As the World Stops Turning: Soap Actors Turned Super Stars

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It's the end of one of television's most long-running, beloved affairs: today, after 54 years on the air, "As the World Turns" comes to a screeching halt.

The CBS soap opera made its debut in 1956, sponsored by Procter & Gamble, the famous maker of household products. It was once a major hit, but last year CBS announced that it would cancel "As the World Turns" on Sept. 17, 2010 because of low ratings. In its place, the network will start a new daytime, female-friendly talk show called "The Talk," in the same vein of ABC's "The View."

In more than five decades on the air, "As the World Turns" launched a host of careers. It's not the only soap with that distinction: "Guiding Light," which ended its 72-year-long run on television last year, also gave a start to some of today's top stars. So did other soaps like "The Young and the Restless" and "Knots Landing."

Below, take a look at 12 actors who found serious stardom after a soap opera stint.

Julianne Moore

Before the big Hollywood roles rolled in, Julianne Moore was a New York City waitress, born in North Carolina, who got her start in the acting world on "As the World Turns." In 1985, Moore was cast in the dual roles of half-sisters Frannie and Sabrina Hughes. She played the girls for three years and won a Daytime Emmy for her work in 1988.

From there, it was on to the film world. Moore appeared in hits throughout the '90s, including "The Fugitive," "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" and "Jurassic Park." She got her first Oscar nomination, for best supporting actress, playing a porn star in 1997's "Boogie Knights." Critical acclaim kept coming for her roles in "The End of the Affair," "The Hours" and "Far from Heaven."

Moore has cemented her status as an A-list star, most recently starring in the film "Chloe" alongside Liam Neeson and guesting on "30 Rock" with fellow soap opera alum Alec Baldwin. But she hasn't forgotten her roots -- after CBS announced that it would be canceling "As the World Turns," Moore returned to reprise her role as Frannie Hughes for an April episode. Moore blew into Oakdale, the show's fictional setting, to celebrate the wedding anniversary of her TV stepmom and dad, Bob and Kim, much to the delight of the soap's fans.

Marisa Tomei

The big actress from Brooklyn got her start on the New York City set of "As the World Turns." In 1983, while studying at New York University, Marisa Tomei landed the role of teenager Marcy Thompson Cushing on the soap opera. She dropped out of school to pursue her acting ambitions, staying on "As the World Turns" until 1985.

After that, Tomei went on to the sitcom "A Different World" before landing her breakthrough role in 1992's "My Cousin Vinny." Tomei won a best supporting actress Oscar for the film and went on to an enviable career. Most recently, she wowed audiences and critics in "The Wrestler" and "Cyrus."

Jason Biggs

He might be best known for his "American Pie" antics, but before making love to a plate of pastry, Jason Biggs cut his teeth in the acting world on "As the World Turns."

Biggs started his career early, at the age of 5. His first major turn on television came in 1994, when he was cast as the troubled teen Pete Wendall on the soap opera. Critics perked up: he earned a Daytime Emmy nomination for best young actor for the role.

After a brief stint at New York University, Biggs scored his breakthrough role in 1999 with "American Pie," the teen flick that became an international, sequel-making sensation. Recently, Biggs, now 32, appeared in the comedies "My Best Friend's Girl" and "Over Her Dead Body."

Meg Ryan

Before she became America's sweetheart in films like "When Harry Met Sally," "Sleepless in Seattle" and "You've Got Mail," Meg Ryan played Betsy Stewart on "As the World Turns" from 1982 to 1984.

Her pairing with Frank Runyeon's character Steve made them one of the most popular couples on television in the 80s. Their "wedding" on May 30, 1984, attracted 20 million viewers, making it the second highest-rated hour in American soap opera history.

Ryan left the show for smaller TV and film roles, including the wife of "Goose" in "Top Gun." Her first real hit didn't come until the end of the 80s when she starred opposite Billy Crystal in "When Harry Met Sally." She earned a Golden Globe nomination for that role which included the memorable fake orgasm scene in a Manhattan deli.

James Earl Jones

It's hard to believe that the actor known for his basso voice, most notably as Darth Vader in the "Star Wars" films, once stuttered so badly he refused to speak. But in high school, a teacher coaxed him to read poetry aloud and James Earl Jones' interest in performing bloomed.

He took roles in television to augment his theater work and became the first black man to have a continuing role on a daytime serial when he portrayed Dr. Jerry Turner on "As the World Turns" in 1966 and later, as Dr. Jim Frazier on "The Guiding Light."

Kevin Bacon

Before he got footloose, actor Kevin Bacon played the teenage alcoholic Tim "T.J." Werner on "Guiding Light" from 1980 to 1981. Bacon also starred as Tom Adamson on the soap opera "Search for Tomorrow" in 1979. His first big screen break came as Timothy Fenwick Jr. in the 1982 film "Diner," where he co-starred alongside Steve Guttenberg, Daniel Stern, Mickey Rourke, Tim Daly and Ellen Barkin. The buzz he stirred as Fenwick led to one of Bacon's biggest roles to date, as the foot-frenzied Ren McCormack in the 1985 hit film "Footloose."

Calista Flockhart

Before she made a name for herself as the quirky Ally McBeal in 1997, Calista Flockhart had a minor role in 1989 as the babysitter for one of "Guiding Light's" most memorable characters, the diva Reva Shayne Lewis (Kim Zimmer). Flockhart went on to win a Golden Globe for her role on "Ally McBeal" in 1998.

She currently stars as communications director Kitty Walker on the ABC show "Brothers and Sisters," and is married to actor Harrison Ford.

Alec Baldwin

He currently plays the slick-mouthed Jack Donaghy on the TV show "30 Rock," but Alec Baldwin's acting career had more humble beginnings. His first role was as Billy Allison Aldrich on the soap opera "The Doctors" from 1980-1982. The Emmy-winning show took place in the fictional Hope Memorial Hospital, and focused on a hospital team and the medical emergencies they faced.

Baldwin got his big break on the nighttime soap opera "Knots Landing," as the lunatic preacher Joshua Rush from 1984-1985. The show focused on five married couples living in the fictional town of Knots Landing. Rush returned to his mother Lilimae, played by Julie Harris, who abandoned him as a baby. He attempted to kill his wife Cathy, played by Lisa Hartman, but in the process ended up killing himself.

Baldwin's film career began in the 1980s, with roles in movies such as "Working Girl" and "Beetlejuice." His role as Jack Ryan in the 1990 film "The Hunt for Red October" gave his acting career a huge boost. Baldwin's satirical comedic approach earned him a role as the host of "Saturday Night Live" 14 times and landed him on "30 Rock" in 2006. He has won two Emmys and three Golden Globes for his role on "30 Rock," which he also co-produces.

Anne Heche

Anne Heche became well-known because of her highly publicized relationship with television host Ellen DeGeneres, but it was her role as the good and evil twins Marley and Vicky from 1987-1991 on "Another World" that many soap fans remember her for.

"Another World" took place in the Midwestern town of Bay City, and focused on its residents. The show debuted in 1964 and was created by William J. Bell and Irna Phillips, who was also the mastermind behind "Guiding Light." Other celebrities, such as Morgan Freeman, Lindsay Lohan, Kelsey Grammer and Kyra Sedgwick also had roles on the show.

Heche won a daytime Emmy for her role as Vicky in 1991. On the big screen, Heche has starred in "Donnie Brasco" and opposite Harrison Ford in "Six Days, Seven Nights." She had a reccurring role in the shows "Ally McBeal" and "Men In Trees." She currently stars as a slightly neoritic housewife on the HBO show "Hung."

Brad Pitt

Long before he was nominated for two Oscars, became the father of six and the headline of magazine articles, Brad Pitt played a recurring role on the CBS soap opera "Dallas" in 1987.

"Dallas" told the tangled tale of the wealthy Ewing family. Pitt played Randy, the boyfriend of Charlie Wade, played by Shalane McCall.

But it was Pitt's role as the hunky drifter J.D. in the 1991 film "Thelma and Louise" that put him in the public eye. Since then, Pitt has become one of the biggest names in Hollywood, starring in such films as "Fight Club," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and "Inglourious Basterds."

Nicollette Sheridan

Before she graced Wisteria Lane as Edie on "Desperate Housewives," Nicollette Sheridan played the manipulative Paige Matheson on "Knots Landing" from 1986-1993.

During her time on the show, Sheridan's character managed to fake her own death, accidentally kill her boyfriend, and get shot and kidnapped. She won the Soap Opera Digest award for Outstanding Lead Actress: Primetime in 1990.

Sheridan became the adulterous housewife Edie Britt on "Desperate Housewives" in 2004. Edie died in a car accident in a 2009 episode. Sheridan is set to star as the voice of Zenna in "Noah's Ark: The New Beginning."

David Hasselhoff

David Hasselhoff began his acting career at age 22, as Dr. William "Snapper" Foster Jr. on "The Young and the Restless" from 1975-1982. "Young and the Restless" centers on the competition between two wealthy families, the Abbots and Newmans.

Hasselhoff's character was put through college by his mother and manicurist sister, played by Jill Abbot, who is still on the show.

''I was so green on the audition,'' Hasselhoff told Entertainment Weekly.com. "They told me the director was in the booth, and I said, 'What's a booth?''' Hasselhoff went on to star in two other major television shows: "Knight Rider" and "Baywatch." In the late 1980s, Hasselhoff reinvented himself as a pop singer, becoming a hit in Europe. Next up for Hasselhoff: seeing how far his feet can take him on the upcoming season of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars."

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