In an ideal world, everyone’s first job is incredible. School to CEO in 24 hours: brilliant. But, in real life, everyone has to pay their dues and work their way to the top. Some might get higher than others, or get there faster than others, but everyone has at least some kind of ascendance.
It’s no different for the super-famous. It’s pretty rare to go from total unknown to A-lister overnight, and megastars’ CVs tend to have a lot of bit parts and advertisements on there before the big stuff comes along. Also in that category: music videos. Some massive, massive names have been really excited to show up briefly in a band’s video, unaware that in a year or so they’ll be vastly more famous than the band is. Here, we take a look at some.
Zooey Deschanel (The Offspring – She’s Got Issues, 1998)
A scarlet-haired Zooey Deschanel was a few years away from stardom when she was in The Offspring’s 1999 semi-animated video for their cheerful dismissal of trauma. Almost Famous, the role that put her on the map, was yet to come. In the video, Deschanel goes through her day being tormented by monstrous, animated versions of all of her problems before going home to find none other than Dexter Holland and pals playing in her flat.
Kim Kardashian (Fall Out Boy – Thnks Fr Th Mmrs, 2007)
Kim Kardashian is absurdly famous now, but when she was fondled by a chimpanzee in the video for Fall Out Boy’s vowelless single, she was barely known. She had made a few minor appearances on her friend Paris Hilton’s reality show The Simple Life, and that was about it. In 2018, Pete Wentz told People he was still email buddies with her, calling her “the nicest person ever”. Earlier this year on his radio show, Wentz reflected on how famous she later became, saying: “You look back on that moment and you’re like, ‘This is the last moment Fall Out Boy interacted in public with Kim Kardashian where we had the same amount of fame as her.’
Katy Perry (Gym Class Heroes – Cupid’s Chokehold, 2005)
Katy Perry wore a few hats before she became global superstar Katy Perry. She was a Christian contemporary singer for a while, as well as an occasional additional vocalist for nu-metallers P.O.D. Two years before she exploded into fame, she starred with then-boyfriend Travie McCoy in his band Gym Class Heroes’ video for Cupid’s Chokehold, a song he wrote about their relationship. Perry’s own breakout video, I Kissed A Girl, subsequently featured a pre-fame Ke$ha.
Angelina Jolie (Meat Loaf – Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through, 1993)
Angelina Jolie had tiny roles in some of her father’s films before appearing in a run of music videos in the ‘90s. At 18, she had been in a Lemonheads video and left on the cutting-room floor of a Lenny Kravitz one, but this big-budget Meat Loaf video – directed by Michael Bay – was basically a starring vehicle. Meat Loaf spends a lot of the video in quite distressing fortune-teller makeup that makes him look like he inhabits the same world as the cowboys in that Primus one. It’s gross!
Aaron Paul (Korn – Thoughtless, 2002)
Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman was 22 when he starred as the put-upon Floyd, one of the most spectacular vomiters in music video history. Paul wrote in a Reddit AMA: “I actually knew the guys from Korn and they were trying to find this kid to play this character for some time. And finally one of my buddies who worked with Korn asked if I’d be willing to do it. I was a huge fan of the Hughes Brothers who directed the video and I said yes. In regards to being a fan of Korn, they’re really a hit or miss with me, to be honest.”
Eva Mendes (Aerosmith – Hole In My Soul, 1997)
Aerosmith have an incredible track record of discovering up-and-coming actors in their videos. Alicia Silverstone in Cryin’, Liv Tyler (who, admittedly, Steven Tyler already knew due to being her father) in Crazy, Mila Kunis in Jaded and Eva Mendes in Hole In My Soul are the four they’re best known for, but there are more – Silverstone is mugged by a young Josh Holloway (aka Sawyer from Lost) in Cryin’, and the protagonist of Hole In My Soul is bullied by Seann William Scott, better known as American Pie’s Stifler.
Finn Wolfhard (PUP – Guilt Trip)
Mike from Stranger Things was just 12 when he played a young Stephan Babcock in PUP’s first video, a (hopefully) fake origin story that sees the band form as youngsters, accidentally kill a cop and run away from home together. He reprised the role three years later for Sleep In The Heat, a video with a really terrific dog in it and one that you might not want to watch if you’re feeling in any way emotionally fragile, as it’s completely devastating.
Jason Statham (The Shamen – Comin’ On)
The magic of Hollywood and multimillion-dollar movie contracts were a long way off when a young Jason Statham greased himself up in order to gyrate in a Shamen video. There are sometimes nine Stathams on screen at once. It’s very high-tech. His Fast & Furious co-star Vin Diesel also made some early appearances in music videos thanks to his cousin Kwamé’s rap career – Diesel appears as a bouncer in the clip for Nastee sporting a terrible haircut and getting kicking in the nuts.
Norman Reedus (Keith Richards – As Wicked As It Seems)
Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead started out as a model, appearing in print ads in the ‘90s for companies like Levi’s. He also found himself showing up in a bunch of music videos – as well as Keith Richards, Reedus also appeared in videos for Bjork (Violently Happy), Goo Goo Dolls (Flat Top), R.E.M. (Strange Currencies), Radiohead (Fake Plastic Trees) and Ugly Kid Joe (for their cover of Cats In The Cradle). After becoming famous he happily returned to the world of music videos for Lady Gaga’s Judas.
Christina Hendricks (Everclear – One Hit Wonder, 1997)
Before becoming Mad Men’s Joan Holloway, Christina Hendricks had various jobs. At one point she was working as a hand model, providing the hand seen on the poster for the movie American Beauty. She also popped up in a high-tech but fairly dreadful Visa ad with Pierce Brosnan and the late Desmond Llewelyn. And, of course, there’s this Everclear video with veteran game show host Wink Martindale.