Even though it might seem fair to assume that a professional with a considerable amount of experience is always the best choice for a job, at times, it's not necessarily the case. Especially, in terms of acting. In fact, some movie and TV show directors out there prefer to look for fresh faces and pull them off the street or hit them up on Instagram instead of hiring someone who's already proven to be talented at acting.

With that being said, Bored Panda invites you to look through a list of some of the most iconic non-actors that managed to absolutely nail their parts. As always, don't forget to vote for your favorite ones and leave a comment!

#1

Haing S. Ngor As Dith Pran In 'The Killing Fields' (1984)

Haing S. Ngor As Dith Pran In 'The Killing Fields' (1984)

It was quite a difficult task for the director of The Killing Fields to find an actor that would be able to emote the horror of witnessing the tragedies of the Khmer Rouge during the Cambodian genocide. However, fate brought him to the gynaecologist Haing S. Ngor—a man who survived three terms in Cambodian prison camps, using his medical knowledge to keep himself alive by eating beetles, termites, scorpions, and rats.

Ngor is one of the only two non-professional actors to win an Academy Award in an acting category.

Warner Bros Report

Daphne Williams
Community Member
2 months ago

He was later murdered in a robbery.

View More Replies...
View more comments
#2

R. Lee Ermey As Gunnery Sergeant Hartman In 'Full Metal Jacket' (1987)

R. Lee Ermey As Gunnery Sergeant Hartman In 'Full Metal Jacket' (1987)

Turns out, when Ermey was a teenager, he got arrested twice for criminal mischief. The judge told him that he could either go to jail or join the Marine Corps. After serving for 11 years, he became a technical advisor for the movie industry. He took on this position with the goal to show filmmakers that he should be starring in their movies. As you can see, his plan worked out quite perfectly. Ermey persuaded Kubrick to cast him in Full Metal Jacket by making a homemade audition tape capturing him screaming insults.

Warner Bros Report

Andrew P Jump
Community Member
2 months ago

Once a Marine, always a Marine. God bless you Gunny!

View more comments
#3

Avu And Swati Chokalingam As Kelly's Parents In 'The Office' (2005-2013)

Avu And Swati Chokalingam As Kelly's Parents In 'The Office' (2005-2013)

Avu and Swati Chokalingam, who play Kelly's parents on The Office, are, in fact, Mindy Kaling's real-life parents. In real life, Avu is an architect and Swati was an obstetrician/gynecologist.

NBC Report

Natasha Romanoff
Community Member
2 months ago

That's so awesome!

View more comments
#4

Kathy C. An As Nurse Bokhee In 'Grey's Anatomy' (2005-Present)

Kathy C. An As Nurse Bokhee In 'Grey's Anatomy' (2005-Present)

Turns out, An, who plays the nurse Bokhee on Grey's Anatomy, is a scrub nurse in real life and continues working with open-heart surgeries in Los Angeles.

ABC Report

Journey Maze
Community Member
2 months ago

YEAH SHE GOOD

View more comments
#5

Barkhad Abdi As Muse In 'Captain Phillips' (2013)

Barkhad Abdi As Muse In 'Captain Phillips' (2013)

After seeing a commercial on a local Minneapolis TV channel, Abdi showed up to a casting call for background characters. Instead of that, he got offered one of the main roles.

Before entering the film industry, Abdi sold mobile phones at his brother's shop at a mall in Minneapolis and worked as a limousine driver and as a DJ.

Sony Pictures Report

Animal lover❤
Community Member
2 months ago

He was great in that movie

View more comments
#6

Dave Bautista As Drax In 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' (2014)

Dave Bautista As Drax In 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' (2014)

Bautista is a retired professional wrestler, former mixed martial artist and bodybuilder. Even though Drax wasn't his first acting role, it was his first leading part in a massive blockbuster.

Marvel Studios Report

Natasha Romanoff
Community Member
2 months ago

Dave Bautista is almost definitely an actor - I mean there's My Spy, Guardians, Infinity War and Endgame, and a helluva lot more

View More Replies...
View more comments
#7

Harold Russell As Homer Parrish In 'The Best Years Of Our Lives' (1946)

Harold Russell As Homer Parrish In 'The Best Years Of Our Lives' (1946)

Russell was a Canadian-born American in World War II. In a demolition mishap, he lost both his hands and was given two hooks instead of them.

In 1945, Russell was featured in Diary of a Sergeant, an Army film about rehabilitating war veterans. After seeing the film, the director William Wyler offered him the role of Homer Parrish in The Best Years of Our Lives.

Russell is one of the only two non-professional actors to win an Academy Award in an acting category.

RKO Radio Pictures Report

Mary Rose Kent
Community Member
2 months ago

This movie left me weeping. It’s astounding!

View More Replies...
View more comments
#8

Jameela Jamil As Tahani In 'The Good Place' (2016-2020)

Jameela Jamil As Tahani In 'The Good Place' (2016-2020)

While Jamil was working as a writer at 3 Arts, her agents told her that the co-creator of Parks and Recreation, Michael Schur, was looking for a British actress for a new upcoming comedy series. After auditioning, Jamil got the role. Before the acting career, she was working as a model and a radio host.

NBC Report

Journey Maze
Community Member
2 months ago

i did not likethis show

View more comments
#9

Lenny Kravitz As Cinna In 'The Hunger Games' (2012-2013)

Lenny Kravitz As Cinna In 'The Hunger Games' (2012-2013)

Kravitz is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer who was invited to play the part of Katniss' creative stylist, Cinna, in the first two Hunger Games movies.

Lionsgate Report

Xander Gonzalez
Community Member
2 months ago

whoooooooo

View more comments
#10

Stu Rutherford As Stu In 'What We Do In The Shadows' (2014)

Stu Rutherford As Stu In 'What We Do In The Shadows' (2014)

Rutherford worked as an IT technician. To make his performances as natural as possible, he was told that he'd simply be the team's IT guy while starring in a small part of the movie. Rutherford did not realize how much he was in the film until the premiere.

Paramount Pictures Report

Zoe's Mom
Community Member
2 months ago

This is such a fun movie.

View more comments
#11

Danny Trejo As A Boxer In 'Runaway Train' (1985)

Danny Trejo As A Boxer In 'Runaway Train' (1985)

Trejo was a youth counselor that was brought in on the set of the action thriller Runaway Train to help a cast member with his substance problem. He got noticed by the director of the movie and the writer of the screenplay and was offered the role.

The Cannon Group, Inc. Report

Fred L.
Community Member
2 months ago

He also had been a boxer in prison himself.

View more comments
#12

Vinnie Jones As Big Chris In 'Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels' (1998)

Vinnie Jones As Big Chris In 'Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels' (1998)

Vinnie Jones is a former professional footballer known for his "hard man" image on the field. His acting career began with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and continued with other roles, usually those of fearsome demeanor and physical characters.

Gramercy Pictures Report

Journey Maze
Community Member
2 months ago

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

WE ALL KNOW THIS ONE

View more comments
#13

Darlene Cates As Bonnie Grape In 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape' (1993)

Darlene Cates As Bonnie Grape In 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape' (1993)

Before being offered the role, Cates was a daytime talk show guest where she discussed her battle with obesity and how it had affected her life. The screenwriter Peter Hedges noticed the woman and thought she'd be the perfect person to play the main character’s housebound mother in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

Paramount Pictures Report

Athenalikesowls
Community Member
2 months ago

I literally Just watched this yesterday and I cried when the Mom died. Arnies reaction made it even worse.

View More Replies...
View more comments
#14

Yalitza Aparicio As Cleodegaria Gutiérrez In 'Roma' (2018)

Yalitza Aparicio As Cleodegaria Gutiérrez In 'Roma' (2018)

Before being chosen for the role, Aparicio was a schoolteacher. She is the first Indigenous American woman and the second Mexican woman to receive a Best Actress Oscar nomination.

Netflix Report

Brett Connor
Community Member
2 months ago

She was also in "Man on Fire" and was outstanding in that too!

View More Replies...
View more comments
#15

Sharlto Copley As Wikus Van De Merwe In 'District 9' (2009)

Sharlto Copley As Wikus Van De Merwe In 'District 9' (2009)

Before being offered the role, Copley was working in the entertainment industry as a small-time producer. Copley was offered the role by his friend Neill Blomkamp, who was also the director of District 9.

Sony Pictures Report

Fred L.
Community Member
2 months ago

Afterwards became an actor, can be seen e.g. in Elysium.

View More Replies...
View more comments
#16

Frank Silva As Killer Bob In 'Twin Peaks' (1990-2017)

Frank Silva As Killer Bob In 'Twin Peaks' (1990-2017)

Silva was a set dresser. He worked on Twin Peaks when the director David Lynch realized that Silva might have a place in the show. He asked Silva if he was an actor, Silva said yes, and the rest is history.

New Line Cinema Report

ℜ𝔬𝔟𝔢𝔯𝔱 ℭ𝔞𝔱𝔱𝔢
Community Member
2 months ago

Cool!

View more comments
#17

Harry Styles As Alex In 'Dunkirk' (2017)

Harry Styles As Alex In 'Dunkirk' (2017)

Styles is an English singer and songwriter, mostly known for being a part of one of the best-selling boy bands of all time called One Direction.

In 2017, Harry was chosen to play the role of a British soldier named Alex in Christopher Nolan's war film Dunkirk. Nolan said that Harry was chosen for the part not because of his fame, but "because he fit the part wonderfully and truly earned a seat at the table."

Warner Bros Report

Natasha Romanoff
Community Member
2 months ago

But...isn't Harry like acting now?

View More Replies...
View more comments
#18

Jaye Davidson As Dil In 'The Crying Game' (1992)

Jaye Davidson As Dil In 'The Crying Game' (1992)

Davidson, a fashion model, was drunk at a party when someone came to him, gave him a number, and asked him to call if he'd like to be in a movie. And that's how Davidson got offered the role of the transgender woman Dil.

Miramax Films Report

Mary Rose Kent
Community Member
2 months ago

Another outstanding debut!

View more comments
#19

Shoukath And Fatima Ansari As Dev's Parents On 'Master Of None' (2015-2017)

Shoukath And Fatima Ansari As Dev's Parents On 'Master Of None' (2015-2017)

Shoukath and Fatima Ansari are Aziz Ansari's real-life parents as well as being his character's parents in the series.

Netflix Report

Kathryn Baylis
Community Member
2 months ago

Who better to play a character’s parents than the actor’s parents? Just ask Mindy Kaling if you don’t believe me.

View more comments
#20

John Matuszak As Sloth In 'The Goonies' (1985)

John Matuszak As Sloth In 'The Goonies' (1985)

Matuszak was an American football defensive end in the National Football League. In the 1980s, he started appearing in films and on television, often portraying football players. His most well-known role is the deformed captive Sloth in The Goonies.

Warner Bros Report

Requiem
Community Member
2 months ago

HEEYYY YOU GUYYSS

View More Replies...
View more comments
#21

Gilbert R. Hill As Inspector Douglas Todd In 'Beverly Hills Cop' (1984)

Gilbert R. Hill As Inspector Douglas Todd In 'Beverly Hills Cop' (1984)

Hill was an American politician and police officer. He was discovered when the director of the movie was looking for shooting locations in Detroit.

Paramount Pictures Report

Gyro Pilot
Community Member
2 months ago

DPD FTW

View more comments
#22

Henry Golding As Nick Young In 'Crazy Rich Asians' (2018)

Henry Golding As Nick Young In 'Crazy Rich Asians' (2018)

Golding was a show host when he was offered the role of Nick Young. The accountant that was working in the film’s Malaysian production office suggested Golding, who she had met a few years before.

Warner Bros Report

Anthony Goldstein (female)
Community Member
2 months ago

what?!? he was sooo good!

View more comments
#23

Rob Brown As Jamal Wallace In 'Finding Forrester' (2000)

Rob Brown As Jamal Wallace In 'Finding Forrester' (2000)

Turns out, Brown arrived at a casting call for extras during preproduction on the 2000 film Finding Forrester. Instead of that, he was offered the leading role.

Sony Pictures Report

Pontificate
Community Member
2 months ago

Great movie.

View more comments
#24

Dean Brooks As Dr. Spivey In 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' (1975)

Dean Brooks As Dr. Spivey In 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' (1975)

Brooks was an American physician. In 1975, he was the head of Oregon State Hospital—the place where One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was filmed, and that's why he stars in the movie.

United Artists Digital Studios Report

Kathryn Baylis
Community Member
2 months ago

Talk about right place right time.

View more comments
#25

Miyavi As Sgt. Mutsuhiro "The Bird" Watanabe In 'Unbroken' (2014)

Miyavi As Sgt. Mutsuhiro "The Bird" Watanabe In 'Unbroken' (2014)

Miyavi is a Japanese guitarist, singer-songwriter, and record producer. In 2014, he was offered a role in the movie Unbroken by the director Angelina Jolie.

Universal Pictures Report

*sneezes in pansexual*
Community Member
2 months ago

I READ THE BOOK AND ITS REALLY GOOD I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT (I haven't watched the movie)

View More Replies...
View more comments
See Also on Bored Panda
#26

Björk As Selma Ježková In 'Dancer In The Dark' (2000)

Björk As Selma Ježková In 'Dancer In The Dark' (2000)

Björk is an Icelandic singer, songwriter, record producer, and DJ. Björk was asked to write and produce the musical score for the film Dancer in the Dark, and eventually was asked to play the leading role of Selma.

Fine Line Features Report

Christine M Quigley
Community Member
2 months ago

Bjork was amazing in this movie!! A must see!

View More Replies...
View more comments
#27

Lebron James As Himself In 'Trainwreck' (2015)

Lebron James As Himself In 'Trainwreck' (2015)

In 2015, the professional basketball player LeBron James was invited to play a comedy version of himself in the movie Trainwreck, and absolutely nailed it.

Universal Pictures Report

Average Grizzlies Fan
Community Member
2 months ago

King James

View more comments
#28

Hunter Schafer As Jules In 'Euphoria' (2019-Present)

Hunter Schafer As Jules In 'Euphoria' (2019-Present)

Hunter Schafer is an American fashion model and LGBTQ rights activist. Schafer has modelled for Dior, Miu Miu, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Coach, Vera Wang, Marc Jacobs, Versus Versace, Emilio Pucci and many other famous fashion houses.

In 2019, she was offered the role of Jules in HBO's Euphoria.

HBO Report

Aj Grimes (them/they)🦄
Community Member
2 months ago

She is one of my idols.

View more comments
#29

Bria Vinaite As Halley In 'The Florida Project' (2017)

Bria Vinaite As Halley In 'The Florida Project' (2017)

Sean Baker, the director of The Florida Project, spotted Vinaite's Instagram post and decided to approach her. Bria was offered the role, and after three weeks of acting classes, the filming began.

A24 Report

Mary Rose Kent
Community Member
2 months ago

I loved this movie so very much. Sean Baker perfectly captured the breeziness of an unfettered childhood. I saw it twice in a movie theater and have also watched it on Netflix. If you love movies, this one is a must! Bonus: Willem Dafoe in a non-creepy role.

View More Replies...
View more comments
#30

Abraham Attah As Agu In 'Beasts Of No Nation' (2015)

Abraham Attah As Agu In 'Beasts Of No Nation' (2015)

Attah was discovered by the director Cary Fukunaga in Ghana while skipping class to play soccer.

Netflix Report

Kathryn Baylis
Community Member
2 months ago

Best decision he ever made; playing hooky from school that day.

#31

Gary Stevens As Jockey George Woolf In 'Seabiscuit' (2003)

Gary Stevens As Jockey George Woolf In 'Seabiscuit' (2003)

Stevens is an American Thoroughbred horse racing jockey who played the jockey George Woolf in 2003 movie 'Seabiscuit.'

The producer Frank Marshall and the film’s director, screenwriter and co-producer Gary Ross approached Stevens at the Santa Anita Park racetrack where they went for research. And even though Stevens turned them down at first, they managed to convince him to take the role.

Universal Pictures Report

Mary Rose Kent
Community Member
2 months ago

Seabiscuit is one of the best underdog movies I’ve seen.

View more comments
#32

Felicia Pearson As Felicia 'Snoop' Pearson On 'The Wire' (2002-2008)

Felicia Pearson As Felicia 'Snoop' Pearson On 'The Wire' (2002-2008)

Pearson had a tough childhood and when she was only 16 years old, she was convicted of second-degree murder after the shooting of a girl named Okia Toomer and was sentenced to two eight-year terms. After six and a half years, she was released from prison.

Pearson was offered the role on The Wire after she met Michael K. Williams, who played Omar Little on the show, and was invited to come to the set, where she met the writers and the producers.

HBO Report

King Joffrey
Community Member
2 months ago

One of the best roles in the show.

View More Replies...
View more comments
#33

Sasha Lane As Star In 'American Honey' (2016)

Sasha Lane As Star In 'American Honey' (2016)

Lane was at the beach in Miami when Andrea Arnold, the writer/director of American Honey, approached her and offered her the role of Star. Before becoming an actress, Lane worked as a waitress at a restaurant.

A24 Report

Kathryn Baylis
Community Member
2 months ago (edited)

Very lucky break. She’s beautiful, btw, so it’s no wonder she got noticed.

View more comments
#34

Kevin Garnett As Himself In 'Uncut Gems' (2019)

Kevin Garnett As Himself In 'Uncut Gems' (2019)

Garnett is an American former professional basketball player. Garnett was approached by the Safdie brothers, the directors of the thriller, and was offered the part.

A24 Report

Requiem
Community Member
2 months ago

athletes play them selves in movies all the time

View More Replies...
View more comments
#35

Thomas Horn As Oskar Schell In 'Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close' (2011)

Thomas Horn As Oskar Schell In 'Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close' (2011)

Horn was participating in Jeopardy! Kids Week when he was noticed by the producers and offered the role of Oskar Schell in the 2011 movie called Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

Warner Bros Report

Fixin'Ta
Community Member
2 months ago

This is such an excellent movie. And he did an amazing job.

View more comments
See Also on Bored Panda
#36

Arielle Holmes As Harley In 'Heaven Knows What' (2014)

Arielle Holmes As Harley In 'Heaven Knows What' (2014)

The Safdie brothers, who are the directors of the movie Heaven Knows What, scouted her off the street while working on another film. The movie was based on Holmes' unpublished memoir.

Elara Pictures Report

Kathryn Baylis
Community Member
2 months ago

Who better to play herself?

View more comments
#37

Mariah Carey As Ms. Weiss In 'Precious' (2009)

Mariah Carey As Ms. Weiss In 'Precious' (2009)

Lee Daniels, the director of Precious, wanted Carey to play the character of Ms. Weiss, a social worker, since he was extremely impressed by her performance in 2008's Tennessee.

Lionsgate Report

Kattie0530
Community Member
2 months ago

My girl looks trashed...

View more comments