It's easy to forget that some of today's biggest film actors had relatively humble beginnings in small screen shows. Bruce Willis was once a private eye and love interest in Moonlighting before kickstarting his action career immediately afterwards. We've documented a few familiar stories and perhaps some surprises in our top 10 TV stars turned movie stars.
After a decade as a jobbing TV actor, George Clooney made a huge small-screen splash as Dr Doug Ross in the hit hospital drama ER. On hand to look sexy in polyester scrubs and repeatedly save the day, Clooney did five and half years at County General Hospital in Chicago, before hanging up his stethoscope. But, having left for the bright lights of Tinseltown, the dreamy doc didn't forget his medical roots, returning to guest star in an episode late in the fifteenth and final season.Rent
From 2001-2006, Jennifer Garner played sexy, student-turned-super-spy Sydney Bristow, in Lost creator JJ Abrams' action-thriller serial. Abrams had previously given Garner a tiny role in Felicity, the TV show that made his name; three years later, she landed the lead in Alias, which would ultimately propel her to the big screen. Any doubts over Garner's physical prowess were knocked dead in her audition, where she reaped the rewards of private Taekwondo classes.Rent
Welsh wonder Catherine Zeta-Jones first made a name for herself as Mariette, Ma & Pa Larkin's fragrant and beautiful daughter on comedy-drama The Darling Buds of May. In 1993, after two years on the show, Zeta-Jones departed for the States, and had carved a feature film career on her own right long before marrying Michael Douglas, which only amplified her status as half of one of the biggest super-couples in the industry.Rent
At the age of 23, Salma Hayek became a household name in Mexico with the lead role in a hugely popular daytime show called Teresa (Gael Garcia Bernal among her many co-stars). This attracted the admiring gaze of one Robert Rodriguez, and when the director got the greenlight to remake his ballistic thriller El Mariachi into Desperado, Hayek got the call. Her sultry turn as Antonio Banderas' love interest is movie magic, the perfect springboard, and she's never looked back.
Finding fame on one of Australia's most popular soaps at the tender age of 19, Guy Pearce was a regular resident in Ramsey Street for three years. His character, Mike Young, was written into some serious storylines, including being physically abused by his father. But few would have imagined that motorbike Mike, one-time love of plain-Jane super-brain, would go on to deliver blistering and diverse performances in movies like Memento, L.A. Confidential, and The Proposition.Rent
Before he began yippie-ki-yaying terrorists, Bruce Willis was a small-screen icon. At the Blue Moon Detective Agency, sexual tension simmered weekly, as former model Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) and private-eye David Addison (Willis) flirted back and forth while solving murder mysteries. Ratings slipped when (after four years) the pair finally got it on, but Willis timed his transformation into John McClane perfectly; Die Hard kick-starting an action movie franchise and Willis' A-list stardom.Rent
Bradley Cooper made his acting debut alongside Carrie and the girls in the Sex and the City series, but had perhaps his biggest impact on JJ Abrams' Alias, charming and rumpled as reporter Will Tippin, holding a candle for Garner's Sydney Bristow. Transition to features has taken a little while, but The Hangover showcased his good looks and comic timing; qualities that are sure to be cemented by the role of Face in July's big-screen refit of The A-Team.Rent
Regular bad boy Colin Farrell attended The Gaiety School of Acting for a short while, before dropping out to pursue a career in entertainment. Hell-bent on becoming famous, Farrell honed his vocal talents to audition for Irish boy-band Boyzone, but when his hopes of a pop career went belly-up, Ballykissangel came knocking (1998-1999). This series got him on casting agents' radars, and a gritty turn in Joel Schumacher's Tigerland paved the way for bigger movies still.Rent
Originally an obscure character in hit 70s series Happy Days, Robin Williams' impressive ad-libbing landed him his own show. The Happy Days fanbase tuned in every week to see Williams' alien, Mork, struggle with comic, fish-out-of-water complications, and his love for an Earth woman. Popeye, in 1980, didn't delight cinema audiences, so Williams built a reputation in comedy sketch shows and on stage for seven years before Good Morning Vietnam blasted him starward.Rent
Complete with MC Hammer haircut and baggy trousers, Will Smith's first entertainment incarnation was in the 80s, as the chatty half of rap duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Smith's lavish lifestyle took its toll however, and he filed for bankruptcy. Fortunately, at a time when he could have easily slipped off the radar, NBC gave the rapper a career changing opportunity in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And since then he's never looked back...Rent