Oscars: A Look Back at This Year's Best Actor Nominees' First Movie Roles

12:43 PM 2/24/2016

by Christina Schoellkopf

A breakdown of each actor's humble beginnings on the big screen.

Mystic Pizza Still - H 2016
Getty Images

Mystic Pizza Still - H 2016

Five actors — Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Matt Damon (The Martian), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs) and Bryan Cranston (Trumbo) — are vying for the best actor prize at this year's Oscars. But before landing the prestigious nomination, where did each actor get his start on the big screen? The Hollywood Reporter hits rewind for a closer look at the burgeoning careers of this year's Oscar best actor contenders.

  • Leonardo DiCaprio

    Can you believe Leonardo DiCaprio’s long legacy on the big screen began with tiny furry aliens? Two dozen years before acting alongside a mama grizzly in The Revenant, the actor’s first stab at a feature film involved a very different set of furry creatures.

    DiCaprio made his big-screen debut in 1991 with the third installment of the Critters series, a comedy horror franchise in which fuzzy creatures invade and eat anything they lay their eyes on. Watch the clip below to find a 17-year-old DiCaprio releasing his teen angst with the line, “I hate you! I wish you were dead.”

  • Matt Damon

    Well before Matt Damon's The Martian character grew potatoes on the red planet, the actor was in a movie about pizza. Damon made his feature film debut as the character Steamer in the 1988 film Mystic Pizza. The movie ultimately gained a large cult following and continues to attract tourists to the town of Mystic, Conn., where fans of the '80s rom-com can grab a bite to eat at the restaurant the film was named after. Take a closer look at a teenage Matt Damon, who was just 18 when the film was first released.

  • Eddie Redmayne

    Eddie Redmayne had quite the start for his first role in a feature film. At age 24, the British actor landed the lead in the 2006 crime film Like Minds. Before starring in his big-screen debut, Redmayne already had an impressive resume; after graduating from Cambridge, he modeled for Burberry, acted on the stage and earned time on the small screen in three shows: Animal Ark, Doctors and the miniseries Elizabeth I.

  • Michael Fassbender

    The Steve Jobs star did quite a few TV series and TV movies before landing his first role in a feature film. Michael Fassbender’s debut on the big screen came in 2007 — when he was 30 — with the gory, fantasy war epic 300. While in 2015 he was seen on the big screen with Jobs’ iconic turtleneck and glasses, back in his first role, the German actor wore little more than a revealing loin cloth. Take a look back at his performance as the long-haired Spartan warrior Stelios in the Zack Snyder-directed film.

  • Bryan Cranston

    From Breaking Bad’s Walter White to Seinfeld’s dentist Dr. Tim Whatley, Bryan Cranston has played a wide variety of roles throughout his career, which spans about five decades. But in which film did the Trumbo star first test out his acting chops on the big screen?

    Believe it or not, the actor’s first credited character in a feature film did not even have a name. He played “Paramedic #1” in the 1987 satire Amazon Women on the Moon. Before landing the medical role, he did have his fair share of gigs on TV and voice acting credits in film. But his first official face-time in theaters was indeed in a small role as part of a larger ensemble cast, which included the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer, B.B. King and Carrie Fisher. Here's a look at the comedy's trailer.