- Celebrities who weren’t born into stardom had different odd jobs – or even full-fledged careers – before finding success as actors.
- Brad Pitt, Rachel McAdams, Amy Adams, Melissa McCarthy, and Megan Fox all worked in the food-service industry before making it big.
- Other celebrities, like Harrison Ford and Matt LeBlanc, have a background in carpentry.
- Christopher Walken was a lion tamer’s apprentice in a circus and Whoopi Goldberg was a mortuary beautician before gaining fame.
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A lot of the biggest actors weren’t born into a life of stardom and fame.
As weird as it is to think about, most celebrities had odd jobs or even full-fledged careers before they became A-listers.
Here’s what some of the most popular actors in Hollywood were doing before they got famous.
Before he took on the role of Wolverine, Hugh Jackman was a high-school gym teacher.
Jackman was once interviewed by one of his former students, Rollo Ross, who became an entertainment reporter. When he recognised him at a red-carpet event in Zürich, Jackson said, “Rollo, I’m sorry mate, but we go way back, I used to teach you at a high school in PE, and I want to know how your physical education is progressing. It’s very important to me.”
According to a throwback post on his Instagram, Jackman also had a job as a party clown before making it big.
Brad Pitt had to wear a chicken costume at work before he became an international heartthrob.
Today, Brad Pitt is one of the most recognisable stars in Hollywood.
But his career wasn’t always so glamorous, according to his interview with James Lipton on “Inside the Actors Studio.”
After dropping out of the University of Missouri’s journalism school two weeks before graduation to become an actor, he had to get odd jobs to pay the bills. He ended up donning a chicken suit to hand out flyers and attract customers to the chain restaurant El Pollo Loco.
Pitt also told Lipton he “drove strippers” as a job. In addition to providing transportation for them, he said he was responsible for various things throughout the parties, like playing the music.
“Then you had to catch the clothes so the guys didn’t steal them as they came off. And then you had to try to collect the money at the end and get out of there alive, and it was not always easy,” he added.
Pitt said that job led him to his acting coach, Roy London, after a woman he worked with recommended one of London’s classes.
For years, Pitt took on small roles on TV shows and in movies before gaining more widespread fame in films like “Thelma and Louise” (1991) and “Interview With the Vampire” (1994).
Years before becoming a famous actress, Taraji P. Henson worked at the Pentagon.
In college, Taraji P. Henson had a few different jobs. According to Vanity Fair, she worked as a receptionist at the Pentagon by day and a Tina Turner cover singer on a Potomac River cruise ship by night.
Henson spoke about her job at the Pentagon with Stephen Colbert on a 2019 episode of his late-night show. She explained that since she came from the Washington DC area, and most of her family worked for the government, it was easy for her to get the job.
“I was a receptionist, nothing important,” she said. But she still had a security clearance in the building, which she called “the most important thing about [her] job.”
Henson’s breakthrough role was in the comedy “Baby Boy” (2001), and she gained more success in films like “Hustle and Flow” (2005) and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008).
Rachel McAdams worked at McDonald’s long before snagging an Oscar nomination.
You might know her best as Regina George in “Mean Girls” (2004), but Rachel McAdams worked at McDonald’s before becoming an actress.
The actress told Glamour in 2012 that she worked at the fast-food chain alongside her brother and sister when she was 16 years old.
McAdams said that while “it was a great place to work,” she wasn’t a great employee because she wasted too much time washing her hands and once broke the orange-juice machine.
Around this time, she said, she also directed children’s theatre.
George Clooney was selling insurance before he became one of the most iconic stars around.
In the time in between, he worked a few odd jobs to make money – and one of them involved selling insurance.
Per the Evening Standard, during an interview with David Letterman in 2001, Clooney said, “I had a lot of rotten jobs. I sold insurance door-to-door, but it didn’t work out well. The first day I sold one (policy) and the guy died.”
Fortunately, he was able to make it big as an actor. He appeared on a few well-known shows, like NBC’s “The Golden Girls” and NBC’s “The Facts of Life,” and had smaller film roles before really launching his career on NBC’s “ER” in 1994.
Before she became Rachel from “Friends,” Jennifer Aniston worked as a telemarketer and a bike messenger.
Jennifer Aniston is another celebrity who had several odd jobs before becoming an A-lister.
She worked as a bike messenger in New York City when she was 19, and she’s called it “the toughest job” she ever did.
Aniston was also a waitress and a telemarketer. She told InStyle, “I waitressed for years in New York before I got anything. And I was a telemarketer selling time-shares in the Poconos. I didn’t make one sale. I was terrible at it. I was like, ‘Why do we have to call people at dinnertime?'”
Years before he started acting, Christopher Walken worked alongside a lion tamer.
Christopher Walken did not have the most ordinary of jobs – he worked with a lion tamer for a circus.
The actor told Vanity Fair in 2012, “It was a touring circus that was owned by a man named Terrell Jacobs. It was just one big tent, and he was a lion tamer. He didn’t have any kids, but the bit was that I would dress up as his son in an identical outfit. When he would finish his act, there would be one lion left, and I used to go in and have this lion do tricks.”
Walken went on to have a whole slew of roles on TV and in movies like “Annie Hall” (1977) and “The Sentinel” (1977). In 1979, he also won an Academy Award for his role in the film “The Deer Hunter,” and his career really took off from there.
Sofía Vergara almost became a dentist before taking on Hollywood.
It’s hard to imagine “Modern Family” star Sofía Vergara as a dentist, but that’s almost where life took her.
During a 2016 appearance on the talk show “Harry,” Vergara told Harry Connick Jr. that she originally wanted to be a doctor before becoming an actress.
“Being a doctor takes so much time, years of studying. It’s difficult,” she said. “So the next best thing for me at that time was to be a dentist. So I went to dentist school, but I didn’t finish.”
Vergara studied dentistry for two years before pursuing an acting career instead, and in 2009, she landed her famous role as Gloria on ABC’s “Modern Family,” which led to several Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and Emmy nominations.
Before taking on award-winning roles, Amy Adams worked as a waitress at Hooters.
In order to make money for college, Amy Adams worked at popular chain restaurant Hooters.
She told Entertainment Tonight in 2015. “It was a great job out of high school, and I was a hostess at first, and then I waited tables for a while, and it was great.”
Adams started acting in films like “Drop Dead Gorgeous” (1999) and on TV shows like Fox’s “That ’70s Show,” The WB’s “Charmed,” The WB’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” The WB’s “Smallville,” and NBC’s “The West Wing.”
He’ll forever be known as Michael Scott to most fans, but Steve Carell was once a neighbourhood mailman.
He told Stephen Colbert in 2018 that it was the hardest job he’s ever had, and he even had to use his own car for the gig.
“I think only like the really senior delivery people had the official trucks, so I had to use my Toyota, which had a bench seat,” he said. “… And I would sit in the passenger seat and deliver the mail out the right side.”
Carell also told Colbert that one sweet part of the job was getting letters from little kids addressed to Santa Claus.
The actor went on to work on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” and perform in small roles on TV and in films, but he didn’t find widespread fame until his early 40s when he landed the role of Michael Scott on NBC’s “The Office.”
Once he left the show, Carell became a full-on movie star.
Before taking on an iconic role on television, Jon Hamm worked as a set dresser for soft-core pornography films.
After losing a job at a catering company, Jon Hamm needed to make some extra money to pay the bills.
He told Esquire in 2018, “I was like, ‘I need a job.’ My friend said, ‘You can have my job. I’m doing set dressing.’ I said, ‘I don’t know how to do that.’ She says, ‘It’s not that hard. They will hire anybody.'”
His friend described the job as “Skinemax soft-core” films and said she had to leave because it was “soul-crushing” work, to which Hamm said he replied, “‘Soul-crushing: That sounds amazing. I’ll do it.”
After that, Hamm took on small roles in films like “Space Cowboys” (2000), “Kissing Jessica Stein” (2001), and “We Were Soldiers” (2002), as well as a few small roles on TV shows.
In 2007, he found mainstream fame when he was cast as the lead, Don Draper, on AMC’s “Mad Men.”
Melissa McCarthy was serving coffee at Starbucks before she made it big.
She said the late Chris Farley even came in one day and she was “so excited.”
McCarthy eventually took on a bunch of smaller roles in films like “Disney’s The Kid” (2000), “Charlie’s Angels” (2000), and “The Life of David Gale” (2003).
Any “Gilmore Girls” fan will tell you McCarthy gained fame starring as Sookie on The WB show. But it wasn’t until 2011, when she landed a leading role in the ensemble comedy “Bridesmaids,” that she really became a big name in the film industry.
Bradley Cooper dabbled in journalism before taking on big movie roles.
When he was a senior at Germantown Academy prep school, Bradley Cooper wrote as a contributor for the Philadelphia Daily News.
He later told the publication, “I wrote a piece called ‘When Best Friends Cross the Line’ about my relationship with my friend Deb [Landes]. I wrote it like a lovesick puppy, and I went to a lacrosse game the day it came out and people were booing me. I went into work the next day and Richard [former editorial-page editor Richard Aregood] grabbed me around the head and said ‘You made your first mistake, you never write about that.'”
Cooper took on a lot of smaller roles at the beginning of his acting career, appearing in “Wet Hot American Summer” (2001) and on HBO’s “Sex and the City.”
His first high-profile film role was in “Wedding Crashers” (2005), but things really changed for him after “The Hangover” (2009).
Megan Fox wore a banana suit outside a smoothie shop before her big role in “Transformers” (2007).
Although she said she mostly worked behind the register, she would sometimes have to dress up as a giant banana and stand by the highway to attract customers.
“It was weird, and what was bad about it was that your face wasn’t hidden,” she said.
Fox got her start acting in films like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s “Holiday in the Sun” (2001), “Bad Boys II” (2003), and “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen” (2004). She also had small roles on shows like The WB’s “What I Like About You” and CBS’s “Two and a Half Men.”
In 2007, her leading role in “Transformers” made her a household name.
Before becoming one of Charlie’s Angels, Lucy Liu was an aerobics instructor.
Lucy Liu told The Seattle Times in 2008 that she worked seven days a week before she got into acting.
“I worked five days a week as a secretary and on weekends, during the day, worked as an aerobics instructor and in the evening worked as a hostess in a place called Tennessee Mountain in SoHo,” she said.
He rose to fame playing Han Solo, but before that, Harrison Ford was a carpenter.
In a Reddit AMA, Harrison Ford said that he got his job as Han Solo while he was a carpenter.
“I had a house at the time I wanted to remodel, a bit of the wreck of a house. I’d invest money in tools but wouldn’t have money for materials, so I realised this was another way of putting food on the table,” he wrote. “I was quite surprised when I was offered the part.”
Ford stood in for “Star Wars” screen tests for director George Lucas – who had worked with him on “American Graffiti” (1973) – and Lucas ended up choosing him for the role of Han Solo, which launched him to mainstream fame.
Before winning an Oscar, Whoopi Goldberg worked as a mortuary beautician.
One of Whoopi Goldberg’s pre-acting jobs was as a mortuary beautician where, as she explained, she “did hair and makeup for dead people.”
According to the HuffPost, the star once told “Oprah’s Master Class” that the job isn’t for everyone.
“There was an ad in the paper! And I’m a licensed beautician as well, because I went to beauty school,” she said. “It’s a rough gig. You have to be a certain kind of person. And you have to love people in order to make them worthy of a great send-off.”
Goldberg also started in stand-up comedy before getting cast in “The Colour Purple” (1986), which earned her a Golden Globe nomination and helped make her famous.
Before playing a doctor on the big screen, Ken Jeong was an actual doctor.
In an interview with NPR, Jeong said, “During the day, I was a doctor. At night, you know, I was a comic. And it was really just to let off some steam. It just became my golf, you know, in many ways. Most doctors have golf as a hobby. Mine was doing comedy.”
Jeong also said that he never told anyone at work he was doing comedy because he took his job very seriously.
“I was so super serious as a doctor, I would bark orders to my nurses. I was hard-core. I wanted to make sure I did my job right. I was perfectly trained to be a physician. You know, it wasn’t a fluke. I worked hard at it,” he added.
He’ll always be Joey in fans’ hearts, but Matt LeBlanc was on track to be a carpenter before making it big on TV.
Per The Hollywood Reporter, during a 2015 appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Matt LeBlanc said that he was almost a carpenter before he started acting.
“Everyone in my family goes to work with some kind of tool in their hands,” he said.
He went to a technical vocational high school where he studied carpentry, and he even made a complete kitchen and installed it in a house.
Of course, carpentry wasn’t in the cards for LeBlanc.
After appearing in small roles on shows, like the Fox sitcom “Married With Children,” and in a few music videos for Bon Jovi and Alanis Morissette, he landed his breakthrough role as Joey on “Friends” in 1994.
She’s now a famous actress, but Nicole Kidman once studied massage therapy.
Nicole Kidman told The Daily Beast in 2017 that she took a massage course when her mum was diagnosed with breast cancer and started experiencing “terrible seizure of the muscles.” She said that she liked it so much that she started doing it for other people.
“I still love giving people massages,” she added.
Massage therapy came into her life around the time of her first Australian film role in 1983, but she gained worldwide recognition in 1995 when she starred in “Batman Forever” and “To Die For,” which won her a Golden Globe.
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