50 Great Pre-Fame Performances by Famous Actors

Today, the Criterion Collection is releasing a double bill of the mid-‘60s Westerns The Shooting and Ride the Whirlwind, a treat not only for fans of revisionist Westerns and director Monte Hellman, but also for those who admire Jack Nicholson, here seen in two terrific performances that predate his breakthrough in Easy Rider. There’s a specific kind of pleasure in revisiting the early work of actors who would later become famous — not the roles that made them stars, but their earlier, quieter gigs, in which we glimpse an actor just trying to do good work, yet already exhibiting the spark that would mark them for fame. Here are a few of our favorites.

Amy Adams in Drop Dead Gorgeous

Amy Adams in Drop Dead Gorgeous

Adams exhibits her trademark spunk and good humor right off the bat in this, her very first film, playing a spirited beauty pageant contestant who’s hiding a little something from the festival judges (and her boyfriend).