21 actors who started as background extras in movies and TV shows

Paramount Pictures/YoutubeCuba Gooding Jr. in ‘Coming to America.’
  • All our favourite actors had to start somewhere, and many appeared as extras in movies and TV shows before they became household names.
  • A young Leonardo DiCaprio appeared briefly in the TV show “Roseanne.”
  • Future Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr. was an extra in “Coming to America.”
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Every actor has to start somewhere. Some stars like Cuba Gooding Jr. or Channing Tatum appeared on camera for only seconds in their earliest roles. Do you recognise these famous actors lurking in the background of these movies and televisions shows?

Here are actors who started their careers as extras.


In the cult classic “Dazed and Confused,” Renee Zellweger appeared as a background character.

Gramercy Pictures/YouTubeRenee Zellweger in ‘Dazed and Confused.’

The Oscar winner appeared in a couple of scenes throughout the film, including passing by Matthew McConaughey’s character as he leans against a wall, pictured.


Before he was Rocky or Rambo, Sylvester Stallone was an extra in Woody Allen’s 1971 “Bananas.”

United Artists/YouTubeSylvester Stallone in ‘Bananas.’

Stallone appeared as a mugger, harassing commuters and Allen’s character on the subway.


In the Robert Downey Jr.-led “Less Than Zero” in 1987, Brad Pitt had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him appearance.

20th Century Fox/YouTubeBrad Pitt in ‘Less Than Zero.’

Appearing on screen for seconds, Pitt is the party-goer in the left corner. He also appeared in the background of the 1987 movie “No Man’s Land” as a waiter.


Before she got marooned on a mysterious island on “Lost,” Evangeline Lilly appeared as a high schooler in 2003’s “Freddy vs. Jason.”

New Line Cinema/YouTubeEvangeline Lilly in ‘Freddy vs. Jason.’

The “Ant-Man” star (wearing a green long-sleeved shirt) appeared frightened as two of the characters discuss killer Freddy Krueger and how he invades people’s nightmares.


Before he became a Hollywood legend, Clint Eastwood worked as an extra on a number of films.

Riccardo S. Savi/Getty ImagesClint Eastwood.

Eastwood appeared as an extra in a number of films in his 20s, including “Francis in the Navy,” “Revenge of the Creature,” “Lady Godiva of Coventry,” and “Tarantula.”


Channing Tatum is hidden among the people running in the background of 2005’s “War of the Worlds.”

Paramount Pictures/YouTubeChanning Tatum in ‘War of the Worlds.’

Tatum originally had a scene in the film, but it was cut for time. His only remaining screen time is a brief appearance where he runs behind Tom Cruise’s character when the aliens attack the church. You can spot him directly to the right of the police officer.


One of future “Twilight” star Kristen Stewart’s earliest roles was in the Disney Channel film “The Thirteenth Year.”

Disney Channel/YouTubeKristen Stewart in ‘The Thirteenth Year.’

Stewart played an annoyed girl (seen at the bottom of the screen) waiting at the back of the line to use the school’s water fountain.


In one of his first film appearances, Arnold Schwarzenegger played a henchman 1973’s “The Long Goodbye.”

United Artists/YouTubeArnold Schwarzenegger in ‘The Long Goodbye.’

Schwarzenegger had no lines in the film, but he showed off the physique that would soon turn him into an action movie star.


Before he was John McClane, Bruce Willis appeared in the courtroom in the 1981 movie “The Verdict.”

20th Century Fox/YouTubeBruce Willis in ‘The Verdict.’

To find Willis, you might have to squint, but he’s located on the third row on the right side of the screen.


Willem Dafoe appeared in the background of the 1980 box office disaster “Heaven’s Gate.”

Vianney Le Caer/Invision/APWillem Dafoe.

Dafoe had more scenes in the film, but he said he was fired by director Michael Cimino after laughing too hard at a joke on set.


Though he’s known for his athleticism, Jean-Claude Van Damme barely moves in the background of the 1984 film “Breakin’.”

MGM/YouTubeJean-Claude Van Damme in ‘Breakin’.’

Wearing a black tank top, Van Damme played one of the onlookers watching break dancing in the street.


In 1988 “Coming to America,” Cuba Gooding Jr. had a haircut.

Paramount Pictures/YouTubeCuba Gooding Jr. in ‘Coming to America.’

The future Oscar winner doesn’t have any lines but can’t help cracking a smile at Eddie Murphy’s antics.


As he would be in many of his future roles, young method actor Daniel Day-Lewis was almost unrecognizable in the 1971 movie “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”

United Artists/YouTubeDaniel Day-Lewis.

Day-Lewis played a boy who scratched the side of a blue car with a broken bottle.


Megan Fox appeared as a club dancer in the 2003 film “Bad Boys II.”

Sony Pictures/YouTubeMegan Fox in ‘Bad Boys II.’

Sometimes it pays to be an extra. Fox would reunite with “Bad Boys II” director Michael Bay for his next film, “Transformers,” in a starring role.


A young Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were extras on the 1989 film “Field of Dreams.”

Miramax FilmsMatt Damon and Ben Affleck in ‘Jay and Silent Bob.’

The future Oscar winners were among the crowd of people watching a baseball game at Fenway Park, though they’re not visible in the film.


Heath Ledger’s first role was as a clown in the 1992 film “Clowning Around.”

Patrick McMullan via Getty ImagesHeath Ledger.

Ledger played the role of Orphan Clown in the film. One of Ledger’s final roles before his death in 2008 was as the Joker in “The Dark Knight.”


A young John Wayne appeared as a football player in the silent film “Brown of Harvard” in 1926.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/YouTubeJohn Wayne in ‘Brown of Harvard.’

Before he became forever associated with the image of a cowboy, Wayne found work appearing as an extra in silent era films. Finding Wayne in the film is a bit like playing a game of “Where’s Waldo?”


Martial artists Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee actually met on the set of the 1973 film “Enter The Dragon.” It didn’t end well for Chan’s character.

Warner Bros/YoutubeJackie Chan with Bruce Lee on ‘Enter The Dragon.’

Chan’s character is quickly beaten and dispatched by Lee’s in the film. Chan also did extra work on Lee’s 1972 film “Fists of Fury.”


A young George Clooney started his career as an extra on the 1978 TV miniseries “Centennial.”

Reuters/Andrew KellyGeorge Clooney.

The show was filmed in Clooney’s hometown of Augusta, Kentucky, giving then-17-year-old Clooney his first taste of stardom.


Screen legend Marilyn Monroe appeared as an extra in the 1948 film “Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!”

20th Century Fox/YouTubeMarilyn Monroe in ‘Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!’

Do you spot Monroe in this scene? She’s wearing the blue dress in the corner and passes by actress June Haver as she’s leaving church. She’s later seen in the film rowing a canoe.


Before he was an Oscar winner, Leonardo DiCaprio was Darlene’s classmate on the TV show “Roseanne.”

ABC/YouTubeLeonardo DiCaprio in ‘Roseanne.’

DiCaprio briefly appeared in season three as Darlene took home economics.

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