How to Become a Famous Actor, According to a Talent Agent

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Photo Source: Spencer Alexander

Not every actor wants to be famous. Most of you would call it a win if you could earn enough to make a living from acting. But sometimes, when you least expect it, the stars line up and your life changes in a major way.

Steps to Becoming a Famous Actor

Every career starts small. Brad Pitt is an international star who just won another Oscar. If you look back at his early days, you’ll see that he spent years working on episodic television and in films that have long been forgotten. Then he landed a small but memorable role in “Thelma & Louise,” and people started to take notice. From there, Brad Pitt was well on his way to fame and fortune.

I don’t know the guy, so I could be wrong, but I doubt young Brad had his sights set on stardom when he was shooting a sun-soaked commercial for Pringles. I imagine he was just thrilled to have the gig and all the potato chips he could eat. So, don’t chase fame. The odds of catching it are too long, like trying to find a nugget of gold in a flowing river.

The smart move is to be the finest actor you can be. That means staying in acting class, doing your best at every audition, and building your career one step at a time. If you do that, there’s a chance you might become a working actor. There’s also a very slight possibility you’ll end up famous.

What Happens If You Become Famous Overnight?

I represented a struggling actor who landed a series regular role on a pilot that turned into a hit show that ran for several years. This made him an instant star. At first, he was too busy to notice. Then, reality started to show up, and it wasn’t always fun. I remember one time the two of us met for lunch. When we were done, he told me his car was parked a few blocks away. I offered to drive him over, but it was a beautiful day, so my client decided to walk. As I headed out, I spotted him getting mobbed. The crowd had popped up from out of nowhere.

In addition to losing his privacy, money management also became an issue. When the show hit, I told my client to get a financial adviser, but he decided to handle everything on his own. That was a bad move. The IRS treated him the same way fellow convicts treated Tim Robbins in “The Shawshank Redemption.”

Now, don’t get me wrong: Fame isn’t a bad thing. It brings money, power, and freedom. Those are all amazing, but they’re not always permanent. Sometimes, life will serve famous actors a slice of humble pie.

Fame Isn't Forever

Just think about all the celebrities who have watched their careers peter out. Maybe a series got canceled and the second one never came. Or maybe too many films tanked at the box office and the studios lost faith. Fame is delicate, like the figurines in “The Glass Menagerie.” It can be a gorgeous, shiny object that makes your dreams come true—or, with the smallest of pushes, it can shatter into a million pieces.

So, be ready for life in the spotlight, but don’t count on it. Fame isn’t for everyone. And it’s not like you’ve already started working on your acceptance speech, right?

This story originally appeared in the May 14 issue of Backstage Magazine.

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Secret Agent Man
Secret Agent Man is a Los Angeles–based talent agent and our resident tell-all columnist. Writing anonymously, he dishes out the candid and honest industry insight all actors need to hear.
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