The 5 Most Accidentally Famous Movie Stars

Some professions work their entire lives, and follow a straight and narrow path. Others trip headfirst into success.
The 5 Most Accidentally Famous Movie Stars

At the black-tie dinner party of the highest-paid professionals in the world, the doctors, the lawyers, the architects, and the athletes all earned their seats. They found success after years of training and discipline, even sacrificing love and friendships for the sake of their careers. But somehow the actor always ends up at the party too, wearing flip-flops and a knit cap, practicing a British accent while trying to instigate a massage train.

Certainly, there are actors who are phenomenal at their craft, having managed to marry their training and raw talent into a true art form. But there are thousands more with headshots stapled to high school theater resumes, just hoping that maybe they can trick some powerful fame generator into thinking they are talented. After all, you never hear stories about 40-year-old men and women quitting careers in data analysis to head to LA in pursuit of their true passion for neurosurgery. No, it's always a profession with no metric for quality they want, something anyone can luck into.

And it works.

There are plenty of stories of agents plucking people out of obscurity and making them famous -- or more specifically, out of restaurants and off jumbotrons. Acting is the one career that can offer riches and renown without any formal training, and the following five people are proof. They never intended to be world-famous or wealthy; it just sort of happened, and their stories are what keep the greyhound buses to Hollywood full.

Jason Statham

Audiences' appreciation for the old guard of action heroes like Jean Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, and Dolph Lundgren shifted from admiration to irony right around the 2000s, when snake punching and bear fighting broke everyone's suspension of disbelief. Since then, Hollywood has been desperately trying every conceivable combination of guns, explosions, and sex to keep the heart of the action hero beating.



And at the center of it all is Jason Statham. From Crank to Death Race to The Mechanic, Statham is one of the last action heroes who remains staunchly unapologetic for his contributions to absurdity. He refuses to take himself seriously as an actor, possibly because acting is a career he stumbled into in the first place.

Before he became an action hero, Statham was nearly an Olympic hero, assuming divers are recognized as heroes somewhere in the world. He was on Britain's National Diving Squad, and ranked 12th in the 1992 World Championships.

The 5 Most Accidentally Famous Movie Stars
British National Diving Team

There are only two things separating this photo from one of Dr. Manhattan.

But apparently the world of diving doesn't pay that well, so Statham supported himself by selling counterfeit jewelry and perfume on the street corners of London. Just to be clear, Statham was funding his dreams of competitive pool jumping by hawking black market perfume out of a suitcase. It is unlikely that any job requirements following that could ever seem ludicrous.

The 5 Most Accidentally Famous Movie Stars

Another goddamn day at the office.

During one of his workouts at a London sports center, he was spotted by a talent agent, who hooked him up with a job modeling for French Connection. From there he was introduced to Guy Ritchie, who was preparing to make Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, and needed an authentic-looking street-hardened con artist. That was all it took. Statham became an instant celebrity, acting in over 30 films and never once being forced to shell out hundreds of dollars for acting movement exercises or emotional workshops.

Wilford Brimley

If you are somehow unfamiliar with Wilford Brimley, then take minute right now to close your eyes and picture your grandfather. That image you just conjured? That's actually Wilford Brimley. He has the ability to usurp every memory you have of tough but warm-hearted old men, and Hollywood exploited the hell out of that power. Whether it was through his wholesome movies, his wholesome TV shows, or his wholesome commercials for Quaker Oats, he always seemed like the ideal manifestation of the Old West while simultaneously looking like a partially shaved Santa Claus.

20th Century Fox

"You want diabeetus for Christmas? Ha! Good one!"

However, his quintessential cowboy look isn't so much an accident as it is a byproduct of being a legitimate cowboy. Before acting, Brimley was a ranch hand and a blacksmith who would shoe horses on movie sets every now and again. He would also step in as an extra when a film was short on horseback riders. It happened so frequently that he gradually became a go-to guy for extra work on Westerns.

Around the same time, his good friend Robert Duvall started making a name for himself onscreen, and encouraged Brimley to try acting too. No known transcripts of their conversations exist, but presumably they went something like this:

Robert: Wil, come try this. This thing I'm doing. It's freaking easy.

Wilford: OK.

Robert: ...

Wilford: ...

Robert: Did I tell you I can't have babies?

Wilford: Jesus, Robert. Let it go.

Almost immediately after acquiring his Screen Actors Guild card for all his work as an extra and a stunt rider, Wilford Brimley landed a part in True Grit. From there, he was cast in Lawman, The Waltons, and then every other production that needed a lovable old hardass. It was that easy. Within a couple of years, Brimley's entire life changed because he decided it might be kind of fun to ride horses on camera.

Hulk Hogan

Hollywood Hulk Hogan built his wrestling persona around the presupposition that he was already a celebrity. Even though he had only done a few awful movies by the time he acquired the "Hollywood" at the front of his name, he became instantly known for wearing boas and being famous really hard on top of his enemies. Hulk Hogan proved in the mid '90s that someone can become famous just by saying it's so. Today he's done over 30 movies, and real celebrity has completely overtaken the fake one he made up two decades ago.

But before he had a career acting on film or in the ring, Hulk Hogan was just Terry Gene Bollea, who dropped out of college to devote more time to his band. According to his autobiography, My Life Outside The Ring, Hogan always planned on being a musician. His band Rukus became nominally famous in Tampa Bay, and without the hindrance of school in between shows, he had a lot of free time to lift weights.

World Wrestling Entertainment

And eat.

During one of his gigs, some professional wrestlers saw him perform and thought he would make a better wrestler than bassist. They told their trainer, Hiro Matsuda, about him, and within a few weeks, Hogan became a wrestler. In case you blinked back there, the man who's now a household name, whose face is on bandanas and torn-up T-shirts around the world, got his shot at fame because a couple of wrestlers thought he looked strong. And while Hogan did have to train to become a wrestler, his whole career as a film star just kind of happened. At the height of Hulkamania, he was making Suburban Commando, Mr. Nanny, and a fistful of other movies that didn't require him to do anything other than shout at children and scowl.

The 5 Most Accidentally Famous Movie Stars
New Line Cinema

There are some things no training can teach you.

Burt Reynolds

Long before Boogie Nights or even Smokey And The Bandit, Burt Reynolds had no interest in acting at all. Instead he put all his focus into two things: playing football and diving off airboats onto the backs of deer. Right now you are likely thinking, "What? Football? That's crazy!" We'll get to that in a second.

Reynolds earned a reputation in his hometown for jumping off a moving vehicle onto the back of a wild animal -- and not just any wild animal, one that's famous for carrying spikes on its head. To give you the appropriate context, in the same decade that actors like Jack Nicholson were graduating high school and moving to Los Angeles to start in the industry on the bottom rung, Burt Reynolds was tackling deer in the Everglades.

When Reynolds graduated from high school in Florida, it looked like a foregone conclusion that he would play football. He was named First Team All State, and had his choice of Division I schools all offering him scholarships. He was even drafted by the Baltimore Colts before a serious injury closed the door on his football career. Without football, he was suddenly open to new life goals, and even briefly considered becoming a police officer, partially because his father was a cop and partially because law enforcement is legally obligated to hire anyone who can grow such a breathtaking mustache.

Reynolds started picking up credits at a junior college on the side, and during a class, he was asked to read Shakespeare aloud. His professor, Watson B. Duncan, was so impressed with Reynolds' handling of the text that he encouraged him to join a play. Duncan was also most likely drunk.

The 5 Most Accidentally Famous Movie Stars

"To be or not to be, baby. What's the hangup?"

The very first play that Reynolds ever did was Outward Bound, and his performance was so impressive that he won a scholarship to the Hyde Park Playhouse in New York. From there, opportunities tripped all over themselves just to get in his lap. He picked up an agent and was immediately cast in a touring play, while simultaneously becoming best friends with Academy Award winner Joanne Woodward. From there, his theater career took off and eventually transferred over to film, where he made millions of dollars smiling and being overtly sexual. Apparently, success is fairly easy to catch after you've spent your childhood running down deer.

Steven Seagal

You may know Steven Seagal from Hard To Kill, Marked For Death, Half Past Dead, and countless other movies which promise heaps of deadly dying in three-word titles. He's the character who spends 20 minutes of every film killing bad guys with creative martial arts, and the other 70 minutes disguised as a plank of wood. Incidentally, his mastery of both is exactly what caught the eye of Hollywood agent Michael Ovitz when Seagal was still a nobody.

Ovitz was a high-powered talent agent for CAA who was taking aikido classes from Seagal in the late '80s, and he purportedly wanted to prove a theory that he could make anyone a movie star. Ovitz has never officially stated that he used Seagal to test his own power in the industry, but some of the rumors go so far as to say that he made a bet that he could turn even the most uncharismatic person into a celebrity. It's exactly like the plot of My Fair Lady, except if Henry Higgins selected Eliza for her ability to break bones.

The 5 Most Accidentally Famous Movie Stars
Paramount Home Media Distribution

"The rain in Spain falls mainly ON DEADLY GROUND."

Regardless of the reason Ovitz selected a ponytail connected to a hunk of ground meat, he did everything in his power to make Seagal a superstar. Ovitz brought him to Warner Bros., where Seagal says, "They gave me a pile of scripts and basically said, 'Pick one and we'll do it with you.'" He picked Above The Law, and they gave him a producer credit as a bonus. Miraculously, it worked, and Seagal became famous for his portrayal of Nico Toscani. So famous, in fact, that Seagal insisted on playing the same character in every other movie he's made since.


"I don't understand the problem."

Even if you're a dweebo lose-bot you could accidentally be a BADA$$ by wearing this tactical hiking gear.

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