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Amateur Cast

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"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 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 afterwards, if not then a One-Book Author. In some cases of the latter they can become a Reclusive Artist. 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. Compare Darkhorse Casting.


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  • Following the "Great Anime Crash" of 2007-9 that sank several North American anime distributors, most of the ADR studios that remained afloat did this to save money…
    • L.A.-based recording studio Bang Zoom! Entertainment tends to use this trope nowadays when it lands a dubbing job; they'll cast newer voice actors and prefer to avoid all star casts or union association. The major exception to this is when they're asked to continue a legacy series like Haruhi Suzumiya.
    • After ADV Films collapsed and resurrected as Sentai Filmworks, their dub budget (when it existed at all) would often be a third of what it was in the old days. As a result, they cast newer names in lead roles, such as Margaret McDonald and Caitlynn French.
    • Since a lot of the veteran New York based voice actors have either moved away, or are too expensive, most of Media Blasters' works have become this.
  • Coastal, the now-defunct ADR studio in Wilmington, North Carolina that produced the dubs for Oh My Goddess! and You're Under Arrest! (among others), had casts made up chiefly or entirely of total unknowns – at best, some of them had experience in television or local theatre. Despite this, their dubs tended to be well-received.
  • Japanese example: Yu-Gi-Oh!. While the first anime ("Season Zero") featured several seasoned voice actors, the second anime ("Duel Monsters") featured Japanese voice actors who had either never done voice acting in anime before or had only had bit parts prior, including a boy-band singer as the lead character. Only a few veteran VAs were involved.
  • Wolf's Rain was this in the original Japanese; the director intentionally cast unknowns for the four leads, backed up by veterans in supporting roles. Averted for the English dub, which was as close as you get in anime to an All-Star Cast.
  • The Mexican Spanish dub of Love Hina suffered from this, due to the fact the dub was an innocent victim of a voice actor strike caused by The Simpsons's Mexican voice actors, forcing the studio on rely on this. The only veterans at the time were Naru (Carla Vega), Mei (Georgina "Gina" Sánchez) and Mutsumi (Liliana Barba)s' voice actors, and it shows.
  • Tenchi Muyo! was one of the first uncut anime dubs to use union voice actors (though it was a non-union project until partway through the second OVA). As a result most of the original cast were theater actors who hadn't had much voice acting experience beforehand, (the notable exceptions being Jennifer Darling, Ellen Gerstell, and Sherry Lynn) and they had no dub roles at all until that point. Most of them didn't have much success afterward. (Debi Derryberry is a notable exception, though she's more well know for her western animation and video game roles.)
  • Ranma ½ was probably the first example of an uncut anime dub with union voice actors, partly because Viz Media outsourced the voice acting to the Vancouver based Ocean Studios. Like Tenchi Muyo above, most of the original cast didn't do much before hand, at least in terms of dubbing. That didn't mean most of them didn't do much afterwards. In fact several cast members still get roles to this day.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • When Funimation began dubbing Dragon Ball Z in-house after losing Saban's funding and being unable to afford Ocean Studios' voice-casting, they hired many at-the-time inexperienced people to replace the Ocean cast (for example, Monika Antonelli, the voice of Puar and Chiaotzu, was a local libarian and had no voice acting experience before), who tried to imitate their predecessors for consistency before developing their own voices for the characters. They would all go on to become veterans in the industry, and have largely displaced the Ocean cast.
    • In another example, the cast of AB Groupe's dub of the various movies (a.k.a. the infamous "Big Green" dub) was made using American and British expatriates living in Paris, France.
  • Zigzagged with Funimation's approach to dubbing One Piece. Since the series has so many characters, casting consists of searching for actors outside of the usual bunch. The most important characters are voiced by professionals with many years of experience. However, most of the other characters' voice actors are taken from theatrical troupes around the United States, but they have also pulled from actors for indie video games, indie film, fan-produced content, and even podcasts. When J. Michael Tatum stepped down as the voice director, his successor was Joel Macdonald, who himself was a product of this trope when cast as Meow in Space Dandy.
  • The striking majority of the Japanese cast for Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V is made up of relatively unknown voice actors, with only Yuya (along with Yuri and Zarc), Mieru and Dennis being major names. That is despite the series' Loads and Loads of Characters.

  • Almost any movie from the Italian neorealism period. Bicycle Thieves, Umberto D, The Gospel According to St. Matthew—all amateur casts. Carlo Battisti, star of Umberto D, was a linguistics professor, and it was his only film appearance. The Tree of Wooden Clogs was made in 1978, well after the height of Italian neorealism, but was shot in the same manner, with a cast made up of rural villagers playing in a story that basically was about their own ancestors at the end of the 19th century.
  • On the Bowery is an American film that drew inspiration from Italian neorealism. It is a depressing drama about the lives of homeless winos in the Bowery neighborhood of Manhattan, starring real life homeless winos from the Bowery.
  • Many arthouse movies, independent movies, low-budget movies or amateur movies in general.
  • Ken Loach is known for only or mostly working with actors who are unknowns. He makes films about socially conscious issues and always from the viewpoint of the underdogs in society and feels that Hollywood stars can never portray such parts convincingly. Thus he casts real people in roles that are close to their own background. That way they can give performances based on experience.
  • Raising Victor Vargas, which makes good use of Real Life Relatives to play related characters.
  • The Afghan movie Osama did this.
  • Steps Trodden Black The casts only experience was high school theatre. In spite of this, the film contains some impressive performances.
  • Comic Book: The Movie is notable in that most of the cast consists primarily of voice actors.
  • 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.
  • 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 cast most roles with nonprofessional actors or those with little to no film roles. He also preferred calling them "models" rather than actors.
  • 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.
  • Kids: All actors involved, both teens and adults, were unprofessional amateurs at the time. Some, like Chloë Sevigny and Rosario Dawson, have since then become more notable actors.
  • Steven Soderbergh made Bubble without any professional actors. Lead actress Debbie Doebereiner, for instance, was discovered working at a KFC drive-through.
  • Another Soderbergh film, The Girlfriend Experience, has a cast largely made up of unknown beginners. Sasha Grey, making her non-porn debut, is one of the few experienced screen performers in it.
  • 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 to produce something that has become notorious around the world.
  • Besides the lead couple, none of the cast members of Monsters 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 Firemen's 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.
  • In universe example 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.
  • This happened with Darlene Cates, who played Grape family matriarch Bonnie in What's Eating Gilbert Grape. She was discovered after appearing on Sally Jessy Raphael's show and was mainly cast because the director couldn't find a professional actress who was big enough to fit the role. Despite a highly praised performance (especially since she had no experience beforehand), she made just one further feature film appearance (in 2018's Billboard) before her death.
  • Most of the cast of Troll 2 were local residents who responded to an open casting call hoping to be extras. George Harvey, who played the main character's father Michael, was a dentist with no prior acting experience who showed up for fun, and Don Packard, who played the store owner, was a mental hospital patient on a day trip.
  • The cast of The Room had very little experience beforehand.
  • Krisha, a No Budget Psychological Thriller, with the exception of voice actor Bill Wise, has a cast made up of the writer/director's extended family.
  • Many of the actors in Moonlight had not acted in a major production before. The actors playing young Chiron and Kevin were chosen from an open casting call in Miami and even the teen actors were relative unknowns.
  • The Mexican director Carlos Reygadas has a preference for casting non-professional actors in his films. He sees it as a way to get the most natural performances possible.
  • Almost the entire cast for Gummo was made up of locals who lived in the town the movie was shot at. The teen playing Tummler was hired after the director saw him on a TV story about children addicted to paint huffing, and one of the men in the arm wrestling scene was released from prison earlier on the day the scene was filmed. The only cast members with any acting experience prior to the movie were the ones playing Dot, Solomon, and his mother respectively.
  • The reenactment scenes from the horror docudrama The Legend of Boggy Creek casts Texarkana locals in many of the roles; some of whom being actual witnesses to the Fouke Monster recreating their encounters.
  • the cast for The Last House on Dead End Street were local theatre students the film's director/star met while attending college. A few of them later went on to find marginal success on Broadway after filming wrapped.
  • Literally the only cast member of It (2017) who was well-known before the movie came out was Finn Wolfhard, because of Stranger Things. Even then, he was cast in the movie before his show was released.

     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 and 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 and recurring cast member Clare Grogan had a few proper acting credits but was best known as the frontwoman for the new wave band Altered Images. however, Robert Llewellyn and Chloë 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 stand-up 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 stand-up instead of doing ensemble work.
  • Peter Kay assembled the cast for Phoenix Nights from 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.
  • Tim & Eric love to cast ordinary people in their shows, in keeping with their trademark Stylistic Suck aesthetic.
  • Five of the main cast of Hey Dude! - Kelly Brown (Brad), Geoffrey Coy (Kyle), Jonathan Galkin (Jake), Joe Torres (Danny), and Josh Tygiel (Buddy) - were amateur actors, and none of them have had any further screen credits since the series wrapped in 1991.
  • The 1980s revival of The Cross Wits was a rare game show example: host David Sparks and co-host Michelle Roth (also the announcer) never helmed any other shows, game or otherwise.
  • All of the child actors on Stranger Things were almost complete unknowns going into the show. This is averted with the adult actors, with the exception of David Harbour.
  • Very few members of the cast of Game of Thrones were well-known beforehand.
  • Most of the children in the Tummy Tales segments of the original run of Teletubbies just happened to be in a location the outside filming crew were at.

  • This is the norm for pinball machines, which usually don't set aside enough budget to hire professionals. Most of the companies, historically, have been in Chicago as well, a city without a large pool of professional actors to hire, though some, such as Medieval Madness, hired local theatrical actors. More often than not, though, characters would be voiced by the designers themselves, though some, such as Steve Ritchie, would become decent voice actors through sheer experience. Exceptions include The Simpsons Pinball Party, with Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, and Hank Azaria voicing most of their roles from the TV show; and Star Trek: The Next Generation with the entire main cast brought in. It says something when Stern ran dry their voice acting budget for soundalikes, uncredited and pulled off the street, for Shrek.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • This has largely been the state of pro wrestling in India since 1948, or in plain terms, for as long as the National Wrestling Alliance has been in existence. It's sheer coincidence that the Pakistan split was happening when the sport was starting to cement itself in the rest of the world but since the event there haven't been any promotions able to enjoy enough longevity to establish a roster of veterans. The exceptions that prove the rule are the television show 100% De Dana Dan, where most of the veterans were from the South Africa based World Wrestling Professionals promotion or Nigeria, and Ring Ka King, where most of the veterans were from the USA based TNA. Dara, Gama and Giant Singh are also veterans with world wide fame but the latter two are better known for wrestling outside of India and, really, southern Asia altogether. Rather than go to another "big" company, Giant Singh/The Great Khali's Continental Wrestling Entertainment instead enlisted Xavier Justice, who himself runs a promotion with a largely amateur roster in Michigan, Pure Pro Wrestling, as a trainer.
  • GLOW is one of the most iconic and successful examples. Sure, it was deliberately camp, regarded as So Bad, It's Good by its fiercest fans and intended to be a tax write off that ended up dying when the promoters got ambitious and tried to go on the road, but for a pro wrestling company built around women trying to get acting deals who were put on television after just a few months of training, it lasted a lot longer than anyone expected it to. This is largely because National Wrestling Alliance, American Wrestling Association and World Wrestling Federation weren't doing much of anything related to women's wrestling while GLOW was on television.
  • The death of the territories left several companies of this mold across California, such as All Pro Wrestling, Empire Wrestling Federation, Ultimate Pro and Xtreme Pro Wrestling. The latter tried poaching talent from ECW but it's promoter ended up gaining a nasty reputation and the company stagnated. The former three benefited from the attention of much larger Japanese companies like All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Zero 1 and Fighting Opera HUSTLE, which flew in their amateurs and generally turned them into all stars by the time they returned to the fifty states. Though when AJW and HUSTLE died, UPW was not far behind them, despite Zero 1 still being willing to prop it up.
  • CZW, which was a given since it began as a Backyard Wrestling fed and it's close rivals XPW, 3PW, the various IWAs (Mid-South, East Coast, Vintage, Deep South, Texas), WSU(before the all women Retool) and Pro Wrestling Uncensored, as well as many indirect competitors such as Gateway Championship Wrestling, American Combat Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Guerilla and Chikara, all of which basically came up in the wake of ECW. Some eventually managed to move beyond the bounds of this trope through a combination of talent retention and gaining the ability to attract more veterans(most US wrestlers on the independent circuit of any regard worked with CZW once in some form, Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli and Jon Moxley in particular lasting a lot longer with them than anyone expected them to while PWG's Battle Of Los Angeles became a go to event for many talent including those as far away as Marty Scurll), others never completely escaped it(Gateway had a well regarded roster but it's best known workers are known for working elsewhere, XPW's already been discussed, 3PW was trying to inhabit the same niche as CZW and the IWA feds and got crushed).
  • Combining an isolationist philosophy with a lack of budget results in this for most independent promotions and the many Toryumon branches such as Mexico, X and Dragon Gate, were no exception. However, with a little help from the established IWRG enterprise, Ultimo Dragon was able to create a "university" type system that allowed Toryumon shows to largely bypass the pitfalls of this trope and build amateurs up to the point they were all stars. X and Dragon Door(which ironically "suffered" from this the least) died off fairly quickly but the original Mexican branch and the Re Tooled Japanese branch Dragon Gate lasted long enough for newer companies such as Chikara and the WWN family feds to come to them for veteran talent.
  • This was Enforced on Lucha Libre Femenil, as rival promoters of Monterrey against the existence of an all women's promotion tried to starve LLF of talent, but soon defied, as the promoter was already a successful businessman who decided to fly in talent from beyond the state of Nuevo Leon and beyond the Mexican boarder not long after deciding that wasn't enough.
  • Women Of Wrestling, GLOW's longest running Spiritual Successor, was/is only slightly better in that its original "run" had the veteran Peggy Lea Leather under the ring name "Thug". The 2012 revival moved further away from this trope, largely because a few wrestles such as Jungle Grrl, Delta, Riot and Loca had kept working on the independent circuit while WOW was dormant, and thus had gotten much better, and there was a fairly strong effort to recruit experienced wrestlers such as Santana Garrett, Amber O'Neal, Christina Von Eerie, Barbi Hayden and Hudson Envy. Still, these veterans had a lot of amateurs to carry.
  • Ice Ribbon began largely with teenage girls wrestling on mats. While Emi Sakura eventually whipped many of them into well regarded women athletes and Ice Ribbon into a much respected promotion on the Japanese independent circuit, it's origins are among the most humble of any promotion ever. Neo only had Ice Ribbon slightly beat in having a ring, and while some of its girls also became well regarded women wrestlers, they largely did this in spite of the sparse training Neo gave them and the Neo promotion itself only lived on in World Wonder Ring STARDOM using one of Neo's title belts as its own.

     Video Games 
  • King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder! used Sierra employees to voice the CD-ROM version, with varying degrees of success. Josh Mandel's performance as King Graham was good enough that he reprised the role in King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow and several Fan Remakes.
  • All of Rare's games up to and including Star Fox Adventures used studio staffers (and the occasional local actor) for the voice cast. It wasn't until Perfect Dark Zero that they started having their games voiced entirely by professional actors.
  • The latter Ultima games had voice casts consisting mostly of staff members of developer Origin Systems and local no-names, though with experienced film and TV actor Bill Johnson voicing the Big Bad of those games, the Guardian.
  • This was common in the late 90's for Japanese video game dubs, as most studios didn't have the money for proper casts, and English vocals were outright required for the PlayStation. As such, English speaking expatriates were frequently cast, very few of whom had any acting experience. By the mid 00's these types of dubs were all but dead, though a few examples of these dubs popped up from time to time.
  • Whenever Nintendo of America makes a dub, they usually cast local actors from Seattle, which is close to their Redmond offices, as well as staff members.

     Western Animation 
  • Several Dic Entertainment series from the late 90s to mid 2000s, such as Archie's Weird Mysteries, the 2003 incarnation of Strawberry Shortcake, and Horseland used voice actors based out of Omaha, Nebraska, many of which had no previous acting experience or at best, had involvement in local films and theater productions.
  • The majority of the credited cast and crew of The Christmas Tree has no known film or television career outside of this special. Indeed, many of the child "voice actors" seem to have just learned to speak when they were given the parts.
  • A lot of the cast of Steven Universe had very little experience in voiceover, and tend to be chosen partially for musical ability. Estelle (Garnet) is a singer best known for her Top 10 hit "American Boy", Deedee Magno-Hall (Pearl) and Jennifer Paz (Lapis Lazuli) work primarily in theater, Shelby Rabara (Peridot) works primarily as a dancer, Michaela Dietz's (Amethyst) and Grace Rolek's (Connie) careers mostly consist of minor characters, and Charlyne Yi (Ruby) is primarily a stand up comedian. In fact, the only veteran voice actors in the series are Kimberly Brooks (Jasper), Dee Bradley Baker (various vocal effects, most notably Lion), Crispin Freeman (Connie's dad) and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Connie's mother) though Zach Callison (Steven), Tom Scharpling (Greg), Matthew Moy (Lars), Erica Lutrell (Sapphire), Kate Micucci (Sadie), and Brian Posehn (Sour Cream) have also done some voice work.
  • 12 oz. Mouse's characters are voiced by the series creator, the producers, a couple of the animators, and a musician who worked for the studio. This fits with the rest of the show's aesthetic.
  • The Children Voicing Children in Peanuts, especially in the earliest ones, often have no previous experience in (voice) acting or have any notable roles afterward. The only character that has always been played by a working child actor is Charlie Brown.
  • The cast of Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss mainly consists of various friends of director Phil Nibbelink.
  • John and Faith Hubley were known for giving voice roles in many of their cartoons, such as Moonbird and Everyone Rides the Carousel, to their children and friends in order to give a sense of realism with the performances. What actors they did hire were usually either small names or celebrities who were equally inexperienced with acting like Jazz performer Dizzy Gillespie.
  • Both the Latin-American Spanish dubs of The Fairly OddParents and South Park (the one broadcast on Locomotion. There was another one that used professional Mexican voice actors) were done using Spanish speakers in Miami, many of whom had no prior dubbing experience. Miami would later rise in popularity as time went on.
  • In The Nutshack, almost every character is voiced by one of the show's crew members while the three voice actors they did get were also inexperienced. One was a friend of the co-creators while the other was a local make up artist. The third was a stand up comedian who was trying to break into acting.
  • Most of the actors who voiced minor roles in Free Birds never actually did any voice-acting before. One you try to look them up, you'll see that this is their first time doing any voice-acting of any kind.
  • Bordertown's addition minor roles are also done by people who never voice-acted before.
  • The actors in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs TV series are one that were constantly reused in Sidekick and Scaredy Squirrel. Both of which were also made by Corus Entertainment for Cartoon Network.

Alternative Title(s): Non Actor Cast


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