50 TV Stars Turned Movie Stars

Jim Carrey

The TV Show: Having been passed over by both Saturday Night Live and Mr T comedy D.C. Cab , Carrey found a home in NBC’s The Duck Factory , which aired briefly between April and July of 1984. Carrey played a struggling young animator.

The Breakout Movie: A series of supporting roles kept Carrey working through the early 1990s.

Then along came Ace Ventura , which established him as a comedy talent to watch – and still has us quoting his catch phrases today.

Any Similarities: Carrey worked with an animated duck in The Duck Factory , and with a variety of colourful animals in Ventura – then this year he's acting opposite penguins in Mr Popper's Penguins . This guy just loves the critters.

Leonardo DiCaprio

The TV Show: Graduating from TV adverts, DiCaprio was booted off the set of Romper Room aged just five for being too boisterous.

After a brief spell on cancelled TV adap Parenthood , he guested on The New Lassie and Roseanne before hooking Growing Pains (off the back of Critters 3 ). In Pains , D-Cap played a homeless boy who’s taken in by the Seavers brood.

The Breakout Movie: A young DiCaprio’s biggest movie break came with What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? , in which he convincingly played a mentally handicapped boy. He earned an Academy Award nomination.

Any Similarities: From squeaky clean sitcom to dysfunctional family member, there’s still a theme of family going on, but Grape ’s in a different league.

Adam Sandler

The TV Show: Yet another SNL player, Sandler was first hired as a writer for the show before becoming a featured performer for a year.

He was best known for performing original songs, including the ever-popular ‘Chakunah Song’. He was fired in 1995, reasons unknown.

The Breakout Movie: Sandler cornered the movie market in cinematic goofballs with Billy Madison , which pretty much set the mould for the rest of his career – all of his films generally position him as a child in a man’s body attempting to deal with the crazy world around him.

Any Similarities:
It’s still Adam Sandler being Adam Sandler...

Bruce Willis

The TV Show: Yes, Brucie once had hair! And was considered even more of a heartthrob because of it. After a guest stint on Miami Vice , Willis reeled in the lead male role in detective crime drama Moonlighting opposite Cybill Shepherd.

The show lasted for five seasons, first airing in 1985, and played up the romantic tension between its two leads. It was considered innovative for landing great guest stars and even breaking the fourth wall.

The Breakout Movie: Die Hard , of course, which catapulted Willis into superstardom as the dry-wit everyman who really rocks a white vest and rustles up some darned tootin’ one-liners.

Any Similarities: Die Hard ’s McClane is essentially a big screen version of Moonlighting ’s David, with a bigger budget and more F-bombs.

John Travolta

The TV Show: Having cracked the small screen by playing a fall victim in TV drama Emergency! , Travolta moved on to bigger and better things with sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter .

He played Vincent ‘Vinny’ Barbarino, a supremely cocky but supremely slow-witted heartthrob, and leader of the lovely-sounding Sweathogs. He had a habit of breaking into song by crooning The Beach Boys’ ‘Barbara Ann’.

The Breakout Movie: Though he’d made a decent go at cinema with the excellent Carrie (during Kotter 's run), it was the double-pronged attack of Saturday Night Fever and – naturally – Grease that established Travolta as a hip-shaking movie star.

Any Similarities: Big hair. Big attitude. Big voice. Travolta’s transition from TV to movies occurred with barely any alterations to his established on-screen persona.

Will Smith

The TV Show: “I pulled up to the house about seven or eight and I yelled to the cabby, ‘Yo homes, smell ya later!’”

Future action hero Smith busted out some seriously atrocious style and a collection of terrible one-liners in the adored '90s sitcom Fresh Prince Of Bel Air – a lanky clown with really bad taste in clothes, he still somehow managed to be cooler than Carlton.

The Breakout Movie: Independence Day transformed William ‘Will’ Smith into the alien ass-kicker we all came to know and love.

Any Similarities: Seriously ripped with an action hero attitude, Independence Day ’s Smith couldn’t be any different from the Fresh Prince. He can still deliver a sucker punch one-liner, but this time he has a cigar .

Michael J. Fox

The TV Show: Fox made an inconspicuous film debut before he got into television, but that role in Midnight Madness (for which he was credited as just Michael Fox) didn’t really take him places.

His starring role in ABC comedy Family Ties , however, did. Playing young Republican Alex Keaton, Fox stayed with the show for seven years, winning three Emmys and Golden Globe for his troubles.

The Breakout Movie: Just three years into Ties , Fox’s profile had been raised so much that he bagged the lead role in Back To The Future (after Eric Stoltz was famously let go). It remains Fox’s defining film.

Any Similarities: Fox used that same earnest charm and comedy delivery to brilliant effect in Future , though it’s not quite as angsty and cherry pie as in Ties .

Bill Murray

The TV Show: Another SNL alumnus, Murray starred in the sketch show during its golden era, along with Michael Palin, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.

Funnily enough, his actual TV debut came with ABC show Saturday Night Live With Howard Cosell , which was actually a family variety show featuring kids and animals.

The Breakout Movie: Though he was pivotal in everything from Caddyshack , Tootsie and Meatballs , it was Ghostbusters that really set Murray up for (movie) life.

Any Similarities: Though he’d jumped into movieland, Murray was still starring opposite Aykroyd and still using his dry delivery to brilliant effect.

Steve Martin

The TV Show: Martin bagged an Emmy aged just 23 for writing contributions on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour , while he also wrote for The Glen Campbell Goodtime Show and the Sonny And Cher Comedy Hour.

Though he was never a cast member of Saturday Night Live , he was a very popular guest star – so popular, in fact, that his appearances generally coincided with a jump in a million viewers.

The Breakout Movie: Carl Reiner helped establish Martin’s big screen identity with The Jerk and The Man With Two Brains.

Any Similarities: Still wacky, and unflinchingly funny, Martin’s cinematic outings were a mere extension of his TV work. Which is just the way it should be.

Jon Hamm

The TV Show: Having worked as a waiter and a set designer on a softcore porn film, Hamm first hit the big time in 2000 thanks to NBC drama Providence . He was originally contracted for just one episode, but made such an impact that he was soon drafted in for 19.

Seven years later, he landed Mad Men , which tipped him into the big league.

The Breakout Movie: Hamm delivered one line in Space Cowboys , but since the success of Mad Men has been selecting interesting little roles in high profile fare – his most recent being Ben Affleck’s sophomore crime drama The Town .

Any Similarities: Hamm’s still playing steely, inscrutable heroes – but that’s what he does best.