One of the small comforts of watching a movie is knowing that, yeah, those guys might be idols up on the big screen, but off-camera they're probably just like the rest of us: 30 pounds overweight, living in an abandoned semi-truck cab and selling weed for denture money.
But every now and then, we come across actors whose real lives are even more incredible than their fake ones. Like ...
If there's one thing that Han Solo is really good at, besides stupid ear-piercing decisions, it's being America's favorite aging action hero.
The assumption, of course, is that in real life, Harrison Ford is nothing like the smooth operator he plays in movies, especially after we get a gander at that screaming midlife crisis of an ear hole up there. And especiallyer after watching Ford high times it up on Conan a few weeks back. Clearly, the real-life Harrison Ford is one part crotchety fuddy-duddy, two parts on weird old people medicines and three parts in the grave.
Sure you've flown a blimp Harrison Ford.
Ford is the real-world Han Solo, if Han Solo piloted helicopters, worked for free and actually liked helping people.
"Look, Your Worshipfulness, a friend in need is a friend indeed."
Twice Ford has used his helicopter to come to the rescue of real-world hikers in distress, once by saving a woman on top of an Idaho mountain and once by joining a search and rescue mission for a 13-year-old Boy Scout lost in the woods. And out of all the people on the mission, Ford was the one who found the kid. In both cases, he volunteered his helicopter and piloting services free of charge, and also made himself available to the sheriff for future emergencies, undoubtedly prompting lonely middle-aged women all over the American Northwest to suddenly take up the sport of ill-planned hiking trips.
It turns out Ford has been piloting since the 90s, and just about every time he comes near an aircraft, glorious things happen, even the time he crashed his helicopter and then walked away without a scratch. He's personally flown Special Olympics athletes to their competitions, and he oversaw an airlift of volunteers and supplies to Haiti for Operation Smile.
Having Han Solo step out of the rescue chopper that just saved your life is not the most mind blowing helicopter related encounter you can have with Mr. Ford. If you throw a candy wrapper out your window while driving along the Hudson River, it's entirely possible that you will round the bend to find a pissed off Harrison Ford blocking traffic in his helicoptor. See, on top of those nice-guy jobs, Ford straight polices the Hudson River, using his helicopter to catch polluters. Beat that, Luke Groundwalker.
How that helicopter remains airborne while carrying Ford's testicles remains a mystery..
Being more pimp than the characters you play is easy when your most famous character is, say, a belligerent office worker. Not so much when you're best known as Jules Winnfield, paid assassin and B.A.M.F. Just the badassery it takes imagining the kind of life that would out-awesome Jules is a feat in itself. Your brain grows a Jherifro and starts threatening your other organs with violence in the effort. So for us to say that the real Samuel L. Jackson is more hardcore than Jules Winnfield, you know we've got to have some big guns to back it up.
Most men look foolish with a wallet like that. Jules just looks honest.
Jackson was a militant member of the Black Power movement. And kind of a terrorist.
When we say "militant," we're not just talking about beret wearing and outstretched fist posing. We're talking about the definition of "militant" that involves weapons and violence. Like many others in the 1960s, Jackson started out on the Jedi/MLK side of the civil rights movement. But after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Jackson switched to the dark side -- the side that decided peaceful integration with whitey was off the table.
In 1969, Samuel Jackson and his angry buddies held members of the Morehouse College Board of Trustees hostage in exchange for changes in the college curriculum and school governance. Apparently, kidnapping people to get what you want is kind of effective, because Morehouse actually did initiate some of the captors' ideas.
You expected them to say "no"?
Jackson and crew were, of course, expelled. But that was OK, because Jackson used his time away from college to go to Black Panther University with Honorary Prime Minister Stokely Carmichael as his professor. And that was when the FBI started investigating Samuel L. Jackson and family, which thoroughly spooked Mr. Jackson, and motivated him to get back on the straight and narrow.
At least until he got addicted to crack, but that's another story for another day.
Specifically, the day corporate approves our "Better Living Through Crack" ad campaign.
As the guy who played Dracula, Count Dooku and Saruman, Christopher Lee is undoubtedly the horror movie god of the 20th century. At 6 feet 4, he's fear in human form, yet he's probably old enough to have fathered your grandfather.
And your father.
Christopher Lee was once a member of Britain's Special Operations Executive, aka the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.
The group was an A-Team-esque crack commando unit tasked by Winston Churchill himself to "set Europe ablaze." The team included Christopher Lee, Ian Fleming and no freaking joke, the entire James Bond universe. The full extent of Lee's "ungentlemanly" actions remain classified to this day, and perhaps for good reason.
As cool as it must be to have more than 260 films under your belt, a Guinness World Record for Tallest Leading Actor and proficiency in seven languages, not to mention a freaking knighthood, Christopher Lee's greatest real-life accomplishment is probably the metal album featuring himself as his great-great-ancestor Charlemagne ... which he recorded at age 87.
Before making his mark as Snake Plissken and the Big Trouble in Little China guy, Kurt Russell was actually one of the most successful child stars ever. In fact, one Disney executive called Russell the studio's biggest star of the 70s. So, already Kurt has two strikes against his making this list: one, he's known as an action star, which is hard to beat in real life, and two, he was groomed to be a Disney pretty boy.
At the same time Russell was working through his 10 year contract with Disney studios, he was also working on becoming a real-world Chuck Norris. Let's compare Russell's resume with, say, Hannah Montana's.
He played some Minor League Baseball in his youth, where he somehow maintained a .586 batting average before he was retired because of injury.
He holds an unhealthy love of baseball to this day.
He was a race car driver and won six national championships and one world championship "as a kid," which we imagine is enough to register someone as "badass for life" according to any child's criteria.
Oh, and one last thing. His name was the last thing ever uttered by Walt Disney.
It turns out that one of, if not the last thing Disney did before dying in 1966 was scrawl the name "Kurt Russell" (then a child star who had already signed with Disney) on a scrap of paper. We're not sure what that means, other than that Russell clearly murdered Disney with his mind-wizard powers and that Disney tried to tell us.