The road to the Oscars is paved with lots of unglamorous, not-quite-red-carpet moments that many of the nominees would rather forget. But we think they should be proud of how far they’ve come to get this close to Oscar gold. With the 2017 Academy Awards coming up on February 26, we’re looking back fondly and paying homage to what the lives of 10 nominees were like before they became big stars.
1. Emma Stone
Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for La La Land
Before Emma wowed the world with her pitch-perfect performance as an aspiring actress in La La Land, she was trying to launch a slightly different type of singing career. You see, back in 2004 (when she still went by Emily instead of Emma), Emma competed on the VH1 reality show competition, In Search of the Partridge Family. The prize? A starring role on a reboot of the famed ‘70s sitcom about a musical family. Singing songs like “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks and “We Belong” by Pat Benatar won her the role of Laurie Partridge. Wondering why you never saw it? The rebooted Partridge Familynever got picked up, but you can check her out in the clip, below. And while Emma says In Search of the Partridge Family was her first industry job in Hollywood, her first actual job was at the Three Dog Bakery at the Farmer’s Market, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
2. Casey Affleck
Nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role in Manchester by the Sea
You may have thought of Casey as Ben Affleck’s cute younger brother before his breakout, emotional, star-making turn in Manchester by the Sea. However, this is not his first nomination — he earned one in 2008 for his role in The Assassination of Jesse James. You might also recognize him for his roll of Tom Myers in American Pie and of course, American Pie 2. As the wise older brother of Kevin Myers (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Casey’s character basically gave Kevin the idea that his group of guy friends needed to lose their V-cards by prom night. But even Casey's road to those small parts weren’t without some less glamourous ways of getting by — like shoveling snow and being a busboy at a restaurant in Pasadena that he doesn’t remember the name of.
3. Michelle Williams
Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role in Manchester by the Sea
It’s hard to forget that Michelle Williams basically became a household name when she popped up on the ‘90s hit drama Dawson’s Creek as cool girl Jen Lindley. But it’s worth noting that before she came between Joey and Dawson, Michelle appeared as a popular teen on an episode of Baywatch in 1993 — see it for yourself, below.
4. Ryan Gosling
Nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role in La La Land
Singing, dancing, and acting — the triple threat that is Ryan Gosling has been in his DNA ever since he broke out on the Mickey Mouse Club in the early ‘90s (the same show that launched the careers of Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, and Britney Spears. NBD).
5. Andrew Garfield
Nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role in Hacksaw Ridge
When Andrew Garfield was 17 years old, living away from home and trying to make it as an actor, he did what many struggling to find their big break do: He took a side hustle. Yes, Andrew became a barista at one of London’s very first outposts of Starbucks. It wasn’t exactly glamorous, and because this was London—the land of tea drinkers, not coffee—it wasn’t exactly a bustling spot to work. Luckily that was short lived because the roles starting coming in. He even was on two episodes of the ever popular Dr. Who.
6. Octavia Spencer
Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in Hidden Figures
When Octavia Spencer was a 16-year-old girl growing up in Montgomery, Alabama, she interned on the set of the movie The Long Walk Home. The film was about a maid (played by Whoopi Goldberg) who gets involved with the Montgomery bus boycott. Fast forward 25 years later and Octavia was nominated for—and won—her first Oscar for playing a maid that goes up against her demeaning employer in The Help.
7. Viola Davis
Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in Fences
Viola Davis is truly one of the great actresses of our time—she has an Emmy for How to Get Away with Murder and has already been nominated for two other Oscars (for her work in the films The Help and Doubt). But, there was a time when Viola’s talents were heavily under appreciated. Her first film role paid just $518. It was a movie called The Substance of Fire starring Tony Goldwyn and Sarah Jessica Parker, and Viola played a nurse with limited screen time. She recently admitted at this year's Golden Globes that before her acting career took off, she had a job “flipping bingo cards.”
8. Natalie Portman
Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Jackie
Let’s talk about what a small, small world Hollywood is for a moment. Natalie Portman, who already has a coveted Best Actress Oscar for her jarring performance in Black Swan, was once a wide-eyed, young girl with big dreams of “making it.” She spent a lot of time honing her skills at theater camps so it was no surprise that her first foray into theater was when, at 10 years old, she became the understudy for the lead in an off-Broadway show called Ruthless. Here’s the kicker: the other understudy was none other than a young Britney Spears.
9. Dev Patel
Nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Lion
With no acting experience at all, Dev Patel landed his first role after his first audition back in 2006 when he was just 16 years old. His lucky break was on the hit British teen drama Skins, where he played Anwar Kharral, a British/Pakistani/Muslim teenager. It was just two years later that he landed the role of Jamal Malik in Danny Boyle’s acclaimed (and Oscar-winning Best Picture) Slumdog Millionaire. Check out Dev on Skins, below.
10. Michael Shannon
Nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Nocturnal Animals
Michael made sure the world stopped and took notice with his powerful, Oscar-nominated performance in 2009’s heartbreaking Revolutionary Road. But before he was Oscar worthy, Michael was still giving great performances, albeit on a much smaller scale. One of his first? He starred in a music video for the metal band Every Mother's Nightmare, playing a troubled teen. His film debut was more memorable, as he appeared in the Bill Murray cult classic Groundhog Day as a wedding groom.