Hollywood: Is Anyone "Discovered" Anymore?

I presume the usual route to stardom these days is to get an agent, but I was wondering if anyone can still be discovered in a coffee shop or today’s equal to the lunch counter? I did recently read that a child actor from the 1980’s was discovered during some Hollywood director’s visit (for purposes unknown to me) to a kindergarten class. Ug, now I gotta think who this was. I think it was the boy in “Witness”, and he’s known for one other big thing which escapes me. (It is his other big role where I saw him recently on my small screen. Ug!) But, I digress…

So, can you still be discovered in Hollywood nowadays?

Ah-ha! The other big role was playing the main character, “Ryan White” in “The Ryan White Story”!

People are discovered on youtube all the time. That is how Justin Bieber got famous.

Sort of happened to Chris Pratt.

Not sure if this counts as recent but Charlize Theron:

“At 19, Charlize Theron moved to Los Angeles, California on a one-way ticket her mother bought her, in hopes she would make it in the film industry. During her early months there, she went to a Hollywood Boulevard bank to cash a check her mother had sent her to help with the rent. When the bank teller refused to cash it, Theron starting shouting with him. Upon seeing this, talent agent John Crosby, in line behind her, handed her his business card and subsequently introduced her to casting agents and also an acting school.”

“This random occurrence allowed her to get her foot in the door in the film industry. She would make her film debut in the movie Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest and then 2 Days in the Valley. But, it would be the 1997 movie, The Devil’s Advocate that would put her name on the map.”

That’s probably always been the usual route. People got to Hollywood, start at the bottom, and try to work their way up.

The handful of people who get picked out of the crowd are always the exceptions but they’re the stories people remember.

Mentioned above but people (singers moreso than actors) get discovered on youtube from time to time and there’s been a handful of people discovered on American Idol.
Standing in line at the coffee shop, I doubt it since people aren’t acting at the coffee shop. You’d be much more likely to be discovered doing small plays in your hometown.

Then, there’s David Lynch. Many of the people in his films were people that just happened to be hanging around the set. On Twin Peaks the part of BOB was given to a set decorator that ended up in a shot by accident and David built a part around him just due to that. Sheryl Lee, who played a corpse in the first episode also had a main character built around her simply because David was so impressed with her. I also recall one of the actors in something he did was the person that drove him around, but again, he liked them and gave (or at least offered) them a part.
Having said all that, I think models are much more likely to be randomly discovered than actors or singers.

well wasn’t Harrison ford originally hired by Lucas to build/install cabinets in his house?

There’s a bit of a gray area though, in that to be spotted by a director / producer / casting agent, you have to live in LA.
And if you live in LA, you must be an actor (fact!)

Seriously though, this is one of those questions where we can get any answer, because the terms are flexible. If we’re talking about someone with zero acting experience (not even as an extra, say) being given a leading role in a top-tier production…has it ever happened? (apart from, for obvious reasons, child stars as mentioned in the OP)
But if we say a struggling actor, suddenly landing a *somewhat *big role in a middle-tier movie, and from there moving on to the A list…that story might cover virtually all famous actors.

Harrison Ford was cast in American Graffiti the normal way, but when Lucas was casting Star Wars his friends kept suggesting Harrison as Han, but Lucas was reluctant to go back to the well and always cast the same people over and over (he was already auditioning Cindy Williams and Charles Martin Smith). Harrison, meanwhile, was between jobs and went back to carpentery.

Then Francis Ford Coppola tricked Lucas. He made sure Ford was nearby during the Star Wars casting process by asking him to install doors in, I think, Coppola’s own home, and wangled it so Ford would be the script reader stand-in for Han until they “found someone better”.

Anyway, the point is, it wasn’t how he was “discovered”.

Largely, this. If you want to be discovered, you’d better be in LA or NYC, because nobody is going to discover your ass in Wilmington, NC.

And I will say most of those who are “discovered” want to be discovered.

Another name for the list which, of course, obviates the above two “rules” :wink: , but Matthew McConaughey was discovered in Austin, TX, by Richard Linklater when he was doing, IIRC, prep work for Dazed and Confused.

But, seriously, if you want a job in Hollywood, you gotta move to Hollywood. Hard to get past this.

Perfect example of what you’re asking for:

Jacqueline Toboniwas an acting student in a screenwriting class at the University of Michigan when producer Jim Kouf from *Grimm *visited the campus. They did a table read and Kouf mentioned they were casting a new character, Trubel, and had people read for it just to show them how an audition worked. Toboni blew Kouf away and she was hired for the role in 2014. It was her first experience in front of a camera (though she did do some theater).

I think Rosario Dawson was hanging outside of the building that her family was squatting in when the writer/director of Kids walked by and offered her a part. She’s done fairly well since then.

Well, not exactly “discovered” sitting at the soda fountain, but I know of 2 people personally who were plucked from their mid-western homes and handed careers. Now, they were pursuing careers in their own ways, but they didn’t move to LA and start knocking on doors.

[li]Living in Ann Arbor, he submitted a video to a contest on Funny or Die and was given the opportunity to audition for a film. Since then he has appeared in numerous movies and has been a regular on numerous TV shows. He’s not a household name, but you have seen him in stuff. Of note, following his success, his 2 sisters moved to LA to be actors, neither has made any real progress.[/li][li]Living in Chicago, working as an Elementary School Teacher and doing improv on the side. A scout from NBC saw him and brought him to LA and put him into a diversity program they have to promote new talent (he’s muslim - yes, affirmative action).[/li][/ol]
Curiously, these are both connected to my daughter’s college roommates, one is the brother, the other is a husband. Small world.

I think some filmmakers, particularly indie film makers, still go out of LA to do their casting. The lovely recent movie **Roma **starred a woman who wasn’t sent to auditions by her agent:

Gabourey Sidibe, star of Precious, sort of happened upon her role:

The Florida Project has many unknowns:

Well this is a bit off as it’s not literally “Hollywood”, but it’s similar and still very cool. Yalitza Aparicio, the star of Alfonso Cuarón’s film “Roma,” was offered the role with zero acting experience and she had no thoughts of ever becoming an actress. Tuesday she was nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award.

I can think of two, but neither are in the past 10 years.

**David Boreanaz **was pretty much discovered by Marti Noxon because he walked his dog past her place. Ended up being Angel for 8 seasons of acting. He wasn’t much of an actor at the start, but learned on the job and became great. Went on to Bones and other stuff, too.

**Andy Hallett **was also discovered in the sense that he had no SAG card when he was brought onto Angel to play Lorne. He was working for an agency, but was basically seen by Joss Whedon at a club singing and hired to play a small part as a demon lounge singer. Ended up becoming a full role for 76 episodes. Tragically, he contracted a tooth infection that went to his heart only a month after the final episode was filmed. He died a few years later. Still, he was pretty much plucked from obscurity to become a lead in a show.

Alden Ehrenreich (star of Solo) was discovered when he submitted a short film to a friends party that just happened to have Steven Spielberg attending.

I’d say that counts.
I stand corrected.

And of course even then their being in the right place at the right time is usually not entirely an accident. Charlize Theron may have gotten lucky being at that bank… but it was a bank in Hollywood, where she had gone to try to make it. And for years before that she’s modelled and taken dance lessons and worked at the skills needed for that break to pay off.