If you want to make it in Hollywood, you're going to have to work hard for a long, long time.
Be prepared for a lot of competition, too. Hundreds of other actors are going to be gunning for the same roles as you, even if it's only a for bit parts in films nobody will see.
READ: 20 Good Actors Without Oscars
And you'll spend years trying to break into the business while honing your craft (and getting paid very little to do so). Then, after building up a modest resume, you might just get tapped to audition for a role in a major motion picture.
Or, you could simply skip all that stuff and get discovered out of the blue, kind of like the following folks:
Filmmaker Larry Clark was in the process of casting a new motion picture when he and screenwriter Harmony Korine spotted 15-year-old Rosario Dawson sitting on the stoop of an apartment building in Manhattan's Lower East Side. They approached her and asked her to audition for the part of Ruby in "Kids," which turned out to be her breakthrough role.
By the mid-1970s, little-known actor Harrison Ford had somewhat sidelined his dreams to focus on a steadier career path as a carpenter. A casting consultant named Fred Roos thought he'd be perfect for George Lucas' new film "Star Wars," but Lucas was intent on hiring all new actors for the project (Ford already had a role in Lucas' earlier film, "American Graffitti"). In a effort to get Ford noticed, Roos arranged for the actor/carpenter to install a door at Lucas' film studio. He caught the director's eye and was eventually cast as Han Solo.
Charlize Theron was intent on becoming a star, but not initially as an actress. At 18, she moved from South Africa to New York City to study dance at the Joffrey Ballet. A knee injury forced Theron to reconsider her options, so she headed for Los Angeles to pursue acting. Things weren't going so well, and while loudly arguing with a bank teller (she was trying to withdraw money from an account in South Africa), Theron was spotted by a manager named John Crosby who immediately offered to represent her. Within months, she had a role in "Children of the Corn III" and soon moved on to bigger and better roles.
In 1989, Pamela Anderson was working as a fitness instructor in Vancouver, British Columbia. One afternoon, she made the fateful decision to attend a B.C. Lions football game wearing a cut-off Labatt Blue t-shirt, and it earned her a few seconds of fame on the stadium's JumboTron. The Labatt beer company recieved numerous phone calls inquiring about the woman, so Labatt eventually hired her as a spokesmodel. She did her first Playboy pictorial soon after, in February of the next year.
Lana Turner (right) was one of the most well-known actresses of the '40s and '50s, but she might not have been so famous had she not skipped school in 1936. The 15-year-old Turner (then known as Julia Jean Mildred Frances Turner) ditched class to hang out at the Top Hat Malt Shop in Hollywood, California, when an editor for The Hollywood Reporter approached her and asked if she wanted to be in pictures.
Channing Tatum never really considered a career in acting. He famously began working as a stripper at the age of 18, but soon moved to Miami to distance himself from his hard-partying ways. It was there that a modeling scout spotted Tatum on the street, and he soon began appearing in print ads for Nautica and The Gap. His modeling work soon led to TV commercials and music videos, and eventually feature films.
In the mid-'90s, "Grey's Anatomy" star Ellen Pompeo was working as a bartender at the SoHo Kitchen Bar & Grille in NYC. A casting agent spotted her and thought she'd be perfect for commercial work, so he told her as much in the middle of her shift. She nabbed her first commercial gig the next day, and soon went on to bit parts in television and film.
Sarah Michelle Gellar
As the story goes, Sarah Michelle Gellar of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" fame was discovered by an agent while eating at an NYC restaurant — when she was only four years old. One of her first gigs was a Burger King commercial in which she criticized the size of McDonald's hamburger patties.
Jennifer Lawrence, who recently won an Oscar for her role in "Silver Linings Playbook," was discovered by a talent agent during her first trip to New York City. "I didn’t know that kind of thing was creepy," Lawrence later told the New York Times about the incident. "Then I went into the agency and did a cold read for a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial. They told me it was the best cold read they’d ever seen from a 14-year-old. My mom told me they were lying."
Grammy-winning recording artist Toni Braxton caught her big break at an Amoco station in Annapolis, Maryland. She was singing to herself and pumping gas when record producer William E. Pettaway Jr. happened to overhear her, and he asked Braxton to record a demo at his studio. "I don't know what made me go, but I took my girlfriend in case he was crazy, but he turned out to be legit," she recalled in an AOL interview.
The Jonas Brothers' mother was getting a haircut when someone in the salon overheard six-year-old Nick singing and referred him to a manager. He was starring in Broadway shows only a year later, and eventually landed himself and his brothers a recording gig.
"One day after dance class, I was in this pizza parlor and this guy just happened to be there because he lived in the neighborhood," said "Black Swan" actress Natalie Portman in an interview with the Associated Press. The man — who worked for Revlon — approached Portman and asked if she had any interest in becoming a model. "I kept my cool," she recalled. "I told him that I wanted to act."