acting, but he will always be our early '00s heartthrob.

6 Had To Wait: Naomi Watts' Big Break With A Ring

Watts will be 50 years old this fall and, according to IMDb, she has been acting since she was just 18 years old (1986). However, did you know that it took her almost 16 years to truly 'make it big'? This role was in The Ring, a horror movie made in 2002. From here, she went on to grow her career with roles in movies like Ellie Parker, King Kong, The Painted Veil, and J. Edgar. She is also relatively famous for her fashion sense and incredible candor (yet eloquence) while speaking in interviews. She currently has eight projects in the works!

5 Made It Big: Dude, Where's Ashton Kutcher?

If you can't guess from the title, Ashton Kutcher's famous role that made him famous in an instant was his ridiculously silly role as Jesse in Dude, Where's My Car? The movie premiered in 2000 along with two other movies Kutcher starred in (Down to You and Reindeer Games).

It seemingly took less than a year to make him a household name.

As his name grew, he went for bigger roles, like in the movies Just Married, The Butterfly Effect, and Guess Who. More recently he has starred in What Happens in Vegas and No Strings Attached, as well as the show Two and a Half Men. He currently stars on the hit Netflix comedy, The Ranch.

4 Had To Wait: Brunette Beauty Jennifer Garner Is Our Romantic Comedy Superstar

Jennifer has garnered a ton of notoriety with her megawatt smile and incredible talent behind the camera, but did you know that Garner had to wait many years before she made it big? She most recently turned 46 and started acting when she was 23 years old. She starred in movies like Mr. Magoo, Pearl Harbor, and Catch Me If You Can but with small roles. Then, in 2003, she starred alongside Ben Affleck in Daredevil as Elektra-- and proved she was a force to be reckoned with. In the next three years, she would have three huge hits (13 Going On 30, Catch and Release, and Juno). Now, she has over 56 titles under her belt, with five more projects coming out soon!

3 Made It Big: Mean Girl's Weather Girl, Amanda Seyfried

It took Seyfried, 32, just one big movie role to skyrocket her career into what it is today. That popular role was Karen in Mean Girls, alongside Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams. The movie was such a hit, it arguably catapulted each girl's career into superstardom (Amanda was just 19 at the time).

After the movie's success in 2004, Seyfried went on to star in Alpha Dog, Mamma Mia, Dear John, Gone, Les Miserables, and Ted 2.

She has four projects coming out in the next few years. One of those is a sequel, Mamma Mia 2, coming out this summer!

2 Had To Wait: Office Guy John Krasinski

Krasinski will turn the big 4-0 next year in October, but did you know he has actually been around for years in the industry? According to IMDb, his official first role was in 2000. From this time to his breakout role in The Office, Krasinski starred in ten more movies or shows. Even throughout his role as Jim Halpert on the famous show, Krasinski worked on bettering his movie career with movies like The Holiday and Something Borrowed. We guess it was worth the wait, though, because now the whole world knows him AND he is married to Emily Blunt.

1 Made It Big: Fast And Furious Turned Wonder Woman: Gal Gadot

Gadot, 33, is best known for her role in Wonder Woman (2017). She is also known for being incredibly gorgeous and flawless in front of the camera. Gadot started acting in 2007.

After only three small roles, she landed the role of Gisele in Fast & Furious, the fourth installment in the hit franchise.

She went on to star in three of the franchise's movies after that, as well as big hits like Date Night and Keeping Up with the Joneses. She currently has five movies in the works, including a sequel to her smash hit Wonder Woman. She is clearly unstoppable!

References: quotefancy.com, imdb.com

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