#7. Creed Bratton (aka Creed from The Office)
Among the many reasons to love The Office is the character Creed Bratton, who is named after the real person, Creed Bratton, who is also the actor playing the character. If you've never watched the show, Bratton is both shady and malevolent, and every time he opens his mouth, something horrible and shocking comes out.
He doesn't always have to open his mouth.
The character is intentionally mysterious, but viewers do know that this upper-end-of-middle-aged man dabbles in drugs, may or may not be homeless and has had multiple affiliations with cults.
Bratton was once a guitarist for 1960s folk band The Grass Roots. Check out "Stripes" at 1:48:
So when someone over at The Office had the brilliant idea of basing Creed Bratton, the character, on Creed Bratton, the unreformed hippie badass, they weren't just whistlin' Dixie.
The character is a fictionalized version of a life hard-lived, one in which the real Bratton hitchhiked across America and sailed to Europe with just $25 in his pocket, then spent years traveling through the Middle East and Africa.
And maybe miming?
And don't forget that The Grass Roots weren't just some rinky-dink little folk band singing for funsies and shroom hits in the Village. The Grass Roots were HUGE, like, bigger-than-The-Lovin'-Spoonful-but-not-quite-as-big-as-The-Byrds huge. They toured with Janis Joplin, for crap's sake. Finding out Bratton was once in a band so big is like finding out Steve Carell is really Bob Dylan.
Bratton's story gets better when you find out he wasn't born Creed Bratton at all. He was actually born William Charles Schneider and changed his name after waking up from a night of drinking ouzo and finding a scrap of paper with the name "Creed Bratton" on it. And several other names scratched-off. For all we know, the scratched off names were the previous night's murder victims. But Bratton's best rock star story comes when he describes taking acid for the first time:
My hands started melting, and I heard someone, a disembodied bass voice, saying "Play, play." And I saw notes, like cartoon notes, drifting from staff paper through the air until they fell to the floor and broke into pieces.
Rock on, Creed Bratton. Rock on.
#6. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Not only can Arnold Schwarzenegger count himself among the handful of performers who have successfully transitioned from sports to show business, he can also boast of being one of a few humans to transition from show business to politics. And of those, he's the only one who left a leading-man, multimillion-dollar career to do it. And he didn't walk away from his career just to play at mayoring Poshville, USA, either. Schwarzenegger took on the most populous state in the country while its economy was knee-deep in the crapper. Who else is even in his category?
Not pictured: The fucking Terminator.
It's so easy to think of Schwarzenegger as the goofy action star with the accent that you forget the bizarre, tangled and somewhat insane path he took to dominate three completely separate professions.
When he was born in Austria, his dad was coming off having just fought in World War II -- for the Nazis. At age 14, when most of us still owned toys and were fighting our personal battle with acne, he hatched a plan to become, well, Arnold Schwarzenegger. He started training to be a bodybuilder. The gym was closed on weekends. No matter; he would break in.
He even learned ballet.
At 18 he was drafted into the Austrian army. He went AWOL to compete in the Junior Mr. Europe bodybuilding contest. He won, then they threw him in jail. He got out and proceeded to win Mr. Universe at age 20. That's when he hatched the second part of his plan: Go to America and become hugely famous as an actor.
Oh, he could barely speak English, so there was that little thing to overcome. His first film role was so unintelligible they had to have another guy dub over his lines. And they changed his unspellable name to "Arnold Strong," which we kind of think he should have kept.
Along with the toga.
But here's where the story gets downright creepy. See, Schwarzenegger studied two subjects when he was a teenager: bodybuilding and psychology. And when you watch his 1970s bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron, you suddenly see how this Austrian nobody climbed his way to the top of, well, everything he ever tried. The man is a master manipulator.
From the way he subtly trashes an opponent in front of the man's own parents, under the guise of a friendly conversation, to the way he ruins another opponent's performance by convincing him to scream like a maniac while posing for judges, Arnold comes off like a goddamned bodybuilding Hannibal Lecter. Check out Arnold's monologue starting at :32:
After bragging about giving the competition the "wrong advices," Arnold goes on to win the whole shebang, which he celebrates by eating fried chicken and smoking a doob.
Only in America.
#5. Julia Child
TV chef Julia Child was a huge presence in American homes from 1963 until the 1990s, and her warm persona infected pop culture like a raging case of elderly bedbugs. Everyone loved her.
Except for chickens.
If you've never actually watched the real JuliaChild in action, you totally should. Because the first thing you realize is that she was, hands down, the most awkward woman to ever set foot in front of a camera, and that's counting Sofia Coppola. She was stooped and sweaty, fraught with awkward pauses and clumsy mishaps. Julia Child was like your favorite drunk aunt, if your drunk aunt could make a mean creme brulee.
Julia Child was a secret agent during World War II.
When World War II started, she had a serious hankering to join the war effort, but at 6 feet 2 she was too tall for both the WACs and the WAVES. Because, apparently, prior to the 1950s, tallness in women was believed to be a symptom of Nazi sympathies. Undeterred, she joined the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, instead. And the OSS, which was the grandpappy of the CIA, had plenty of use for the future French chef.
Gen. Eisenhower couldn't get out of bed without his breakfast lobster.
Right off the bat, she was promoted from clerk to working with the Emergency Sea Rescue Equipment Section, and those guys were dealing with a unique problem. It seemed that downed planes, pilots and underwater bombs had this bad habit of attracting sharks. While it sucked that sharks were eating pilots and all, it really sucked when sharks detonated missiles intended for German U-boats. Child and her team were charged with making that nonsense stop.
She discovered that dead sharks secrete a sulfur compound that live sharks can't stand, so they extracted dead shark juice and put it in pellet form, which pilots and sailors carried with them while traveling over the ocean. They also figured out a way to coat underwater bombs with the sauce so sharks would stop bumbling Nazi-killing with their stupid meddling.
That's right. Before she was a TV cook, she worked as a Shark Frightener.
#4. Daniel Day-Lewis
As an actor, Daniel Michael Blake Day-Lewis has won two Academy Awards and blown the mind of anyone who ever enjoyed a milkshake with his Kubrick-esque portrayal of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood.
His was the face that launched a thousand memes.
We're actually not sure if he's badass or just insane. Daniel Day-Lewis never met a role that he didn't become in real life.
Boxer, butcher/street brawler, wheelchair-bound cerebral palsy sufferer, last Mohican, Puritan preacher, all of them. He became all those things. For the 1997 film The Boxer, for example, he trained with former boxing world champion Barry McGuigan, who later remarked that Day-Lewis "could have turned professional" by the time their training was over.
It's really tough to figure out at which point he is acting.
For his performance as Christy Brown in My Left Foot, Day-Lewis refused to leave his wheelchair and had to be spoon-fed by the crew. For The Last of the Mohicans, he lived off the land for six months. He slept in an abandoned jail and ate only prison food for In The Name of the Father. For The Crucible, he "lived in the film set's replica village without electricity or running water" and built his character's house using 17th-century tools.
This man has spent a lot of time pooping in the woods.
The dude actually worked in a butcher shop to prepare for the character Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York, caught pneumonia after refusing to change out of his period clothing and spent most of his time off-camera sharpening knives, which he learned how to throw with deadly accuracy. While still in character and, from the sound of it, in costume, Daniel/Bill the Butcher reportedly traipsed about picking fights with strangers during the filming of Gangs of New York.
That pipe ended up in some thugs colon more than once.