Many of the wholesome mainstream film stars that we know and love have taken at least a role or two in more explicit movies. These torrid roles are often forgotten or overlooked as these stars have gained fandom. But we are revealing the seedy roles that stars have used to prove their acting abilities early in their careers. You are going to be surprised a few of these lesser-known roles of major A-list celebs.
Emily Blunt boasts an impressive range of movies under her belt including the iconic The Devil Wears Prada and more recently, the horror flick, A Quiet Place. However, before those, she appeared in the R-rated film, My Summer of Love. The movie explored the romantic relationship between two women. It won the Best British Film Award by BAFTA in 2005.
As a very talented actress, Natalie Portman got into the film industry at the young age of 12. She secured a lead role in Léon: The Professional in 1994, playing a young protégé to a hitman played by Jean Reno. While the film was Portman’s debut breakthrough, her parents were reluctant to let her act the part because of explicit sexual and violent script content. Nevertheless, the movie pushed through and was met with overwhelming positive reviews from critics.
Who wouldn’t know Julia Roberts’ work in Pretty Woman as Vivian Ward? This A-lister celebrity is well-known for her roles in romantic movies, but before that, she was cast in Mystic Pizza. The R-rated movie was released in 1988, and Roberts was only 20 years old. Roger Ebert, a movie critic, says the film most likely came out before the actor became famous.
Vanessa Hudgens will always be our iconic Gabriella Montez from the High School Musical movies. However, before she played the singing teenager, she worked on a supporting role for the movie Thirteen. The teen drama film featured themes of substance abuse, sex, and crimes. Two years later, Hudgens landed her role in the Disney musical show, which skyrocketed her singing career.
Ryan Gosling captured everyone’s hearts when he played Noah in the romantic film, The Notebook. Although he began his showbiz career as a child star in Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club, his first starring film role was an R-rated one. Gosling played Daniel, a Jew who became a neo-Nazi in The Believer. The movie was critically acclaimed, with critics praising the actor’s “raw and electrifying performance.”
Most fans nowadays recall Winona Ryder as the frantic mother ‘Joyce Byers’ in Netflix’s hit series, Stranger Things. However, she first gained attention for her performance in Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice. Shortly after that, she starred in her first R-rated movie called 1969. The film dealt with the social tensions between the supporters and detractors of the Vietnam war. Ryder was only 17 when she filmed a love scene with Kiefer Sutherland.
Anne Hathaway started as a teenage Disney sweetheart when she starred in The Princess Diaries. As the actress went on to explore her craft, she made a transition to adult roles with the crime drama film, Havoc. Her character was a tough-talking woman who hung around gang members and drug dealers in the inner-city of Los Angeles. The movie featured several nude scenes and illegal substances.
Actor and film producer Leonardo DiCaprio has a notable preference for unconventional roles, particularly in biopics and period films as evident in his filmography. His first R-rated film was This Boy’s Life, a coming-of-age movie based on the memoir of the same title. He portrayed Tobias Wolff, a writer whose childhood life was depicted in the movie. DiCaprio acted out a lot of scenes containing themes of physical and verbal violence with Robert De Niro.
Before starring in one of the highest-grossing films of his era including Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum first appeared in the R-rated film, Death Wish. He played a New York City thug. While he did not play the lead role, his character was crucial.
Aside from physical acting, Goldblum is also a voice actor who has done background voice overs for commercials including Apple, Toyota, and Procter & Gamble.
While it was Lost in Translation where Scarlett Johansson landed a lead role in an R-rated film, it wasn’t her first time being casted in one. The Marvel star was featured in the 1995 thriller film titled Just Cause, when she was only 11. She played a daughter who was kidnapped and threatened to be raped and murdered towards the latter part of the film. It was in 2003 when she shifted into adult roles, earning her her first BAFTA Award for Best Actress.
American actor and filmmaker Nicolas Cage starred in a variety of films all throughout his career, making him a household favorite. His several projects have earned him an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Award for his performance in Leaving Las Vegas. He debuted with the R-rated movie, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Despite getting very little screen time for that, he still gave the viewers a remarkable performance.
Kristen Stewart catapulted into stardom through her character Bella Swan in the vampire-themed romance fantasy, The Twilight Saga. However, before the box-office franchise, she auditioned for a year and landed only with small roles including her first R-rated film, The Safety of Objects. It featured four suburban families who found that their lives were intertwined. Stewart played a tomboy daughter to a troubled single mother. She had her first cigarette experience at the tender age of 11 through the movie.
Jodie Foster starred in Taxi Driver, directed by Martin Scorsese, at just 12 years old. She plays a child prostitute named Iris, who is eventually saved by a taxi driver named Travis, played by Robert De Niro. When it came to filming her more explicit scenes, her sister Connie would be her body double. At that time, Connie was just 19 years old. Nowadays, Foster is popular for her roles in suspense movies.
Another household favorite, Kerry Washington grew a huge following after starring as Olivia Pope in ABC’s drama series, Scandal. She debuted in the R-rated film, Our Song, a coming-of-age drama following three friends who tell each other everything about their lives. The movie received several positive reviews, leading to Washington landing her next roles.
Best known as Jessica Day on Fox sitcom New Girl, Zooey Deschanel charmed us with her beauty and unconventional wits in several comedy projects. One of them was 500 Days of Summer, which she starred along with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. She made her film debut in Mumford, which happened to be her first R-rated movie too. At the time, she was only 18 years old. A year later, she landed a supporting role in Almost Famous.
We all have witnessed Selena Gomez grow up in front of our screens from her role in Barney & Friends to her soaring music career. While she hasn’t been on the big screen in a while, she continues to create great music for her fans. Meanwhile, Gomez’s first R-rated film was Spring Breakers in 2012 which dealt with controversial exploitation. The movie saw her in a more mature role, reportedly leading to a meltdown on set.
Just like his co-star Vanessa Hudgens, Zac Efron rose to stardom playing the loveable Troy Bolton in High School Musical. At the culmination of the commercially successful musical franchise, Efron went to explore other projects with more mature roles. He then played roles in R-rated movies such as The Paperboy. In this movie, he falls in love with an older woman while investigating a death-row case with Matthew McConaughey.
Jennifer Lawrence, widely popular for playing Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games film series, is the highest-grossing action heroine of all time. Consequently, she has also become the highest-paid actress in the years 2015 and 2016.
Beforehand, her first R-rated movie was The Poker House, where she portrayed one of the three sisters living with an abusive mother. She won an Outstanding Performance Award for her work.
Jessica Alba is an actress most prominent for her roles in horror films. One of these is her first R-rated movie, Idle Hands. The film grossed a total of $4 million on a budget of $20-25 million, making it a commercial flop. Meanwhile, Alba got her breakthrough role in 2003 after the movie, Honey, which established her as a Hollywood actress.
Before being casted as Diana’s love interest in Wonder Woman, Chris Pine starred in the thriller film, Confession. It tells the story of a student who frames a priest in his school for a brutal murder. On the other hand, he was first seen in The Princess Diaries 2 where he gained a huge following after co-starring with Anne Hathaway. In general, he’s more into superhero-themed movies as evident in his filmography.
Hollywood actor and producer Matthew McConaughey almost didn’t make it to his debut film, Dazed and Confused. Originally meant as a small role, McConaughey’s character was eventually favored over the others, thanks to his outstanding performance throughout filming. The R-rated movie helped launch a lot of actors’ careers, with many saying that this was McConaughey’s breakthrough role.
Famously known for her iconic roles in The Devil Wears Prada, Into the Woods, and most recently, The Prom, Meryl Streep is dubbed as “the best actress of her generation.” The Tony nominee started out acting in theater productions, but it wasn’t until she watched Robert De Niro’s Taxi Driver that she decided to become a film actress. As a result, she got her first R-rated movie role as Linda, De Niro’s girlfriend in The Deer Hunter.
A respectable actor with 3 Academy Awards for Best Actor, Daniel Day-Lewis is undoubtedly one of the greatest actors ever. His big break happened with the indie and R-rated film, My Beautiful Laundrette. The movie was pivotal for the gay-themed cinema, and Lewis earned critical attention for his outstanding performance.
Page proudly came out as a transgender December last year, announcing on his social media accounts his pronoun specifications as he/him and they/them and his new name, Elliot. While we recently saw him in Netflix’s sci-fi series Umbrella Academy, his first R-rated appearance was in the thriller Hard Candy. Back then, he played a 14-year-old female vigilante who trapped and tortured a man whom she reckons as a sexual predator.
He was only 18 years old that time, but his performance received critical acclaim despite being a relatively newcomer. Page went on to win Best Actress at the 2006 Austin Film Critics Association Awards for her outstanding work.
Bradley Cooper made his film debut through the R-rated movie, Wet Hot American Summer. It took place in a fictional summer camp in 1981 and featured several sexual comedy spoofs. One of Cooper’s most notable performances in the movie was his sensual make-out scene in the woodshed with co-star Michael Ian Black.
More recently, Cooper wrote, directed and starred in the remake of the musical romance A Star Is Born together with singer-songwriter Lady Gaga. The film’s lead single, ‘Shallow,’ received numerous accolades including the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance [for Cooper and Gaga] in the 61st Grammy Awards.
Halle Berry also made her film debut through an R-rated role in Spike Lee’s 1991 classic, Jungle Fever. She portrayed Vivian in the movie, the love interest of actor Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Gator. Gator ends up being killed by his father while ransacking their home for drug money.
Berry’s most notable performance was in the romantic film Monster’s Ball in 2001, which won her an Academy Award for Best Actress in 2002. Her most recent appearance was in the mainstream action thriller film John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, starring Keanu Reeves.
We all know Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods in the comedy film series Legally Blonde. However, did you know that before gaining extreme popularity, she first appeared in an R-rated film back in 1994? Titled S.F.W., the black comedy movie was both critically and commercially flop. She starred along with Stephen Dorff, whom she falls for in the film while being held hostage together.
Witherspoon is now a producer and an entrepreneur. Together with Kerry Washington, she starred and executive produced the Hulu miniseries, Little Fires Everywhere. She owns a clothing company named ‘Draper James’ and has been named Global Ambassador of Avon Products since 2007.
Jolie was only 20 years old when she made her R-rated film debut in the 1996 romantic comedy, Love Is All There Is. The movie is a modern retelling of the Romeo and Juliet story, set in Bronx, New York. While she only played a part of the supporting cast, Jolie stood out among the list of relatively newcomers.
As for her biggest commercial success, it came with the 2014 dark fantasy adventure film Maleficent, where she played the tragic fairy and former queen of Moors. Aside from her film career, Jolie is also known for her humanitarian efforts, particularly on refugees, as a Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Before becoming Jack Sparrow and sailing the seven seas aboard the Black Pearl ship, Depp first appeared in the R-rated film, A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984. This also happened to be his film debut before rising as a teen idol through the television series, 21 Jump Street.
Depp is also a producer and musician. In fact, he received ten Golden Globe Awards nominations and won one for Best Actor in the musical film, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in 2008.
Norton has made a name for himself as one of the most successful movie debuts in the history of filmmaking. In the 1996 film Primal Fear, Norton played a young accused killer with an identity disorder. His outstanding performance won him a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor as well as an Academy Award nomination in the same category.
Despite acting accolades, Norton has gained notoriety for being difficult to work with. Rumors of him like editing the final cuts and rewriting screenplays against the will of other producers are widely known to the public. Aside from acting and filmmaking, he is an environmental activist and social entrepreneur. He is currently a board of trustees member of the nonprofit organization, Enterprise Community Partners. They advocate and develop affordable housing for all.