Movies where you recognize everybody but the leads

I just caught *Flash [sub] ahh ahh … he’ll save every one of us[/sub] Gordon * and noticed that it’s one of those rare movies, where I know most everybody who is in it from one look or line, except the top billed, whom I have no freakin idea who the hell they are.

Max von Sydow, Topol, Timothy Dalton, Brian Blessed, Ornella Muti(okay so she’s not exactly famous, but I love all John Candy movies and she is in * Once upon a crime* and she has an unforgettable sexy voice.

Even a couple background people I knew from somewhere, but I couldn’t have remebered if I had ever seen Flash and Dale in my life.

All I’ve got is Caddyshack. Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, and Ted Knight. However, (in theory) the lead was what’s-his-name, the caddy guy.

How about the 1978 production of “Superman.” At the time, Christopher Reeve was a nobody, and Marlon Brando got top billing. Gene Hackman, Ned Beatty, Glenn Ford and Jackie Cooper were all far more recognizable.

Lawrence of Arabia, with some young guy recommended by Katherine Hepburn, and everybody recognizable from old English movies on late night TV.

And [del]Obi-Wan Kenobi[/del] Sir Alec Guinness playing an Arab Emir…

Speaking of, Star Wars might be a pretty good example. Guys like Peter Cushing and Alec Guiness had higher profiles in 1977 than Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford.

This is probably more common than you think. Sometimes in an action/adventure film which doesn’t have a huge budget, rather than going for a star in the leading role, they will cast a newcomer, basically just because they are young and good-looking. Whether they are first-rate actors isn’t so important. Sometimes they get lucky and the lead becomes a star. Sometimes the lead’s career goes nowhere.

That’s what happened in Flash Gordon. The male lead, Sam J. Jones, is still acting. He’s mostly a character actor in American TV shows. The female lead, Melody Anderson, kept acting for fifteen years. About the time she turned 40, she realized she would never make it as a star. She got a masters in social work and gave up acting. She’s now a substance abuse counselor.

The best example of this is Klinton Spilsbury of The Legend of the Lone Ranger, who never acted again after that one lead role.

Apart from Ford, they still do…

Sam Jones (Flash Gordon) did play Bo Derek’s husband in “10” but no one noticed him. For those who are too young, the hype about Derek after this film came out was very big.

 Not quite sure if this fits but "The Caine Mutiny" has Humphrey Bogart, Van Johnson, Jose Ferrer and Fred MacMurray.  Some of the minor characters had good career: Lee Marvin, Claude Akins and Jerry Paris. But the character Ensign Keith who essentially the main character (not top billed though) is Robert Keith. Keith died shortly after the film was made in a plane crash so we will never know what kind of career he would have had. But does anyone think that he would have been a star?  I think he would have been gone after Eisenhower left office.

Robert Francis, not Robert Keith.

For good reason: all of his dialog had to be redubbed by James Keach.

At the time, Jean Seberg was a total unknown when she starred in Saint Joan with such established actors as John Gilegud, Richard Widmark, Richard Todd, and Bernard Miles, but Seberg managed to carve out a moderately successful career.

Similarly, Millie Perkins played the lead in The Diary of Ann Frank with Shelley Winters, Richard Beymer, Lou Jacobi and Ed Wynn.

Excalibur has the following people in non-lead roles:
Helen Mirren
Gabriel Byrne
Liam Neeson
Patrick Stewart

but stars little-known (although he’s had constant work according to IMDB) Nigel Terry.

Would you count a movie in which the leads, while hardly unknown, had never appeared in a movie before, but there were appearances by big stars like Bob Hope, Orson Welles, Mel Brooks, and Steve Martin?

I guess you’d have to exclude children in the lead roles, or there’d be lots of examples. The original Willy Wonka, The Last Mimzy, My Girl, Stuart Little, etc. Surround the kids with established adult actors.