12 Best Performances About Struggling Actors Will Motivate You To Reach Your Dreams

What better way for aspiring actors to learn useful information about their chosen profession than by watching movies about an actor? These films not only tell a riveting behind-the-scenes story about the Entertainment business but also serve as a mirror that reflects the path you're on.
From Leonardo DiCaprio's performance in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" to Norma Desmond of Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard", here are some of the best struggling actors on screen that will inspire you to continue your dream. But don’t just take our word for it. Experience amazing movie performances as much as possible. Whether you're a budding actor or a seasoned actor, there's so much to learn and ponder!

#1 Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Along Came Polly"

Source: Universal Pictures

Throughout his stellar but short career, Philip Seymour Hoffman did nearly no wrong. Every performance he puts on, regardless of the overall quality of the film, was interesting. That's certainly true of his performance in the comedy "Along Came Polly". In the film, he plays Sandy Lyle, the best friend of the lead character, Ben Stiller. Sandy is a former child star who is constantly planning a comeback. While many stars sympathize with the suffering actors they play, Hoffman thought differently by emphasizing how pathetic Sandy was. The man has struggled to maintain his kiddie cuteness which has faded over time. His funny performance completely made "Along Came Polly" a hit.

#2 Leonardo DiCaprio in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"

Source: Sony Pictures Releasing

In "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," Leonardo DiCaprio plays Rick Dalton, a former TV star whose career went downhill due to alcoholism. He's trying to revive his career, but his anxiety and overthinking lead to dumb mistakes, such as forgetting lines. Despite an illustrious career, DiCaprio can relate to the likes of Rick Dalton because he has been in the industry since he was a boy. "I grew up in this town, tried a lot to get into this industry when I was younger. I know who these guys are," he told in an interview. "I got my one lucky shot, and knock on wood, it went very well for me. But I know inherently the psychology because I am one of them."

#3 Martin Landau in "Ed Wood"

Source: Buena Vista Pictures

Martin Landau had a long career that was a lot of ups and downs. Despite the popular TV series "Mission: Impossible" and films like "Crimes and Misdemeanors", there were periods when Landau couldn't land an A-list role. Everything changed when Tim Burton casted him for "Ed Wood". In the movie, Landau portrayed Bela Lugosi, the horror star who spent his final days for the filmmaker's popular sci-fi/horror film "Plan 9 From Outer Space". To play the aging, past-his-prime Lugosi, Landau drew on his own memories of feeling like a washed-up actor. He said in an interview, "Lugosi was fascinating to watch. He had a palpable intensity and a presence that you can’t buy. But this f**kin’ town s**t on him. And I can relate to that. I’ve seen it happen a lot. I’ve seen it happen to me.” This perfect performance of Landau was so convincing and heartfelt that it earned him the best supporting actor Academy Award.

#4 Michael Keaton in "Birdman"

Source: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Michael Keaton was known for the comedy "Night Shift" (1982), and a series of successes followed, including "Mr. Mom," "Gung Ho," "Beetlejuice," and, of course, "Batman." Then there was a period when none of his films were successful, which made Keaton's casting in "Birdman" ideal. His character, Riggan Thomson, is an actor who was previously famous for playing a superhero in a movie, but now he is having difficulty staying relevant. For his role in “Birdman”, Keaton was nominated for an Oscar. Without a doubt, Keaton related to Riggan's dry spell: "You hear yourself speaking, you’re in a scene, and it doesn’t necessarily not ring true, it’s just kind of a sound you’re doing that’s too familiar. I can’t explain it." he said. "I think there was a little overall boredom but not with the business - bored with me. Then the next level of that is are you having any fun or are you even really any good right now? So you’d stop, step back and reassess."

#5 Dustin Hoffman in "Tootsie"

Source: Columbia Pictures

In "Tootsie", he's Michael Dorsey, a dissatisfied New York actor whose most recent role. Michael complains to his management about the performance. After confronting the truth about his "difficult" reputation, he chose to go under a woman named Dorothy and start auditioning for roles. The scheme is successful, and Michael becomes a soap opera star though he can't reveal his secret to anyone. Hoffman's performance is excellent because he shows clearly the disappointment of the character by his failure, which is a departure from what most actors in similar situations encounter. It's an emotion he can relate to, having struggled for years before having a big hit with "The Graduate".  As Hoffman explained in an interview, "There were two papers, Backstage and Showbiz, you got to try to get a job. It would list the parts available, and they would say: ‘Leading men, leading women, leading juveniles, leading ingénues; character leading men, character ingénues, character juveniles' - that was the funny-looking Semitic guy. That meant you weren’t good-looking, and good-looking meant white Anglo-Saxon protestant."

#6 Eddie Murphy in "Dolemite Is My Name"

Source: Netflix

"Dolemite Is My Name" is based on an amusing and inspirational true story about Rudy Ray Moore - the African American comedian who became well-known in the 1970s for his "party CDs" of crude jokes. In an effort to expand his fame on the stage and make his mark in the world of feature films, Eddie Murphy seeks funding for "Dolemite Is My Name". When no one is interested, he scrapes together some money, enlists the help of friends, and creates the film on his own. Of course, he also plays the lead role, Rudy Ray Moore. This role delivered the same excitement and energy that first made him famous. Moore is portrayed as a man who never says "no". In fact, Moore is so bound and determined to establish himself as a movie star that he overcomes every challenge. This is one of Murphy's funniest performances.

#7 Bill Murray in "Lost in Translation"

Source: Focus Features

Bill Murray was nominated for an Academy Award for best actor with his perfect performance in "Lost in Translation". He portrays Bob Harris, a former movie star who is in Tokyo shooting many liquor commercials. The whole experience for him was shameful because he had held a prominent position. After he connects with a young woman who is also touring the city, things start to look better. Murray describes Bob as an upset man when his reputation has declined. He misses working on big projects and the satisfaction that comes from doing meaningful work. He's reached a stage where he has to take whatever he can get his hands on - and what he can get is really bottomless stuff. Thanks to Murray's accurate depiction of emotions, "Lost in Translation" resonate with anybody who feels beyond their prime.

#8 Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard"

Source: Paramount Pictures

In Billy Wilder's 1950 masterpiece "Sunset Boulevard," Gloria Swanson delivers a performance of a lifetime. She plays Norma Desmond, a former silent film actress whose golden age is still in the past. Norma wants to come back, and the process of attempting one ultimately makes her crazy. Like her character, she rose to fame during the silent era, to see her career fortunes fade. Because Swanson hadn't been in a movie before "Sunset Boulevard" in nine years. So, how well did she play the role? Well, the character has truly become legendary. Even those who haven't watched the film know Norma Desmond and her most well-known line, "Alright, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up!" became viral.

#9 Kevin Kline in "Soapdish"

Source: Paramount Pictures

In "Soapdish", Kevin Kline plays Jeffrey Anderson, an aspiring Shakespearean actor who aspires to play Hamlet. That didn't happen, leaving him restricted to starring in an opera - a gig he felt was beneath him. The humor in the film is harnessed from his anguish at having to act out what he thinks is below his talent. Now, no other actor can play Jeffrey as well as Kline because his understanding of the character's personal experience has allowed him to fill his performance with a sense of authenticity.

#10 Emma Stone in "La La Land"

Source: Lionsgate

In "La La Land", Emma Stone plays the aspiring actress, Mia who works at a coffee shop on the set of Warner Bros. to make a living. Every audition brings with it the hope that her big break will finally come. Stone expertly captures the roller coaster feeling of raising one's expectations, letting go of disappointment, and then starting the process all over again. Her performance in the film helped her win an Oscar. She told about her experience when playing Mia in an interview, "Being an auditioning actor at any time, you know that feeling of going in and giving it your all and it not working out. And there are periods of time when you feel like you’re delusional and need to give up."

#11 Jean Dujardin in "The Artist"

Source: Warner Bros. France

 "The Artist" helped Jean Dujardin win the Academy Award as best actor. He plays George Valentin, one of the biggest silent movie stars. After meeting and falling in love with aspiring actress Peppy Miller (played by Bérénice Bejo), he finds her a job in one of his films. Then while her career took off rapidly, his went downhill. But since winning the best picture award, "The Artist"'s reputation has plummeted. That doesn't detract from Dujardin's stellar performance. He effectively communicates George's fear when knowing that his livelihood is coming to a quick end without dialogue. The actor only uses facial expressions and body language to help us understand how the situation with this character will cause emotions.

#12 James Franco in "The Disaster Artist "

Source: A24

"The Disaster Artist" is based on the true story of Tommy Wiseau, a mystery man who made and distributed the film "The Room" on his own. He did this to give himself the chance that he was unable to get into Hollywood due to his complete lack of skill. Many people consider "The Room" to be one of the funniest, worst films ever created. James Franco perfectly portrays not only Wiseau's distinctive looks and speech habits but also his misplaced confidence. Despite seeming to be quite the opposite of the man he's playing, Franco told that 'The Disaster Artist" is "my story and my life." He elaborated, saying, "I came to Hollywood, and I struggled to be an actor. I have made projects where I took big swings and other people didn't like them."
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