Actors seem to age in spurts. If you just went by how they looked in each of their films, in order, their actual gradual aging process isn't obvious because of their filming schedules (and, well, makeup). As a result, they appear to age inconsistently from film to film.
It's more interesting to trace their career trajectory in reverse, back to when they made their silver screen debuts. You might not recognize them right away.
Check out Jennifer Aniston, Denzel Washington and Johnny Depp in their nascent stages and realize how young and innocent they looked before tabloids weathered their reputations.
What follows is a series of luminaries making their debuts on the silver screen. Grab some popcorn because you just got a front row seat to Hollywood Rewound. How many can you identify immediately?
1. Johnny Depp
Depp owes his big screen debut in A Nightmare On Elm Street in 1984, to late director Wes Craven's daughter. She was asked which actor should play the hot boyfriend. She chose well.
2. Charlie Sheen
For his first role ever in 1986, Sheen shows up as a juvenile delinquent in Ferris Bueller's Day Off to make out with Jennifer Grey. The part wasn't much of a stretch for him. He's notorious for his womanizing, unpredictable behavior on set and his tabloid-soiled lifestyle.
3. Nicholas Cage
Cage's film debut was in 1982 in a bit part in Fast Times At Ridgemont High. It was the only time he was credited as "Nicolas Coppola."
4. Elijah Wood
Wood was a child actor in many movies and TV shows. Shown here at 8 years old, he is featured in 1989's Back To the Future 2, lambasting "archaic" arcade video games, much to the chagrin of Marty McFly.
5. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Long before traversing between the Twin Towers as Phillippe Petit in The Walk, Gordon-Levitt charmed audiences as young Norman (Craig Sheffer) in A River Runs Through It in 1992.
6. Vince Vaughn
In 1993, Vaughn starred alongside Sean Astin in the triumphant sports film, Rudy, before making his mark in raunchy comedy with films like Old School and Wedding Crashers.
7. Charlize Theron
The stunning Theron got her first role as Tina Powers, girlfriend to Guy Patterson in That Thing You Do in 1996.
8. Matt Damon
Here's someone who didn't drastically transform when he grew up, but did you know that Damon started off in the biz with a bit part in Mystic Pizza? Don't blink or you'll miss him.
9. Jennifer Aniston
Aniston made her feature film debut in 1993 in the cult horror flick Leprechaun. Apparently some of that leprechaun luck must have rubbed off, as she went on to a successful career, earning her a string of awards including an Emmy for her role as Rachel in Friends.
10. John Cusack
Cusack was originally cast in the role of Bender in The Breakfast Club, but the studio opted to go into production for Sixteen Candles first, where he was given the role of Bryce for his big screen debut.
11. Daniel Craig
Despite having a small role in the much criticized AKid In King Arthur's Court in 1995, Craig eschewed the bowl-cut coif and eventually became a force to be reckoned with as the stylish Agent 007 in the recent JamesBond films.
12. Jake Gyllenhaal
Before spooning Heath Ledger, Gyllenhaal was in another Western-genre film for his debut in City Slickers in 1991 at ten years old.
13. Denzel Washington
Washington's first foray into film was in Death Wish in 1974. His role as a mugger was so short that he was uncredited.
14. Reese Witherspoon
14-year-old Witherspoon earned the respect of many critics with her impressive debut in 1991's Man In The Moon. During screen tests director Robert Mulligan said about her captivating performance that "she just jumped off the screen, simply as a personality. I couldn’t tell whether she could act or not, but she’s got a wonderful face and there’s a brightness and intelligence there."
15. Sarah Jessica Parker
Though she's no stranger to showbiz, Broadway child actress Parker broke into film in 1984's Footloose as Ariel's friend Rusty. Originally, the role had been offered to Parker's Square Pegs television show costar, Tracy Nelson, who backed out at the last minute. During production, Parker confessed to crushing on Kevin Bacon. Who didn't?
16. Jodie Foster
Foster's first breakthrough role was as a child prostitute in Martin Scorsese's controversial film, Taxi Driver, in 1976, earning her a nomination for an Academy award. She was 14 at the time and beat out other contenders for the role of Iris including Melanie Griffith, Linda Blair and Carrie Fisher.
17. Brad Pitt
Brad is that you?! It most certainly is. Before he made a name for himself, he made appearances in Less Than Zero (1984) as "preppie guy at fight," in Hunk (1987) as "guy at beach with drink" and a waiter in No Man's Land (1987), alluncredited. After a few television appearances, the now-Hollywood golden boy was finally recognized for his work as J.D. in Thelma & Louise and went on to become a Hollywood household name.
18. Courtney Cox
Long before she played a cougar in Cougartown, Cox herself was preyed on by a manther. The manther's name was Bruce Springsteen (a.k.a., The Boss) in his "Dancing In the Dark" music video. A bright-eyed 20 year old Cox was brought up onto the stage and danced in the spotlight with Springsteen, forever haunting the dreams of many horny teenage boys. Her film break came soon after with Masters of the Universe in 1987.
19. Gwyneth Paltrow
This Hollywood scion of actress Blythe Danner and film producer Bruce Paltrow had her big break as the young Wendy Darling in 1991's Hook. But the frozen childhoods of Neverland offered no allure, as she grew up and enjoyed the fruits of her successful career.
20. Nick Offerman
Offerman didn't always play affable, quirky characters as he did in the TV show Parks and Recreation. Megan Mullaly's hubby's earlier film role was in Sin City in 2005.
21. Sam Rockwell
The 90s were introduced to a young Rockwell making one of his big screen debuts in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie as "Head Thug."
22. Michael Fassbender
Fassbender's feature film debut was as the Spartan warrior Stelios in the movie 300 in 2007. The German-Irish stage and screen actor is known for his extreme discipline in preparing for roles, but 300 proved to be particularly challenging. He said “I did seven-minute circuits and had to eat almonds and cottage cheese. It was pretty full on for 10 weeks and competitive....It was brutal and you’d see an exercise and feel physically ill." His efforts paid off, however, and just made us want to see more of him!
23. Jennifer Connolly
Connolly made her film debut as the young Deborah (Elizabeth McGovern) in the 1984 crime drama Once Upon A Time In America. Beginning her career as a model, she definitely earned respect as an actress after numerous commercial films. She eventually won an Academy award for her supporting role as Alicia Nash in Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind.
24. Sigourney Weaver
Just two years prior to kicking aliens' asses into the far reaches of the universe, Weaver made her first ever cinematic appearance as Alvy's (Woody Allen) date for a six second walk on at the end of the iconic 1977 rom-com, Annie Hall. She says that it is an important film because it's modern, and that she is still proud of it today because of its portrayal of a "relationship that's also a friendship. And it's about the evolution of these two people."
H/T - stars