While Australian soaps like Home And Away and Neighbours deliver us frequent drama and occasionally ludicrous storylines, they are also ideal ground for developing world-renowned actors.
These celebrities today appear to be unattainable embodiments of Hollywood glitz, but they used to look just like you and me.
Here’s how much these stars have changed since making it big on the world stage.
Chris earned his name as schoolboy Kim Hyde in the Australian soap Home And Away when he was 21 years old.
However, after leaving the show in 2007, the now-famous actor struggled to build a name for himself in Hollywood.
While still on the soap, he appeared on the reality show Dancing With The Stars Australia, but substantial film parts were difficult to come by.
In 2009, he received his big break when he was cast as Captain James Kirk’s father George in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek film.
He went on to star in a few more films, but his big break came when he was cast as Thor in Marvel’s Thor trilogy.
From there, his climb was rapid, and he is now regarded as one of the world’s highest-paid performers, despite the fact that he attributes his start on Australian television with catapulting him to the top.
Home-grown worth ethic
“I thank my upbringing here in Australia and working on Home and Away and the people I met there and those lessons I learned,” the star told the Today show.
“I really took all that work ethic and that experience over there (America) and I think that’s what pays off.”
Isla Fisher got her break in Australian television thanks to her portrayal as Shannon Reed in Home and Away. She started performing in commercials at the age of nine.
“I would be stupid to let it go to my head because it could all end tomorrow and I would just fade back into obscurity,” she previously told the Sun Herald of her popularity on the show.
“I like working on Home and Away, but it’s a heavy workload so I get stressed out a lot.
“We work about 15 hours a day, including the time it takes to learn lines … but I am very grateful because it is a good experience.
“It’s like an apprenticeship, but we do it in front of 20 million people so all our mistakes are up for the world to see.”
With that kind of work ethic, it’s no surprise she was banging on Hollywood’s door for a chance to make it big.
Her breakthrough came in the movie Scooby-Doo, and she went on to star in blockbusters including Wedding Crashers, Confessions of a Shopaholic, The Great Gatsby, and Now You See Me.
No place like home
She still calls Australia home, despite her international success and marriage to English actor Sasha Baron Cohen.
“I feel like I can be myself in Australia,” she told Marie Claire magazine.
“I like people. I love the colors and the views and the taste and the smells. And there is something about being at home that’s right… it’s very magical.
“I miss it so much when I’m away and have a very Australian sensibility.
“I’m always surprised to have a job, to be married, and to have my family – everything else seems like a bonus to me,” she adds.
Melissa George rose to prominence after winning a modeling competition in her birthplace of Perth, but she chose to pursue acting instead, as Angel Parrish on Home And Away.
Melissa, then 21 years old, decided to try her luck in Los Angeles after three years on the show and five Logie Award nominations.
Melissa appeared in a number of supporting roles in feature films before starring in the adaptation of The Amityville Horror. This spawned a slew of horror and thriller films.
She most recently co-starred in the big-budget 2021 television version of The Mosquito Coast with Justin Theroux.
Melissa says she is now a completely different person after years of battling for a breakthrough, going through a difficult divorce with her previous spouse, and raising her children in Paris.
She told Deadline, “I’m more intriguing, I’m more peaceful, I’m more general, I’m more cultured.”
“I don’t know if I’m nicer. I just believe that once you’ve had everything beaten out of you, you can choose to put in the correct elements and improve yourself.”
Her stint as Donna Freedman on Neighbours was supposed to be a one-off, but it appears that even her soap employers saw her as a star in the making.
Margot Robbie played Donna for three years.
Then she had a decision to make.
“I basically had only three options back then,” she told TV Week.
“Either I would have waited until the producers at some point got rid of my character from the series, or I would have played the role forever and led a comfortable life in Australia.
“And the third option was to quit and see if I could make it in America, which offered me more chances than Australia.
“Of course, I could have failed, but I was willing to risk it.”
She had a role in the 2011 television series Pan Am, but it wasn’t until two years later, in the film The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, that she truly broke through.
She went on to play Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, received an Oscar nod for her role as ice skater Tonya Harding in me, Tonya, and received critical acclaim for her appearances in Queen Elizabeth I, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, and Bombshell.
With her husband Tom Ackerley, she is currently producing films and television shows as well as acting in them.
Jesse Spencer was just 15 when he took on the role of Billy Kennedy in Neighbours.
Before getting his big break in America, he played Billy for six years and was a household celebrity in Australia and the United Kingdom.
Jesse made his impact in the TV series House as Dr. Robert Chase, an intensive care expert, and surgeon who he played for eight years.
He went on to play firefighter Matthew Casey on Chicago Fire for nine years until quitting the show this year.
Naomi Watts must have been apprehensive about her best friend Nicole Kidman getting her big acting opportunities early, but she needn’t have been.
It may have taken longer for the girl who rejected down a date with Tom Cruise in a lamb commercial to grow her career, but she is now a true Hollywood celebrity.
She played Julie Gibson in an early episode of Home and Away, and then had a couple of failed starts in LA before playing in David Lynch’s psychological thriller Mulholland Drive.
In an interview regarding her early career, she remarked, “When I came to America, there was so much promise of good stuff, and I thought, ‘I’ve got it made here; I’m going to kick ass.'”
“After that, I returned to Australia and took on one or two more jobs.”
“When I got back to Hollywood, all those people who had been so supportive previously were no longer interested.”
With roles in 21 Grams, for which she was nominated for Best Actress, King Kong, and Birdman, she established herself as a leading lady.
Simon was a fresh-faced actor on E Street by the name of Simon Denny when we first met him.
He subsequently went on to Home and Away before moving to the United States in the mid-1990s to try and obtain a break.
It wasn’t long before he started landing roles on TV and the big screen, but it wasn’t until he played Patrick Jane in The Mentalist that he truly broke through.
In 2010 he signed a US$30 million contract for his role.
In 2013 he got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame cementing his status in Hollywood.
He has since moved back to Sydney to be closer to the family during the pandemic.
Guy Pearce was Scott Robinson’s mullet-sporting, troubled but gentle best friend, but it wasn’t long before he was departing his Neighbours character, Mike Young, for bigger things.
In The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, he played the wonderfully colorful Felicia, a drag queen.
He went on to star in critically acclaimed Hollywood films like LA Confidential, Momento, The Hurt Locker, and The Kings Speech, the last two of which won Best Picture Academy Awards.
The guy is now continuously working while balancing his TV roles such as Jack Irish and Mare of Easttown with his film commitments.
Wow, what amazing glow-ups and careers have blossomed from our soaps Down Under!
- Neighbours’ season finale is a major throwback to 30 years ago – but did you spot it?
- Home and Away star and SAS Australia recruit Dan Ewing announces his engagement to Kat Risteska
- Kate Ritchie received a bouquet of flowers from a mystery person after splitting with her boyfriend John Bell
- Beach babe! H&A star Pia Whitesell shows off her washboards abs in a black and lilac bikini in Mexico
- These are Home and Away’s biggest moments from 2021