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Demented Dozen: Legendary Garbage
12 Forgotten Early Roles of Superstars
By: Lazarus Jones
Obnoxious people who incessantly retweet inspirational hashtags will tell you that the only place "success" comes before "work" is in the dictionary. And, as much as I'd love to "rise and grind" their pompous, fortune-cookie-phrase-spouting faces into the business end of a wood chipper, I have to admit: they're right. Success doesn't happen overnight. Even the most famous celebrities, who may appear as though they comfortably blundered themselves into popularity thanks to their chiseled good looks and charisma, actually struggled at their craft long after the point many of us would have given up and left Hollywood behind.

It's easy to look at these glamorous stars being paid millions to play pretend and assume that their path to celebrity was a highway paved with gold. However, for many of them, the reality is that their success was a long, treacherous path populated with potholes and roadblocks.
A few months back, we mocked celebrity siblings who suck on the teat of their more famous relatives. This time, we decided to do something a bit different. We want to take a look at the B-movies & low budget cult flicks that helped give future superstars some of their earliest paychecks. Some movie stars try to distance themselves from their early work for fear of exploitation (Sly Stallone's X-rated debut in "The Party At Kitty And Stud's" comes to mind), while others are merely embarrassed by their poor performances (Sly Stallone in "Death Race 2000" comes to mind).

Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with remembering your roots and celebrating the perseverance you needed to achieve success. If anything, learning that Brad Pitt endured some sort of struggle, and wasn't merely assembled in a Beverly Hills laboratory as part of an experiment to create the ultimate woman pleaser, humanizes that Adonis and makes him damn near inspirational. And now, I proudly present to you Legendary Garbage: 12 forgotten early roles of superstars!
#12) Michael J. Fox in CLASS OF 1984 (1982)
Michael J. Fox seemingly exploded out of nowhere to take the 80s by storm.

Starting with his star turn as Alex P. Keaton in the popular sitcom Family Ties, which premiered in the fall of 1982, the fantastic Mr. Fox erupted into celebrity as the iconic Marty McFly in Back To The Future and the titular character from Teen Wolf; both in 1985. But prior to this wild success, Michael J. Fox struggled as an actor for a decade, appearing in 11 TV shows throughout his teenage years.

Shortly before landing Family Ties, Michael J. Fox had a small role in the cult classic film Class of 1984. The film follows the power struggle between a new teacher and a gang of punks that have overrun the school. As "Arthur", Michael J. Fox portrays an innocent young student who is bullied by those dastardly delinquent bastards.

The film also stars Roddy McDowell and is essential viewing for any B-movie fan. Think of it as "Blackboard Jungle" meets "The Warriors"!
#11) Jeff Goldblum in DEATH WISH (1974)
Jeff Goldblum was in a lot of good shit before becoming a household name. In 1977, he rubbed elbows with Christopher Walken, Burgess Meredith, Jerry Orbach, Beverly D'Angelo, and John Carradine in The Sentinel. In 1978, he took part in the only version of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers that you've actually watched more than once. In 1983, he was in The Big Chill (which I guess we can consider his "big break"). Later, he would star in The Fly, Transylvania 6-5000, and (my personal favorite) Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension.

But before he could solidify himself as the quirky, nerdy expert guy in every 90s movie ever, Jeff Goldblum had to get his start somewhere. In his first ever role, 1974's Death Wish, he is the despicable hoodlum who breaks into Charles Bronson's apartment and fucks with his family. And from that day onward, NO ONE WOULD BE ABLE TO FORGET THE NAME OF... "Freak #1".

Today: this guy's apartment.
Tomorrow: THE WORLD!
#10) Brad Pitt in CUTTING CLASS (1989)
Brad Pitt has had a stellar career, with a stretch of films from 1995 to 2001 that are more than enough to ensure his name will be forever remembered as Hollywood royalty. His meme-ified performance in Se7en was only the start of an epic run: he was flamboyant in Twelve Monkeys, sympathetic in Seven Years In Tibet, powerfully charismatic in Fight Club, delightfully unintelligible in Snatch, and just plain charming in Ocean's Eleven. By that point, it's clear that he's more than just a pretty face and more than merely a decent actor; he's THE guy.

Most people were introduced to Brad in the incredibly popular 1994 adaptation of Anne Rice's goth vampire novel Interview With The Vampire, but he was no young'un. Believe it or not, he was already 30 when that film came out. Many of us saw (and loved) the Ralph Bakshi directed half-animated film noir Cool World in '92, but die-hard Pitt fanatics will swear that they fell in love with him even before that, with his memorable supporting role in Thelma & Louise. What no one can really claim, though, is that they saw him coming as far back as 1989, when he was featured in a by-the-numbers slasher/teen thriller called Cutting Class.

Roddy McDowall ALSO stars as a teacher in this flick, which is curious... he's clearly not qualified to control a classroom if this shit keeps happening on his watch.
#9) George Clooney in RETURN OF THE KILLER TOMATOES (1988)
George Clooney started acting in 1978, when he was but a wee lad of 17 years.
You didn't learn of his existence until he was 31 years old, when he joined the cast of ER in 1994.

That means that somewhere, there is 14 years of young George Clooney films and TV appearances out there that you don't even know about. Let that sink in, ladies. You missed out on his best years. His peak physical condition. Nearly a decade and a half of George Clooney's sexual summit just *poof*, gone in the wind like the tiny umbrella seed stems of a dandelion, dispersing themselves in the wind.

You missed out on the surfer movie that he made with Gene Simmons and Michelle Pfeiffer's sister. You looked over the high school slasher comedy. You never saw that time he dressed up as a transvestite. You didn't catch the made-for-TV dramatization about the first World Trade Center bombing. You never even watched that one about the giant grizzly bear attacking the rock concert. You're pathetic.

For the sake of this list, though, his performance in Return Of The Killer Tomatoes really takes the cake. For one, he truly is the star of the film (even though he's cast as the buddy). Also, this movie is easily the 3rd greatest thing he's ever done, just behind From Dusk Till Dawn and Stacy Keibler.
#8) Jennifer Aniston in LEPRECHAUN (1993)
I'm actually a big fan of Jennifer Aniston, because she's always made it a point to do more than just the sure fire rom-coms that would guarantee her a sizable paycheck. She enjoys comedic acting, small indie dramas, and yes... she even once starred as a white trash scream queen in my favorite of the ridiculous-creatures-as-villains films: LEPRECHAUN.

Leprechaun has always been more comedy than horror, but it pretty much has to be; if you try taking a killer Irish imp TOO seriously, then you're entirely out of touch. The slapstick comedy and ludicrous situations make Leprechaun worth watching, and if that doesn't do it for you, they have a young and supremely gorgeous Jennifer Aniston in 90s jean shorts.
#7) Bradley Cooper in MY LITTLE EYE (2002)
To say Bradley Cooper "starred" in My Little Eye is stretching the truth. I made a point to find true leading roles in genre films when I was assembling these A-list avengers, but this might be the smallest role featured in this entire list. That being said, I'm still including it NOT because I didn't have enough examples of superstars in B-movies to make a full dozen (in fact, I have so many I'm thinking of making 3 of them this year!)... rather, I'm leaving it in because of just how impactful his small role is to the plot of the film.

My Little Eye is a 2002 thriller/horror film about a group of strangers who sign up to live in a secluded house together as part of a reality show. The house is rigged with dozens of webcams which broadcast their day-to-day lives on the internet as a sort of "human aquarium". There are no challenges or hosts stirring up scripted drama between the housemates, all they have to do is stay there for the full 6 months and they'll win $1 million. Think of it as "Big Brother" meets "House On Haunted Hill", for the internet age.

Bradley Cooper stumbles across the house halfway through the film, stirring the pot and being treacherous as fuck right when we need him to be. It's an effective, if a little boring, single location horror film that is only worth a watch if you like indie, no-budget thrillers. Or, if you just want to see a budding young Bradley Cooper, who at that point in his career had only done a couple TV shows and had gotten 16th billing in Wet Hot American Summer.
#6) Leonardo DiCaprio in CRITTERS 3 (1991)
Yes, before usurping power from Jonathan Taylor Thomas to make every teen girl's heart throb in the late 90s, young Leo DiCaprio was a child star. He appeared in cheap commercials, showed up on soap operas and sitcoms, and even appeared in this lovely little horror comedy called Critters 3.

The Critters franchise is a sort-of campy, lower budget knock-off of Gremlins, intended to appeal to the middle school & high school audience during the glory days of VHS. As far as Gremlins rip-offs go, the Critters series is decent, ranking just below the funnier Munchies (1987) and just above the stupider Ghoulies (1985), on a list that doesn't exist and that no one asked for. Even among fans of these mini-monster movies, Critters 3 is widely regarded as junk, which is even more reason for you to rebel against the masses and buy a Critters 3 T-Shirt. You little non-conformist, you!
#5) Paul Rudd in GEN-X COPS 2: METAL MAYHEM (2000)
Yeah, I know that Paul Rudd was already sort-of famous by the year 2000. He had been in Clueless and starred in one of the shittier Halloween sequels, so I get it... he was “known”. But, he really didn’t have a brand yet. He was sort of “generic vanilla dude” who was just charming enough to make you go "I think I've seen that guy before", but not recognizable enough to make you say “Oh yeah, Paul Rudd! I like that guy”. He wasn’t yet the meat of his own entree, but rather an easily substitutable side item:
“Yes I’ll have the Pork Osso Bucco, but instead of the Paul Rudd can I get Tom Everett Scott on the side?”
“Excellent choice, madam!”

Even if you claim to be the biggest Paul Rudd fan in the quantum realm, I know one thing: you DID NOT see him in Gen X Cops 2: Metal Mayhem.

Also known as “Gen Y Cops”, this Hong Kong action flick is full of surprises. At all times it's a zany comedy, a cyberpunk thriller, a kung fu flick, a sci fi actioner about a dangerous robot, AND a buddy cop movie. With so much going on, it somehow manages to be a totally unmarketable mess and yet every movie you’ve ever wanted to see all rolled in to one. As far as sequels go, though, this flick is more anonymous than American Psycho 2. This movie is as whispered and forbidden as an actual fight club: you simply don’t talk about it. And that’s a damn shame, because Gen Y Cops is so fun I feel like every B-movie aficionado should enjoy it!

Gen-X Cops 2: Metal Mayhem is technically a sequel to the Jackie Chan-produced flick Gen-X Cops, which tries to be a sort of "Kung Fu Mod Squad". Jackie Chan already had very little to do with the original, and he has absolutely NOTHING to do with this sequel. And no, you do not need to see the first Gen-X Cops to understand what's happening here. You don't even need two brain cells to rub together to comprehend this nearly 2-hour action fest.

Basically, a super-hacker genius created the ultimate robot warrior for a big company that cut ties with him the instant the prototype was marketable. He hacks the robot and tries to steal it back from the company right when they're showing off the bot at a big battle robot conference. Paul Rudd is the FBI agent sent to Hong Kong, tasked with getting the robot back safely, but at every turn he's finding his full throttle approach to law enforcement undermined by the zany antics of the Gen-X cops. All you need to know is that whereas most of the cyberpunk flicks of this era were bleak visions of a post-apocalyptic future, Gen Y Cops is the polar opposite: it’s a perpetually buoyant, manic experience that alternates between delivering bang-bang action and eliciting giggles. A full page dedicated to this film is coming soon. I promise.
#4) Mila Kunis in PIRANHA (1995)
Mila Kunis started acting way before That 70s Show. She was born in Ukraine to very successful Jewish parents, and in between school semesters, she would spend her summers as a child actor. One of her earliest roles is the creature feature Piranha from 1995, when she was a mere 12 years old.

This made-for-TV remake of the 1978 classic was filmed in true Roger Corman fashion: he didn't bother shooting new creature effects for the film, instead choosing to recycle old footage. The sets and props were designed to look similar enough to the first film to make those inserts look more natural. And that's pretty much par for the course with this movie; it's essentially a rehash of a movie you've already seen. It's as useless as the male nipple. The only reason to watch this movie is if you really want to see Mila Kunis during her awkward pre-teen years.

You know what, though? If that's all you're after, just watch Santa With Muscles. That way you also get some Hulkster in your day, brother!
#3) James Spader in THE NEW KIDS (1985)
Before he was the fucking lizard king, James Spader was a part-time member of the “Brat Pack”, starring alongside the likes of Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, and Robert Downey Jr. He was one of the few members of this informal group of teen stars who readily and quickly adapted to serious dramatic roles, which is why it’s so easy to forget that James Spader was ever young at all. But prior to his rapid rise to success, Jimmy Spades (as no one calls him) was in a little horror flick called The New Kids.

The New Kids was the brainchild of one Sean S. Cunningham, the creator of the extremely popular Friday The 13th series. Right smack dab in the middle of the 80s slasher craze, he was all primed to return to the teen thriller, but this time with a new approach. Lori Loughlin and Lori Loughlin’s very hairy brother move in with their creepy Uncle Charlie in South Florida. Uncle Charlie runs a dilapidated old theme park called “Santa’s Funland”, and he enlists the kids’ help in restoring the place to its former glory. Complicating matters are the kids’ frequent run-ins with a gang of renegade redneck bullies, known down south as “good ol’ boys”, led by James Spader.

Spader acts as if his blood is made of molten lava, but he’s trying to ignore it; his face bursting with a barely suppressed rage at all times. I don’t know if he’s channeling James Dean or Johnny Blaze. As someone who’s lived in both south Florida and Spader’s hometown of Boston, I find his forced southern drawl both impressive and hugely insulting. One one hand, I’m actually impressed that anyone from BAH-stun could even be taught to pronounce things correctly; on the other hand, he goes so far into country bumpkin territory that even Jim Varney would tell him to “tone it down a little bit”.

#2) Jim Carrey in THE DEAD POOL (1988)
Everyone remembers Jim Carrey as having had a “meteoric rise to fame”; a guy who seemingly jumped from the set of In Living Color right into being the biggest comedic star of the 90s. People who consider themselves Jim Carrey superfans may have sought out a couple early flicks like Earth Girls are Easy or Once Bitten, but few people know that Jim was in 13 movies and 2 TV series over the course of more than a decade prior to hitting his home run with the first Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

Among those largely forgettable low budget projects and made-for-Canadian-TV films is one notable standout: The Dead Pool. This was the fifth and final film in the Dirty Harry saga, and though Jim isn’t exactly a main character (he only appears for about 3 minutes), he’s still got an unforgettable moment. He plays a drugged-up rock star who’s filming a video in a sleazy hotel for “Welcome To The Jungle”, when a robotic hooker goes on the fritz, causing Jim to argue with his director, Liam Neeson. It’s a totally weird, somewhat dark, and completely bat-shit introduction to one of Hollywood’s wackiest actors. The whole movie is like that; wildly swinging from zany comic book antics one moment to gritty police drama the next. When Clint Eastwood is the 3rd most interesting thing about your movie, you’re doing something right in my book.
#1) Angelina Jolie in CYBORG 2: GLASS SHADOW (1993)
Angelina Jolie is such a recognizable name, you literally can't think of a time when she existed and wasn't famous. Even in her early days, she was in Hackers, Foxfire, Gia, and Girl, Interrupted; all of which earned her more than enough attention for her beauty if not her acting ability. She was Jon Voight's daughter at a time when that still meant something. She had a ridiculously public relationship with Billy Bob Thornton, complete with graphically detailed tabloid tales of their sex life. I mean, from the moment she stepped in front of a camera, she was straight-up the most famous woman around, right?

Wrong.

Even Angie had to pay her dues, and hers is among the most embarassing performances on this list. In Cyborg 2: Glass Shadow, Angeline Jolie stars as a deadly cyborg named Cash Reese alongside Jack Palance, Billy Drago, and Elias Koteas. It's a totally derivative, poorly acted, badly plotted attempt to cash in on the popularity of a number of different sci fi franchises. Originally, Cannon Films had developed a live action feature film adaptation of Masters Of The Universe, starring Dolph Lundgren as He-Man. When they thought this movie was going to be a hit (instead of nearly bankrupting them), they had intended for there to be sequels. The sets and costumes from the planned sequel were used to create the Jean-Claude Van Damme masterpiece Cyborg.

Later, they would continually recycle both sets and footage from the original Cyborg to make this sequel, which was originally set to be released in 1991, to capitalize on the release of a more popular killer cyborg film: Terminator 2: Judgment Day. They not only failed to capitalize on that, they failed in a lot of things. When Angelina eventually saw this movie, she claims to have gone home to get sick. Personally, I think she over-reacted: who wouldn't want to star in a sequel to a knock-off using second-hand sets from a dying studio?
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