Old movies that are a cavalcade of future stars and character actors

We all know The Outsiders and Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

But have you heard of a little Canadian movie called Double Negative, a.k.a. Deadly Companion? Stars Michael Sarrazin, Anthony Perkins and Susan Clark.

It’s a horrendously bad thriller. In bit parts, you’ll get:

John Candy
Euguene Levy
Catherine O’Hara
Dave Thomas
Joe Flaherty
Maury Chaykin
Kenneth Welsh (Twin Peak’s Windom Earle)
Michael Ironside (with hair!)
Al Waxman

I’m quite fond of little flick called Safe Men. It features the fine talents of

Sam Rockwell
Steve Zahn
Paul Giamatti
Mark Ruffalo

Right when most of them were about to take off.

American Graffiti:

RIchard Dryfuss
Ron Howard
Cindy Williams
MAckenzie Phillips
Harrison Ford
Suzanne Summers
And directed/written by George Lucas (when, apparently he could write, with help).

Not bad for 1973- most were just starting out on the big screen.

I don’t think you can beat Milos Forman’s Ragtime. Future stars include:

Brad Dourif
Mandy Patinkin
Debbie Allen
Jeff Daniels
Fran Drescher
Samuel L. Jackson
Michael Jeter
Andreas Katsulas
John Ratzenberger

It’s a fascinating cast, especailly if you consider that in also includes *past *stars like James Cagney and Donald O’Connor, not to mention writer Norman Mailer as Stanford White.

Lords of Flatbush–Sylvester Stallone, Perry King, Henry Winkler & Susan Blakesley

The original London cast of the musical Godspell included Jeremy Irons, David Essex, and future stage stars Julie Covington, Marti Webb and Gay Sopher. For a ten cast show, that is amazing casting.


Steve Guttenberg
Daniel Stern
Mickey Rourke
Kevin Bacon …
Timothy Daly
Ellen Barkin
Paul Reiser

I wouldn’t go as far as a “cavalcade” in mentioning Cool Hand Luke (1967) but several actors whose fame would later develop into bigger recognition were bit players there, including:

Dennis Hopper
Wayne Rogers
Joe Don Baker
Anthony Zerbe
Harry Dean Stanton

Of course, others like Strother Martin and J.D. Cannon were already fairly well established at the time as competent character actors.

Donald Sutherland
Elliot Gould
Tom Skerrit
Robert Duvall
Sally Kellerman
Rene Auberjonois
Bud Cort
Michael Murphy
John Schuck
Gary Burghoff

Citizen Kane
Orson Welles
Joseph Cotten
Agnes Moorhead
Ray Collins
Fortunio Bonovona
Ruth Warrick
Everett Sloane
Paul Stewart
(The names may be less familiar, but many were very successful character actors, with Kane as one of their first credits).

Wendy Wasserstein’s Uncommon Women and Others had Jill Eikenberry, Swoozie Kurtz, Meryl Streep

The Culpepper Cattle Company had a pretty compelling cast of character actors, several of whom were just becoming known.

Gary Grimes
Geoffrey Lewis
Billy Green Bush
Luke Askew
Bo Hopkins (also in aforementioned American Graffiti)
Charles Martin Smith (ditto)
Patrick Campbell

Dazed and Confused:

Rory Cochrane
Matthew McConaughey
Adam Goldberg
Joey Lauren Adams
Ben Affleck
Renee Zellweger
Milla Jovovich
Cole Hauser
Parker Posey

Not a movie, but I’ve noticed when the Sci-Fi Channel runs a *Twilight Zone * marathon, you see loads of “before they were famous” actors.

Boogie Nights

Marky Mark
Julianne Moore
Don Cheadle
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Heather Graham
John C. Reilly
William H. Macy

Bladerunner :
Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, Brion James, Joanna Cassidy.

The Bounty

Anthony Hopkins
Mel Gibson
Edward Fox
Daniel Day-Lewis
Bernard Hill
Liam Neeson
John Sessions

And, in a small role (one of his very last), Lawrence Olivier.

Annie Hall had a lot of actors in bit roles who later became more famous.

Carol Kane, Shelley Duvall, and Christopher Walken had roles large enough that you could recognize them even if you blinked a few times.

Jeff Goldblum, Shelley Hack, Beverly D’Angelo, Tracey Walter, and Sigourney Weaver had bit roles.

Danny Aiello and Harvey Fierstein had roles, but their scenes were cut.

Dick Cavett and Marshall McLuhan played themselves, while Paul Simon and Walter Bernstein (a screenwriter) were well known, but this film is one of their few acting roles.

Truman Capote in an uncredited role plays someone seen walking by in one scene who (as Alvy and Annie comment) is apparently a Truman Capote impersonator.

Krull mostly sucked, but was notable for having Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane, both impossibly young.

Excalibur probably wins, though, having Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, Helen Mirren and Patrick Stewart.

What about This Is Spinal Tap?

I know Rob Reiner and Michael McKean were already famous

Also appearing were:
Harry Shearer
Christopher Guest
Bruno Kirby
Ed Begley Jr.
Fran Dresher
Dana Carvey
Billy Cystal
Howard Hessman
Paul Shaffer
Angelica Huston
Fred Willard

Some of these folks might have already been stars,but I’m not sure.

True Romance is a good example. In addition to its stars, Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette, it featured in smaller roles (a * indicates someone who wasn’t terribly well-known at the time):

Michael Rapaport*
Val Kilmer (face is never shown)
Bronson Pinchot*
Dennis Hopper
Gary Oldman
Brad Pitt*
Tom Sizemore*
Christopher Walken
Samuel L. Jackson*
Saul Rubinek* (not a household name today, but you’d recognize him)
James Gandolfini*
Chris Penn
Jack Black* (his scene was cut; it’s on the DVD)

The acting was great all around, but Brad Pitt in particular made a big impression with a small part as Floyd, the stoner roommate.

The Outsiders
Matt Dillon
Ralph Macchio
C. Thomas Howell
Patrick Swayze
Rob Lowe
Emilio Estevez
Tom Cruise
Diane Lane
Leif Garrett
School Ties
Brendan Fraser
Matt Damon
Chris O’Donnell
Cole Hauser
Ben Affleck
Anthony Rapp
Amy Locane