Star-Making Role

"Everyone said I was an overnight success, but it was ten years leading up to that."
Naomi Watts, in relation to her success with Mulholland Dr.

Every A-List star starts somewhere. They do bit parts and walk-on roles, sometimes even becoming "that guy". They may be a lesser part of an Ensemble Cast who becomes an Ensemble Darkhorse. They may even wind up doing something they may not be proud of later. Either way, when their memoirs are written or they sit down with James Lipton, this is the role that they point to and say "that's where it really started for me" — the rise from obscurity to main player. The role may have been written for the specific purpose of making this specific person a star by showcasing their talents. More often than not, it's a case of taking the right part and running with it. This is the role they earn their name with.

This isn't always a star's first role. It's not even their first film or series to be a major success. It might even become completely overshadowed by the parts it helped give them in bigger-budget productions. It's the first role where they stop being "that guy" and become known by their name alone.

See also Retroactive Recognition for reactions to roles the actor had before his SMR (think Harrison Ford as a bellhop in Dead Heat On A Merry Go Round, here). Contrast Star-Derailing Role for when the star goes in the opposite direction. Compare Breakthrough Hit (equivalent for creators).

Pages with their own sets of examples:

Other examples:

  • Playboy Magazine has a habit of turning its centerfolds into stars (albeit usually as sex symbols who have difficulty being taken seriously as actresses). Several of them have gone on to bigger and better things after posing nude for the infamous men's magazine; some become so famous that it's easy to forget they got their start as one of Hef's girls.
    • Marilyn Monroe, the magazine's first ever nude model, gracing the cover of the very first issue.
    • Jayne Mansfield
    • Bettie Page
    • Shannon Tweed
    • Pamela Anderson
    • Anna Nicole Smith
    • Kelly Monaco
    • Kendra Wilkinson
    • Jenny McCarthy
    • Brande Roderick
    • Donna D’Errico
    • Sara Jean Underwood
    • Dorothy Stratten
    • Carmen Electra
    • Erika Eleniak
  • Japanese voice actress Saki Fujita has had plenty of roles in popular anime, including Yuru-Yuri and Attack on Titan, but what won her worldwide fame was lending her voice to the creation of the second Character Vocal Series software program - for some character called Miku Hatsune.

Alternative Title(s):

Breakout Role