This is the time of year when we often think about the opportunities that make us grateful. Celebrities are no different. Sometimes they are thankful for a helping hand or a lucky role that catapulted them into the limelight, or adversity that changed their fate.
Hilary Swank, who won two Oscars, says it was a special role that moved her to the next level.
“I’m not one to ever expect anything in my life, but I was hoping I would get the opportunity to test my chops and challenge myself,” she says.
“I was just lucky with that opportunity when ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ came along because they didn’t want someone who was famous. It was the right time. I’m very thankful for that and for the opportunities that have arisen since then …”
A car accident when he was 17 changed Vince Vaughn’s path.
“I was a passenger in a Jeep that was flipped, it was a one-car accident. I got hurt in that and couldn’t go out for sports. So I went out for a play … because I wasn’t able to play sports. It wasn’t like I would’ve been great at sports, it was just an activity I wasn’t able to do. That really put me bent on acting from that moment on.”
For Jay Leno it was a serious rejection that marked a milestone.
“I always remember when I was with ICM the agency, and the agent called me one day and he said to me, ‘You know, it’s not we don’t think you’re a funny comic, it’s just that you’re just not the kind of guy whose face is going to be in a newspaper. And we don’t see you going anywhere.’
“And I said, ‘OK, all right. Thank you.’ I just always remember that. It was my third time on the cover of Time Magazine so it just made me laugh. I always think of that agent going, ‘You’re married, you don’t fool around, you don’t drink, you’re not going to get in the tabloids.’
“I said, ‘OK, so you’re dropping me?’ ‘Yeah, we’re dropping you.’ I said. ‘OK, thanks, you guys.’ So thankfully I have not had an agent and I haven’t had to give 10 percent of my money to anybody for 20 years so it’s worked out fantastic.”
Dennis Quaid says he was warned by everyone he knows not to try acting.
“I was so lucky, when I was 18 I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life. I came out here when I was 21. I just never thought that I wouldn’t be able to get roles. I had people who told me, ‘You’ll never be able to break into that. Do you know there are 30,000 people in the Screen Actors Guild and .0001 percent ever get to work?’ I figured I’d be one of those .0001 percent. You gotta believe. But I’d be doing this even if it were regional theater, I just love it.”
Jodie Foster, who had been a child actress, says she couldn’t make the transition to grown-up roles.
“I didn’t work for a long time. I kept going to auditions and kept getting rejections. I started feeling really bad for myself, got depressed and slept a lot of the time. Finally I battled for ‘The Accused’ and got it and I did the movie and left the set and said, ‘I think this is worst performance I’ve ever given. Obviously I’m never going to be an actress, I’d better apply for grad school,’ which I did. I just wanted to hang my head in shame because I thought I’d screwed up and was not meant to be an actor.
“The performance was jarring for me because it wasn’t me. It was somebody else that didn’t feel comfortable to me in some ways. It was just somebody who I wasn’t. There was no way for me to control how tough she was. I kept saying, ‘I know I should be able to play this a different way, but I can’t, so I must not be a very good actor.’ There was a lot of doubting. Then the rush of nice criticism. It was the first time in many years that anybody liked my work. It was really helpful.”