Everybody has had one: a strange job in their past that they’d rather forget, or that just seems totally out of character for them to have had it in the first place. It’s not just us everyday folks, either – celebs like everyone else tend to have one of these regrettable or wacky jobs in their history.
Celebrities, amazingly, weren’t always rich and famous. They too, like the rest of us, have had to work their way through some strange and unpleasant jobs to have gotten where they are today.
Here are 12 weird and wonderful celebrity jobs from before they were famous.
1. Carpenter (Harrison Ford)
The story of Harrison Ford’s big break is legendary, but in case you didn’t already know it: prior to landing the career-boosting role of Han Solo in Star Wars, Ford’s main job was carpentry. Having worked with George Lucas before, on the director’s coming-of-age drama American Graffiti, Ford agreed to act as a stand-in for Han during Lucas’ Star Wars auditions for some quick cash. After he had already auditioned dozens of others, Lucas realised his ‘stand-in’ was actually the best fit for the part after all; Ford was cast and subsequently gave up carpentry for good.
2. Lawyer (Gerard Butler)
Turning the cliche on its head, acting was Gerard Butler’s fallback, while a steady office job was his first choice. As a young man he hoped to become a lawyer, studying law at Glasgow University (where he was also president of the law society) and getting himself hired as a trainee lawyer at a top Edinburgh firm. Unfortunately, Butler also drank heavily during this period, and was fired just a week before he was due to qualify. Butler then moved to London and worked his way up the acting ladder in theatre.
3. Fish and chip shop server (Agyness Deyn)
She’s since forged a glamorous path from modelling to acting, but Agyness Deyn’s first job was about as far away from glamour as you can imagine. From age 13, the then-Laura Hollins worked in a fish and chip shop in the small Lancashire town she called home. It was while working here that she was at 16 first tipped for catwalk stardom, when the local newspaper noticed her, and subsequently crowned her the winner of a modelling competition.
4. Juggler (Patrick Dempsey)
Even without Grey’s Anatomy, Patrick Dempsey was set for a career in showbiz, albeit a rather different one. Dempsey’s primary ambition as a youngster was to join the circus, first signing up to a high school vaudeville group and going on to attend clown camp as a teen. He became such a talented juggler – he came second in an international juggling competition (behind Anthony Gatto, considered the best juggler of all time), and you can see him at work in the gif above – that he was already making a living from his routine aged 15.
5. Morgue cosmetologist (Whoopi Goldberg)
Before she made it big in Hollywood, Whoopi Goldberg like so many jobbing actors took whatever work she could get to make ends meet. Her early jobs included bank teller and bricklayer, but most surprising is that Goldberg for a time did the hair and makeup for corpses in a funeral home. As a licensed beautician, Goldberg was responsible for cosmetically ‘fixing up’ the recently deceased, making them presentable for funerals.
6. Drug dealer (Tim Allen)
In a not-so-family-friendly early career move, Tim ‘Buzz Lightyear’ Allen supported himself during his burgeoning standup days by doing a little drug dealing on the side. And for ‘a little dealing’, read: selling enough narcotics to land himself in jail for the rest of his days. From 1978 to 1981, Allen served time in a Minnesota prison for possession of 650 grams of cocaine, but his sentence would have been much longer if he hadn’t given up names of fellow dealers. If Allen had stayed quiet, he could have been sentenced to life.
7. Party clown (Hugh Jackman)
As actors go, Hugh Jackman’s break into film came fairly late; he was 32 when 2000’s X-Men introduced him to audiences for the first time. So before that, he had plenty of years to fill with regular and not so regular jobs. These included petrol station attendant and PE teacher in English schools, while another, more surprising gig for Jackman was party clown. For $50 a show, Jackman would perform at children’s parties as Coco the Clown, about whom the children said, according to Jackman himself, “this clown is terrible”.
8. Porn movie set dresser (Jon Hamm)
Jon Hamm didn’t get the Mad Men lead until he was already halfway through his 30s, and before persistence finally won out, Hamm had to work some fairly depressing gigs. One of these involved Hamm “moving furniture around naked people”, as a set dresser for softcore porn films. It wasn’t as exciting as some might think – to Hamm, the job was in fact “soul crushing”.
9. Lion cage cleaner – and porn star (Sylvester Stallone)
Even before he wrote himself the role of a lifetime in streetwise pugilist Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone was already finding himself working some pretty macho jobs. Most butch of all was his job at New York’s Central Park Zoo, where he cleaned out the lion cages for a few measly bucks a day. He made early forays into the movie business, too, working as an usher at a cinema and making an appearance in a soft porn movie called The Party at Kitty & Stud’s. Stallone, naturally, played Stud.
10. Hot dog seller (Eva Mendes)
She’s now a star of movies and one half of a super-glam Hollywood power couple, but Eva Mendes once upon a time had to work summer jobs just like the rest of us. One summer, Mendes worked at the ingeniously titled Hot Dog on a Stick, a food stall in the Glendale Galleria shopping centre, selling…well, you can probably guess. Later, when her hot dog days were behind her, Mendes considered becoming a Catholic nun, but ultimately dropped the idea in favour of acting.
11. Abattoir worker (Ozzy Osbourne)
Having left school at 15, future Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne – then going by his given name, John Michael Osbourne – took what few jobs were available to a young man in working-class Birmingham. These included labourer on construction sites, toolmaker, plumber and, in one of his first musical gigs, car horn-tuner. Ozzy was also employed for an 18 month stretch in an abattoir, where he “had to slice open the cow carcasses and get all the gunk out of their stomachs”. He claims he threw up “every day”.
12. Lion tamer (Christopher Walken)
Christopher Walken’s first taste of fame came early. He was appearing on the small screen way back in the 1950s, taking parts, along with his two brothers, in TV shows. After this stint as a child actor, however, the teenage Walken turned daredevil, and decided to take a job as a lion tamer in a circus. According to him, the role was “too good to pass up”, and the job wasn’t as dangerous as you might expect – he later described the lion as “like a big dog”.