From TV to Hollywood

Just how have we gotten some of the film’s biggest names over the years? Names like Leonardo DiCaprio, Tim Allen, Michael J. Fox and Robin Williams have been constant reminders that some of the biggest stars in todays cinema were actually much smaller stars in yesteryear on everyone’s favourite picture box, the television.

Many of these stars started their careers as small co-starring characters in the various soap operas on both sides of the Atlantic. Some have tried to transition and faded away and some like Sally Field have gone from television to film and back again (‘Gidget’ and ‘The Flying Nun’ in the 60’s, before returning to fully fledged television status in ABC’s ‘Brothers & Sisters’ in  2006).

Below are just some examples of actors/actresses who, I believe have successfully made the transition from one medium to another in recent times and who we expect to see great things from in future.

1. Aaron Johnson

Currently the world’s favourite 19 year old, ‘Kick Ass’ star Aaron Johnson had humble beginnings in 2007’s E4 (virtually ignored show) ‘Nearly Famous’. The show which was described as a mixture of ‘The OC’ and ‘Skins’ with music was set in a London school for the Performing Arts. The show only lasted one series and that was only six episodes and despite being little-known, it managed to gain a large fanbase of 13-20 year olds.

Johnson’s character, Owen Stephens was the black horse of the group with a past that threatened to haunt him. Even though he went to an arts school, he could not read music despite his extraordinary talent. The show’s last episode ended with Johnson’s character being kicked out and the rest of the characters join together to cover Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ in tribute to Owen.

Since then, Aaron has been climbing his way up the film ladder with a smallish part in 2008’s ‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’, followed by 2009’s ‘The Greatest’ co-starring Carey Mulligan, Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon. Recently he has starred in Sam Taylor Wood’s, John Lennon biopic, ‘Nowhere Boy’ (as well as causing media speculation about the directors relationship with her star, the two are now engaged and due to have their first child) as well as 2010’s biggest picture thus far, ‘Kick Ass’ where he plays the titular character about a geeky teenager who decides to become a superhero.

2. Talulah Riley

‘Nearly Famous’ co-star, Talulah Riley has taken a slightly different approach to her film career. Already starting to piece together a career before ‘Nearly Famous’, she had appeared in one episode of ITV’s ‘Poirot’ and ‘Miss Marple’ as well as 2005’s Joe Wright adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ starring Keira Knightly.

In 2007, Talulah starred in the remake of ‘St Trinians’ co-starring with Colin Firth, Rupert Everett and another future star-to-be, Gemma Arterton. The role of Annabelle Fritton, the new girl at the posh girls boarding school was just the role needed to secure her future in films.

Since then, she has starred in a two parter Doctor Who (nice to see she isn’t forgetting her television roots), 2009’s Richard Curtis film ‘The Boat that Rocked’ as well as the ‘St Trinians’ sequel and her biggest picture to date surely is 2010’s eagerly awaited Christopher Nolan film, ‘Inception’, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Marion Cotillard.

3. Zachary Quinto

The evil Sylar from NBC’s ‘Heroes’ has spent years here and there across the television board. From ‘CSI’ to ‘Lizzie McGuire’ to ‘Charmed’, Quinto spent quite a while dotting around the place. it wasn’t until FOX’s ’24’ took him on as a season regular in Season 3 that Quinto had a proper chance to shine. Then in 2006, he played played the role of Sasan, gay best friend of Tori Spelling on her VH1 series, ‘So NoTORIous’.

Then came along the chance of a lifetime, the role of serial killer Sylar who has killed off more characters than I care to imagine. But it wasn’t until JJ Abrams 2009 reboot of ‘Star Trek’ did our anti-hero catch the attention of film-goers everywhere. In the role of JJ has said, “Zachary brought a gravity and an incredible sense of humor, which is a wonderful combination because Spock’s character is deceivingly complicated. The revelation for me watching the movie, when I finally got to watch the whole thing after working on sequences, was that he is extraordinary. He was doing things I didn’t even realize while we were shooting – these amazing things to track his story.” SuicideGirls.com

Zachary’s next role is appearing opposite Anna Faris in comedy ‘What’s Your Number’ due in 2011 as well as the currently untitled ‘Star Trek’ sequel due for release in  2012.

4. Katherine Heigl

Katherine’s first reoccurring role in television was on ‘Roswell’ where she played Isabel Evans for 61 episodes between 1999-2002. The next time we heard from her was in 2005 in the role of Isobel ‘Izzie’ Stevens in ABC’s medical drama ‘Grey’s Anatomy’.

Throughout her six series on the show, Izzie had been put through some of the most heart-wrenching and dramatic storylines of the entire cast. From having her finance, Denny Duquette, die in the season two finale of an ischemic stroke to surviving a metastatic melanoma where her chance of survival was only 5%. Her character came to a head in the show’s most recent season as Heigl decided to leave the show to spend more time with her family as she felt it unfair to viewers for Izzie to return and depart again.

But where has this left Katherine? I don’t think she is too worried because since 2007’s knockout pregnant comedy ‘Knocked Up’ which released the new brat pack (think Seth Rogan et al…), she has gone on to star in ’27 Dresses’ in which she plays a bridesmaid but never the bride and this was followed by ‘The Ugly Truth’ co-starring Gerard Butler as a womaniser who could teach a thing or two to women…

Next is upcoming action comedy alongside Ashton Kutcher, ‘Killers’ which is due for release in June. Katherine plays Jennifer who meets Ashton’s character, Spencer. The two fall in love and marry, unbeknown to Jennifer, her husband works for the CIA and there is a killer waiting for them…

So there you have it, just some recent stars who have moved from the small screen to the big and as their careers start to move up the Hollywood ladder it’s interesting to note the new intake of television stars and just how long it will be until we see them on film.

About The Author

Reviews Editor, Contributor and Festival Coordinator

Ollie has written for Front Row Reviews pretty much since its inception about seven years ago whilst still studying Film & Television. Since then, he was trust into the world of independent film distribution and has recently started working with Picturehouse Entertainment in their Marketing Department. Having written and produced two radio series, he is moving hoping to (one day) write a web series/short film/feature (delete as appropriate ;)). His favourite director is David Lynch (which makes him make a lot of sense!) and his favourite films are The Hours, Mulholland Drive, Volver, Blade Runner and Bridget Jones Diary.

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