In the world of film and television, we expect what is happening in each movie to be absolutely real. From the setting of the movie to the costumes and the characters, all need to be carefully considered. In terms of casting, of course, professional actors are always the first and best choice. Filmmakers typically want the most experienced and highly trained actors to deliver their dialogue. However, there is one aspect that they have misunderstood: the nature of acting.
The essence of acting is to make the character as realistic as possible. Sometimes it’s easier to find authenticity in a non-actor than it is in a professional actor. With this in mind, some film and TV show directors have sought out fresh faces who have never acted before and invited them to play roles in their films. And the results were more than what they expected.
The following are some of the most notable performances given by actors and actresses who had no experience with acting before their casting.
#1 Miyavi from Unbroken
Source: Universal Pictures
Miyavi plays a sadistic internment camp guard in Angelina Jolie’s film “Unbroken.” This name was unfamiliar to the American public. Miyavi, on the other hand, was a well-known name in Japan. Before getting a role in this film, Miyavi was a well-known rock musician in Japan.
Angelina Jolie, he claims, was instrumental in helping him understand the character and execute his best performance! Despite being a rockstar, he was one of the non-actors who had a huge possibility to change his destiny.
#2 Frank Silva from Twin Peaks
Silva worked as a make-up artist on set. When David Lynch, the director of Twin Peaks, discovered Silva might have a role in the series, he hired him. He inquired about Silva’s acting career, to which Silva said yes, and the rest is history.
#3 Robert Goulet from The Naked Gun 2½
Source: Paramount Pictures
Robert Goulet was a performer who had a six-decade career. He was most recognized for his role as Sir Lancelot in the original Broadway production of Camelot. He went on to record dozens of albums after signing with Columbia Records, eventually winning a Grammy. Then, in 1982, he appeared as a “special guest star” in an episode of the short-lived TV comedy Police Squad!, which was created by the same people who created Airplane!
That final credit promised what was to come. Police Squad! was adapted into the film The Naked Gun in 1988, which was a box office success. For the sequel, The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear, Goulet was called upon again. He plays Quentin Hapsburg, an oil executive who becomes star Leslie Nielsen’s rival for the heart of female lead Priscilla Presley. Goulet displays an admirable ability to play the goofy comedy straight, making him an excellent foil for Nielsen’s Detective Frank Drebin.
#4 Wayne Newton from Best of the Best II
Source: 20th Century Fox
Before entering the film industry, Wayne Newton was known as “Sir Las Vegas”, a performer on the Vegas Strip. “Danke Schoen,” from 1963, is one of his most well-known songs, which was revived after appearing in the hit ’80s comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
After that, Wayne Newton has appeared in many movies but especially the movie Best of the Best II. In this movie, Newton plays Weldon, the sleazy manager of an underground fighting arena where brawlers pummel one another half to death. He’s involved in all kinds of dirty dealings.
As Owen McNally said “Oozing oodles of entertaining sleaze, Wayne Newton is the sole asset for Best of the Best II.”
#5 Herbert Coward from Deliverance
Source: Warner Bros.
Herbert ‘Cowboy’ Coward plays the “Toothless Man” in the film “Deliverance.” He had previously worked in one of the performances at the Ghost Town theme park. Fortunately, he ran into Burt Reynolds there. When the producers of “Deliverance” were looking for actors to play mountain men, Burt suggested Herbert for one of the roles. That’s how he landed this part! Finally, the combination of his absence of teeth and the delivery of his famous sentence “He had a pretty purdy mouth, ain’t he?” proved that this option was ideal.
#6 Barkhad Abdi from Captain Phillips
Source: Sony Pictures Releasing
Barkhad Abdi was a Minneapolis-based chauffeur when he was cast opposite Tom Hanks. There is a sizable Somali community in Minneapolis, so the filmmakers — in search for actors to portray the Somali pirates — did a casting call there. Barkhad attended after seeing a commercial for the casting call and went on to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards.
#7 R. Lee Ermey from Full Metal Jacket
Source: Warner Bros.
Ronald Lee Ermey was a drill instructor in the Marine Corps. In 1987, he made his film debut as “Gunnery Sergeant Hartman” in “Full Metal Jacket.” His scary insults in this film are legendary. All of these insulting dialogues, however, were written by R. Lee himself! He is an excellent example of non-actors succeeding in their jobs.
#8 Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson from Game of Thrones
Remember “Game of Thrones'” “The Mountain”? Before entering the field of acting, Hafór Jlus Björnsson was a strongman. Björnsson also competed in powerlifting and won several events. He’s an excellent option for the part! He demonstrated his strength throughout his audition for the part. Björnsson recalls, “They asked me if I was strong enough to pick one of the guys up. I gave it a try, and he felt very light. They were surprised at how easily I lifted him overhead.”
#9 Richard Dawson from The Running Man
Source: TriStar Pictures
Before playing the villainous game show host in The Running Man, Richard Dawson had done some acting. He was most known for his role as Hogan’s Heroes’ co-star. However, for many years, his only occupation was hosting a live game show. From 1976 through 1985, he was a regular on Family Feud, and he returned in 1994-1995. He’s still best known for the program.
Dawson’s experience made him a clever choice to play Damon Killian, the host of a deadly game show in The Running Man. He gave the character a well-balanced edge. As Roger Ebert described it, “Playing a character who always seems three-quarters drunk, Dawson chain-smokes his way through backstage planning sessions and then pops up in front of the cameras as a cauldron of false jollity.”
#10 Felicia Pearson from The Wire
Felicia wasn’t always an actress. Before winning this position, she was a drug dealer. She had a difficult history and was also sentenced to a few years in jail. However, she met actor Michael K. Williams in a nightclub one lucky day, and he suggested she try for a part in his TV program. That’s when her life began to change. She’s one of those non-actors that did a fantastic job!
#11 Keith Williams Richards from Uncut Gems
Being a part of a film where there are head-turning performing A-list actors is a huge deal. It’s even huge if you’re a non-actor. The same was the case with Keith in the film “Uncut Gems”. Uncut Gems marked Richards’s first acting role. Before that, he worked as a carpenter and served as a first responder at ground zero after 9/11. Pure fate is responsible for him landing the role of Phil.
#12 Howie Long from Broken Arrow
Source: 20th Century Fox
If you’re a football lover, you’re probably familiar with this name. In 1984, Howie Long was an integral part of his team’s Super Bowl win. He is also a Pro Football Hall of Fame member. He went on to become a well-known sports analyst for Fox Sports. Long, on the other hand, had more exciting things in store for him. In 1996, he made his acting debut in John Woo’s action film “Broken Arrow.” He plays “Master Sergeant Kelly,” John Travolta’s villain’s right-hand guy. Long was initially unhappy with his character’s dismissal in the film’s early scenes. He seriously contemplated the job after a rewriting of the script, and he accepted it. Regardless, the audience praised his acting skills.