15 Actors Who Make It Big In Spite Of Hollywood Cutthroats

It’s easy to assume that fame comes easy. Some of the biggest actors right now seem to blow up overnight.
But others struggle. It might come as a surprise, but a lot of actors have it hard before reaching success. This includes rejections, typecasting, ageism, and even canceled projects. With so many obstacles, success in the acting world is few.
It might not seem fair, as many struggling actors have great talents, but they are given the opportunity to shine. That’s why once in a while, we happily cheer for actors making it big. Especially if it’s a struggling actor who breaks through all the hoops and rings, and makes it big.
So which actors have made it big in spite of Hollywood cutthroats?

#1 Jack Nicholson

Source: © One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest / Bryna Productions

Jack Nicholson, then 20, worked as an assistant in MGM's animation department. Later, he began to study stage speaking and acting. This method paid out; by the end of the 1950s, he was getting movie roles, although he didn't see significant success in acting.
Nicholson rose to prominence with the release of the cult film Easy Rider when he was 30 years old. Following that, he began to receive offers after offers for jobs from well-known filmmakers.

#2 Lisa Kudrow

Source: © Friends / Warner Bros. Television

Lisa Kudrow was fired from the sitcom Frasier on the third day of the pilot's episode rehearsal before the popularity of Friends. The producers chose to replace her with another actress. And, despite admitting that she was going insane from disappointment at the start, Lisa Kudrow found the energy to keep going.
That was the correct decision. Lisa later won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Phoebe on Friends. Aside from that, Kudrow and her co-stars were the highest-paid TV performers at the time, earning $1 million each episode during the ninth and tenth seasons.

#3 Carey Mulligan

Source: © Promising Young Woman / Focus Features

Carey Mulligan was rejected from every drama school she applied to. Furthermore, she subsequently described her audition at the London Drama School as "torture." Its officials gave Carey the opportunity to host a children's show. This event really stunned the aspiring actress.
Her awards include a BAFTA for best actress in An Education and a Critics Choice Movie Award for her performance in Promising Young Woman. Many of us recognize Carey Mulligan as Daisy in the big-budget film rendition of The Great Gatsby.

#4 Hilary Swank

Source: © Million Dollar Baby / Warner Bros.

Hilary Swank began her career in tiny supporting roles before landing her first major roles. In Beverly Hills, 90210, she played a single mother at the start of her career. Instead of the anticipated two years of effort, her character was dropped after Episode 16. Swank subsequently expressed her disappointment, believing that if she wasn't good enough for Beverly Hills, 90210, she wouldn't be able to do anything.
But the following year, the actress was cast as the lead in the indie film Boys Don't Cry, for which she won an Oscar. She won her second Oscar for her part in Million Dollar Baby five years later.

#5 Anthony Hopkins

Source: © The Silence of the Lambs / Orion Pictures and co-producers

Anthony Hopkins decided to become an actor when he was 15 years old. However, it appeared to him for a long time that he solely enjoyed doing theater. Hopkins relocated to Hollywood in the 1970s, although he mostly featured on television. Dissatisfied with the concept, the actor went home in the late 1980s, having determined for himself that this chapter of his life was over.
He didn't become renowned till he was 50 years old. By chance, he was given the character of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs at the time. The filmmaker required a real "Shakespeare monster," which is why Anthony Hopkins was chosen. In 1992, the actor received his first Academy Award nomination for this role.

#6 Reese Witherspoon

Source: © Big Little Lies / HBO

Reese Witherspoon, an actress, and producer whose career is currently at its pinnacle have stated that she was frequently turned down for roles at the start of her career. Reese was frequently informed that she was the director's second choice for the part. This indicates she was always inferior to a better-suited actress. But she continued trying and never let rejection get to her.

#7 Kate Winslet

Source: © Titanic / Twentieth Century Fox

Winslet was likewise thought to be too "heavy" for an acting career as an adult. In Anglo-Saxon Attitudes in 1992, she played the daughter of an obese mother. During filming, the director stated that Kate resembled the woman who played her mother. This inspired the future star to slim down.
The actress's debut came with her performance in the psychological thriller Heavenly Creatures, while international stardom came with her role as Rose in Titanic, which she landed owing to her perseverance and drive.

#8 Fred Astaire

Source: © Easter Parade / MGM

Fred Astaire is the greatest dancer of all time, yet he didn't become famous until he was much older. Despite his early dance accomplishments, Astaire's cinematic career evaded him. He routinely passed auditions but received little interest from studio officials. An executive noted on one of Fred Astaire's screen tests, "Can't sing. I'm unable to act. A little balding. Can do a little dancing."
When the dancer was 30, he decided to try his luck again in Hollywood. And he was successful. He landed a little part that led to other changes. Fred had been paired with Ginger Rogers. Eventually, their dance partnership in Flying Down to Rio became the movie's major focus, helping to popularize dancing.

#9 Jessica Chastain

Source: © Scenes from a Marriage / Endeavor Content and co-producers

Jessica Chastain is becoming one of the most in-demand actors right now. However, she was previously unable to secure any gigs. Jessica admits that her looks were holding her back from achieving her ambition – she didn't seem like a modern girl. She was frequently turned down because of her red hair since they didn't know who she could portray.
Chastain's breakout performance came in The Help when she played a blonde. However, as her career progresses, the actress is no longer scared to appear on screen with her natural hair color.

#10 Naomi Watts

Source: © King Kong / Universal Pictures

After appearing in a number of films and television shows in her native Australia, she opted to pursue her career in Los Angeles. Her early performances in Hollywood, however, did not gain her any popularity. Naomi claims that she was living hand to mouth, unable to pay her rent, and even unable to afford medical insurance.
The worst part was that the actress's nomination was so frequently denied that she began to believe in her professional failure. As a result, Naomi was tight, apprehensive, and overly amused during auditions, which, in her own words, made others uncomfortable. Naomi Watts' debut came with her appearance in the cult film Mulholland Drive, which earned her her first major honors. Following that, employment offers poured in.

#11 Kerry Washington

Source: © Scandal / ABC

Kerry Washington was let go from two TV shows before landing the lead part in Bombshell. The pilot episodes that she was in were eventually redone. According to Kerry, in both situations, casting directors wanted her to play more clichéd roles, which she refused.
She was later nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Actress and a Golden Globe. She appeared in blockbusters and had the opportunity to work with Quentin Tarantino.

#12 Maggie Gyllenhaal

Source: © The Dark Knight / Warner Bros.

Maggie Gyllenhaal has received harsh remarks regarding her looks throughout her career. As a result, she was not cast in some parts, such as romantic ones. The actress received praise and her first prize for her performance in the film Secretary. Nonetheless, Maggie admits that she is still disillusioned by many aspects of Hollywood.
The 37-year-old actress was once turned down for a part because she was "too old" to play the lover of a 55-year-old guy. Maggie made her feature-directing debut in 2021. Her film The Lost Daughter received Best Screenplay at the Venice Film Festival.

#13 Robert Pattinson

Source: © Twilight / Summit Entertainment and co-producers

Pattinson has essentially no notable film roles prior to Twilight. The picture of the enigmatic vampire made him renowned. However, the actor once admitted that producers nearly dismissed him because they thought he was too serious. Pattinson eventually reached an agreement with them.
Nonetheless, even with the success of the Twilight Saga, the actor had challenges in his acting career. He stated in 2017 that it was difficult for him to land fresh parts since he was not as cool as Leonardo DiCaprio. And the films he was in at the time were not financially successful. The actor was even thinking at the time that his luck had run out.

#14 Keira Knightley

Source: © Atonement / Universal Pictures

Keira Knightley was born into an acting family and made her film debut at a young age. But it wasn't until the release of Pirates of the Caribbean that she became fully renowned. Despite her celebrity, Keira, like many other actresses, was repeatedly turned down. In an interview, the actress even indicated that she would not urge her daughter to pursue acting since the amount of rejection she suffered, in the beginning, was "heartbreaking."
"And it doesn't matter what sort of person you are; it's hard not to pay a price for it." "Even if you're successful, you still have to deal with a lot of rejection," the actress explained.

#15 Mindy Kaling

Source: © The Office / NBC Universal Television

Mindy Kaling rose to prominence in The Office as Kelly Kapoor, where she also served as a playwright, executive producer, and director. Mindy and her colleagues (scriptwriters and directors) from The Office were nominated for Emmy Awards six times in a row for outstanding comedy series.
Simultaneously, the actress said in an interview that she was sacked from the comedy in which the producer initially wanted her to portray herself. The reason for her dismissal was that they didn't think she was humorous or attractive enough to have the program revolve around her.
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