Hollywood – a manifestation of the American Dream where countless rags to riches stories come to life, and national celebrities and superstars are created from nothing. So many actors and actresses have gone from nobodies to household names after putting in their time and working their way up through the ranks. Jim Carrey worked as a janitor, Demi Moore was a debt collector, Brad Pitt used to wear a chicken suit while handing out fliers and Sharon Stone worked at a McDonalds (she may be donning the Mickey D’s visor again soon if her career doesn’t take a sharp turn for the better).
But some celebrity beginnings can be attributed to not hard work, but luck or accident. Join us as we look at a few A-listers who owe their fortune to sheer change.
Accidental Celebrities: Evangeline Lilly
“Lost” is widely thought to have become a hit for two reasons: a twisting, confounding plot and an often-moist Evangeline Lilly. After “Lost” debuted, Lilly immediately shot to the top of every list ever made to chart hotness, including Maxim’s (twice) and FHM’s. We guess she’s a pretty good actress too, since she was nominated for a Golden Globe. Of course, all the celebrity fanfare could be short lived. Lilly announced that after “Lost” is over, she intends to put her career on hold and become a humanitarian.
Now usually when an actress claims to be a “humanitarian,” it’s because her agent had to explain to her that “vegetarian” is no longer socially-conscious enough, and “planetarium” is a type of building, and therefore also out of the question. But becoming a humanitarian isn’t a stretch for Lilly. Before she was an actress, she was doing missionary work in the Philippines. After declining a two-year post, she became a flight attendant with Air Canada.
Things, however, changed one day when she was walking around Kelowna, British Columbia, and was spotted by a scout for the Ford modeling agency. She almost declined, but decided she needed the money to pay for school. While not actually doing any modeling for the company, she did do some acting for them. That classy work can be seen in the video below:
That’s right: Kate from “Lost” used to star in phone sex ads in Canada. For a young ex-missionary, we’d imagine that starring in Canadian phone sex ads was as lonely and existentially terrifying as anything the “Lost” writers can think up to throw at her.
Accidental Celebrities: Mel Gibson
Even though he’s turned into a walking punch line in the last few years, there’s no denying Mel Gibson will go down as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood history. His movies have made two billion dollars in the US alone and he’s got two Oscars to go with it.
But Gibson’s accidental stumble into stardom started in New York, where he was born (not Australia, as it turns out). Gibson’s father, Hutton, filed a lawsuit against the city and won. After collecting his money, he moved his family to Australia. It was in this dingo-infested continent that a young Mel started to dabble in acting, and would get his big break due to a ridiculous, drunken stroke of luck.
Early on his road to celebrity stardom, Gibson went to the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney. There he would perform in some stage productions, including the male lead in Romeo and Juliet, with Judy Davis as his co-star.
However, Gibson didn’t consider a film career until a friend told him he needed a lift to audition for a movie. Apparently, he still wasn’t considering a film career, because the night before the audition, Gibson got into a drunken brawl at a bar. He dragged himself to the audition sporting a face full of fist shaped bruises. The director happened to catch sight of his sorry ass. Deciding that he already looked like he was living in a miserable future, he asked him to come back because, as he put it, the film “needed freaks.”
When Gibson did return, his wounds had healed into an unrecognizable mask of handsome manliness. The director asked Gibson to read for the only character who doesn’t look like a blistered freak, and he landed the titular role in Mad Max, the franchise that would make him known around the globe.
Accidental Celebrities: Marilyn Monroe
The quintessential blonde bombshell, Monroe was married to baseball great Joe DiMaggio, and romantically linked to the penises of men as famous as John F. Kennedy and Frank Sinatra (if you’d like to imagine an interlinking chain of penises here, we won’t stop you). She posed nude for the first issue of some up-and-coming gentlemen’s magazine called “Playboy” and showed up in some movies, too.
The original blonde goddess Marilyn Monroe was neither blonde nor named Marilyn Monroe, though her early non-celebrity career was closely linked to bombshells, oddly enough. Born a brunette named Norma Jeane Mortenson in LA, she spent her childhood moving between foster homes and orphanages.
When she grew up, Monroe worked at a munitions plant where she inspected parachutes and sprayed airplanes to make them fire retardant. It was at this plant that a photographer for “Yank” magazine (a publication intended to boost morale of troops overseas apparently through the magic of double entendres) snapped a photo of Monroe for the cover.
The photographer pointed out to her that she was smoking hot and had the kind of breasts that could change the world. So she took acting classes, cut and dyed her hair blond and became a legend.
So let that be a lesson: If some random guy shows up at your job and takes a picture of you, you should absolutely do whatever he says. He only wants what’s best for you.
Accidental Celebrities: Rosario Dawson
If you’re asking who Rosario Dawson is, then we feel sorry for you. Very sorry. But despite the misfortune of landing roles in The Adventures of Pluto Nash, The Rundown and Josie and the Pussycats, Dawson’s built a pretty solid career.
Those shitty roles allowed her to later pick up parts in Men in Black II, Rent and she even showed us the goods in Alexander. Unfortunately she was wrestling a greased up Colin Farrell at the time, but the goods were, nevertheless, delightful. More roles in movies like Sin City, Grind House and Clerks II solidified her spot as an actress with some decent range.
Born in New York City to a 17-year-old mother, Dawson grew up in the Lower East Side, living by the ethos, in her own words: “If you wanted something better, you had to do it yourself.” She may have picked up this ethos from her mom, as the apartment they grew up in was initially abandoned, and only became home when her mother broke into it. She may have a New York accent, a kick ass body and a distinct absence of moonshine on her breath, but until the age of 17, Rosario Dawson was basically a hobo.
It should be noted, though, that when “something better” did come along, it had nothing to do with Rosario getting it herself. Rather, it had everything to do with her sitting on her extraordinarily sculpted ass in front of her (stolen) apartment.
While she was sitting on her front stoop, a photographer named Larry Clark, and a young screenwriter named Harmony Korine, walked up to her and told her that she would be perfect for one of the characters in his new screenplay. Try to keep in mind a few things about this exchange: Dawson had no acting experience whatsoever. Harmony Korine is a cracked-out mess and Larry Clark is a 66-year-old photographer whose favorite subjects are teenagers taking drugs and having sex. And guess what that screenplay she was just “perfect for” was about: one hundred odd pages jam packed with teenagers getting high and boning.
Instead of calling neighborhood watch, Dawson showed up to an audition, got the role and the movie ended up being Kids, launching her and Chloe Sevigny’s careers at the same time. To any little girls reading this, we really can’t stress enough how unlikely the ending to that story is. Forget a movie career, she’s lucky she didn’t end up in some impossibly creepy inter-generational version of Bang Bus.
Keep it here with The Campus Socialite as we will profile the rise of 3 more overnight celebrities in tomorrow’s concluding portion of “Accidental Celebrities”.
* – Special thanks to Cracked for contributions to this article.