An audition can make or break an aspiring actor or singer, and entertainment history is full of instances where one performer’s audition overpowered all others and landed them a starring role. These tryouts were once rarely seen outside the studio, but in recent years, auditions have evolved into one of the most popular parts of reality shows such as American Idol and The X Factor, and they’ve become standard features in many special DVD releases. Of course, countless auditions have been uploaded to YouTube … and in some cases, the person posting their song, comedy act or stage performance didn’t even realize it was an unofficial “audition” that would land them their dream job. Here are some interesting auditions and screen tests found on YouTube.
10. Evangeline Lilly Auditions For Lost
Evangeline Lilly has said she went to auditions as a “psychological exercise,” not with the intent of actually earning a role. But her 2004 audition for the new TV series Lost landed her the role of Kate Austen, so Lilly decided to get serious about her acting career. For Lost fans, here’s a fun link to Collider.com, which has compiled most of the auditions by the original Lost cast.
9. Hugh Laurie Auditions For House
Hugh Laurie won numerous awards for his portrayal of Dr. Gregory House on the series House, which ended an eight-season run in 2012. Here in the audition he shows he’s already got the right attitude for the job.
8. Actors Audition For The Monkees
After the Beatles became an American sensation in 1964, Hollywood executives Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider began casting for a TV series based on a music group. The two men initially wanted to use a real band, The Lovin’ Spoonful, best known for the 1966 No. 1 hit Summer in the City. But when the men couldn’t work out a licensing agreement with the band they began casting for four unknowns to play in a fictitious band known as The Monkees. Americans Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and British actor Davy Jones were cast as band members, and actually went on to tour and record on their own, releasing nine albums between 1966 and 1970. Four of those releases hit No. 1 in the United States. (Note on the video: The sound picks up around the 30-second mark.)
7. Journey Finds New Singer Via YouTube
Arnel Pineda had a pretty good gig going as the lead singer in a Filipino band known as The Zoo in 2007. In an effort to build their following, the band took some of their live performances of tunes covering bands such as Led Zeppelin, The Eagles and Journey and uploaded them to YouTube. In mid-2007, Journey guitarist Neal Schon, who was searching for a new lead singer for the storied band, came across one of Pineda’s YouTube videos. Journey soon welcomed Pineda into the band and he still records and tours with the group today.
6. Jimmy Fallon Auditions for Saturday Night Live
Long before he was a funny late-night TV show host and film actor, Jimmy Fallon found fame on Saturday Night Live, debuting at age 24 and serving as a full cast member for five seasons before leaving to pursue film roles in 2004. His talent in this clip is unmistakable — anyone with even a casual knowledge of recent pop culture will quickly pick up on his deft impersonations.
5. Leslie Nielson Does Screen Test For Ben Hur
Here is an extensive screen test for the 1959 smash hit Ben Hur, featuring two actors. One you’ve probably never heard of, Cesare Danova. The other, Leslie Nielsen, enjoyed a so-so career in serious roles before finding his niche as a comedic actor in his 50s, starring in movies such as Airplane! and the Naked Gun series. By the way, neither got the role in Ben Hur.
4. Kurt Russell Auditions For Role as Han Solo
Kurt Russell was still best known as the boyish star of several Walt Disney movies, including the Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, when he auditioned for the role of Han Solo in George Lucas’ Star Wars. That role, of course, launched a young Harrison Ford to stardom. Russell went on to do pretty well for himself, though.
3. Cast Auditions For Superman
In retrospect, the 1978 film Superman: The Movie, seems perfectly cast, with newcomer Christopher Reeve as Superman, and screen veterans Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman among the supporting cast. Canadian actress Margot Kidder earned the role of Lois Lane, after auditions by Anne Archer, Stockard Channing and others didn’t show the right chemistry with Reeve. This clip is from the 2006 documentary entitled, Look, Up In The Sky: The Amazing Story Of Superman.
2. Carrie Underwood Auditions For American Idol
This ultimately may go down as one of the most famous audition tapes in entertainment history. Carrie Underwood was a nervous 21-year-old aspiring singer from the tiny town of Checotah, Oklahoma, when she auditioned for Season Four of American Idol in 2004-2005. Before the top 10 finalists had even been chosen, judge Simon Cowell famously proclaimed that Underwood would not only win, but would top all previous Idol winners in record sales.
1. Gone With the Wind Screen Tests
The casting for the film adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s book Gone With the Wind took almost two years — an eternity by Hollywood standards — and while Clark Gable was an early favorite for the role of Rhett Butler, director David O. Selznick auditioned numerous actresses for the part of Scarlett O’Hara. Among those considered were Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Lana Turner, Joan Fontaine and Susan Hayward. Vivien Leigh won an Oscar for her portrayal of the character.