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11 Hollywood actors who got their big break in music videos

Actors can't just walk on to the set of a blockbuster, they've got to cut their teeth somewhere first – whether it's on TV, onstage or in a music video. Here are 11 actors who found name on MTV before Hollywood came calling…

11 Hollywood actors who got their big break in music videos
Words:
Sam Law

Ultimately two sides of the same showbiz coin, there’s always been a comfortable crossover between the worlds of heavy music and moving pictures. From Taylor Momsen in The Pretty Reckless to Jared Leto with 30 Seconds To Mars, every so often we get those great, crossover superstars. Classics such as This Is Spinal Tap and School Of Rock stack up alongside modern stand-outs like Heavy Trip, Deathgasm, Metalhead and Lords Of Chaos to prove the dark pageantry of our scene works well up on the silver screen. Hell, the great Sir Christopher Lee even dropped a handful of metal albums late in his venerable career, while metal’s Prince Of Darkness Ozzy Osbourne cranked out four anarchic seasons of reality TV long before anyone had heard of the Kardashians.

The celebrity cameo in music videos is its own phenomenon, throwing up collaborations as weird and wonderful as Halle Berry and Limp Bizkit (Behind Blue Eyes), Elisha Cuthbert and Weezer (Perfect Situation) or Jay Baruchel and Idlewild (Every Little Means Trust). Every so often, though, we’ll be revisiting our favourite clips from years gone by and catch glimpse of a famous face – younger, greener than we’ve known them – that didn’t register first time round. So here are 11 of our favourite instances of stars-to-be earning their on-screen stripes alongside some of our favourite bands…

Aaron Paul in Korn’s Thoughtless video

Long before his ill-fated meth-cook Jesse Pinkman ran into the Machiavellian Heisenberg in AMC’s incredible Breaking Bad, Idaho native Aaron Paul Sturtevant turned up alongside Bakersfield nu-metal icons Korn. The second single from their fifth album Untouchables, Thoughtless is a bludgeoning, atmospheric epic. Its Hughes Brothers-directed music video matches up, putting a millennial twist on Stephen King’s Carrie, with the 22-year-old Aaron’s protagonist tormented by bullies in his high school’s corridors. Rather than going on a telekinetic killing spree, though, his tormentors' punishment must be more severe… Turning up to prom with a devilishly good-looking date (Penthouse model Aimee Sweet), the actor proceeds to douse his aggressors with a literal torrent of bile – a vomit shot that’s nowadays equal parts nightmarish and hilarious, echoing the infamous spew scene in Team America: World Police. It’s an unforgettably bizarro, commendably NSFW piece of work all the same, and although he also starred in the less-interesting clip for Everlast’s White Trash Beautiful, we like to think it was this Korn clip that really set Aaron’s award-winning career in motion.

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Christina Hendricks in Everclear’s One Hit Wonder video

Speaking of Everlast, their nineties near-namesakes – Oregon alt. rockers Everclear – had already scored one of the key players from an iconic 2000s TV show for the promo video to 1997’s misleadingly-titled One Hit Wonder. Before she played the sexy, intimidating Joan Holloway in AMC’s endlessly compelling period drama Mad Men, British-American actress/model Christina Hendricks cropped up as Loopy in the aforementioned cut. Putting in an almost unrecognisably peppy, all-energy performance as the game-show contestant, Christina’s late-’90s alt.rock vibe is colourfully on-point. Unfortunately, her appearance was overshadowed somewhat by the appearance of real-life DJ and TV personality Wink Martindale on outrageously sleazy form. We can’t feel too bad, though, as Christina’s been stealing scenes in everything from Drive to Toy Story 4 ever since...

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Zooey Deschanel in The Offspring’s She’s Got Issues video

An accomplished actress, model and singer/songwriter, it shouldn’t be the biggest surprise that Californian superstar Zooey Deschanel’s first really noteworthy on-screen appearance came in a music video. Few not in the know would guess that bow was in the cut for She’s Got Issues, the fourth single from The Offspring’s 1998 smash-hit Americana, though. The song’s arguably misogynistic message – a woman with a history of emotional abuse needs to ‘check her baggage at the door’ – hasn’t aged well, but Zooey’s red-haired heroine remains a stand-out: involuntarily hallucinating the men in her life as cartoon villains, consulting a psychiatrist about her problems, and ultimately being vindicated when she finds that the all-male band have set up to play, uninvited, in the middle of her home. It’s a performance filled with sympathetic stardust, even if Zooey was still a way off the prototypical manic pixie dream girl who won our hearts in 500 Days Of Summer, Your Highness and across seven seasons of New Girl.

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Minka Kelly in Puddle Of Mudd’s She Hates Me video

While we’re mentioning 500 Days Of Summer, that movie’s Autumn (Zooey’s fellow Los Angeles native Minka Kelly) also got her start providing the feminine foil to a band of romantically-challenged rockers – in this case, Kansas City’s Puddle Of Mudd. Rather than being the object of their affections, though, she seems equally aggrieved, yelling those titular frustrations into a telephone before trashing her bedroom. It’s one of the most stereotypically early-2000s music videos imaginable, but the song is every bit as raucously catchy as you might remember, from a band better known nowadays for ropey Nirvana covers. Minka was evidently in a groove, and cropped up in Something Corporate’s video for If You C Jordan in the same year. Having played main character Lyla Garrity across four seasons of Friday Night Lights, as well as filling pivotal roles in Charlie’s Angels, Almost Human and DC’s Titans, it’s safe to say she’s moved on to bigger things.

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Finn Wolfhard in PUP’s Guilt Trip video

Before he began battling the Demogorgon as Mike Wheeler in Netflix’s retro hit Stranger Things, Vancouver native Finn Wolfhard got his first taste of leading-man responsibility in the music video for Guilt Trip, from his fellow Canadians PUP. Cast as a younger incarnation of Toronto frontman Stefan Babcock, in a dark, Stand By Me-influenced coming-of-age story, we see the brilliantly-named Finn Wolfhard and his band of friends running wild in British Columbia, before tangling with a cop, accidentally killing him with his own gun and disposing of the body in a makeshift funeral pyre. The video would prove an integral part of his audition for the equally Stephen King-inflected Stranger Things, before he went the whole hog as Richie Tozier in the excellent 2017 adaptation of It. A starring role in the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife promises that he won’t fade into child actor obscurity, too. Oh, and his own short-lived indie-rock band Calpurnia weren’t half-bad, either. (Finn is also currently a member of The Aubreys.)

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Jack Black in Foo Fighters’ Learn To Fly video

Sure, Jack Black wasn’t exactly an unknown in 1999. Having been active since the age of 13 (in a TV commercial for the video game Pitfall!), our favourite loveable goof had small roles in the likes of The X-Files, Demolition Man, Waterworld and Mars Attacks!, while Tenacious D was formed with The Actor’s Gang colleague Kyle Gass in 1994. Before his breakout role as an livewire record-store employee Barry Judd in cult 2000 romantic comedy High Fidelity, and The D’s 2001 self-titled debut, however, his friend Dave Grohl invited Jack (and Kyle) to play the part of hapless drug-traffickers in the now-iconic video for Learn To Fly. Foolishly stowing their narcotic cargo in an aeroplane’s coffee filter, they ensure that every caffeine-addict onboard subsequently enjoys one hell of a trip. Dave would return the favour, playing the demon in the equally-unforgettable cut for Tenacious D’s 2001 breakout Tribute. Jack would go on to an appropriately high-flying career as one of Hollywood’s favourite comedy actors in films like School Of Rock, King Kong, Bernie and the excellent Jumanji reboots, but he’s always kept a finger in the hard rock pie.

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Matt LeBlanc in Jon Bon Jovi’s Miracle video

Although life before Joey Tribbiani for Matt LeBlanc feels almost unthinkable to Friends fans nowadays, the Massachusetts man grafted hard for his break, with his first notable appearance coming in a 1987 TV commercial for Heinz Tomato Ketchup. Perhaps his most notable work pre-Friends, however, was his appearance in the video for Jon Bon Jovi’s 1990 hit Miracle. Part of the Young Guns II soundtrack, the video has a modern wild west feel, with Jon himself hogging the spotlight as the leader of a benevolent biker gang tearing through the Mexican desert and into a small town. Matt plays the least haggard-looking of his troupe, who spends much of the video flashing sultry looks at a local señorita before convincing her to jump on the back of his bike and ride into the Sonoran sunset. It’s a definite precursor to Matt’s many romantic leading-roles in the years that followed – not to mention proof of his petrolhead credentials for that period spent fronting Top Gear. He sure must’ve enjoyed himself, as he cropped up again 10 years later as Claudia Schiffer’s spurned lover in the video for twangy 2000 Bon Jovi single Say It Isn’t So.

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Angelina Jolie in Meat Loaf’s Rock ’N’ Roll Dreams Come Through video

The daughter of renowned screen actors Jon Voight and Marcheline Bertrand, there was a degree of inevitability about Angelina Jolie’s eventual superstar status. Having committed to the profession at age 16, she had small roles in videos for Lenny Kravitz and The Lemonheads, but it was a pivotal part in the video for Meat Loaf’s Rock ’N’ Roll Dreams Come Through – helmed by future blockbuster director Michael Bay – which really opened the door to bigger things. The high-production clip sees Angelina as a teenager exploring one of her city’s seedier corners, who discovers Meat Loaf trapped inside a fortune-telling machine just as she’s about to be set on by a gang of thugs. It’s a wild ride from there, as the singer breaks free, saves the day and takes our heroine on a tour of the local downtrodden souls, proving the importance of hanging on to hope. Angelina’s Hollywood breakout came two years later in cult cyber-thriller Hackers, and she would go on to play some of her generation’s most iconic roles, like Lara Croft in Tomb Raider and Gendel’s Mother in Beowulf, while her humanitarian work as Special Envoy to the UN for refugees is above and beyond her peers’.

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Kim Kardashian in Fall Out Boy’s Thnks Fr Th Mmrs video

Before she broke the internet, became the first lady of American Reality TV and redefined celebrity social media, Kim Kardashian was just a little-known friend of fellow socialite Paris Hilton. She had obviously crossed paths with Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz by early 2007, mind, and found herself filling an important role for the music video to the Chicagoan pop-punks’ vowel-deficient mega-single Thnks Fr The Mmrs. Entering around the 2:40 mark, Kim is cast in the music video within the music video as Pete’s love interest, before the director (a chimpanzee, obvz) sidles in to show the bassist exactly how the love scene should be done. Said chimp is later seen caressing KK as the band perform, prompting Pete to trash the set. Sharing the video on Snapchat to mark its 10th anniversary, Kim evidently considers it an important step in her meteoric rise since.

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Jenna Elfman in Anthrax’s Black Lodge video

One of the biggest American sitcoms of the late-’90s, ABC’s Dharma & Greg felt like ubiquitous viewing for many of the pre-broadband generation. Hung on the high-concept of a couple of polar opposites – free spirited yoga instructor/dog trainer Dharma Finkelstein and straight-laced lawyer Greg Montgomery – who got married on their first date, the show played on all sorts of hippy vs conservative fish-out-of-water set-ups. Before she played the titular Dharma, however, Californian actress Jenna Elfman found herself starring in the video for Anthrax’s atmospheric 1993 single Black Lodge. Inspired by surrealist TV show Twin Peaks and featuring David Lynch mainstay Angelo Badalamenti on keyboards, it's one of the classics of the John Bush era. The video is predictably weird, focused on a paralysed woman being taken care of by her husband, before a younger lady (Jenna) is kidnapped and hooked via electrodes to a mad-scientist set-up so that her catatonic counterpart can vicariously experience some feeling through her skin. It’s a far cry from D&G, truth be told, but probably prepped Jenna pretty well for more recent roles in The Twilight Zone and Fear The Walking Dead.

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Mila Kunis in Aerosmith’s Jaded video

Aerosmith were the kings of before-they-were-famous music video cameos in the 1990s and early 2000s. Eva Mendes and Sean William Scott both crop up as high school students in the Weird Science-alike cut for 1997’s Hole In My Soul, while Alicia Silverstone, Liv Tyler (frontman Steven’s daughter) and Josh Holloway famously starred in 1994’s Crazy, with Alicia having anchored the videos for Cryin’ and Amazing, too. Most recently, they cast Ukrainian-American actress Mila Kunis in the clip for 2001’s Jaded. Playing a young woman who lives in the lap of luxury but feels increasingly, yep, jaded with her lavish existence, we get loads of shots of Mila looking increasingly bored with her fancy meals, acrobatic entertainers and massive library of her subterranean abode, before finally escaping to the rustic open air of the forest above. She has since gone on to star in movies like Black Swan, Friends With Benefits and Ted – not to mention her inspired voice work as Meg Griffin in Family Guy – but she’s truly upstaged here by a shirtless Joe Perry shredding a guitar solo in a fully-lit fireplace.

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