Not all great cinema stars have the most auspicious beginnings to their lives in celluloid. Some start in commercials, TV, bit parts, background work. Hell, a few even dabble in porn (we're looking at you, Sylvester Stallone).
Ground zero for acting talent, more often than not, is the horror genre. This being Halloween season, we decided to highlight a few mega-talents who jumpstarted their careers in much the same way they entered the world: naked, screaming and covered in blood.
George Clooney, 'Return to Horror High' (1987)
It took the "Ides of March" actor-director a solid decade in show business before he launched into superstardom as Dr. Doug Ross on "ER." Good ol' Gorgeous George may have paid his dues at the school of hard knocks, but he earned his diploma from "Horror High" playing an actor who gets killed by a serial killer while filming a movie about that killer. Totally meta! Totally '80s! Watch the Cloonster and his mullet get axed from this production.
Brad Pitt, 'Cutting Class' (1989)
Another member of the "Ocean's 11" crew made a killing early on, in his first lead role after leaving Missouri to conquer Hollywood. This campy romp centers on a teen mental patient (Donovan Leitch, son of '60s folk troubadour Donovan) who killed his father. While Leitch's character seems like the most obvious suspect in a string of murders taking place on campus, many lay the blame on hotheaded Dwight (Pitt). Turns out it's the ... oh, we won't spoil it for you.
Jennifer Aniston, 'Leprechaun' (1993)
Pitt's ex-wife made friends with the lecherous little leprechaun of the title as a fresh-faced 18-year-old. As former Ewok Warwick Davis chased her around in gross-ass makeup, she probably never dreamed she would become one of the biggest stars in the world a scant year later, or that Warwick would still be in that makeup five sequels later.
Paul Rudd, 'Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers' (1995)
A frequent costar of Aniston's ("Friends," "The Object of My Affection," the upcoming "Wanderlust"), Rudd has been a cornerstone of the comedy frat pack ever since "Anchorman," but there's nothing funny about trying to stop unkillable super-fiend Michael Myers from murdering an innocent baby. Okay, maybe a little, but that was the task at hand in Rudd's inaugural screen outing. If we ever need a mass murderer beaten with a lead pipe, we'll know whom to call.
Jack Nicholson, 'The Little Shop of Horrors' (1960)
Rudd recently had the honor to act alongside Nicholson, who played his pappy in "How Do You Know." How do we know that Jack was always one crazy customer? We have the film to prove it: a hilarious three-minute cameo in Roger Corman's cult classic, where he's just dropped in from the cuckoo's nest as a masochistic dental patient who's orgasmic about pain. Bill Murray later portrayed the same character in the 1986 remake.
Kevin Bacon, 'Friday the 13th' (1980)
We could connect him to every actor on this list, but it took a fella by the name of Jason Voorhees (or, in this installment, his vengeful mama) to connect Bacon to the summer camp cot where he'd just been getting busy. Although it wasn't his debut feature, as he'd been initiated into "Animal House" a few years prior, this was Bacon's first big bloody splash playing a counselor at Camp Crystal Lake. Perhaps they should retitle the film "Neckloose."
Johnny Depp, 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' (1984)
With Bacon kickstarting the Jason franchise, Depp was getting his feet wet in the initial chapter of the Freddy Krueger saga. To paraphrase Jonah Hill in "Superbad," this actor's been f**ked since Jump Street, getting sucked into a bed, chopped into confetti by Freddy, and discharged like a bad piece of sushi. Fun fact: Depp went to the "Nightmare" audition with his buddy (and upcoming "Dark Shadows" costar) Jackie Earle Haley, who wound up playing Krueger 25 years later.
Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey, 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation' (1994)
Here we get some two-for-one value as the two Texas natives squared off against each other (after previously both appearing in "Dazed and Confused") in this rehash of the original 1974 splatter classic. McConaughey manages to go psycho here without the aid of naked bongos, and Zellweger is the hapless teen whose prom night gets ruined by some backwoods cannibals.
John Travolta, 'The Devil's Rain' (1975)
At least two decades before he had his Royale With Cheese and a couple years prior to spilling pig's blood on "Carrie," John Travolta became revolta as an eyeball-less Satanist freak in this bizarre cult film starring William Shatner, Tom Skerritt and Ernest Borgnine. And yes, before you ask, the rain in this movie is literally evil and melts a lot of characters' faces, including Travolta's. The actor wouldn't wear makeup this grotesque again until "Hairspray."
(Originally published on Oct. 10, 2011)