7 Celebrity Careers That Launched by Accident
Hollywood is filled with plenty of rags to riches stories. Jim Carey worked as a janitor, Demi Moore was a debt collector, Brad Pitt used to wear a chicken suit while handing out fliers and Sharon Stone worked (works?) at a McDonald's.
But some actors' beginnings can be attributed to not hard work, but sheer chance or accident. Such as...
Even though he's turned into a walking punchline the last few years, there's no denying Mel Gibson will go down as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood history. His movies have made two billion dollars in the US alone and he's got two Oscars to go with it.
But Gibson's accidental stumble into stardom started in New York, where he was born (not Australia, as it turns out). Gibson's father, Hutton, filed a lawsuit against the city and won. After collecting his money, he moved his family to Australia. It was in this dingo-infested continent that a young Mel started to dabble in acting, and would get his big break due to a ridiculous, drunken stroke of luck.
Gibson went to the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney. There he would perform in some stage productions, including the male lead in Romeo and Juliet, with Judy Davis as his co-star.
However, Gibson didn't consider a film career until a friend told him he needed a lift to audition for a movie. It was about a desolate, waste of a world in which gasoline is hunted by gay bikers.
Apparently, he still wasn't considering a film career, because the night before the audition, Gibson got into a drunken brawl at a bar. He dragged himself to the audition sporting a face full of fist shaped bruises. The director happened to catch sight of his sorry ass. Deciding that he already looked like he was living in a dystopian future, he asked him to come back because, as he put it, the film "needed freaks."
When Gibson did return, his wounds had healed into an unrecognizable mask of handsome manliness. The director asked Gibson to read for the only character who doesn't look like a blistered freak, and he landed the titular role in Mad Max , the franchise that would make him known around the globe.
LOST is widely thought to have become a hit for two reasons: a twisting, confounding plot and an often-moist Evangeline Lilly.
After LOST debuted, Lilly immediately shot to the top of every list ever made to chart hotness, including Maxim's (twice) and FHM's. We guess she's a pretty good actress too, since she was nominated for a Golden Globe. Of course, all the fanfare could be short lived. Lilly announced that after LOST is over, she intends to put her career on hold and become a humanitarian.
Yeah. A boner humanitarian!
Now usually when an actress claims to be a "humanitarian," it's because her agent had to explain to her that "vegetarian" is no longer socially-conscious enough, and "planetarium" is a type of building, and therefore also out of the question. But becoming a humanitarian isn't a stretch for Lilly. Before she was an actress, she was doing missionary work in the Philippines. After declining a two-year post, she became a flight attendant with Air Canada.
Things, however, changed one day when she was walking around Kelowna, British Columbia, and was spotted by a scout for the Ford modeling agency. She almost declined, but decided she needed the money to pay for school. While not actually doing any modeling for the company, she did do some acting for them. Like this tasteful ad.
That's right: Kate, from LOST, used to star in phone sex ads in Canada. For a young ex-missionary, we'd imagine that starring in Canadian phone sex ads was as lonely and existentially terrifying as anything the LOST writers can think up to throw at her.
The quintessential blonde bombshell, Monroe was married to baseball great Joe DiMaggio, and romantically linked to the penises of men as famous as John F. Kennedy and Frank Sinatra (if you'd like to imagine an interlinking chain of penises here, we won't stop you). She posed nude for the first issue of some up-and-coming gentlemen's magazine called Playboy and showed up in some movies, too.
The original blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe was neither blonde nor named Marilyn Monroe, though her early career was closely linked to bombshells, oddly enough. Born a brunette named Norma Jeane Mortenson in LA, she spent her childhood moving between foster homes and orphanages.
When she grew up, Monroe worked at a munitions plant where she inspected parachutes and sprayed airplanes to make them fire retardant. It was at this plant that a photographer for YANK magazine (a publication intended to boost morale of troops overseas apparently through the magic of double entendres) snapped a photo of Monroe for the cover.
The photographer pointed out to her that she was smoking hot and had the kind of breasts that could change the world. So she took acting classes, cut and dyed her hair blond and became a legend.
So let that be a lesson: If some random guy shows up at your job and takes a picture of you, you should absolutely do whatever he says. He only wants what's best for you.
If you're asking who Rosario Dawson is, then we feel sorry for you. Very sorry. But despite the misfortune of landing roles in The Adventures of Pluto Nash, The Rundown and Josie and the Pussycats, Dawson's built a pretty solid career.
Her star isn't the only thing on the rise.
Those shitty roles allowed her to later pick up parts in MIB II, Rent and she even showed us the goods in Alexander. Unfortunately she was wrestling a greased up Colin Farrell at the time, but the goods were, nevertheless, delightful. More roles in movies like Sin City, Grind House and Clerks II solidified her spot as an actress with some decent range.
The other thing on the rise was our boners, by the way.
Born in New York City to a 17-year-old mother, Dawson grew up in the Lower East Side, living by the ethos, in her own words: "If you wanted something better, you had to do it yourself." She may have picked up this ethos from her mom, as the apartment they grew up in was initially abandoned, and only became home when her mother broke into it. She may have a New York accent, a kickass body and a distinct absence of moonshine on her breath, but until the age of 17, Rosario Dawson was basically a hobo.
There's oddly no shortage of pictures of Rosario Dawson eating things.
It should be noted, though, that when "something better" did come along, it had nothing to do with Rosario getting it herself. Rather, it had everything to do with her sitting on her extraordinarily sculpted ass in front of her (stolen) apartment.
While she was sitting on her front stoop, a photographer named Larry Clark, and a young screenwriter named Harmony Korine, walked up to her and told her that she would be perfect for one of the characters in his new screenplay. Try to keep in mind a few things about this exchange: Dawson had no acting experience whatsoever. Harmony Korine is the cracked-out mess in this Letterman interview. Larry Clark is a 66-year-old photographer whose favorite subjects are teenagers taking drugs and having sex. And guess what that screenplay she was just "perfect for" was about: One hundred odd pages jam packed with teenagers getting high and boning.
Instead of calling neighborhood watch, Dawson showed up to an audition, got the role and the movie ended up being Kids, launching her and Chloe Sevigny's careers at the same time. To any little girls reading this, we really can't stress enough how unlikely the ending to that story is. Forget a movie career, she's lucky she didn't end up in some impossibly creepy inter-generational version of Bang bus.
For years, Pamela Anderson graced the television screen as a lifeguard in Baywatch who saved lives thanks to the buoyancy of her boobies.
If Marilyn Monroe was our fathers' blonde bombshell, Pamela Anderson, no doubt, was ours. Many a young man remembers where they were when they first watched that glorious rack on a swing in Barb Wire (in their bedrooms with doors locked and shades pulled). As do they remember how many countless hours it took to download the grainy 10-second bits of her sex tape that were available online, only to witness Tommy Lee honking a boat horn with his dong.
Okay, okay, there's more to Pamela Anderson than her boobs and her questionable taste in men. She's worked with PETA on their anti-fur and vegetarian campaigns, and has participated in fundraisers to raise money in the fight against AIDS. So even if you still think she's just a big ol' pair of boobies, she at least has used said boobies for good and not evil.
Born somewhere in Canada, probably to a pack of Molson-drinking timber wolves, Anderson actually became famous for being Canada's Centennial Baby in 1967--the first baby born after the clock struck midnight on Canada's 100th birthday in which they celebrated banding together under one lunatic. Or something like that.
Upon graduating from high school, Anderson moved to Vancouver and became a fitness instructor. It was here that during a CFL game (that's Canadian Football League for anyone who cares) Anderson's image graced the jumbotron while she was wearing a Labatt's t-shirt. The crowd got one look at her legendary chest and freaked the hell out. She was brought down onto the field where she received a huge ovation. It's unclear if they kept playing the game at this point, or if anyone was coherent enough to notice, but we like to think that Canadian football games are called all the time for "crowd's inability to handle wicked hot girl shown on jumbotron."
Labatt's quickly signed her to a modeling contract and, soon, Hugh Hefner was knocking on her door to pose for his magazine. So, we guess there's something we can actually thank Canada for.
That's what we're talking aboot!
If Marilyn Monroe was the quintessential Hollywood Bombshell, John Wayne was the quintessential badass. Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood, Sly Stallone; all of them took lessons from The Duke.
Wayne would make himself a staple in the Western genre by starring in such films as The Searchers, The Alamo and True Grit. He also made his rounds in the War genre with films like The High and the Mighty, Island in the Sky and The Green Berets, a pro-Vietnam film. That's right; he just didn't give a shit.
By the time he was done, he would appear in 171 movies over 50 years. That's like one movie every three months.
Born Marion Robert Morrison (we'd go with John Wayne, too), the Duke grew up in California after his family relocated there. Having a natural athletic ability, he played football for his high school team which won the state championship in 1924. He attended USC on a football scholarship and would've continued, if not for an unfortunate injury sustained during the impressively unmanly activity that is bodysurfing. Injured and unable to pay for school (he lost his scholarship), he dropped out of USC.
To make ends meet, Wayne applied for jobs at the local film studios in the area. Not as a silver screen badass, just doing any damned thing. He wound up getting a job working with the props department at Fox.
Whenever they needed extras for movies back then, they apparently just grabbed whoever was standing around. Because Wayne had the build of a football player he got early roles like "football player in background" and "football player on sideline." In 1931's The Deceiver he played a corpse.
But then he caught his big break. And as it often happens, his big break wasn't a role, but a person. Wayne became friends with legendary director John Ford, who pulled some strings and got Wayne his first leading role, and later cast him in Stagecoach. That movie made Wayne a star and gave birth to "The Duke," the drawling caricature Wayne would play in movie after movie after movie after movie (just repeat that 150 more times).
Edward Scissorhands. Captain Jack Sparrow. Raoul Duke. Mort fucking Rainey. All legendary roles that probably wouldn't be quite as legendary had they not been played by Johnny Depp.
Initially, Depp had no intentions of being an actor. When he was younger, his mother gave him a guitar as a gift and he had his sights set on being a rock star, and even ended up performing in various garage bands. Eventually, Depp dropped out of school to dedicate more time to his music. When he tried to return, his principal actually advised him against doing so, and to follow his dreams instead.
Despite having the world's coolest principal, his hopes for a career in music began to dwindle. Depp married a make-up artist who introduced him to Nicolas Cage, who told the young hopeful to try acting (advice we continue to offer Cage to this very day). Instead, Depp divorced the make-up artist, probably because she introduced him to Nicolas Cage.
Just like Gibson, one day, for no discernible reason, Depp accompanied a friend named Jackie Earle Haley to an audition for a horror movie about an ugly janitor who kills children through their dreams.
It was there that Wes Craven spotted Depp and asked him to read for the part of the protagonist's boyfriend who dies in the most vomit-inducing way possible. Depp nailed the audition and went on to become an iconic movie actor, while his friend was doomed to roles as smelly hippies, smelly perverts and smelly psychopaths.
The lesson? If a friend asks you to drive him to an audition, fucking do it.
Be sure to check out Fitzgerald's friend Thad over at CallMeThad.
For more 411s (that's Hollywood for: information) on the humble beginnings of major players, check out 6 Inspiring Rags to Riches Stories (That Are Bullshit). Or find out about the riches to rags stories we have to offer, in History's 6 Greatest Examples of Financial Fail.
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