Famous Actors Screen Tests: Every star has to start somewhere

One of the marketing campaigns my creative team is working on right now involve some serial web-isodes. I missed the whole audition process as I took a day off on Monday, but on my co-workers’ desk the next day I saw a stack of actors’ resumes and head-shots that he’s currently sorting through. It kind of made me wonder if one of those aspiring talents might end up becoming famous one day.

Unless they’re extremely well-connected or were discovered by a famous filmmaker, chances are every star has to start from the bottom. One way to get their foot in the door is to go on auditions, and even some reputable actors sometimes still have to perform screen tests once in a while. I always enjoy watching these and look back at how some famous thespians got their start. Even if the said actor didn’t end up getting the part, it’s still fun to get a glimpse of how he/she would’ve done with the role.

One of the rarest screen tests out there is this one of Marlon Brando auditioning for Rebel Without A Cause which as you know went to another gorgeous bad boy, James Dean. Brando was ridiculously good looking, wasn’t he? But that voice… well, suffice to say I don’t think I could ever fall for him the way I did with Gregory, ahah.

And what about this dynamic duo of a screen test with James Dean and Paul Newman. From the Youtube page, it’s said that it was the screen test for East of Eden, Newman was testing for the role of Aron, which went to Richard Davalos. Not sure if James got the role or not but this audition is a hoot to watch!


This one always makes me chuckle a bit as I never picture comedian Leslie Nielsen in a role like Messala in Ben-Hur, especially after seeing the iconic performance of Stephen Boyd. I just always think of Airplane! and Naked Gun every time I think of Nielsen.


Now on to some of the successful screen tests which the actors end up landing the roles. Some actually went on to become one of their most memorable roles:

Gone with the Wind Screen Tests:

The motherload of all audition tape! WOW, check out the names appearing here: Tallulah Bankhead, Susan Hayward, Margaret Tallichet, Frances Dee, Mary Ray, Lana Turner, Paulette Goddard, Anita Louise, Dorothy Jordan, Linda Watkins, Frances Fuller, Adrea Leeds, Jean Kent, Anne Shirley, Marsha Hunt, Melvyn Douglas, Jeffrey Lynn, Joan Bennett, Jean Arthur, Hattie Noel, Hattie McDaniel, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, and Clark Gable. Woof! I’m tired just reading those names, but it’s quite clear miss Leigh was the best one of all, even though she’s a Brit playing an American Southerner!

Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday

Since I just posted a whopping 59 reasons I love this movie, it’s especially fun to see how the young former Ballerina got the part. Oh my goodness, she is just gorgeous beyond words!! It’d have been extra fun to see Gregory in this screen test, but I couldn’t seem to find ANY screen test on him for whatever reason.


Audrey Tatou in Amélie

A contemporary actress with an Audrey Hepburn-esque charm, I LOVE Tatou’s quirky performance in Amélie. She’s just adorable in her audition here:


Russell Crowe in L.A. Confidential

Whoa, now that’s intense. The way he stared at the guy as he said ‘justice’ gives me chills. I LOVE Crowe as Bud White, no wonder Michael Mann and the producer were convinced they’ve got the right guy for the part.


Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder in Superman: The Movie

This one never gets old for me, I LOVE watching how Christopher Reeve got the part of Superman that will became the one role he’s forever identified with. He was so nervous that there was heavy sweat stains on his armpits as he did the scene! It’s also clear that Margot Kidder was just perfect as Lois Lane, but it’s still fun to see the likes of Ann Archer, Sheley Ann Warren and Stockard Channing tried for the part.

[unfortunately the original video I embedded here has been yanked, but fortunately the Margot Kidder audition is still available]


Gerry Butler in
Lara Croft: The Craddle of Life

Now, this one you could file under ‘hottest screen-test ever’… ladies, just watch this and you’ll know why I’ll always have a soft spot for Gerard James Butler 😉 Yes I know the movie is more of a guilty-pleasure quality but worth a watch just for this scene alone. How could he not land the job with THIS audition? I’m sure Angelina Jolie had a bucket of ice bucket stashed somewhere… you could hear her voice in this clip btw:


Now, the one audition I wish I could see of Gerry is the one for Phantom of the Opera, as he explained in many interviews how nervous he was singing in front of Andrew Llyod Webber that his knees were knocking together as he sang, ahah. But we do have the screen test of Emmy Rossum who got the part of Christine, and clearly she’s got the chops:


Tom Hardy in Star Trek: Nemesis

I had no idea Hardy was even in a Star Trek movie! But judging from this screen test (and the actual finished scene), it’s clear this young man had the chops and magnetic charisma that made him successful today.


Now on YouTube there is a collection of Lynn Hirschberg’s Screen Tests, done by a former New York Times writer who now an Editor at Large at W Magazine. They’re more like interviews with various actors on how they got started, so they’re not exactly an audition. Still they’re fun to watch. Check out this one with The Artist‘s Uggie:


Ok, so those are just some notable ones I was able to find. Have you seen any of these? Please share some of your favorite audition tape(s) of famous actors you’ve found.