True Confessions: Craziest Ways to Land a Gig
"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity," so goes a popular saying. The aspiring actor's version of that adage probably includes a few more words that end in "-tion," including "starvation" and "desperation." Being prepared just isn't enough; to make it as an actor, you must be ready to go someplace you aren't prepared for. You have to step, boldly and assuredly, out of Hollywood and into Crazytown.
Being "discovered" isn't what it was in 1937, when a 16-year-old Lana Turner was spotted drinking a Coke in a café by Hollywood Reporter publisher William R. Wilkerson. Back then, it was as easy as Wilkerson calling talent agent Zeppo Marx (one of the Marx Brothers) to set the wheels in motion. However, aspiring actors can still take inspiration from the example of Charlize Theron, spotted in 1994 by talent agent John Crosby while she was throwing a fit at a bank teller who wouldn't cash her out-of-state check. Her star-making turn in "The Devil's Advocate" was just three years later.
But Theron and Turner each had something working in their favor: Both knew that they wanted to be actors. Sometimes actors don't even know that they're actors, like Marion Robert Morrison — better known as John Wayne (his stage name, which he first began using in 1930). Morrison played football for the University of Southern California until he sustained an injury and lost his scholarship. In 1926, facing insolvency, he took a job in the props department at Fox Film Corporation, where director John Ford took notice of him and began placing him in the background action of various films. He soon found his way into a series of low-budget Westerns, and eventually to the marquee.That's one way to get into Hollywood productions — by doing work on them that's wholly unrelated to acting.
If you lack a second trade, simply follow your actor friends to auditions. One day, struggling musician Johnny Depp accompanied struggling actor Jackie Earle Haley to an audition for a small role in Wes Craven's 1984 classic "A Nightmare on Elm Street." Haley didn't get the part, but Craven noticed Depp skulking around and had him read for the role. From there, it was only a hop and a skip to a role on the Fox television drama "21 Jump Street," and ultimately to Hollywood ubiquity.
All that being said, there's no real substitute for simply doing the work of acting, even when there's no chance of money or fame to be had from it. Donald Glover, currently starring on the acclaimed NBC comedy "Community" and enjoying an ascending music career as rapper Childish Gambino, was doing sketch comedy with his friends when a producer of "30 Rock" asked him to write for that show. Even then, with his fortune as a television writer sealed, Glover begged off to focus on his stand-up — a lunatic move that caught the attention of "Community" creator Dan Harmon. Crazytown beckoned, and Glover answered. Good thing, too.