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.

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41 thoughts on “Famous Actors Screen Tests: Every star has to start somewhere

      1. Yeah I really want to see Rebel Without A Cause and East of Eden now. That GWTW one is massive isn’t it? I still enjoy watching all those famous actors trying for the part of Scarlet.

    1. It’s amazing the power of one’s voice is for a man, especially for actors. But he sure was pretty, if only he at least maintained his looks more as he grew older. I mean Gregory still looked pretty darn good well into his 80s!

  1. This is a fun post, I will get back to this to see those youtube videos.
    I am using my mobile now.

    I never such video of Cillian. I would to see him screening for Batman and end up as Scarecrow

    1. If you found one on Cillian let me know. Yeah, it’d be cool to see one of his earlier auditions. I wish I could see some of Gregory but from what I read, seems like he never had to do much auditions as he’s often the first choice of the studio and/or the director.

  2. Star Trek: Nemesis was the first time I saw Tom Hardy. He was supposed to play Captain Picard’s evil clone, if you can believe that, even though Hardy and Patrick Stewart look nothing alike.

    1. Y’know, in this clip I actually could see a tiny resemblance between the two, like Hardy is the younger version of Pickard but yeah normally no they don’t look alike at all.

  3. Love this post!!! Great to see all these auditions. Here’s an idea for you… why not in turn find auditions for actors whom actual are NOT very good. Would be interesting to see how on earth they got those roles… 🙂

  4. PrairieGirl

    Very entertaining post today, Flixy! The only one I’ve already seen is Gerry in the LC one… Hot, Hot, HOT! I know this isn’t for a film, but Dana Carvey’s audition for Saturday Night Live is classic:

    1. Hey thanks for this Becky. Dana Carvey was awesome in SNL, he’s truly one of the most gifted SNL players back in the day. His church lady segment always had me in stitches!

  5. Ted S.

    It’s fun watching these actors from their beginning, that’s why there are tons of wannabes in Hollywood. I forgot that Hardy was in a Star Trek film, it was a bad film though maybe that’s why I couldn’t remember it.

    The audition I want to see is when Christiane Bale auditioned for the Robin role in Batman Forever, now that would be a good find. Also, love to see audition clips of actors who tried to get the Bruce Wayne/Batman for Batman Begins. I remember that Nolan was torn between picking Guy Pearce and Christiane Bale, I think he went with Bale because Bale showed more emotions when he played Bruce.

    1. What? What? Christian Bale actually auditioned to play Robin in Batman Forever??! Whoa, now THAT I’d LOVE to see!! Glad Nolan went with Bale instead of Pearce in his Batman movies.

      1. Ted S.

        Yeah, I watched the behind the scenes documentary of Batman Forever and director Joel Schumacher mentioned Bale and several young actors at the time auditioned for Robin, this include Ewan McGregor. They went with Chris O’Donnell because he was more well known back then. I’m glad Bale didn’t get the role, if he did his career might have the same faith as O’Donnell’s and he would’ve never became The Dark Knight.

  6. These are all great audition tapes. The AMELIE and REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE ones are fantastic. One of my favorites is Emily Watson’s audition for Breaking the Waves. There’s no video available, but it’s an extra on the DVD. Other than that, I don’t really watch audition tapes.

    1. I love audition tapes, I think it gives me a glimpse into what an actor had to go through for a role. Plus it’s just so interesting. Thanks Tyler.

  7. Great post, it’s nice to see the stars auditioning, for once, even if they were just starting at that time. Marlon Brando was ridiculously good looking, have you seen A streetcar named Desire? he looks AMAZING in that movie- a real man!

    Oh, I love the East of Eden book, so I must find the movie you were talking about! Thanks!

    1. No I’ve only seen clips of A streetcar Named Desire but yeah, Brando is definitely gorgeous in that movie. Too bad that he didn’t take care of himself as he looked like a giant whale in his old days.

  8. Nice finds, Ruth! I have to agree with Castor — that Russell Crowe audition is just awesome. I recently watched the Criterion release for Dazed and Confused, and it had several audition tapes on there. It was a lot of fun watching those young no-name (at the time) actors hoping to catch their first break.

    1. Which actors were featured in Dazed and Confused? Was Matthew McCougnahey in it too? In any case, yeah it’s always fun to see up-and-comer actors got their first big break.

  9. This is a great idea for a post! I have the 65th anniversary collector’s edition of Gone with the Wind (and the 70th, I’m such a nerd) and I love watching all of the screen tests! That ‘search for Scarlett’ is one Hollywood story that interests me to no end!

    1. Ahah, I owned 2 sets of GWTW myself Stevee. I’m so glad they went with Vivien Leigh as I can’t imagine anyone else in the role of Scarlett.

  10. I always forget how good looking Brando was, mostly because the first thing I think of him for is The Godfather with all the old age makeup, and forget that he was a star long before that. It surprises me every time I see a picture of his younger self!

    1. Ah you’re a Trekkie eh T? I didn’t know that either. It’s funny that Hardy’s head and Patrick Stewarts are so similar, they could practically be father and son 🙂

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