13 Oscar Winners Who Started Out on Soap Operas (PHOTOS)

Rona Gindin | Aug 18, 2015 Celebrities
13 Oscar Winners Who Started Out on Soap Operas (PHOTOS)

Ahh, soap operas, there's nothing quite like them. The eye-rolling, the hair-flipping, the hard-to-believe story lines -- it's all so addictive! If you grew up in the early 1980s, there's a good chance you worked your life around Luke and Laura's wedding on General Hospital. (This was long before DVRs and On Demand, of course.) 

What we didn't realize at the time is that many of the actors we were watching on soap operas would one day go on to win acting's highest honor: the Academy Award, aka the Oscar. These 13 soap opera veterans went on to become part of this elite group of actors. Check out what they looked like long before they were red-carpet ready. 


Images via NBC; infusny-244/INFphoto.com/Corbis

  • Julianne Moore


    Images via CBS; Lucy Nicholson/Reuters/Corbis

    Through the late 1980s, this gorgeous redhead portrayed Frannie Hughes on As the World Turns. She even won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Ingenue in a Drama Series -- and her Frannie bit was only her second TV role. The first was a stint in a mystery series called The Edge of Night. The honor roll accolades continue to this day. Moore nabbed the 2014 Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role Oscar for her starring role in Still Alice -- plus a 2015 Golden Globe for the same performance. She won another Golden Globe, plus an Emmy, in 2013 for her part in the HBO political drama, Game Change.

  • Heath Ledger


    Images via Seven Network; Splash News/Corbis

    Before his untimely death at age 28, Ledger enjoyed an accomplished career as both an actor and director. His 2007 Dark Night performance as the Joker earned him an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Two years prior, he earned a nomination for Best Actor for Brokeback Mountain. If you go way, way back, you'll find Ledger had several TV roles in his native Australia, including that of Scott Irwin in the soap series Home and Away

  • Susan Sarandon


    Images via ABC; Steve Starr/Corbis

    When Sarandon took home 1995's Best Actress in a Leading Role Oscar for Dead Man Walking, she'd already been nominated four times -- including back-to-back nods for Thelma & Louise and Lorenzo's Oil. The native New Yorker's earlier roles were humbler, including 1970s soap bits in A World Apart, where she played Patrice Kahlman, and Search for Tomorrow, where her Sarah Fairbanks was a drifter up to no good. 

  • Russell Crowe


    Images via Seven Network; Reuters/Corbis

    After winning the Oscar for Best Actor in 2001, Crowe sort of became America's "gladiator," even if he is from New Zealand and spent much of his life in Australia. His performances in A Beautiful Mind and The Insider earned Oscar nods, too, but back in 1987, he was a rising star in the Australian soap Neighbors

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  • Marisa Tomei


    Images via CBS; Steve Starr/Corbis

    Nine years before Tomei nabbed Best Actress in a Supporting Role for My Cousin Vinny, she was Marcy Thompson in As the World Turns. Anger ManagementThe Wrestler, and more films followed, including a role in Amy Schumer's summer 2015 hit, Trainwreck.

  • Brad Pitt


    Images via NBC; infusny-244/INFphoto.com/Corbis

    He took home the gold ring -- er, statuette -- for producing, not acting, 2014's Best Picture, 12 Years a Slave, but Pitt has long been an Academy fave. He was nominated for his part in Twelve Monkeys back in 1996 and twice more after that. Yet while one might not call it a pitfall, Pitt's acting career began like many others. In 1987, he had a role on Another World

  • Kathy Bates


    Images via ABC; Paul Buck/epa/Corbis

    Long before she terrified us in her Oscar-winning role in Misery and prior to her nominations for About Schmidt and Primary Colors, Bates was bait for soap roles. She played prison inmate Belle Bodelle on All My Children and Evelyn Maddox in One Life to Live, both in the 1980s. You can catch her these days in TV's American Horror Story.


  • James Earl Jones


    Images via Youtube; Ricky Fitchett/ZUMA Press/Corbis

    So respected is this actor with a killer voice that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave him an honorary Oscar in 2012. The recognition is a nod to a lifetime of accomplishments, among them his voice work in The Lion King and Star Wars. Before his resume was miles long, the actor played a doctor on both Guiding Light and As the World Turns in the mid-1960s. At around that time, he starred in the iconic film Dr. Strangelove (pictured far left).

    More from The Stir: 10 Male TV Actors From The 90s Who Are Hotter Than Ever (PHOTOS)

  • Morgan Freeman


    Images via NBC; Robert Galbraith/Reuters/Corbis

    Everyone knows Freeman as movie god, but this renowned performer cut his teeth in another world -- the soap opera Another World, to be exact. He also starred in two other daytime dramas, Texas and Ryan's Hope. He found worldwide fame via major film roles in Driving Miss DaisyGlory, and The Shawshank Redemption before finally nabbing the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for 2004's Million Dollar Baby. He was nominated again -- his fifth total -- in 2010 for his role in Invictus.

  • Melissa Leo


    Images via ABC; Mike Blake/Reuters/Corbis

    Known for her tough-cookie personas, Leo won the Oscar in 2010 for her role in the boxing drama The Fighter. On TV she played a detective on Homicide: Life on the Street in the mid-1990s. But long before that a much younger Leo spent about four years starring on All My Children, where she earned a nomination for a Daytime Emmy.

  • Ben Kingsley


    Images via Grenada Television/ITV; ABC

    Although he has been nominated for three Academy Awards since, it's Kingsley's moving performance in Gandhi that earned the English actor his Oscar. Way back in the mid-1960s, Kingsley spent time on the British soap opera Coronation Street, where he played the part of Ron Jenkins. He has several movies, and the TV miniseries Tut, in the works.

  • Tommy Lee Jones


    Images via ABC; Steve Starr/CORBIS

    Evolving from eligible bachelor to unhappy husband to man on the run, Tommy Lee Jones' Mark Toland, M.D., entertained One Life to Live fans throughout the early 1970s. A slew more roles have drawn applause since. He won the 1994 Oscar (and a comparable Golden Globe) for his supporting role as Deputy U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard in The Fugitive. The Academy has given Lee additional nods, including nominations for his parts in Lincoln and In the Valley of Elah. Lee's headliner roles don't end there. Men in Black, No Country for Old Men, and Batman Forever are among his more well-known films.

    More from The Stir: 10 TV Actors Who Played Characters Way Younger Than Their Real Age (PHOTOS)

  • Kevin Kline


    Images via CBS; Robert Galbraith/Reuters/Corbis

    Not long after attending acting school in the mid-1970s at the prestigious Julliard School, Kline took a gig as Woody Reed on the soap opera Search for Tomorrow (the image at far left was taken shortly after his soap opera gig ended). His roles on stage and film since have run the gamut. One highlight was his portrayal of Otto on A Fish Called Wanda, for which the Missourian took home an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. More impressive performances include Sophie's ChoiceThe Big Chill, and, recently, Ricki and the Flash, where he costars with Meryl Streep. 

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