Most famous people don’t expect their life to turn out the way it does. Many of them started out as normal, grafting, hard-working people, searching for a way to make a living in the ordinary world before they got their lucky break. As a result, there are an array of modern stars who once supplemented their acting, music or sporting career by working in the trade. It’s a reliable way to make a living, after all.
Ford has long been a superstar actor but he was initially frustrated with his lack of progress in Hollywood. The 78 year-old actually gave up on acting in 1968 aged 26 to work as a carpenter. But fortunately for him, fate intervened. One day, George Lucas — writer and producer of Star Wars and Indiana Jones — hired him to fit some cabinets in his house. And that’s exactly how Ford got his big break.
The Bladerunner star once said that he got into carpentry because he had a house he wanted to remodel, and when he did a good job, he realised it could be another way of putting food on the table. Since then, Ford found a different way to make ends meet, and it’s worked out pretty well for him. He’s worth an estimated $300 million and got a $20 million payout for his return performance in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That’s a lot of food for a really nice table. Probably hand-crafted and made of fine oak.
Noel was in his late twenties when he joined his brother Liam in Oasis back in 1991. He would become the driving force of the band, writing almost all the songs and playing lead guitar. Before all that though, Noel’s older brother Paul got him a job working for a civil engineering company on building sites in Manchester. But he was placed on light duties after part of a JCB digger dropped a steel gas pipe on his foot. Seems like he could have used some construction insurance. From then on Noel was allowed to work in a storeroom where physical labour wasn’t so demanding, meaning he brought his guitar to work. During the period, Noel reportedly composed four songs that would appear on the band’s debut album, Definitely Maybe. No, this album did not include Wonderwall, that was on the second album. Noel did not write Wonderwall while working as a construction worker, nor is it based on an actual wall.
A latecomer to professional football, Ian Wright signed his first contract with Crystal Palace aged 21. Prior to this, he had all but given up on a career as a pro footballer, but fortunately for him was noticed by Crystal Palace scout while playing up-front for the non-league club Dulwich Hamlet. At this point, Wright was earning his keep as a plasterer, having been rejected at numerous trials as a teenager. Head trained as a bricklayer in the likelihood his footballer career didn’t come to fruition.
Since retiring, Wright has used his platform to start a campaign warning tradespeople about the dangers of asbestos. In 2008, he was surprised to learn that the number of deaths is actually on the increase year on year, saying ‘More people die in Great Britain every year from asbestos-related illnesses than in road accidents.’ Asbestos is often found in construction built before the turn of the century, and can cause conditions such as lung cancer and asbestosis. Wright’s commitment to charity work is a positive reminder that famous people are capable of remembering their roots and can remain grounded despite their success.
Matt Le Blanc
The famed Friends star comes from a family of tradesmen, with his grandfather a carpenter and his father a mechanic. Before becoming an actor, LeBlanc was on course to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and become a carpenter himself. He even went to vocational college and once boasted to Jimmy Kimmel about fitting a kitchen in a house, saying: ‘Everyone in my family goes to work with some kind of tool in their hands – I made a complete kitchen and installed it in a house’.
It is reported that Le Blanc only had $11 to his name when he got his breakthrough role in Friends. In an honest interview, Matt has said, ‘I always had this attitude that I’d do all right. I never wanted to be the biggest actor in the world, I just wanted to keep the bills paid. And then Friends came along.’ Le Blanc is an example that not all fame is wrought from unfair advantage. It is possible for anyone to suddenly be swept into the limelight, regardless of background, upbringing or initial career.
To make money before becoming a movie star, Arnold set up his own bricklaying business with another bodybuilding friend. This is not to say that this is how he grew his muscles, but it can’t have made it any worse. Schwarzenegger allegedly exclusively staffed this business with bodybuilders he’d befriended at Gold’s Gym. Now, the standard time to lay a house back then would be different to now because of how rudimentary the equipment was), but we’d wager that Arnold’s jobs went quicker than most. Bicep curls might have some functional use after all. To elevate the business further, the German charged also lower prices than his competitors.
Despite all this, the business failed to really gain success in his early stages. But Schwarzenegger was a savvy entrepreneur, and realised American people tended to associate European with quality. This was mainly judged by seeing how other businesses in the area charged more for products like Italian coffee, Swedish massages and English tea. From then on, the future Terminator star framed his group of bodybuilders as ‘Speciality European Bricklayers’, doubling his prices in the process. Can’t fault him for the ingenuity.