Special Report

What Famous Actors Did Next After Their Breakout Role

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

Steve McQueen
> First very famous movie: The Magnificent Seven (1960)

“The King of Cool” and one of the greatest antiheroes of the ’60s, Steve McQueen became well-known on TV, acting in shows including “Tales of Wells Fargo” and his 1958 breakout “Wanted: Dead or Alive.” He quit that one in 1968 after co-starring in the smash hit western, “The Magnificent Seven,” alongside Yul Brenner and Eli Wallach. His leading role in his next film, “The Great Escape,” earned him top-tier Hollywood status, and later hit films included “Nevada Smith,” “The Sand Pebbles,” the iconic “Bullitt,” and “The Thomas Crown Affair.”

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

Tom Hanks
> First very famous movie: Big (1988)

One of the most beloved film stars on earth and a certified national treasure, Tom Hanks got his start on television, starring in “Bosom Buddies” with Peter Scolari. He had leads in several films, including the surprise hits “Splash” and “Bachelor Party,” before his true breakout, playing a boy who turns into an adult overnight in 1988’s “Big.” It was a huge hit that put Hanks on the map and earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination, and the rest is history, with additional hits including “Forrest Gump,” “Apollo 13,” “Toy Story,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “The Da Vinci Code.”

Source: John Lamparski / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

Viola Davis
> First very famous movie: Doubt (2008)

The first Black woman to earn the Triple Crown of Acting (Emmy, Tony, and Oscar), Viola Davis exploded onto the scene in “Doubt” in 2008 as the mother of the only Black child in a church’s parish school. Even though she was only in the film for one scene, her powerful performance earned her an Academy Award nomination. She went on to win worldwide recognition with films including “The Help” and “Fences,” and has since starred in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and the upcoming “The Woman King.”

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

Will Smith
> First very famous movie: Independence Day (1996)

Will Smith began his career as a rapper named the Fresh Prince, became a TV star with “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” and became a full-fledged movie star with 1996’s mega-blockbuster “Independence Day,” in which he led an ensemble cast defending the earth against an alien invasion. The following year’s “Men In Black” clinched his reputation as one of the era’s most bankable movie stars, confirmed by the success of films including “Enemy of the State,” “Ali,” “Hitch,” “I Am Legend,” and “Hancock.” His portrayal of Venus and Serena Williams’ father in “King Richard” won him the 2022 Academy Award for Best Actor, although his win was slightly overshadowed by his slapping Chris Rock.

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