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Actors Whose Only Acting Credit Came In A Movie Classic

We tend to assume that when an actor appears in a successful movie, we'll see more of them in the future. Whether the actor in question is a kid, a young adult, or just a previously undiscovered performer, it's rare that a fresh-faced actor appears in something major and then just disappear. However, while it might be unusual, it certainly isn't unheard of.

Today, we're taking a dive into one-hit wonders — actors who don't have any credits on their resumes except for a single memorable film. We're avoiding those random actors who either had some ridiculous, barely on-screen role and then went on their merry way or actors who have a sole credit in some movie that no one has ever heard of. These are actors who you'll see on-screen and wonder what else they've been in, only to discover that the answer is "nothing." For many, especially the child actors, the amount of media attention drove them away from the acting biz, while others simply decided to pursue other passions. 

Here are some of our favorite actors who only ever appeared in a single film.

Carrie Henn - Aliens

There are only a handful of movies that commonly get mentioned in a debate of best sci-fi movies of all time, but "Aliens" is generally on the shortlist. Released in 1986, being the sequel to a genre-defining film didn't hamstring the movie at all, as it leans hard into its high-octane action to tell an entirely different story than its predecessor — one that still holds up as a classic today.

"Aliens" is largely successful because of the very relatable relationship it grounds the audience in between Ripley and Newt, the scared little girl she protects from the xenomorph menace. Played by Carrie Henn, Newt gives the audience a surrogate character who is just as absolutely terrified in the face of an interstellar monster as we would be and fighting to stay alive against all the odds.

Despite her strong performance, the timing just didn't work out for Henn. After "Aliens" was released, her family had already moved from London to the United States, and she tells Wired that she had become more interested in becoming an educator than an actor. She is now an elementary teacher. Henn happily embraces her legendary role, and you can catch her at conventions, and she is happy to sign autographs for her students when they realize who she is.

Peter Ostrum - Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

For a bit of childhood wonder, you need to look no further than "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory." The 1971 movie is remembered for many things, including Gene Wilder's iconic, purple-suited chocolatier, a number of child death traps, some very ominous songs, and the blue-eyed hero of it all — Charlie Bucket. Played by Peter Ostrum, Charlie proves his selflessness to Wonka and wins the day, sparking hope for his destitute family when he is awarded Wonka's factory.

After playing the role of Charlie, Ostrum told the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association that he was offered a three-film deal by the studio if he signed with them. He declined that deal in order to keep his options open and give himself more freedom. 

Though he did audition for a few more roles as he got older, Ostrum was drawn to the world of veterinary medicine — which is perhaps why he felt comfortable sharing his unique story with the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. He eventually moved to New York and said he distanced himself from the movie and rarely told people about that part of his life. As he's grown older, he says he's embraced that aspect of his history, especially the mentoring relationship he had with Wilder.

Sarah Pickering - Little Dorrit

Similar to the works of William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens' stories have seen dozens of adaptations over the years. One lesser-known adaptation is of a lesser-known story — "Little Dorrit." While this 1857 novel never had the impact of "A Tale of Two Cities" or "A Christmas Carol" on pop culture, the six-hour film (released in two parts) made quite an impact on release, attracting more than a few powerhouse actors and a pair of Oscar nominations.

Reading down a cast list gives you a who's who of 1980s British acting — Derek Jacobi, Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood, Miriam Margolyes, and many more make appearances. The little Dorrit of the title is Amy Dorrit, a young girl who is raised in a debtor's prison in London. Amy is played by Sarah Pickering, who more than holds her own against the impressive cast she's paired with.

Finding any details on Pickering beyond her role in this film is a heavy lift. She was never cast in anything else, and any other details about her are unverified rumors. She likely just moved into a normal life after her work on the film.

Lucas Donat - Damien: Omen II

While "Damien: Omen II" might not have the staying power of its predecessor, it's still a solid entry in what was once a major horror franchise. Though not as impactful as "The Omen," the sequel is vastly superior to the third and fourth entries in the franchise — we won't even bother with the 2006 remake.

In "Damien: Omen II," everyone's favorite antichrist is a preteen, living with his uncle in Chicago and attending a military academy. The only semblance of a true friend he has is his cousin Mark, played by Lucas Donat. When Mark learns Damien's true nature and confronts him, Damien gives him the chance to join him. Mark refuses, and Damien kills his cousin in order to protect his secret.

Donat is the rare actor on this list who seemingly gained more fame after leaving the acting profession. He became a prolific advertising executive for Tiny Rebellion, a firm that won small agency of the year from AdAge in 2014. Donat has been praised for his disruptive approach and for helping to spearhead the marketing campaigns for companies like LegalZoom and eHarmony.

Dorothy McGowan - Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?

A word of career advice — it probably isn't in your best interest to release a film that is little more than a thinly-veiled send-up of your boss. That's exactly what photographer William Klein did with "Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?" The Vogue fashion photographer wrote and directed this mockumentary in 1966, skewering the very industry he worked for. He even cast one of his favorite models, Dorothy McGowan, as supermodel Polly Maggoo, the film's lead character.

He claims it was a later film that got him fired from Vogue. The fact that McGowan didn't act again after making the film makes things a little more complicated.

"Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?" is a pretty scathing satire, as the lead model confesses her hopes and dreams to her faux-documentary crew while constantly dealing with harassment from the public and those within her industry. McGowan seemingly retired after making the film and faded from public life. She passed away in 2022 at the age of 82.

Dennis Wilson - Two-Lane Blacktop

The American road movie's poster child is "Easy Rider," but there are a number of films that fit the category. One that often flies under the radar is "Two-Lane Blacktop," a minimalistic film about a duo of road racers who flit across the country in their Chevy 150. Musicians James Taylor and Dennis Wilson (of The Beach Boys) play the lead roles. While Taylor had done sporadic acting in his career, Wilson made only this one appearance on film.

Wilson may have been primed for a successful career as both a musician and an actor, but one unlucky encounter seemed to derail his life. Wilson had a habit of picking up hitchhikers and one day brought two young women back to his home. After leaving for a Beach Boys recording session, he came back to his house to discover the women had invited even more people over. One of them was a young Charles Manson.

As Wilson's life was slowly eroded by Manson and his cult, he turned to heavy substance abuse. He died at the age of 39 when he drowned after diving into Marina Del Rey.

Robert Tsai - School of Rock

"School of Rock" was a film that helped prove Jack Black was more than just a gimmick. He had appeared in films before and had found plenty of success with his musical group Tenacious D, but "School of Rock" was the film that helped transform him into a household name. That said, he gets to shine in the film because of the way he works with his reluctant bandmates, and few of the kids in "School of Rock" are as memorable as Lawrence, the keyboard maestro.

Played by Robert Tsai, Lawrence is one of the most skilled performers in the band, but his insecurities nearly derail his opportunities. According to "School of Rock" director Richard Linklater, he drew on a real interaction with Robert Tsai for Lawrence's emotional scene. Tsai apparently tried to quit the film, telling Linklater that he thought he was unfit for the role. Linklater convinced Tsai to stay and reworked that conversation into Lawrence's worry that he was too uncool to be in the band.

Tsai never acted again after "School of Rock," but he continues to perform as a classical pianist.

Amber Scott - Hook

Steven Spielberg's "Hook" is fondly remembered for its incredible cast and fun reimagining of the classic "Peter Pan" story. Who can forget Dustin Hoffman's scenery-chewing Captain Hook performance or Robin Williams' Peter Pan and his playful banter with Julia Roberts' Tinker Bell? The boo box? Run home Jack? Ru-fi-ohhh? We're talking about a stone-cold classic right here.

Often lost in the shuffle is Peter's daughter, Maggie. Played by a then-seven-year-old Amber Scott, Maggie has some scene-stealing moments throughout the film. Even though Spielberg often rehires actors for future projects, Scott's only other acting credit is as a voice actor on "American Experience," the historical documentary series.

Scott seemingly went on to a normal life as she grew older, attending Trinity College and getting her degree. That said, she eventually updated her headshot on IMDb, and she received a producer credit for the short film "Cannonball." Maybe she's still gearing up for a return to Hollywood, but we haven't heard anything in a few years from her camp.