This entry is trivia, which is cool and all, but not a trope. On a work, it goes on the Trivia tab.

Darkhorse Casting

Sometimes, a director doesn't want famous actors and actresses in his movie. Maybe it's to avoid a bias in the viewers, maybe they just want a challenge, or maybe they just want to help struggling actors and actresses in the brutal world of show biz. For whatever reason, a director will go out of their way to find obscure actors and actresses to put in their movie.

Contrast All-Star Cast. Look at Ensemble Darkhorse for a definition of darkhorse.


  • What George Lucas was trying to do, and almost succeeded in doing, when casting for the original Star Wars trilogy. Harrison Ford read the part of Han Solo while they were casting for Leia, and did so well in the role that Lucas finally relented.
    • And again in the sequel trilogy. Besides some of the original cast, actors and actresses in the main leads are relatively unknown, such as Daisy Ridley, Crystal Clarke and Pip Andersen.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia manages to almost pull it off, Liam Neeson as Aslan being one of the only mainstream actors in the films.
  • Exaggerated in Boy Meets Girl, where Michelle Hendley was cast from Missouri on the basis of her YouTube channel. She had never acted prior to playing the lead in that film.
  • Was the case with Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston in Thor. The initial reaction to the casting was of bafflement at their relative obscurity.
  • Harry Potter film series had a lot of famous British actors for the adult characters such as Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman, Richard Harris etc. The child actors playing the younger characters such as the main trio started their careers in this franchise.
  • Pacific Rim pushed Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi and Idris Elba into the main roles. Elba is already famous thanks to his role as Heimdall in the Marvel Cinematic Universe while Kikuchi is only known for her Oscar-nominated role in Babel and is not very famous in her home country. Unless one watches Sons of Anarchy, a lot of people don't even know who Charlie Hunnam is. Asides from Elba, Ron Perlman seemed to be the only other recognized name in the movie.
  • While The Matrix was in preproduciton, the suits wanted a big name actress to play Trinity. The Wachowskis fought hard to get their choice, a then-unknown Carrie-Anne Moss.

Live-Action Series
  • Game of Thrones had a lot of unknown actors and actresses at that time and the one of the only mainstream actors in the cast is Sean Bean whose character got killed off in episode nine of season one.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Neil Patrick Harris and Alyson Hannigan (and maybe Jason Segel) are the only mainstream actors in the main cast back then. In fact, the actress who played the Mother is unknown.
    • Even then, NPH had left TV for stage work and had been doing mostly guest spots if anything for almost 10 years, Hannigan coming off of Buffy into a sitcom was hardly a lock... and Segal was just starting to get attention, most of it still 'cultish' due to Freaks and Geeks.
  • Every Disney Channel and Nickelodeon live-action series is given an almost entirely unknown child cast (as most of them are just starting their careers). The adults could be people who rose up the Kidcom ranks (i.e. Jerry Trainor, Beth Littleford, Brian Stepanek), D-list actors from obscure adult shows (i.e. Rosa Blasi, Steve Valentine, Hal Sparks), Black sitcom parents (i.e. Kadeem Hardison, Chico Benymon), people more known for voice acting (i.e. Daran Norris, Jack DeSena), or comedians (i.e. Chris Tallman, Stephen Glickman)
  • At least four of the leads of Arrested Development (Michael Cera, Will Arnett, Tony Hale, and Alia Shawkat) were completely unknown when the show began. Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, David Cross, and Jeffrey Tambor were all fairly well-known at the time; Jessica Walter was somewhere in the middle.
  • Band of Brothers: David Schwimmer seemed to be the only recognized name among the cast due to his popularity in Friends and he only had a small role as Captain Herbert Sobel. The rest of Easy Company characters were played by actors who were unknown at that time.