The next time you see a celebrity walking down the red carpet surrounded by scary-looking guys in black suits, pay attention to those muscleheads: One of them could become a bigger star than the jackass he or she is protecting. After all, it's happened before with former badass bodyguards-turned-beloved actors. For instance ...
#5. Michael Clarke Duncan Was Biggie Smalls' Original Bodyguard the Night He Died
Mark Mainz/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Michael Clarke Duncan is best known for playing the frankly adorable death row inmate in The Green Mile, and for uttering the immortal words "Don't you put that evil on me, Ricky Bobby" in Talladega Nights. He was a gift to the world of cinema, but before that, he was a gift to the world of bodyguarding. In fact, Duncan was so good at being a bodyguard that if he hadn't switched assignments one fateful night, his client Notorious B.I.G. might still be alive.
Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
The shooter probably would have just kept driving if he saw those guns.
Duncan started out digging ditches in Chicago, where he was known as "Hollywood Mike" -- surprisingly, not because of a side job as a male stripper, but because he dreamed of being a famous actor. After participating in Disco Demolition Night at the former White Sox stadium in 1979, Duncan must have realized he had a natural talent for beating up drunk sports fans, because at some point he also started working as a bouncer. Duncan later moved to Los Angeles to try to break into movies, but found that people were much more willing to give him money for standing between them and bullets, so he worked as a bodyguard for people like Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, and Martin Lawrence. Meanwhile, he picked up acting tips from those guys.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Thankfully he ignored the female fat suit suggestion.
One night, Duncan was supposed to guard rapper Biggie Smalls at a party but ended up trading him for R&B singer "Babyface" Edmonds with a co-worker. Duncan later said that if he had been with Biggie, he would have made sure not to seat him in the front of the car or near any windows -- the other bodyguard wasn't so particular, so Biggie sat in the front and was gunned down. After that, Duncan had two realizations: The first one was "I could have saved that man," and the second was "Fuck this job, let someone else get shot for rich people." So he immediately quit bodyguarding and started getting some acting gigs ... doing the same things he'd been doing before, only in front of a camera. He played nameless bodyguards and bouncers in movies like Bulworth and Night at the Roxbury.
20th Century Fox, SNL Studios
He saved money as a starving actor by wearing the same shirt for two years.
However, while Duncan and his leopard thong were playing the big scary-but-sensitive black man in Michael Bay's Armageddon, he became pals with Bruce Willis, who showed him the script for The Green Mile and recommended him for the part of the big scary-but-sensitive black man in that movie. And that's when, at age 42 and after being a ditch digger, a drunk puncher, and a bullet taker, Hollywood Mike finally became a star. Sadly, he passed away last year, but not before getting to grab Tom Hanks' junk and punch Ben Affleck. He lived the dream.
#4. Mr. T Was Muhammad Ali's Bodyguard
Frank Micelotta/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
In the '80s, Mr. T was inescapable: He was on our TVs, our movies, our cereal boxes, and our PEZ dispensers. He was the envy of every celebrity. Just a few years before that, however, he was working for those same celebrities as the baddest bodyguard in the business. Anyone who wanted to get near the hottest figures of the era first had to go through this:
E! True Hollywood Story
"Pity" is too soft a word.
Born Laurence Tureaud, the future Mr. T had a brief stint as a military policeman before deciding that wasn't dangerous enough and becoming a bouncer in Chicago. His job description included keeping drug dealers out of the clubs, breaking up fights, and starting new ones (he got in over 200 fights in this period). At this point he began collecting jewelry from misbehaving customers and sporting them over his body, until he ended up looking like that guy from The A-Te ... wait, never mind.
Tired of going to court to defend his actions of tossing drunks out of the club, T next went into bodyguarding. He started out protecting prostitutes and schoolteachers, but by the 1980s had worked his way up to the likes of Michael Jackson and Steve McQueen. See if you can spot the mohawk:
"Give me a sec. I dropped two tons of jewelry."
Was Mr. T guarding Muhammad Ali or Leon Spinks here? We actually don't know, because he worked for both of them at different times -- two of the toughest men on the planet, and they both needed T to protect them. He had pretty much already created the entire persona that made him famous by now: The "mohawk" was actually an African tribal cut, the gold chains represented his slave ancestors, and the "Mr. T" name was to force people to start calling him "Mister."
Now the bodyguard with the highest profile in the business, Mr. T also started entering competitions, including one for "The World's Strongest Bouncer." Part of the competition was boxing, and in all his bouts he would knock out all contenders within seconds. Interviewed by Bryant Gumbel before one of the fights, all T could say was "I just feel sorry for the guy who I have to box," spawning a catchphrase that would follow him around for the rest of his life. If that wasn't enough, Sylvester Stallone's casting director was watching the fight, and after seeing the gold-chained badass beat up a tougher guy than he was, Sly immediately called and asked him to play the villain in Rocky III.
"I'm gonna lay you flatter than your acting, sucka."
A year after Rocky III came out, T had his own show and his own cartoon, and he became one of the most iconic actors of the decade. He even went into "professional wrestling" for a little bit just for the hell of it, because he's goddamn Mr. T and he can do whatever he wants.
#3. Terry Crews: From Expendable to The Expendables
Ethan Miller/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Terry Crews played the muscular dude who shoots big firearms in The Expendables (you know the one), but he's also been the future president of the U.S. in Idiocracy, Chris Rock's sitcom dad in Everybody Hates Chris, and a bodyguard full of wisdom in HBO's The Newsroom. Also, in real life. In a little over 10 years, this guy went from scaring people for Ice Cube to playing Ice Cube's affable character on TV.
Crews grew up on the tough streets of Flint, Michigan, but found a way out thanks to his ability to constantly get tackled by other people and not die. He earned a football scholarship and played as a linebacker for the NFL for seven years, until work dried up. That's when he decided to move to Los Angeles to follow his dream of working in movies ... as a special effects artist. Besides playing football, his other hobby was drawing sci-fi landscapes and superheroes. That never happened, and with nothing else to do, Crews decided to become a human shield.
National Football League
He played for the Chargers, so he was used to playing second banana to more popular Californians.
Crews became part of Ice Cube's personal security team, and this was back in the '90s, when Cube was still primarily known as a rapper and rappers couldn't drive to the corner without getting shot. On top of that, Crews also started getting security gigs on movie sets, because someone has to keep out all the psychotic fans and Sean Youngs. Since he was pretty much used to making a living beating up people anyway, a friend persuaded him to try out for a blatant American Gladiators ripoff called Battle Dome -- soon, Crews got his first part ever as an outrageous villain called T-Money.
Sony Pictures Television
We swear this was real, and not a fake 30 Rock show.
After that, Crews started getting little tough-guy roles in movies like Training Day (he's an uncredited gang member). However, his old rapper boss was so heartbroken that his favorite bodyguard had left that he apparently started giving him parts just to keep him around -- Crews was cast in Ice Cube's comedy Friday After Next, in which he was finally allowed to prove he could be funny. Since then, he's been in pretty much everything, from Norbit to David Lynch's Inland Empire to Arrested Development. He may still accomplish his dream of being a special effects guy one day. We're pushing for you, Terry.
Andy Kropa/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Uh, metaphorically. You can handle any literal pushing better than eight of us combined.