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Here are the top 10 actors that started with indie films, from Ellen Page in 'Hard Candy' to Jesse Eisenberg in 'The Squid and the Whale'.

Top 10 actors that started with indie films

Independent films, otherwise known as indie films, are small productions that provide an excellent opportunity for lesser-known actors to get their start on the big screen. Although you may think that indie actors are merely college students looking to make their break, you’d be surprised how many recognizable actors got their start playing in them.

Here are the top 10 actors that started with indie films, from Ellen Page in Hard Candy to Jesse Eisenberg in The Squid and the Whale.

1. Ellen Page (Hard Candy, 2005)

Ellen Page plays Hayley Stark in the crime drama, Hard Candy (2005). This indie film covers Hayley as she raids a man’s home to uncover a suspected truth that he is a pedophile. Page won the Austin Film Critics Best Actress Award for her role as Hayley Stark.

Also, the film won many awards, such as Best Screenplay Award, Best Film, and the Catalonian International Film Festival Audience Award. However, thanks to this starting role for Ellen Page, she was able to involve herself in other popular films, such as Juno, Inception, and X-Men: Days of Future Past.  

2. Tessa Thompson (Dear White People, 2014)

Tessa Thompson made her debut in Dear White People (2014), where she played Samantha White. Dear White People originally was an indie film and was later adapted into a popular TV series, where Thompson played the same character.

For her role, Thompson won an award for Best Breakthrough Performance at the Gotham Awards. Nowadays, you’ll see her playing Valkyrie in Marvel movies and Charlotte Hale in Westworld.

3. Robert Pattinson (How to Be, 2008)

How to Be (2008) was an indie comedy in which Robert Pattinson played Art, who experiences a mid-life crisis and moves back in with his parents. For his role in the film, Pattinson won an award for the Best Actor in a Feature Film, and the movie actually opened the 2008 Strasbourg International Film Festival. Following this film, it helped Pattinson launch other roles, such as Edward in the popular Twilight series.

4. Jennifer Aniston (Leprechaun, 1993)

In Leprechaun (1993), Jennifer Aniston plays Tory Reding, who was just one out of the many victims that the mystical leprechaun in the movie terrorizes over his precious gold pieces. Although this was more of a low-budget movie than a classically categorized indie film, she nevertheless makes her name on this list for her essential role in the movie.

Although Anniston didn’t win any awards for her role, it helped launch her career forward into many popular films that we see on the big screen today.

5. Bill Hader (The Skeleton Twins, 2014)

Although Bill Hader is most commonly known for his roles on Saturday Night Live, he got his start in movies with The Skeleton Twins (2014). Bill Hader starts as Milo Dean, alongside Kristen Wiig who plays his twin sister. Together, the twins try finding a new direction in their depressing life. Although The Skeleton Twins didn’t win any awards, Bill Hader was nominated for Best Actor at the Gotham Awards.

6. Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, 2003)

Scarlett Johansson, best known for her role as Black Widow in the Avenger movies, started her acting career by attending Lee Strasberg acting classes. One of her first roles was starring in the indie film, Lost in Translation (2003), as Charlotte.

The movie was about a neglected young woman (Johansson) and an old movie star (Bill Murray) who formed an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo. For her role, Scarlett  Johansson won a BAFTA for Best Actress in a Leading Role and an award for Best Actress at the Boston Society of Film Critics Award.

7. George Clooney (Return to Horror High, 1987)

George Clooney got his start in acting with the comedy-murder mystery Return to Horror High (1987). The movie was about a production company that started disappearing once they begin to shoot their film at an abandoned high school. Although George Clooney didn’t win any major awards for his role, it was a pivotal starting point in his acting career.

8. Josh Wiggins (Hellion, 2014)

Josh Wiggins started his acting career in the indie film Hellion (2014), which debuted at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. He stars as Jacob Williams, who is Aaron Paul’s rebellious son. Wiggins was highly praised by film critics, which helped him get his start acting in popular movies, such as Max, Mean Dreams, and Walking Out.   

9. Vince Vaughn (Swingers, 1996)

Swingers (1996) was a comedy-drama in which Vince Vaughn played an unemployed actor. Although most millennials may be unfamiliar with the film, Swingers won the Florida Film Critics Circle Newcomer of the Year Award and the MTV Best New Filmmaker Award. With this role, Vaughn was able to propel his acting career into many other big-screen roles, such as The Internship, Wedding Crashers, and The Break-Up.

10. Jesse Eisenberg (The Squid and the Whale, 2005)

Jesse Eisenberg made his acting debut in The Squid and the Whale (2005). This Wes Anderson production plays an emotional son who has to make the decision of either living with his mother or father. During this challenging choice, he visits a psychologist, who has Eisenberg recall his fondest memory, which was a squid and whale exhibit.

The movie won many awards, such as the Best Dramatic Direction and Screenwriting awards. Plus, it helped Jesse Eisenberg land many of the larger-scale roles that he plays today, such as Lex Luthor in Batman v. Superman, Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, and Columbus in Zombieland.

Indie films are a great way for any actor to get their start. From Jesse Eisenberg and Vince Vaughn to Scarlett Johansson, it’s amazing how many famous actors got their start on lesser-known productions.

Hopefully, you’ve managed to learn something new about your favorite actor, and get some inspiration to get involved in a local indie movie to start your career in acting, directing, or producing! Also, as exciting as it may be to see a popular flick in theaters, it’s just as important to support local indie films that may be premiering near you.

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