Inauspicious roles early in their careers...

A young Jake Gyllenhaal is Billy Crystal’s son in City Slickers.

Wonderfully awful film. But it was only a year later that his novel The Seven Per Cent Solution hit the bestseller list (later to be made into a movie by him), and in the same year his wonderfully underappreciated TV movie Judge Dee and the Monastery Murders was released. So “early in his career” arguably is only a year early.
Consider another “early” effort by a screenwriter, the guy who wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls in 1970 for Russ Meyer (and later wrote Up! and Beyond the Valley of the Ultra-0Vixens for him, using pseudonuyms) – Roger Ebert. He already had some notoriety for writing a condemnation of George Romero’s Night of the L:iving Dead in Reader’s Digest that was largely responsible for rocketing that film to fame. Unintentionally.

Steve McQueen had been around a few years as a bit actor in the 50s, but I was surprised to see him in a role in the 1958 horror film The Blob, when, for some unknown reason, I thought it was a good idea to see the film again about 20 years later.

Sylvester Stallone also did a porn film called A Party at Kitty and Stud’s.

Jennifer Aniston had a small part in Leprechaun, just before* Friends* premiered. When Leprechaun was released on VHS, the cover art featured a picture of Aniston, implying she had a much bigger role than she did.

Similarly Alan Rickman has a small role in a three-part TV show the BBC did (which was very good, but stick with me) based on Zola’s Therese Raquin. When it was re-released after the first Harry Potter movie, Rickman’s name was featured prominently on the cover, which ultimately ended in a lot of negative reviews on IMDb and Amazon, when young Harry Potter fans watched it, and not only didn’t “get” it, but found Alan Rickman circa 1980, and with red hair (which may have been a wig) unrecognizable, especially since he in only in about 20 minutes of a 3 hour show.

Back to Jennifer Aniston, I think it’s hilarious that on The Big Bang Theory, Penny has a bad horror film to her credits, and is now doing a sequel, because I always thought the Leonard/Penny on-off relationship was a parody of Ross & Rachel. Or at least a parody of on-off relationships in general, and Ross/Rachel is a very memorable one, which the cute blonde Penny, and the scientist Leonard closely resemble.

That was Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death. Great movie.

ETA: Maher had a starring role, and it was hardly his first credit, although it was four years before Politically Incorrect.

It’s probably borderline, but Virginia Madsen played “third young woman from the left,” with one of about three generic names, in about a dozen movies before she got any significant parts.

I think she’s played a Lisa about a dozen times. Maybe it’s Sharon.

Probably no more than Lou Gossett does when the question is about Enemy Mine.

Alien Nation wasn’t that bad. The series got a little skiffy-soapy.

Obviously you have never seen Leprechaun; she’s the main character (well, the main protagonist, at least).

I saw it, but I saw it before Friends came out, and I think I might have dozed off a bit, because I didn’t follow the plot (:dubious:) well. It was such a forgettable film. I didn’t recognize her from the film when I saw* Friends*, and I wasn’t about to rent the movie again when I saw the cover. I can tell you that before and after Friends, the cover of the video was changed to feature her face and name.

Samuel L. Jackson attempts to rob a fast-food cashier in COMING TO AMERICA, giving Eddie Murphy the chance to play heroic quarterstaff expert with a twirling mop.

Dick York’s first role was the title character in Shy Guy, a 1947 social guidance short about how to make friends. He later went on to play the villain in 1949’s Last Date.

Before Laugh-In, Goldie Hawn played the girlfriend of one of the leads in Good Morning World

Before she was Gloria on All in the Family, Sally Struthers was The Smothers Brothers Dancer* on The Smothers Brothers Summer Show

Before she was Princess Leia on Star Wars, Carrie Fisher was one of Warren Beatty’s Bedmates in Shampoo
Oliver Hardy, one half of Laurel and Hardy, played a robber who tries to rob his future partner Stan Laurel in the silent comedy Lucky Dog. He was also – amazingly – the Tin Woodsman in Larry Semon’s 1920s silent version of The Wizard of Oz

Years before he teamed up with Bud Abbott, Lou Costello had a brief career as an extra in Hollywood in the silent, making seven generally forgotten films (such as Rose Marie), for which he received no screen credit. He went back east and got into boxing and played basketball**(!!) before achieving vaudeville success as half a comedy team.
Foreign-born actors, of course, often had extensive careers overseas before appearing in US films. Bela Lugosi, though, not only had a history in European films (even playing Jesus Christ!), but also had several years worth of work in US films, despite his difficulties with English. IMDb lists 17 US films before he hit the big time reprising his stage role as Dracula

*Yes, singular “dancer”. It was a take-off on all the variety shows that had legions of dancers.

**Costello was proud of his ability to shoot baskets. He’s reportedly the one who made all those simultaneous rebounds in Here Come the Co-eds.

SLJ also appeared in Goodfellas as Stacks Edwards, the guy who was supposed to demolish the getaway truck after the Lufthansa heist, and was subsequently whacked by Tommy.

Watching “All in the Family” on DVD, I recently saw the early episode where Archie Bunker is trapped in an elevator with a pompous black man, an hysterical white woman, and an Hispanic couple–the wife is heavily pregnant and gives birth in the elevator. I remembered the black man being Roscoe Lee Browne, but was surprised to see that the white woman was Eileen Brennan and the Hispanic guy Hector Elizondo.

Earlier still, you could tell he was going to be somebody when he was the unforgettable Mister Senor Love Daddy in Do the Right Thing (1989).

He was always better than most of the cast!

They couldn’t bear to delete his best scene. Perfect casting.

It was his first film, as “Steven” McQueen, and his role was in fact the lead, with top billing.

Julie Brown - not Downtown Julie Brown, the other one who had one of the greatest comic music albums of all time, Trapped in the Body of a White Girl - got one of her great songs, “Earth Girls Are Easy” made into a not-so-great film.

Look at that cast. Jim Carrey and Damon Wayans two years before In Living Color. None of the others were really big stars at the time, either. Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis were better known for being married to one another (and maybe for The Fly) than as major movie stars.

Have a look up at my post #30.
Actually, Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum were famous for being in several films together, besides being married. Besides The Fly and Earth Girls are Easy, they’d been together in Transylvania 6-5000 (“Transylvania is … Nice!”). And they co-presented the Documentary award at the 1989 Academy Awards, and were interviewed together in GQ.

David Hyde Pierce as the son-in-law in The Powers That Be. It was a great role in a great show. I’m one of the three people who watched it.

He was also in True Romance for about 30 seconds.