5 Movies That Cast Randoms Off The Street In Major Roles

Plenty of actors got discovered just walking down the street while being unspeakably beautiful, eating at a restaurant while being unspeakably beautiful, or verbally abusing bank personnel while being unspeakably beautiful. But prior to becoming household names, they'd usually at least taken an acting class or two. Most unspeakably beautiful people have, for some reason. What's much more amazing are the times that fame was thrust upon someone who never saw (or even wanted it to be) coming. Like how ...

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5
Beasts Of No Nation's Main Character Was A Random Kid Skipping School

Beasts Of No Nation is about a kid who becomes a child soldier, making you 1) think about that sad reality, and 2) wonder where the hell they found a young actor capable of playing such a heavy role. Maybe he's a stunted adult, like Tom Cruise? Nope, and it turns out the filmmakers didn't have to look very far. He was right there, skipping class and playing soccer on the streets of Accra.

To be clear, we're talking about the kid on the left, not Idris Elba.NetflixTo be clear, we're talking about the kid on the left, not Idris Elba.

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The crew initially put out a casting call through Ghanaian TV and radio, but that only attracted kids from rich families. Since this was a movie about child soldiers and not a toothpaste commercial, the casting director tried a different (and somewhat creepier) approach: wandering the slums of Accra chatting up random boys. Among those boys was 13-year-old Abraham Attah, who was found playing soccer while skipping class. Attah wasn't interested in auditioning at first, but other kids "kind of pushed him" into doing it, which we're seeing as further evidence of the virtues of bullying.

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As part of the audition process, the boys were shown scenes from war movies and asked to recreate them. Attah was picked out of the thousand or so children who were tested. So remember, kids: Stay out of school, bow down to peer pressure, and you too could end up winning an Independent Spirit Award and appearing in a Spider-Man movie.

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Related: 7 Celebrity Careers That Launched By Accident

4
Up In The Air's Laid-Off Workers Were Real Laid-Off Workers

Up In The Air starred George Clooney as an expert in "termination assistance" (someone who fires people, not an action hero who sends bad guys flying in the air with a rocket launcher, sadly). Naturally, the movie required a bunch of actors to portray people who'd been fired, but director Jason Reitman was having trouble with those roles. He tried to write parts for them, but they just sounded phony. Apparently, being the movie director son of a movie director doesn't give you a whole lot of experience with unemployment.

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So Reitman simply scratched out the "actors" part and recruited people who'd actually been fired. Considering that the movie was shot in 2009 America, this wasn't terribly hard. Reitman advertised (falsely) that he was making a documentary about job loss, and got "a few hundred" responses. He sat 100 laid-off workers in front of a camera, interviewed them for a while, and then asked them to pretend they'd just been sacked again. Of these, 25 ended up in the movie. Which is nice for them, but maybe not so nice for the other 75, who felt like they got fired from a movie about getting fired.

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This set the tone of a serious movie about America in the Great Recession, thus freeing up the script to move away from these poor wretches and focus on a rich attractive guy moping for two hours.

Related: 5 Great Performances By Actors (Who Weren't Acting)

3
Return Of The Living Dead 3 Hired A Homeless Dude Because He Already Looked Like A Zombie

Zombie movies don't usually attract the most respected thespians, but you could tell the casting people were really lax on 1993's Return Of The Living Dead 3. Why? For one of those roles, they just grabbed a homeless dude off the streets of Los Angeles, cleaned him up, then dirtied him in a more Hollywood fashion.

Luckily, most homeless in California already have a SAG card.Trimark PicturesLuckily, most homeless in California already have a SAG card.

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That man was Clarence Epperson, who was hired after director Brian Yuzna found him loitering in a local airport. He was deemed suitable for the role due to his skinny frame and ability to make guttural noises of the sort one might associate coming from a reanimated corpse. Epperson stole the show as a zombie who comes to life and bites the fingers off an unwary technician, although according to those present during filming, the real horror came from the fact that his Borat-esque restraining suit kept flapping open and revealing his old man dong.

His middle school social studies teacher haircut makes it all the more terrifying.Trimark PicturesHis middle school social studies teacher haircut makes it all the more terrifying.

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According to the commentary, the scene took more than one day to shoot, so the crew got a room for Epperson at a nearby motel to make sure he didn't wander off. Impressively, Hollywood's newest star adapted perfectly into the pampered celebrity lifestyle by making sudden demands for more money and limousine rides to the set. He even showed up at the cast party, handing out professional headshots in the hopes of getting more acting work. Unfortunately, Epperson never did appear in any other films, and this whole entry was just kind of a bummer in retrospect. Sorry about that.

Related: Bizarre Ways Actors Landed Their Most-Famous Roles

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2
A Woman Scored A Role In Gone Baby Gone Because Of Her Prolific Cursing

For his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, Ben Affleck didn't rely entirely on the star power of Hollywood heavyweights such as Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, and Casey Affleck (impressive that he even got that last guy's number). To deliver true authenticity, Affleck hired working-class Bostonians and gave them dialogue -- most notably Jill Quigg, who bypassed the audition process by dropping F-bombs near the director.

If everyone who used curse words near Affleck appeared in his movies, the industry would go bankrupt.MiramaxIf everyone who used curse words near Affleck appeared in his movies, the industry would go bankrupt.

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According to Amy Ryan, who plays the negligent junkie mom, one day this "crazy loud fierce woman" just waded into the set to pick up her son. After running into the barricades, she went on a Tarantino-esque tirade, which should have earned her a spot in a better kind of film, now that we think about it. Another source says Quigg snarled at a neighbor after his dog terrified her son. Whatever the case, the barrage of expletives resonated with Affleck. The director immediately cast the woman as Dottie, Ryan's onscreen best bud.

Although Dottie enjoyed less than ten minutes of screen time, Quigg proved useful offscreen. Ryan said she got plenty of help from Quigg trimming her New York accent when the Afflecks weren't giving her an earful of Boston-speak. Quigg then went on to appear in The Fighter as one of Mark Wahlberg's 27 or so foul-mouthed sisters. That's her last credited role, but come on, she got to cuss at Affleck and Wahlberg. What more could an actor possibly want out of life?

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Related: 6 Crazy Auditions That Landed Actors Their Famous Roles

1
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest Was Cast By A Used Car Dealer

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest was filmed in a real mental institution, the Oregon State Insane Asylum. Many crew members and actors were legitimately criminally insane, like the arsonist who worked in the art department. What did the hospital's director make of this nonsense? Probably not much, since he was too busy acting in the movie himself (as Nicholson's supervisor).

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Meanwhile, the man in charge of casting was a used car dealer and part-time rodeo announcer named Mel Lambert, who got the job by sitting next to Michael Douglas on a plane. Douglas was producing the movie and mentioned they were looking for someone to play Chief Bromden, a massive, silent inmate who plays a big role in the story.

If they couldn't find the right actor, they would've made Danny DeVito stand on top of someone else.United ArtistsIf they couldn't find the right actor, they would've made Danny DeVito stand on top of someone else.

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Six months later, Lambert called Douglas to say, "Michael, the biggest sonofabich Indian came in the other day!" It was William Sampson, a rodeo performer Lambert had spotted at a trade fair in Yakima, Washington. The production had to send "a couple of guys in horses" to track down Sampson way up a mountain and tell him some famous Hollywood people wanted him to shoot a movie in an insane asylum, even though he'd never acted before. But hey, he was 6'5'' and the right race, and that's all that mattered. Sampson said sure.

After that, Lambert was tasked with coming up with 35 actors to play inmates, so he put out an ad asking people if they had "a face that scares timber wolves," or if "people get sick when they look at you." They wanted to give the place a certain atmosphere, and probably also make Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd look sexy in comparison.

Even sexier, we mean.United ArtistsEven sexier, we mean.

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E. Reid Ross has a book called BIZARRE WORLD that's due to be released in September. He's practically on his knees begging that you preorder it now from Amazon or Barnes & Noble and leave a scathing/glowing review. Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for bits cut from this article and other stuff no one should see. Steven Assarian is a librarian. He writes stuff here.

For more, check out All The Times Viggo Mortensen Almost Died Making Lord Of The Rings:


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