Breaking into Hollywood is not for the faint of heart. It takes a whole lot of effort to make a name in this tough industry, and many people have given up before they could ever see how far they might go. People can work for years and years without ever getting the recognition they deserve for their talent, and even the people who have become some of the biggest names in Hollywood have contemplated giving up.
It may sound surprising—they really had no idea that success was just around the corner, and they were so tempted to just throw in the towel and call it quits. But thankfully, they continued pressing on, and they were eventually rewarded for their willingness to keep moving forward.
No matter what someone decides to do in life, they are going to face setbacks. But knowing that someone else has faced those same obstacles and decided to keep going, no matter what, can be super inspiring and motivating. Success should not be handed out on a silver platter. Here are 20 celebs who almost quit before finally getting their big breaks—and they’re so glad that they stuck it out for just one more audition.
20 Bradley Cooper Almost Quit Several Times
It’s hard to imagine that Bradley Cooper ever considered doing anything else but acting—he is one of the biggest stars in Hollywood right now, and it seems like he has nowhere to go but up. But according to Thought Catalog, Bradley considered giving up several times throughout his career.
He faced many setbacks early on, and even after he began getting some recognition for his talent, he was still missing out on many roles that he really wanted—and every time that happened, he would wonder if his time in the spotlight was running out. Thankfully, he stuck with acting.
19 Katy Perry Couldn’t Keep A Record Deal
Katy Perry has been one of the biggest pop stars in the world for years now—it’s hard to go anywhere without hearing one of her songs in the background. But even Katy Perry had days when she considered just throwing it all away and doing something different, because breaking into the music business was proving to be so difficult.
According to Harper’s Bazaar, she could not seem to keep a record deal at first, and she was frustrated by the industry and bounced around between several labels before striking it big with her first major hit song, “I Kissed a Girl.”
18 Melissa McCarthy Nearly Gave Up Before Gilmore Girls
There’s no doubt about it—Melissa McCarthy is one of the funniest women in Hollywood. She has been making everyone laugh for years now, and it’s easy to see that she totally deserves the success that she has achieved.
But according to The Muse, Melissa was not always on an easy path to fame. Before landing the role that really brought her to stardom on Gilmore Girls, she was actually about to give up on her dream altogether. Thankfully, she decided to keep her chin up and head out to the audition that would end up changing her life forever.
17 Jon Hamm Was A Discouraged Waiter
It seems like Jon Hamm is everywhere these days. But there was a time when he never could have anticipated this level of success. According to The Muse, he was down on his luck, and although he was just getting by financially as a waiter while going to auditions, he didn’t want to be a waiter—obviously, he was trying to become an actor and support himself through his art.
He told himself that if he could not get his big break by the age of 30, he would finally quit and try something else. Luckily, he didn’t give up.
16 Millie Bobby Brown Felt Like She Couldn’t Handle More Auditions
Millie Bobby Brown achieved her success at such a young age—it’s hard to imagine that she was really concerned that she would never make it. But according to US Weekly, Millie felt guilty that her family was always traveling around with her to go to auditions, and that her choice of a future career path was affecting all of their lives, too.
The pressures of Hollywood can be tough for a young actress to handle, and she reached a point where she was so discouraged that she just did not want to go to more auditions—but Stranger Things changed everything.
15 Eminem Messed Up His First Real Performance
It’s hard to imagine Eminem doing anything but rapping—it is so obviously what he is meant to do in life, and he is undeniably talented. Even people who don’t like his music have respect for his skill level. But according to This Is Insider, even Eminem has experienced some roadblocks on his path to becoming a rapper.
He totally ruined his first public performance and he could have chosen to wallow in self-pity. Instead, he decided to keep moving forward anyway, resolving to learn from the experience and just staying focused on improving his craft.
14 Kristen Stewart Wasn’t Impressing Any Directors
As a young aspiring actress, Kristen Stewart was giving it her all—but it didn’t seem like she was seeing any return on her efforts. According to Marie Claire, Kristen said that she felt so guilty asking her mother to keep driving her around Los Angeles to go to auditions when she just couldn’t land a single part.
One day, she was ready to quit, and her mother told her to at least stick it out for the one other audition she had scheduled. She landed a part in The Safety of Objects, an indie film that finally boosted her career.
13 Jim Carrey Never Knew He Would Make It Big
Jim Carrey dreamed of making a career for himself in comedy and entertainment as a teenager. According to Marie Claire, his family struggled financially while he was growing up, but this never stopped him from dreaming big and imagining what he could do with his life.
One night, long before he ever got famous, he wrote himself a check for 10 million dollars for “acting services rendered,” and eventually, his vision came to life. This was how much he ended up getting paid for his role in Dumb and Dumber. Whenever he thought of quitting, he remembered his major goal.
12 Uzo Aduba Thought She Had No Future In Hollywood
Before landing her role on Orange is the New Black, Uzo Aduba thought that she had no chance at ever making it in Hollywood and building the career she had always dreamed of. According to Marie Claire, she was feeling super discouraged even when she left the audition for Orange is the New Black.
She thought that she had totally messed it up, and she began crying on her way home, assuming that her acting career was over and it was time to try something else. When she learned that she got the part, she cried tears of joy instead.
11 Kelly Clarkson Was Ready To Throw In The Towel
Kelly Clarkson was the very first winner of American Idol, and the show totally set her up for stardom. Not every American Idol winner has translated their win into lasting success, but Kelly definitely has, and many years later, she is still all over the radio.
But, according to This Is Insider, Kelly was totally ready to give up singing before making it onto American Idol. She was really struggling financially, and she wondered if trying to become a singer was a hopeless goal, and if she should do something more practical instead of risking the life of a starving artist.
10 Matthew Perry Was Flat Broke Before Friends
Friends was one of the most popular sitcoms of all time, and even though it ended over a decade ago, reruns still seem to be on all the time! Friends brought several mostly unknown actors to stardom, including Matthew Perry.
According to The Muse, Matthew was ready to give up acting just before landing the part of Chandler on Friends. He was basically flat broke, and he was conflicted about still trying to become an actor.
Was it worth the struggle? Would he ever make any money? Thankfully, he went forward with his audition for Friends, and the rest is history.
9 Daisy Ridley Almost Missed Out On Her Breakout Role
Before landing her role in Star Wars, Daisy Ridley was mostly unknown—and she had no idea that she was ever going to make it big. In fact, according to Marie Claire, she had reached a point where she was totally convinced that she just wasn’t cut out for acting.
She just couldn’t seem to get the roles that she wanted, and she definitely did not have any name recognition. She wondered if all of the hard work she had put in over the years was simply going to waste. Finally, she landed the role of Rey in Star Wars.
8 Shania Twain Put Her Dreams On Pause
Shania Twain was one of the first country stars who also managed to cross over into the pop genre, and her success has been long lasting. Once she made a name for herself, she wasn’t going anywhere. But according to Harper’s Bazaar, Shania had to put her career on hold when her parents passed away.
She had to take care of her younger brothers and put her family first. There was no way she could prioritize singing over running the household. Eventually, their finances became more stable, and she was able to chase her dream all the way to success.
7 Gal Gadot Thought About Becoming A Lawyer
Could Wonder Woman herself really consider giving up acting? The answer is yes. According to Marie Claire, Gal Gadot did not think that her success as an actress would be inevitable. In fact, she felt like she would never have the career that she had always dreamed about, and she wondered if she had passed the point of even trying for it anymore.
She began to think about leaving acting behind and becoming a lawyer instead. She thought that being a lawyer would mean more stability and a better financial situation. But landing the part of Wonder Woman changed her mind!
6 Lana Del Rey Worked Other Jobs
It’s hard to imagine Lana Del Rey doing anything but singing—it just seems like she was always destined to be a star. Her voice, her style, her look—she’s the whole package, right? But Lana actually took breaks from her singing career at times.
According to This Is Insider, she actually worked several other jobs when she was younger. For example, she worked in nonprofits, and she also waited tables. But she never stopped performing locally, and she was always open to opportunities to take her singing career to the next level. It’s a good thing that she kept going!
5 Zoe Saldana Felt Disrespected In Hollywood
Zoe Saldana is gorgeous, talented, and hardworking—what’s not to love? But despite all of these great qualities, Zoe has not always felt respected on movie sets.
According to USA Today, Zoe says that she almost decided to quit acting while she was working on Pirates of the Caribbean. She said that she felt very disrespected on set, and she just did not want to put up with that kind of treatment ever again. She wanted to work in an environment where she felt accepted and supported, and she did not always feel that way in Hollywood.
4 Jane Lynch Thought Her Big Break Would Never Come
Jane Lynch has an amazing sense of humor, and her comedic timing is just genius—it’s hard to believe that casting directors did not see her talent for so long. But according to The Huffington Post, Jane said that she basically worked for 15 years without getting any real recognition in Hollywood.
She continued working hard and showing up to more auditions. She considered giving it all up and trying something different, but she just had so much passion for acting that she didn’t want to let all of her work go to waste. It all worked out in her favor.
3 Brie Larson Was Frustrated With Casting Directors
Now that Brie Larson is basically a real-life superhero with all of her accomplishments under her belt, it’s difficult to imagine a time when she did not want to be an actress anymore. According to The Huffington Post, Brie was getting very frustrated with all of the casting directors who did not believe in her and discouraged her from being herself.
She said that they always made her feel like she was either too much or not enough, and she wondered what was wrong with her. As it turns out, they were wrong, and she was right to stick with acting.
2 Naya Rivera Struggled For Years And Years
Before landing the role of Santana on Glee, Naya Rivera was not exactly raking in big bucks. According to This Is Insider, Naya had wanted to be an actress since she was a little girl, and she began working towards that dream when she was young. She picked up plenty of other side jobs on the way, and she never had it easy when it came to finances.
She lived that starving artist life for a long time, depending on side hustles to pay her bills. Finally, her role in Glee came through, and her entire life changed for the better.
1 Claire Danes Didn’t Work For Two Straight Years
Claire Danes made a name for herself when she starred in the film Romeo and Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio—but she didn’t feel like she had staying power in Hollywood.
According to Marie Claire, Claire felt that even after she had her “big break,” she still wasn’t good enough for casting directors, and at one point, she basically did not work for two years straight.
This would be super discouraging for anyone, and Claire considered giving up, but she chose to keep pushing forward and keep trying to achieve her dreams. She eventually did work consistently in Hollywood once again.