Breakthrough role

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A breakthrough role, also known as breakout role,[1] is a term in the film industry to describe the performance of an actor or actress in a film which contributed significantly to the development of their career. It may not always refer to a film debut, but a film which may have had some mainstream success that resulted in the widespread recognition or popularity of the actor. Such a moment in an actor's career may often occur some time after they begin acting. Often a breakthrough role is a significant increase in importance in the actor's part in the film moving up from a minor character or extra to one of the leading cast.

Most of the top actors and actresses in Hollywood or in the world film industry can pinpoint such a landmark which marked the beginning of commercial success.

For example, the Dollars trilogy marked the breakthrough role of Clint Eastwood and Dr. No in 1962 marked the moment in Sean Connery's career despite both actors having appeared in several films prior to this. For John Wayne, the breakthrough role of his career was The Big Trail in 1930. Another example is the 2007 film Transformers which marked the breakout role for actress Megan Fox - enabling her to grow from being a co-star to a lead role in the 2009 film Jennifer's Body. A most recent example would be that of Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy of Bridesmaids fame - both actors had supporting roles in various films and sitcoms.


  1. ^ Smith, Michael. "Breakout role revisited". Retrieved 18 December 2011.