A long-standing Hollywood tradition is the "And Introducing" credit. Such a credit is designed to showcase an actor in a key role who had never appeared in a movie before, as if to say, "Look at our brilliant discovery. When this person's an A-lister, he or she will have us to thank." Producers (and agents) interpret this rule rather liberally, and often give the credit to a performer who's already done bit parts in film or TV - as long as they remain essentially unknown by the time of production. Sometimes the optimism is ill-placed: Klinton Spilsbury was "introduced" in the notorious 1981 bomb The Legend of the Lone Ranger and never, ever acted again. The following nine neophytes went on to unquestionably greater fame:
- Christian Bale, introduced in EMPIRE OF THE SUN. Commonly, the "introducing" credit is given to very young actors. For films with juvenile leads, producers usually need not hire any "name" talent, and can concentrate on simply finding the best kid for the job. This is what happened when Steven Spielberg cast the (already intense) 13-year-old Bale, who had only done one TV movie and had starred in an obscure, then-unreleased Swedish(!) picture called Mio in the Land of Faraway.
- Kate Winslet, introduced in HEAVENLY CREATURES. I don't have to tell frequent visitors to this site that it was Peter Jackson's 1994 drama that "introduced" Melanie Lynskey to audiences and to me, but Winslet - although she had done a few British TV shows by then - was mutually introduced. What a difference three years make: By the time Lynskey and I were shooting the humble Foreign Correspondents in the summer of 1997, Winslet was already an Oscar-nominated actress who had just finished her work on Titanic.
- Shirley Maclaine, introduced in THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY. Shirley Maclaine is the archetype for the Hollywood success story. Having done no screen work beforehand, the 20-year-old was the understudy for Carol Haney in Broadway's The Pajama Game, taking over when Haney broke her ankle. One night, producer Hal B. Wallace was sitting in the audience and was won over by the young actress. He signed her to Paramount and she was quickly cast as the female lead in the Alfred Hitchcock comedy classic. Not a bad start.
- Robert Redford, introduced in WAR HUNT. Redford was hardly the star of the now-forgotten 1962 B-movie War Hunt, and the IMDb lists almost twenty TV credits for him before his big screen debut, so this "introducing" credit was likely a demand of his agent: One can assume that the production didn't have much money for Redford, who was probably already doing quite well with his small screen work, so the credit was a bargaining chip. Trivia note: The film was also the feature debut of Tom Skerritt and an actor named Sydney Pollack, who became better known as a director (and who would helm seven Redford-starring features).
- Peter O'Toole, introduced in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. O'Toole was 28 and had already appeared in two TV series, a TV movie, and even three features in relatively prominent roles - not to mention a strong stage career. But the epic Lawrence was a gigantic event that truly put his unproven star power to the test. O'Toole, of course, rose to the occasion.
- Michael Caine, introduced in ZULU. If O'Toole's "introducing" credit was questionable, then Caine's was practically perjury: before his 1964 "debut" at the age of 31, Caine had already amassed an astonishing 42 credits - even though most were bit parts in TV shows and little-seen British movies.
- Christopher Walken, introduced in THE ANDERSON TAPES. It seems unlikely that a character actor like Walken would be "introduced" like all these leading men and ladies (though to be fair, he would be top-billed in a handful of films in the '80s), but so he was, in this little-remembered Sean Connery vehicle from 1971. Before then, Walken had done a few childhood TV stints, some experimental films in the '60s, and some solid TV work. After The Anderson Tapes fizzled, his career limped along until a hilarious cameo in Woody Allen's 1977 Oscar winner Annie Hall earned Walken his own Oscar-winning role in The Deer Hunter the following year. The rest is history.
- Cameron Diaz, introduced in THE MASK. Now, this is what an "introducing" credit should be all about: Take one young performer who had not done any screen work before (except, in Diaz's case, an infamous softcore video that surfaced after she became well-known), give her a central role in a hit movie, then sit back and watch her career blossom.
- Johnny Depp, introduced in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Yes, it really happened: The planet's biggest living star was "introduced" in the first chapter of that tireless horror movie franchise. It honestly was Depp's first acting job, too. He was pursuing a music career in LA when a meeting with his then-wife's friend Nicolas Cage got him an agent good enough to score him a part in a major new franchise - as well as that coveted "And Introducing" credit.