Explainer: Fright before fame: Stars and their horror-film pasts
Yes, that's Jennifer Aniston locking and loading to vanquish a demonic leprechaun. John Travolta killing pigs so he could dump their blood on "Carrie." George Clooney's mullet starring in the spoof-a-riffic "Return of the Killer Tomatoes." Freddy Krueger took out Johnny Depp, while Jason Voorhees went after Kevin Bacon.
Before they were stars, many celebrities of today were just faceless victims — or sometimes, lone survivors — in horror movies. We'll defend some — "Carrie" is a classic, and "Killer Tomatoes" was a joke going in — but mostly we just like to laugh at famous faces covered in prop blood. Is that wrong?
Paris Hilton in 'House of Wax'
Admit it — more than a few viewers of 2005's "House of Wax" saw the movie because everyone knew that socialite Paris Hilton dies in it. She plays Paige, one of a group of teens who discover that a small-town wax museum is creating its realistic sculptures the easy way, by pouring hot wax over living people. She dies a bloody death thanks to a gigantic spear that impales her forehead, but her scene was far from the goriest in the movie. One poor sap has his skin partially peeled off by a hapless friend trying to remove the wax that's coating his body. For her performance, Hilton won the Teen Choice award for best scream as well as the Razzie award for worst supporting actress.
Kevin Bacon in "Friday the 13th'
Forget the umpteen sequels, the original 1980 film "Friday the 13th" was fresh and scary and one of the most profitable slasher movies ever. And it also featured a future star, Kevin Bacon, just 21 when the film was released. Bacon played one of the Camp Crystal Lake counselors, a nubile group known for ignoring the campers in their charge, getting naked and stupidly splitting up to die in horrific ways. Bacon himself was impaled from below his bunk with an arrow through the throat. And now you can play "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" and connect him to anyone else who's been in one of these movies. (Corey Feldman, Robert Englund, Jared Padalecki, just to name a few.)
Johnny Depp in 'Nightmare on Elm Street'
One of the most famous deaths in horror-movie history. That's Johnny Depp, yes, Johnny Depp, playing one of Freddy Krueger's first victims in the original "Nightmare on Elm Street" in 1984. He falls asleep with his old-school 1980s headphones on, gets sucked down into his bed by Freddy and erupts as a blood volcano, a Vesuvius of Depp.
Jennifer Aniston in 'Leprechaun'
Before she was Rachel Green on "Friends," Jennifer Aniston got to wear black leather and short shorts and carry a gun while fleeing from a creepy ... leprechaun? Seriously, was this movie funded by Lucky Charms cereal? Aniston, however, does not appear in the most infamous scene in the 1993 movie, where the leprechaun kills someone by jumping on a pogo stick until he punctures some poor sap's lungs.
John Travolta in 'Carrie'
Oh, Barbarino! In 1976's classic "Carrie," John Travolta plays Billy, the boyfriend of villainous Chris, the pretty girl who hates poor, confused, telekinetic Carrie. He murders a bunch of pigs to obtain the blood that's dumped on Carrie at the prom, but she gets revenge by later making his car crash into a tree. Both Billy and Chris die and absolutely no one is sad.
Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Critters 3'
Everybody's gotta start somewhere, and Leonardo DiCaprio had to work his way up to "Inception" and "The Aviator." He began his acting career in "Critters 3," fighting off the Crites, alien muppets with more teeth than this movie had viewers. The movie came out in 1991 and DiCaprio was born in 1974, so he must have been in his midteens, but he looks not a day older than 11.
George Clooney in 'Attack of the Killer Tomatoes'
He's the perfect movie star now, able to make such classy, high-brow flicks as "Up in the Air" and "The American." But we love George Clooney because he came up through some of the most cult-favorite pop culture in the land. Yes, he was George the mulleted handyman on "Facts of Life," but his mullet was also on proud display in "Return of the Killer Tomatoes." Bless him, though, he even had good taste in junk. The film's humor still holds up, even if Clooney's hairstyle has not.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is TODAYshow.com's movies editor.
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive. Reprints
Discuss: Famous faces, not-so-great movies
Jennifer Aniston battled a leprechaun and George Clooney a tomato army. Which famous face-embarrassing movie combo do you remember most?
TODAY anchors, guests and viewers on Friday expressed their condolences and deep reverence for the late leader.
- South Africans pause to pay respects to Mandela
- Real Invictus rugby captain recalls Mandela legacy