Picture via New Line Cinema
Before making their big break in Hollywood, some actors started out in low-budget films horror movies. Needless to say, these actors have since left behind their humble beginnings and made a name for themselves in mainstream cinema, but any flourishing career has to start somewhere. While not all of these actors got their start in horror, starring roles helped propel their careers long after cult classics like Friday 13, Halloween and freddie spawned multiple sequels and the remake/reboot treatment multiple times.
Matthew McConaughey, who later starred in Dallas Buyers Club (2013) and the wolf of Wall Street (2013), actually got his breakout role with a supporting performance as David Wooderson in the coming-of-age comedy Dazed and confused (1993) in which he co-starred with Renée Zellweger (there’s some relevance to that fact, we promise). Two years later, McConaughey would enter the horror scene with a starring role in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generationthe fourth installment in Tobe Hooper’s aptly named Vilmer Slaughter slasher franchise.
Everyone knows him as Marvel’s Ant-Man, but Rudd wasn’t always a great gamer. In 1995 Rudd made his screen debut as Josh in the teen comedy about coming of age clueless. A few months later, Rudd landed the role of Tommy Doyle in the less memorable Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers. Whereas Halloween had exhausted his sequel potential by then, with Rudd starring alongside Donald Pleasance (RIP) as Dr. Sam Loomis was almost powerful enough to excuse Laurie Strode’s severe miss.
Patricia Arquette, sister of Rosanna Arquette, Alexis Arquette, Richmond Arquette and ScreamDavid Arquette, by David Arquette, made his film debut in a horror film: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987). While Arquette missed out on a role in the original Freddy Krueger movie, she made her mark in Hollywood as the last Kristen Parker girl. Nine years later, his brother would follow in his footsteps and emerge as fan favorite Dewey Riley.
See? We told you it would be important to mention Zellweger earlier. Nowadays, she is known as Bridget Jones in the romantic comedy saga of the same name and Judy Garland in Judy (2019), but just like McConaughey, she started making waves in Dazed and confused. In Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next GenerationZellweger portrays Jenny, the valiant yin to McConaughey’s goofy yang.
One of Hollywood’s finest actors, Tom Hanks otherwise known as Woody in toy storyScott Turner in Turner & Hooch (1989) and Forrest Gump in, Well, Forrest Gump (1994), made his screen debut as Elliot in He knows you’re alone (1980), a slasher starring Caitlin O’Heaney and Elizabeth Kemp. Amy (O’Heaney) is due to get married, but in the weeks leading up to her special day, she becomes the victim of harassment. By now you might have guessed that (spoiler alert!) Hollywood idol Tom Hanks is the culprit.
Jamie Lee Curtis
The whole world knows his name, a luxury Curtis owes to John Carpenter (and perhaps in part to his parents, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh). In 1978, Curtis made her film debut as Laurie Strode in Halloween, establishing her as a scream queen among the horror fanbase. From there, Curtis began acting regularly in a series of horror films, including Fog (1980), prom night (1980), train of terror (1980) and road games (nineteen eighty one). She reprized her role as Laurie Strode in several Halloween sequels and David Gordon Green’s 2018 reboot trilogy that ends with the next one Halloween ends (2022).
Another shameless idol is Leonardo DiCaprio, whose career exploded with Romeo + Juliet (1996). Unbeknownst to most, however, DiCaprio was stealing hearts long before that. creatures is a sci-fi comedy horror franchise that seems to indirectly parody 1984 horror Gremlins. In the third film, DiCaprio stars as Josh in the direct-to-video sequel. In the future, he would continue to act in Creation (2010) and Gatsby the magnificent (2013) among many other successful and influential features.
One of the industry’s most recognizable talents, Johnny Depp made millions as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, then had the misfortune to return to the public eye for all the wrong reasons in the highly publicized libel lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard. Before all that commotion, plus hardcore drugs, Depp made his film debut as Glen Lantz in freddie (1984) with perhaps one of the most graphic deaths of the entire genre.
Like Depp, EE ambassador Kevin Bacon launched his stellar career in a long-running horror franchise. Bacon portrayed Jack Burrell in Friday 13, the first of many slasher films centering on immortal villain Jason Vorhees. However, Friday the 13th wasn’t Bacon’s very first film role. He played the role of Chip Diller in the comedy film National Lampoon’s Animal House and continued to appear in the likes of Apollo 13 (1995), X-Men: First Class (2011) and RIPD (2013).
Jennifer Aniston, whom we all know as Rachel Green in the cultural phenomenon Friendslanded his first major film role as Tory Redding in the 1993 horror comedy Leprechaun. She does not appear in any of the sequels, and when one of them is called Leprechaun in the hood, it is not difficult to understand why. It’s campy, it’s gritty, and it’s silly, but it became a sleeper hit and horror fans still talk about it to this day. That’s a win in our book.