A long-standing Hollywood tradition is the "And Introducing" credit, which is designed to draw attention to an actor making his or her big-screen debut. It's a way of saying, "Look at our brilliant discovery. History will thank us later!" Producers (and agents) interpret the "debut" rule rather liberally, often giving the credit to a performer who's already done bit parts. And 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 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 need not hire name talent, so they simply find 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, who 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 wrapped Titanic.
- Shirley Maclaine, introduced in THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY. Shirley Maclaine is the quintessential Hollywood success story. Having done no screen work beforehand, the 20-year-old understudied 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 cast as the female lead in Alfred Hitchcock's classic dark comedy. Not a bad start.
- Robert Redford, introduced in WAR HUNT. Redford wasn't exactly the star of this now-forgotten 1962 B-movie, and the IMDb has nearly twenty earlier TV credits for him, 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 already doing well on the small screen, 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 vehicles.
- 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 an event picture that 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 barely-remembered Sean Connery thriller from 1971. Before then, Walken had done a few childhood TV stints, some experimental films, 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 is all about: Take a young performer who had not done any screen work before (except, in Diaz's case, a softcore video that resurfaced after she became famous), 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 was literally 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, and that agent scored him a part in a new franchise – as well as that coveted "And Introducing" credit.