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The List: Top 10 actors who jumped from TV to the movies

Stevie Wonder (left) is mimicked by comedian Eddie Murphy on “Saturday Night Live” in 1981. Mr. Wonder joined a tribute to the comedian on Spike TV. (Associated Press)
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Pierce Brosnan celebrated his 60th birthday Thursday. Mr. Brosnan first achieved fame on NBC's detective show "Remington Steele" (1982-1987). He then translated his television success into fame on the big screen, notably as Ian Fleming's British spy 007. In the process, he reinvigorated the James Bond movie franchise after a six-year hiatus. In honor of Mr. Brosnan's birthday, The List this week looks at the top 10 actors who used their television careers as a springboard to successful movie careers.

  • 10. Bill Murray — Ain't afraid of being funny — Comedian Bill Murray used a three-year stint on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" to transition into a number of legendary comedies, including "Caddyshack" (1980), "Ghostbusters" (1984) and "Groundhog Day" (1993.) Mr. Murray also proved he had range by garnering critical acclaim and an Academy Award nomination for the drama "Lost in Translation" (2003).
  • 9. Michael Douglas — The son also rises — The son of legendary actor Kirk Douglas, Michael Douglas achieved prominence in his own right as Karl Malden's partner Steve Keller on ABC's detective series "The Streets of San Francisco" (1972-1977). Mr. Douglas then used his fame from the Quinn Martin television show to become an Academy Award-winning producer ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," 1975) and actor ("Wall Street," 1987).
  • 8. Denzel Washington — The doctor is in — Fordham-trained actor Denzel Washington rose to stardom playing Dr. Philip Chandler on NBC's medical drama "St. Elsewhere" (1982-1988). He then transferred his appeal to the big screen, becoming a two-time Academy Award-winning actor in the process (best supporting actor, "Glory," 1989; best actor, "Training Day," 2001).
  • 7. Roger Moore — Heavenly ascent — Two decades before Mr. Brosnan, English actor Roger Moore made the leap from television actor to James Bond. Mr. Moore gained popularity as Simon Templar, a wealthy man of intrigue who assists people with their predicaments in the British television series "The Saint" (1962-1969). Mr. Moore easily channeled Templar's smooth, charming, ladies' man appeal into 007 when he took over the Bond franchise from Sean Connery in 1973. He kept it going strong for more than a decade.
  • 6. Will Smith — The prince becomes a king — Will Smith achieved television fame starring in NBC's sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (1990-1996) about a Philadelphia youth who experienced culture shock when he moved in with his wealthy uncle and his family in an affluent suburb of Los Angeles. The hit show allowed Mr. Smith to jump into movies where he starred in a number of blockbusters including "Bad Boys" (1995), "Independence Day" (1996), "Enemy of the State," (1998), and the "Men in Black" franchise. Mr. Smith's box office success caused Newsweek in 2007 to dub him Hollywood's most powerful actor.
  • 5. George Clooney — More than just good looks — Hailing from an entertainment family — his aunt was singer Rosemary Clooney — actor George Clooney achieved fame playing Dr. Doug Ross on NBC's long-running medical drama "E.R." (1994-2009). With his television fame and noted good looks, Mr. Clooney — twice named People's "Sexiest Man Alive" — made a successful leap to motion pictures. In addition to starring in a number of critically acclaimed movies — "Out of Sight" (1998), "Three Kings" (1999), "The Perfect Storm" (2000), "Michael Clayton" (2007), and "Up in the Air "(2009) - he has won two Academy Awards, one for supporting actor in 2005 for "Syriana" and one as a producer for "Argo" (2012).
  • 4. Jennifer Aniston — Being there for you — Jennifer Aniston, the goddaughter of Telly Savalas, took America by storm playing Rachel Green in NBC's hit comedy, "Friends" (1994-2004). Her character became so popular as to inspire her own hairstyle "The Rachel." Miss Aniston's personal life became a tabloid obsession where it continues to this day. Miss Aniston's television fame followed her to the big screen where she has starred in primarily romantic comedies such as "She's the One" (1996), "Picture Perfect" (1997), "The Object of My Affection" (1998), "Along Came Polly" (2004), and "The Break-Up" (2006).
  • 3. Eddie Murphy — The hip detective — Comedian Eddie Murphy gained attention on NBC's "Saturday Night Live." His comedic skills translated into box office success with "48 Hrs." (1982), "Trading Places" (1983), "The Nutty Professor" (1996) and "Dr. Dolittle"(1998). Mr. Murphy became a phenomenon, however, as streetwise Detroit detective Axel Foley rooting out crime and corruption in California in "Beverly Hills Cop" (1984). The film spawned two sequels and Mr. Murphy's Foley, with his Mumford High School T-shirt and Detroit Lions jacket, became an icon of the 1980s.
  • 2. Bruce Willis — Yippee ki-yay — Former bartender Bruce Willis received his big break playing detective David Addison alongside Cybill Shepherd in ABC's "Moonlighting" (1985-1989). The romantic sparks between the two leads kept viewers tuning in. Mr. Willis took his television fame to the big screen, where his everyman, blue collar persona resonated, especially in the "Die Hard" series. No matter the odds, Mr. Willis' New York cop John McClane always manages to save the day.
  • 1. Clint Eastwood — Making his day — American icon Clint Eastwood first achieved widespread fame playing cowboy Rowdy Yates on CBS' western "Rawhide" (1959-1965). His television work caught the attention of director Sergio Leone who cast Mr. Eastwood as the Man With No Name in his spaghetti Westerns "A Fistful of Dollars" (1964), "For A Few Dollars More" (1965), and "The Good, the Bad and The Ugly" (1966). These films, along with "Dirty Harry" (1971), made Mr. Eastwood an international star, which he remains to this day.

Compiled By John Sopko
Sources: Newsweek, TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly, imdb.com, Wikipedia

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