Amateur Cast

aka: Non Actor Cast
"They don't use actors in Italian pictures — they use people."
Jerry Biffle (Phil Silvers), Top Banana

Any movie, show, etc. (that is, not a documentary), where the cast is composed of untrained or untried actors and actresses. Directors do this for a variety of reasons, usually for the art or for the budget, and less commonly to avert potential Hey, It's That Guy!, You Look Familiar, and/or Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize moments.

Can become Retroactive Recognition if an actor or actress becomes famous afterward. Differs from Non-Actor Vehicle in that the non-actors tend to be unknown to fame.

The inverse of this trope is All-Star Cast.


Anime Film
  • As the page quote suggests, almost any movie from the Italian neorealism period:
  • Raising Victor Vargas, which makes good use of Real Life Relatives to play related characters.
  • The Afghan movie Osama did this.
  • Werner Herzog is known to do this, with Stroszek being the best example. Bruno S. made only two films, both with Herzog, and Eva Mattes was the only professional actress in it — everyone else was just someone whom Herzog saw during filming and wanted to use.
  • Peter Hall's 1974 British film Akenfield used entirely non-union amateur actors (and apparently cameramen, too, by the look of it).
  • To Kill a Mockingbird did this with the parts for the children, which were filled by local kids near the shooting spot. None of them went on to have a career as a normal actor.
  • Many of the actors in A Serious Man.
  • Most of the Harry Potter kids had never acted professionally at the time of the first movie, in contrast to the All-Star Cast of adults; this was a reason Chris Columbus was selected as director thanks to his great track record of children-heavy films. However, the series lasted so long that the actors ceased to be amateurs simply through the process of making it.
  • Martin Scorsese cast his Dalai Lama biopic Kundun mostly with actual Tibetan Buddhist monks.
  • The Kite Runner did this, at least with the Afghan actors, using actual Afghan people.
  • Most of the cast of The Commitments (at least the actors who portrayed the band) were mostly unknowns selected for their musical talent.
  • The star of District 9, Sharlto Copley, was hired because he just happened to be hanging out where the director was filming footage for the effects test.
  • French director Robert Bresson used to do this.
  • The Swedish movie Show Me Love had a largely inexperienced cast.
  • In the film version of I Miss You I Miss You nearly all of the teenage characters were played by amateurs.
  • The punks in Suburbia are, in fact, played by real punks.
  • Steven Soderbergh made Bubble without any professional actors. Lead actress Debbie Doebereiner, for instance, was discovered working at a KFC drive-thru.
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild has an entirely unknown cast, many of them acting for the first time.
  • "Manos" The Hands of Fate mixes Amateur Cast with Amateur Crew and Amateur Voice Acting to produce something that has become notorious around the world.
  • Besides the lead couple none of the cast members of Monsters (2010) had any acting experience.
  • Miloš Forman used non-actors and mixed them with rather famous actors in his Czech movies from the sixties. Most notable of these movies is probably The Firemens Ball.
  • Fatal Deviation, with the exception of Mikey Graham.
  • The director of Once originally intended to hire professional actors but decided that, as it was a musical, he'd rather have "musicians who could half-act than actors who could half-sing." Since the acting in the film is very understated anyway, it works well.
  • Dogtooth Most of the actors haven't had much of an acting history, if at all. The director has stated that he prefers working with amateurs, as he finds their performances more pure.

Live-Action Television
  • The original cast of Red Dwarf had all appeared on TV and/or film before, but none of them were "proper actors": Chris Barrie was an impressionist & voice actor, Craig Charles was a poet, Danny John-Jules was a dancer and Norman Lovett was a stand-up comedian. Likewise, Hattie Hayridge was also a stand-up comedian before joining the cast in Series III; however, Robert Llewellyn and Chloe Annett (who joined the cast in Series III and VII respectively) were both "legit" actors.
  • The early 90's cast of Saturday Night Live was made up almost entirely of standup comedians (David Spade, Adam Sandler, etc.) instead of the improv actors the series had relied on. Although vindicated by history, the ratings were so low that the show was almost cancelled. This is often blamed on the cast concentrating on characters from their standup instead of doing ensemble work.
  • Peter Kay assembled the cast for Phoenix Nights form stand-up comics, personal friends from college and elsewhere, and otherwise amateur actors, because he knew them all and had a feeling they'd work together.

In-Universe Examples:

In the film "A Bunch of Amateurs", Burt Reynolds' character is tricked into doing a production of King Lear with people who may be considered close to your local book club or church choir.

Alternative Title(s):

Non Actor Cast