7 Movie Stars That Got Their Start on the Stage

Lists   7 Movie Stars That Got Their Start on the Stage
 
You'll never guess which Hollywood celebs have a stage background.
Hugh Jackman
Hugh Jackman

In any given season, Hollywood stars arrive on Broadway, lending their star power to plays and musicals. In this season alone, we’ve had Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard, Jake Gyllenhaal in Sunday in the Park with George, Sally Field in The Glass Menagerie, and Danny DeVito in The Price. But what about when it goes the other way, and Hollywood plucks talent from the stage? Playbill takes a look at seven movie stars who got their start in theatre.

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Luke Evans Jesse Grant

1. Luke Evans
You might have seen Luke Evans recently singing and dancing as the vain and boorish Gaston in the live-action film version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, but he’s most famous for his performances in movies like Clash of the Titans, The Raven, and The Three Musketeers. His excellent singing voice may have been a surprise to fans of his action performances, but not to anyone who has been tracking his career since its beginning. After graduating The London Studio Centre in 2000, he appeared in several West End musicals, including Miss Saigon, Rent, Avenue Q, La Cava, and Taboo—he can be heard on the original London cast albums of both La Cava and Taboo.

Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman Denis Makarenko / Shutterstock

2. Natalie Portman
Oscar winner Natalie Portman is well known for her performances in such films as Black Swan, Jackie, and the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but her earliest professional gig came at age ten when she understudied future Broadway star Laura Bell Bundy in the Off-Broadway musical Ruthless! Soon thereafter, she made her film debut in 1993’s Léon: The Professional and went on to appear in Everyone Says I Love You, Beautiful Girls, and Mars Attacks! She returned to the stage in 1997, playing the title role in a revival of The Diary of Anne Frank, but since appearing in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Portman has stuck to the big screen.

Sarah Jessica Parker as Annie
Sarah Jessica Parker as Annie

3. Sarah Jessica Parker
Actor and fashion icon Sarah Jessica Parker is best known these days as Carrie Bradshaw from the HBO series Sex and the City—for which she won a 2004 Emmy Award. But as a kid, she appeared on Broadway in the original Broadway production of Annie. First cast as July, Parker went on to become the third young actor to don the red curly wig in the title role. Soon after, she was cast in the sitcom Square Pegs, and went on to appear in films like Footloose, Honeymoon in Vegas, and Hocus Pocus. Parker hasn’t completely stayed away from the stage, however. She created the title role in A.R. Gurnie’s Sylvia Off-Broadway in 1995, replaced Megan Mullally as Rosemary in a 1995 Broadway revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and originated the role of Princess Winnifred in a Broadway revival of Once Upon a Mattress in 1996.

Kristen Bell attending the opening night party for <i>The Adventures of Tom Sawyer</i>, April 26, 2001
Kristen Bell attending the opening night party for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, April 26, 2001 Joseph Marzullo

4. Kristen Bell
Like Luke Evans, Kristen Bell returned to her musical theatre roots recently to voice Princess Anna in the 2013 Disney film Frozen, but she’s probably best known for her television performance in the title role of Veronica Mars and films such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall and When In Rome. Bell started her career studying musical theatre at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, leaving just before graduation to appear on Broadway as Becky Thatcher in the short-lived musical version of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. A year later, she appeared as Susanna Walcott in the 2002 Broadway revival of The Crucible, but since then she’s stuck to Hollywood.

5. Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman in <i>The Boy From Oz</i>
Hugh Jackman in The Boy From Oz Joan Marcus

Before he was Wolverine on screen, Hugh Jackman starred in a series of stage musicals in Australia and on London’s West End, including Beauty and the Beast, Sunset Boulevard, and Oklahoma! He began his association with Wolverine in 2000, playing the character in the original X-Men, making quite a name for himself. That performance led to a string of film roles in the X-Men series, as well as movies such as Kate & Leopold, Van Helsing, and The Prestige. Jackman has never been far from his theatre background, however; he made his Broadway debut and won a Tony Award playing Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz in 2003, played Jean Valjean in the 2012 film version of Les Misérables, and hosted the Tony Awards four times.

Catherine Zeta-Jones in <i>Chicago</i>
Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago Miramax

6. Catherine Zeta-Jones
Catherine Zeta-Jones won an Academy Award playing merry murderess Velma Kelly in the 2002 film adaptation of Chicago, so it shouldn’t come as any big surprise that she has roots in musical theatre. She made her West End debut at the age of nine playing one of the orphans in Annie, and at eleven she played the leading role of Tallulah in Bugsy Malone. She also appeared in a touring production of The Pajama Game before joining the West End company of 42nd Street as the second understudy for the leading role of Peggy Sawyer. She made her film debut in the 1990 movie 1001 Nights, and has mostly stuck to the screen since. Zeta-Jones did return to theatrical life to make her Broadway debut as Desirée Armfeldt in the 2009 Broadway revival of A Little Night Music, for which she won a Tony Award.

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Morgan Freeman Joseph Marzullo/WENN

7. Morgan Freeman
King of the voiceover and star of such films as Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank Redemption, and Invictus, Morgan Freeman surprisingly made his Broadway debut early in his career playing Rudolph, the Harmonia Gardens Maitre’d, in Hello, Dolly!, part of the all-black replacement cast that included Pearl Bailey. He also appeared in The Dozens, Purlie, and The Gospel at Colonus, but after being cast in the 1987 film Street Smart, he quickly became a mainstay in Hollywood. He returned to Broadway in 2008, playing Frank Elgin in The Country Girl.

Logan Culwell-Block is a musical theatre historian, Playbill's manager of research, and curator of Playbill Vault. Please visit LoganCulwellBlock.com.

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