Like any other profession, most actors have to hustle hard and say yes to a lot of projects before hitting the big time. We often hear success stories such as John Hamm’s or Morgan Freeman’s, both of whom didn’t become successful actors until they hit their middle ages. Breaking into the superhero genre, we have to imagine, is even more difficult. Knowing that these huge stars in cinematic universes had to struggle like the rest of us is comforting, but it’s also fun to look at where these actors started.
A lot of the DCEU actors are instantly recognizable. We can spot Chris Pine’s crystal blue eyes from miles away, and Gal Gadot’s statuesque beauty is so striking we would expect to find her likeness in a museum of fine art. When we watch older films and TV shows and we see these actors pop up, it’s like a delightful game of “I Spy” you didn’t know you were playing. A lot of these first roles that the DCEU actors had, though, weren’t exactly desirable and are generally forgotten by the public at large. Here at CBR, we dug through the DCEU actors’ filmographies and found their most forgettable first roles.
15 CHRIS PINE IN THE PRINCESS DIARIES 2
Admit it: sometimes you forget that The Princess Diaries had a sequel. The first film launched Anne Hathaway’s career and has given many young girls hope that Julie Andrews will waltz into their lives to change it forever. Sadly, this isn’t the case.
But The Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement arguably changed Chris Pine’s career forever.
As far as first major movie roles goes, this isn’t bad. While this sequel is often forgotten, you’ve got film legend Julie Andrews in there as well as writer Shonda Rhimes. It just didn’t have the magic of the first film despite Chris Pine playing a believable romantic interest. Babyface Chris Pine in 2004 is fun to watch, and just five years later, he would take the captain’s chair in Star Trek.
14 HENRY CAVILL IN LAGUNA
Henry Cavill is quite the leading man these days. We all know him as Superman, and before that, some were familiar with his work in The Tudors. From 2007-2010, he was often shirtless in his role as Charles Brandon, the king’s best friend, on The Tudors. We doubt that there were any complaints about it.
Before The Tudors, an 18-year -old Cavill starred in Laguna. You may be wondering what this film is since you’ve never heard of it before. It’s a 2001 drama about a young man whose parents are murdered by the mafia. Cavill’s character, Thomas, moves to Italy to live with his uncle and aunt. The real drama begins when he starts making out with his aunt. Eek!
13 AMBER HEARD IN JACK AND BOBBY
Amber Heard’s breakout role was in Friday Night Lights (the film, not the TV series). She became more recognizable after being Pineapple Express in 2008. We recognize her now for being the DCEU’s Mera. With the Aquaman film coming out this year, which will explore more of Aquaman and Mera’s relationship, perhaps we should do a deep dive in Amber Heard’s career to see what her first role was.
The CW has a slate of very successful shows with the Arrowverse. However, a lot of shows just don’t work out. One of these CW shows was Jack and Bobby, which premiered in 2004 when the CW was still the WB. Amber Heard was in the pilot episode of this short-lived show as Liz. After one season, the WB pulled the plug, and shortly thereafter rebranded itself as the CW.
12 WILLEM DAFOE IN THE LOVELESS
The nerd community has known Willem Dafoe for a while now. He was Norman Osborn in the first Spider-Man trilogy and was the voice of Gill in Finding Nemo. His work in Hollywood spans nearly 40 years, as his first major movie role was in 1981. The name of that film was The Loveless. To give you an idea of what the film is about, the tagline for it was: “Muscles Clad in Black Leather… Incest… And Murder!”
Kathryn Bigelow co-wrote and co-directed the film and would later go on to be the only woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director for The Hurt Locker. There aren’t many details nor reviews for this film, but we know Willem Dafoe spent a lot of time in a motorcycle jacket.
11 MARGOT ROBBIE IN ABOUT TIME
About Time is a 2013 romantic comedy about a man who can time travel. In case you were thinking that time traveling sounds British, it is! The film starred Domhnall Gleeson, whom we now recognize as General Hux in the new Star Wars films. Gleeson’s character, Tim, decides to use his time traveling ability to improve his love life.
Margot Robbie plays the woman who’s basically just not that into you.
She’s the first person Tim tries to use time travel on to benefit his life (like if they met at a different time, they could be together), and in both scenarios, she’s like “mmm, no thanks.” This isn’t Margot Robbie’s first on-screen credit, but it’s worth mentioning because this film was so packed with stars (Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy) that we totally forgot she was in it.
10 JESSE EISENBERG IN GET REAL
Jesse Eisenberg soared to the top of the Hollywood A-list when he played Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. His performance in that film got him nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award. Previous to 2010’s The Social Network, his breakout film role was in 2009’s Zombieland. However, his first major role was ten years prior to Zombieland on a Fox comedy show.
Get Real was a short-lived Fox show that premiered in 1999. It followed the dysfunctional Green family where Anne Hathaway and Jesse Eisenberg played siblings. Coincidentally, this show was also Anne Hathaway’s screen debut. Jesse Eisenberg plays Kenny Green, a teen who gets picked on a lot at school. Who knew that this kid would go on to play Mark Zuckerberg and Lex Luthor?
9 LAUREN COHAN IN CASANOVA
Lauren Cohan is mostly known for her role as Maggie in The Walking Dead. Even when her character is pregnant, she still kicks a lot of zombie butt. Before that, nerds also saw her in a fun role as Bela Talbot in Supernatural’s third season. Her primary function in that season was to steal stuff and bother the Winchesters, and she was certainly a scene stealer.
However, we don’t remember Lauren Cohan appearing at all in Casanova. 2005’s Casanova starred Heath Ledger as the titular character with Sienna Miller as his love interest. The film was by and large panned by the critics, but it gave Lauren Cohan a stepping off point for her career. She plays Sister Beatrice, one of many nuns in this film.
8 BEN AFFLECK IN THE DARK END OF THE STREET
Ben Affleck is the latest actor to wear the Batcowl, but he’s certainly more than a man with a great jawline. His IMDB page has many director, actor and producer credits. He has accomplished a lot so far in his time in Hollywood. When people think of Ben Affleck’s early career, they usually think of his time in Kevin Smith movies in the '90s.
In 1981, a 9-year-old baby Batfleck was in an independent film called The Dark End of the Street.
Not much can be found about this movie other than there’s murder, racial strife, and a lot of Boston love. Affleck would go on from this role to do some TV series work -- such as an uncredited basketball player in Buffy The Vampire Slayer -- before he worked with Kevin Smith.
7 CARA DELEVINGNE IN ANNA KARENINA
Anna Karenina was a 2012 film adaptation of the Tolstoy novel starring Keira Knightley. This film won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design, but the costumes are really all the movie has going for it. That, and it was Cara Delevingne’s first major film role.
Cara Delevingne plays Princess Sorokina, a rival of Anna’s for Count Vronsky’s affections. Delevingne’s role is only matters at the end of the film, which is probably why a lot of people have forgotten that she was in this movie in the first place. A hallucination of Sorokina and Vronsky making love is enough for Anna to hurl herself in front of a train. It’s a depressing story. However, as we know, Cara Delevingne would go to star in Paper Towns and Suicide Squad, which is less depressing.
6 ROBIN WRIGHT IN THE YELLOW ROSE
She was Jenny in Forrest Gump and is now the President of the United States in House of Cards. In 2017, Robin Wright joined the DCEU as the Amazon general Antiope in Wonder Woman. Her character was responsible for training Diana, and she was fierce to the end.
Robin Wright is nerd royalty, and it began with her role as Princess Buttercup in The Princess Bride. However, this wasn’t her first time on-screen.
Robin Wright’s first role was not as fierce as a battle seasoned Amazon. In the early '80s, Wright was in two episodes of The Yellow Rose. The Yellow Rose was an American nighttime soap opera that took place on a ranch in Texas that was aptly named “The Yellow Rose.” The Dallas-inspired show only lasted one season. However, a couple of years later, Wright would land her first role of a lifetime as Princess Buttercup.
5 JEREMY IRONS IN THE RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Jeremy Irons’ voice is made for nerd consumption. He is the voice of Scar in The Lion King, and the voice of reason to Ben Affleck’s Batman. Alfred Pennyworth is an iconic role, but with an iconic actor playing him, the role is elevated even further. It took some time for Jeremy Irons to reach the levels of stardom he has reached. Like many British actors, he took a lot of period piece roles for TV miniseries.
One of these was The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. This show took detective stories of authors from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s time and dramatized them (hence the name of the series). Jeremy Irons played a minor role as Nephew George in one episode in 1971. There’s no way we would’ve guessed that that was his first IMDB credit.
4 VIOLA DAVIS IN THE SUBSTANCE OF FIRE
Viola Davis has been a part of many successful projects in Hollywood. She’s the only black woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, and she has won an Academy Award. Her role in the DCEU is significant as well. She plays Amanda Waller, the person responsible for bringing the Suicide Squad together.
If we go back to 1996, Viola Davis got her SAG card for playing a nurse that handles vial of blood in The Substance of Fire. For this one day of shooting, she was paid around $500. After this, she hustled and played more nurses and police officers. One of these police officer roles was in Kate & Leopold, a romantic comedy that starred Marvel alum Hugh Jackman. Then in 2008, her breakout role was as a supporting actress in Doubt.
3 KEVIN COSTNER IN MALIBU HOT SUMMER
When we think of Kevin Costner, we think of Dances with Wolves. We think about Robin Hood and the bodyguard for Whitney Houston. And now, of course, we think of Pa Kent. His first starring role, however, was in Sizzle City, U.S.A., which was retitled and released as Malibu Hot Summer after Costner became famous.
With words like “sizzle” and “hot” in its titles, you’d probably expect lots of nudity in this film. And you’d be right.
It’s rated R, but the film focuses on drugs and the swingers scene in California. Costner plays John Logan, a rich guy who wants to get into L.A. nightlife by any means necessary. The film continues to have very low reviews, and we’re pretty sure it’s a role Costner hopes we’ve forgotten.
2 RICHARD SCHIFF IN CHEERS
Before the public at large knew who Richard Schiff was, he visited a bar where everybody knew his name: Cheers. Cheers is an American pop culture staple that spanned 11 seasons from the early '80s to the early '90s. It’s spin-off, Frasier, also lasted for 11 seasons. That’s 22 years where a Cheers character was on television. And it’s Cheers where Richard Schiff got one of his first roles.
We now know Richard Schiff as Toby Ziegler from The West Wing (another American TV classic) as well as Dr. Hamilton in Man of Steel. In the sixth season of Cheers, Richard Schiff played a tourist in one episode. The role is uncredited, but it seemed to have helped his career. Five years later, he would play Skip Thomas in The Bodyguard, which starred another DCEU actor, Kevin Costner.
1 JASON MOMOA IN BAYWATCH HAWAII
We like to think that Jason Momoa burst onto this world scarred, swole and handsome. Like all of us, he had to grow into the man and actor he is today. Growing up in Hawaii, one of the options for young Jason Momoa was to be in a Baywatch TV series. This is a chance he took when he was 19 for Baywatch Hawaii.
Looking back, even Momoa admits that this role was silly.
Baywatch Hawaii made it difficult for him to transition into other acting gigs. It took about four years for him to get work again. One of the ways he recovered from Baywatch was by transitioning into the geek world with the Stargate: Atlantis TV show. A couple of years after that, he became our “sun and stars” on Game of Thrones, and now he’s the DCEU’s Aquaman.