It’s a long hard slog to the pinnacle of Mount Celebrity. Unless you’re the winner of a reality TV show, fame only comes after years of work, taking odd jobs to pay the bills and suffering constant rejection (if you’re the winner of a reality TV show, the rejection comes after you’re famous…). The majority of celebrities stick to the tried-and-tested jobs of waitress, bartender and burger-flipper before they make it, but then there are others who have more interesting jobs. No doubt the worlds of adult-film-set-design and make-up for the dead were sorry to lose these particular people to the world of showbiz…but we’re glad they finally found their true calling. Delve into the murky days of pre-fame in our Top 10 Celebrities who had Interesting Previous Careers.
10. Sylvester Stallone
You know just what Ol’ Sly is like – pugnacious, tough and brave. Which he’d have to be, given that his first colleagues were even more vicious than Apollo Creed. After leaving the University of Miami without completing his degree in drama, Stallone headed to New York in search of stardom and found himself cleaning out the lions’ cages at Central Park Zoo. It was probably good training for his later fights – sure, Rocky’s nemesis would beat a man to the ground, but he probably wouldn’t tear out his innards and feast on them. No wonder Stallone plays characters that are scared of no-one…
9. Angelina Jolie
Angelina is famed for having a bit of a macabre side – when she married first husband Jonny Lee Miller, it was in a shirt that had Jonny’s name written on it in blood. Then she and second husband Billy Bob Thornton used to wear vials of each other’s blood around their necks. So it’s not surprising that Jolie once dabbled in funeral directing. By the time she started studying the subject, she had already done some acting, thanks to actor father Jon Voight, but her grandfather’s funeral had made her determined to break away from family tradition and become an undertaker instead. She obtained her qualification at the age of 14, but then decided that acting was the career path for her after all. A teenage morbid phase that really took things to the extreme…
8. Brian Cox
When you think about pre-fame careers, “pop star” isn’t really one that springs to mind, is it? But all things are comparative and Professor Brian Cox has found far more fame with his TV-presenter/physics expert than he ever did as a musician. But he was a genuine pop star for a while, playing keyboards with mid-90s band D:Ream. Although they were not technically one-hit wonders, they are chiefly remembered for one song – the New Labour anthem of “Things Can Only Get Better”. In 1997, things did get better for New Labour, and they got into UK government with a landslide majority. Things didn’t get better for D:Ream and they slowly slid into obscurity, with Brian Cox emerging years later with his own show, “Wonders of the Solar System”. It might have been a bit of a backwards career path, but seems to have worked out well for him!
7. Whoopi Goldberg
Another actor who took casual jobs to pay the bills, Whoopi Goldberg found herself as a make-up artist when she first moved to California. Not so very far from the Hollywood life, you’d think – but the difference was she wasn’t making up film stars, she was making up corpses in a mortuary. According to Whoopi, her manager found an unusual but effective way of getting her over her fears. She was getting on with her job, when she heard a creaking noise coming from the drawers behind her. Turning round, she saw a corpse sit up and wave to her, only to realize it wasn’t a corpse at all, but her boss! He said “That’s the worst thing that could ever happen to you here, and it won’t. So there’s nothing to be scared of”, which helped her to work among the dead without being scared of them. I’d guess she was still glad to give that job up though!
6. Roald Dahl
I recently overheard someone remark that Roald Dahl was famous for being “Sophie Dahl’s Granddad”. Of course, he was much more than that and his children’s books are much loved still. But before writing about nasty ways to despatch annoying children, he had another career – that of a fighter pilot in the Second World War. He flew with the Squadron No.8 RAF from Egypt and flew solo without any training in aerial combat or specific training in the plane he was flying, a Gloster Gladiator. He crashed in September 1940 but survived to fly again in the Greek campaign the following year. He took part in the Battle of Athens, and his record of shooting down 5 enemy aircraft qualified him to be a flying ace. By the end of the war, he was a Wing Commander, but evidently decided that writing was a gentler career.