13 Celebs Who Were Told They'd Never Be Famous

Salma Hayek, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and more stars followed their dreams despite what other people had to say.

Making it big in Hollywood is not an easy task, and the path can be full of rejection. Along the way, aspiring stars have to get used to hearing a lot of “no’s” and dealing with industry executives who have no issues crushing their dreams. In fact, some of today’s biggest stars actually admit that early in their career, they were told they should quit acting because they’d never be famous. Thankfully, these celebs persevered and continued to follow their dreams, despite what other people had to say!

Find out which celebrities were told to give up on becoming famous…

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1. Mark Ruffalo

Mark Ruffalo has gone on to become a major movie star, but right after he graduated from high school, he almost decided against acting altogether. During an audition for the theater department at SUNY Purchase, Mark says he had very “little confidence,” and a professor actually told him he had no future as an actor.

“My first real audition was after high school for SUNY Purchase. After my audition, the head of the department said, ‘What are you going to do when you realize you’ll never make it as an actor?'” Mark told Variety.

2. Adam Sandler

When Adam Sandler was a student at New York University, one of his professors took him out for a beer to tell him that he should consider a career other than acting. When Adam’s friend Brad Pitt recounted the story for Variety Studio’s Actors on Actors, he shared that the professor told Adam that he had “heart” but didn’t have “it.”

“There’s a second part to this story,” Brad added. “You ran into him when you were getting the ultimate payday, you were with a bunch of friends. Anyone would think, ‘That’s the opportunity to rub it in his face.’ Reportedly, what you did was, you said hi and you introduced him to your friends and you said, ‘This is the only teacher to ever buy me a beer.’ That’s the guy I know, and I think that’s why you’re here after all these years.”

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3. Arnold Schwarzenegger

While reflecting on his decades-spanning career, Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted that when he wanted to pivot from bodybuilding to acting, he was told it wouldn’t be possible. Thankfully, he “did not listen to the naysayers” and went after “his vision.”

“I have to say that I’m very fortunate that I’ve had this extraordinary career. Not only in acting and in show business but also in bodybuilding … That I was able to bridge over to acting even though the majority of people in Hollywood said it would never happen because of my accent, because of my body being overly developed, and because of my name — that wouldn’t be able to pronounce. All those kinds of excuses,” Arnold said during a Q&A.

4. Simu Liu

When Simu Liu lost out on a role in Crazy Rich Asians, he wanted to take the opportunity to improve himself. After he reached out to his agent for feedback, he ended up learning that someone in the audition process had thought he didn’t have what it took to make it in Hollywood.

“Through some sort of broken telephone, whether it had gone through a studio exec or a casting director before it got to our side, we got, ‘Well, Simu doesn’t have the X factor, the ‘it’ factor,'” he told CNN. “That was just such a crushing blow for me. I felt like I already worked so hard and come so far as an actor … It just felt like someone was telling me that I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t likable. I didn’t have that thing that made people want to watch it.”

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5. Salma Hayek

When Salma Hayek first started her career as an actress, she was told there wouldn’t be a place for her in Hollywood because of her ethnicity. Despite the harsh criticism she faced, she’s gone on to achieve major success.

“They told me my career would die mid-thirties. First of all, they told me a Mexican is never going to make it because at the time, the new generations, it was impossible for a Mexican to have a leading role in Hollywood,” Salma told PA News Agency.

Salma was able to prove them wrong later in her career, sharing, “I think it’s great, I’m proud of it, I want to shout it to the world, because I was told so many times it couldn’t happen and I almost believed them but I fought it and I won.”

6. Sydney Sweeney

Sydney Sweeney has made it big with her role on Euphoria, but in the early days of her career, Sydney says she was told she didn’t have the “right look” to ever land a role on a television show.

“A casting director told me once that I will never be on a TV show,” Sydney told GQ UK. “Now, I’m on some of the biggest TV shows in the world.”

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7. Winona Ryder

Winona Ryder has come a long way from being told by a casting director that she wouldn’t make it in Hollywood. Looking back, Winona says that in the middle of her audition, the casting director actually stopped her to tell her she had no future as an actress.

“I was in the middle of auditioning, and I was mid-sentence when the casting director said, ‘Listen, kid. You should not be an actress. You are not pretty enough. You should go back to wherever you came from and you should go to school. You don’t have it,'” Winona told The Cut.

8. Gary Oldman

Back when Gary Oldman was a teenager, he applied to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. While he says it was a ‘dream” to attend the prestigious school, he was actually turned down — and asked if he had anything else to fall back on instead of acting.

“Maybe my audition wasn’t very good, but I was hugely disappointed. Because all my acting heroes had passed through RADA: Tom Courtenay, Albert Finney, Alec Guinness, you know … So it was a dream to attend that school where these great people had trained. And they said to me, ‘Do you have anything else to fall back on?’ You’re 15, what are you going to fall back on?” Gary told The Hollywood Reporter.

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9. Harrison Ford

Early in Harrison Ford’s career, he was told by an entertainment industry executive that he wouldn’t make it as an actor. Looking back, Harrison says he was in the audition process for Jacques Demy’s film Model Shop and ended up not getting the role because of the executive’s comment.

“The head of the studio said forget me; I had no future in this business,” he recalled in The World of Jacques Demy documentary.

10. Millie Bobby Brown

When Millie Bobby Brown was just 10 years old, she was told by a powerful casting director that she wouldn’t ever make it in the industry because she was “too mature.” Millie says his comment made her want to stop acting completely, and she went into the casting for Stranger Things after deciding it would be her last audition ever.

“I always knew that I was mature and I couldn’t really help that. Going back to what I said earlier about being kind of very lonely in who I was and feeling like no one was quite like me in school and no one was as mature as I was, [hearing that] was really hard because I thought [maturity] was a good thing. And then being told that it wasn’t, that I wouldn’t make it in this industry, it was so hurtful,” Millie told Allure.

She continued, “I got really down about that. My parents told me, ‘Just do this one last audition on tape and then you can go outside and play with your friends again.’ So I said, ‘Okay, yeah, I should do this one because it looks cool.'”

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11. Judi Dench

When Judi Dench was just getting her start in the film industry, she says she was told by a director that she wouldn’t make it big because she had the “wrong face.” Thankfully, she didn’t let it get to her and she returned to theater, which was her first love. She later went on to have major success in film, earning eight Oscar nominations.

“He was perfectly nice. But at the end he said, ‘You’ll never make a film. You have the wrong face.’ And I said that is fine, I don’t like film anyway. I want to go back to the theater,” Judi told The Times.

12. Gabourey Sidibe

Before Gabourey Sidibe rose to fame, she ran into Joan Cusack at an industry party and had a disappointing experience. Looking back, Gabourey claims Joan actually told her that she should probably give up on her acting dreams because Hollywood was so “image-conscious.”

“I met Joan Cusack, who is my favorite, favorite — I love her — but it was before I became [famous] or whatever. I was at some industry party, and she says, ‘Are you an actress?’ And I said, ‘Yeah!’ And she says, ‘Oh honey, you should really quit the business, it’s so image-conscious,'” Gabourey said on Watch What Happens Live, adding, “I think she really, really meant it in a good way…but I was like, ‘Oh, please don’t tell me to quit my job!'”

13. Nia Vardalos

Early in her career, Nia Vardalos says her first agent told her she wouldn’t ever become famous because she didn’t have the right look for Hollywood. While she says it “hurt” to be told her “ethnicity and [her] looks were the problem,” she used it as motivation to find success.

“My agent told me I wasn’t pretty enough to be a leading lady and not fat enough to be a character actor,” Nia told Variety. “People were not even shocked. They would say, ‘Oh yeah, my agent told me the same thing.’ I realized that story and that negativity was going to drag me down. I had to turn the experiences into something, so I borrowed a friend’s computer and wrote the screenplay for My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

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