Hollywood, you could argue, is one of the most famous locations in the world. But it’s not because of its jagged sign that spells out its name, or its natural beauty, it’s because of the beauty that gathers to it, to chase a dream. Throngs of extremely talented people have been converging on the base of the Hollywood Hills for decades and more often than not, vainly pursuing a grandiose dream of fame and success. Some have managed to rise above Hollywood’s mire of vanity, financial influence and politics and taken their seat in the Pantheon of the Stars. Here are some astounding stories about the people that managed to achieve a deity level of recognition.
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The man that became the archetype for every be-muscled action man in Hollywood had a difficult life, even before he even considered acting. He was a child of a broken home, to the point where he was actually put in foster care. After studying Dramatic arts in Switzerland and Miami he dropped out of college and moved to New York to pursue an acting career. He held various odd jobs like cleaning out the lion cage at the Central Park Zoo, and even starred in a soft-core adult film. With the first draft of Rocky and a pregnant wife he played his hand all-in and managed to sell the screenplay with the stipulation that he would star as the protagonist and namesake of the movie Rocky Balboa.
A native of tumulus South Africa, Charlize’s home life was far from a refuge from the violence of the area she was born to. Her father was an abusive alcoholic which was shot in front of her by Gerda (her mother) in self-defence. After winning a modelling contest in neighbouring Johannesburg, she moved to Italy and consecutively to New York. There she revisited her original passion, dance (which she had studied since she was 7), but was forced to stop due to a serious knee injury. She attempted to strike into acting but found that her Afrikaner accent was an obstacle to her getting cast. After watching hours upon hours of American television she managed to teach herself to speak in a perfect American accent. In a moment of desperation, a destitute Charlize got into an argument with a bank teller because the teller refused to give her money from her South African account. The row caught the attention of a Hollywood manager which immediately signed her. Shortly afterwards she started receiving roles in movies and rising as a Hollywood star.
Although most people won’t recognize his name, they will automatically recognize his intimidating stature and characteristic scowl. His Hollywood story is about as rough and tumble as the characters he is favored to play. Doing multiple stints in prison and almost landing on death row when he allegedly hit a guard in the head with a rock during a riot, but all charges were dropped against him, and shortly afterwards he was freed. This was catalytic for Trejo who decided to be a drug counsellor. One faithful day, he was called by a young man that was rehabilitating and pleaded for help since there were a lot of drugs at his work place. Trejo promptly drove to the warehouse, which turned out to be a movie set, spoke to the young man and as he was attempting to leave was approached by someone on the set. He asked him if Danny would be comfortable playing a convict, and of course Danny accepted, as it was something he actually had experience of. He has played roles in ‘From Dusk ‘Till Dawn,’ was a protagonist in ‘Machete’ and had a stand in role in Breaking Bad.
The third most famous Bostonian in Hollywood (after Affleck and Damon), Walhberg’s early life was straight out of one of his Irish American gangster films. At 14 he dropped out of school and made a dubious living on the streets conning, stealing and dealing. At 16 years old he was sentenced to 45 days in a state correctional facility for his involvement in the savage beating of a Vietnamese man. That would become the young man’s turning point. He started working out, developing his impressive physic that would help him initially garner the attention of the music industry. Assisted by his older brother and member of the New Kids on the Block, he was tailored into a safe, heart-throb, hip hop artist Marky Mark. Later on he scored a deal with Calvin Klein (assisted this time by his Grecian physique). After the decline of his music career Mark transitioned into acting. His bravado, confidence, charisma and Boston grittiness made him a Hollywood go to for tough-guy, no nonsense roles.
From poor Austrian immigrant to Hollywood A lister, from gangly youth to Mr. Universe, Arnold Schwarzenegger has lived a life of extremes. His life started in Graz, Austria with an alcoholic father (and ex-Nazi) who favored his older brother over him due to Arnold’s weak physique. The favoritism was so twisted that Papa Schwarzenegger would actually pit Arnold against his brother in fights. After meeting Joe Weilder (founder of the Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia bodybuilding competitions) and being sponsored to go to America, he starred in the documentary “Pumping Iron” that followed Arnold while he was defending his Mr. Olympia title, promoting both the young bodybuilder and the sport. After decades as the quintessential super-hero physiqued action hero starring in Conan and Terminator 1 and 2, Schwarzenegger actually transitioned into the world of politics becoming California’s Governor. He has been characterized by his peers as a man of bottomless ambition.
OK, so maybe not a Hollywood A lister, but an influence in the industry non-the-less. J.K. Rowling was a single mother living on welfare when she started writing the series. The first book in the Harry Potter series was sold for a meager $4000. Within three years of being published though, the first three books of the series had earned 480 million dollars. Later on the books were adapted for the big screen earning a total of $10 billion from 2001 to 2011.
Do you know of other top tier celebrities that succeeded in lieu of their humble beginnings? Let me know in the comment section below.