First jobs: we’ve all had them, and they are rarely glamorous. Often, we are fetching coffee for our superiors, making copies, or doing data entry, all for the chance to climb the corporate ladder. But have you ever had to dress as a chicken, handing out fliers to promote a Mexican restaurant? How about paying the bills by working as an “exotic dancer?” Though they may be fabulous now, your favorite stars of the stage and screen usually did not start out that way.
In many cases, humble beginnings led to a fierce work ethic and insatiable desire for success when holding out for fame and fortune seemed impossible. Read on to find out who made lemonade out of lemons—and went from rags to riches in the process.
Johnny Depp’s first pre-acting gig was selling ballpoint pens over the phone. The "Pirates of the Caribbean” star found that this work helped him relate to people, a crucial skill for acting. "You had to call up these strangers and say, 'Hi, how ya doin'?' You made up a name like, 'Hey, it's Edward Quartermaine from California,'" Depp told Interview Magazine.
Kutcher got his first gig sweeping cereal dust off the floor at the General Mills factory in his hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His humble beginnings—paying for his studies in biochemical engineering at the University of Iowa—soon gave way to greater things, like starring in "That 70s Show.”
TV star Justin Hartley used to mow neighborhood lawns with his brother for $20 each. Now that Hartley stars as Kevin Pearson on the Emmy-winning NBC series "This is Us,” he can probably afford to have someone mow his lawns for him.
Heartthrob Chace Crawford of "Gossip Girl” fame was, perhaps unsurprisingly, a greeter for Abercrombie and Fitch while in high school. He looks back on the job with disdain, claiming he was so bored he would "beg them to let me work on the cash register.” His work paid off, as he became a model for the company’s sister brand, Hollister, and the rest is history.
The star of "Magic Mike” started his career as a stripper after dropping out of college. Though the story served as good fodder for his later film career, Tatum says that "there was nothing glamorous” about stripping, and he doesn’t miss it at all.
Before starring on the screen and stage, Hugh Jackman was a high school gym teacher. He attributes his "Wolverine rage” to his turbulent teen years, and learned to channel that rage into sports—especially rugby.
Though it’s a far cry from his role on "Grey’s Anatomy,” Patrick Dempsey once wanted to be a professional juggler. He even applied to join the Ringling Bros. Circus, but was rejected.
One of Matthew McConaughey’s duties as a country club employee in Texas was to kill the armadillos that were digging holes in the golf course—a far cry from the Oscar-winning performances he delivers today.
Now one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood, The Rock had humble beginnings: his first job was washing dishes at age 13.
Glover, known for both his acting and musical talents, had a less-than-exciting start to his career. The star, a.k.a. Childish Gambino, recalls that his first job was breaking down boxes at a school supply store.
Damon Wayans of "Lethal Weapon” fame started out as a member of the Summer Youth Corp. He and his friends were responsible for rounding up neighborhood children, and doing activities with them. "Was I good at it? No, not at all,” he recalls.
Before playing a cop on the action-drama "Lethal Weapon” on FOX, Clayne Crawford was laying bricks with his brother. The actor worked in construction starting at age 13, and worked throughout high school in day-long shifts.
The star of "Adam Ruins Everything” got his start bagging groceries at a King Kullen supermarket in Long Island. "I tried to talk to the customers about their food choices. My bosses were like, please stop bothering the customers,” the actor recalls.
Matthew Morrison, star of the TV musical comedy "Glee,” started out as a restaurant server in New York, and worked at The Gap. No word on whether the waiter gig involved singing.
Before he was sitting on a couch at Central Perk, Matt LeBlanc was building couches and other furniture for a living. "Everyone in my family does some kind of work with their hands,” the actor explained in an interview.
Can you imagine Vince Vaughn working as a lifeguard? The actor supervised pools before hitting it big, though he got fired for being late to work one too many times.
Nick Offerman is more like his "Parks and Recreation" character, Ron Swanson, than you might think: the longtime actor got his start building sets and props for local theaters using the carpentry skills he acquired from his grandfather.
One of George Clooney’s early jobs was as an insurance salesman, which he recalled did not go well: "The first day I sold one [policy] and the guy died.” Clooney also worked jobs cutting tobacco and selling women's shoes before getting his big break.
It’s hard to imagine Danny DeVito in any business other than show business; he has been acting for more than half a century. But before he was an actor, DeVito worked as a hairdresser and beautician in New Jersey. His sister Angela owned a salon, and encouraged him to work with her and take classes in makeup artistry at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. There, he observed and eventually joined the student actors there.
Christopher Walken got his start as a lion tamer in the circus—definitely one of the quirkier gigs on this list. Thankfully, he got out unscathed and went on to play the eccentric series of roles he's known for today.
If you can believe it, Han Solo nearly gave up on acting before landing his big break. Ford couldn’t find work after playing a small role in "American Graffiti," so he did what he knew best. In order to support his family, Ford worked as a carpenter before being offered the "Star Wars" role that changed his life.
Before he was Rocky, Sylvester Stallone cleaned lion cages at the Central Park Zoo—a gig that makes waiting tables look glamorous in comparison.
Sean Connery had a humble start as a milkman for St. Cuthbert’s Co-Operative Society in Edinburgh. He also worked as coffin-polisher before getting into acting.
Before starring on HBO’s "Game of Thrones,” Peter Dinklage had a more gratifying gig than many on this list: rock musician. Dinklage and his band performed at Columbia University and indie music enclaves of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Famously hot-tempered Alec Baldwin worked as a nightclub bouncer before hitting it big—at New York City’s famed Studio 54, no less.
Tony-winning actor Andrew Garfield may have served you a latte: one of his first jobs was at Starbucks. It wasn’t quite as excited as a John Hughes movie, but his career as Spider-Man has probably made up for that.
Before hitting it big as a comedian, Chris Rock used to bus tables at a Red Lobster on Queens Avenue. He wrote a comedy routine about his time there, jokingly warning fans that "dropping out of school in 10th grade is the dumbest thing you can ever do...you really might as well have dropped out in the second grade, because you qualify for the exact same job.”
Warren Beatty spent time in his pre-acting days catching rodents around the National Theatre in Washington, D.C.
Chris Pratt was living out of a van in Miami while working at the local Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. when he approached actress Rae Dawn Chong at her table. Chong decided to cast Pratt in a film (never released) called "Cursed: Part 3," and Pratt found his life’s passion.
Before he had his name in lights, Jerry Seinfeld was selling them: lightbulbs, to be precise. "There aren’t a lot of people sitting home alone in the dark saying, ‘I can’t hold out much longer,” he joked.
Tim Allen had a rough start to life: his father was killed by a drunk driver when Allen was 11, and he began living a double-life as a marketer for a sporting goods store and narcotics dealer. While incarcerated for drug trafficking, Allen honed his stand-up skills, and started performing upon his release.
Oscar-winning actor Adrien Brody, who portrayed master magician Harry Houdini, once had ambitions of becoming an illusionist himself. He performed magic shows for his family and friends under the alias "The Amazing Adrien” as a child, landing his first paid magic gig at age 12.
Scottish actor Gerard Butler almost became a lawyer, but drank his way through his first job as a trainee civil attorney, and was fired.
Though he’s best-known for news satire, Jon Stewart was employed by the government putting on puppet shows. He performed for kids to make them more sensitive to the needs of the disabled: "I was a cerebral-palsy puppet, a blind puppet, a deaf puppet, a hyperactive puppet—and a puppet who couldn’t commit to a relationship. How sad.”
Before he was a comedian, Ray Romano was just your average delivery man in New York City. Well, maybe not so average: some of his clients included Robert De Niro and Cher—the latter of whom came up to him years later and said, "That futon was a piece of crap.”
The actor and musician once earned a living making Christmas decorations. It kind of makes sense: all the glitter and bright colors he’s worn on tour may have taken their inspiration from this first gig.
The iconic rock star worked in a psychiatric hospital as a porter, similar to a custodian. His time there was not without incident—but you’ll have to read his biography for the juicy details.
Before acting in Academy Award-winning movies, Denzel Washington worked in a barber shop. Washington claims he got his first acting lessons from the shop’s owner. Why? "Because the best liars are in the barber shop,” the actor told Oprah Winfrey.
Before he reached his heartthrob status, Orlando Bloom worked at a shooting range. He was responsible for releasing the clay pigeons used as targets on the range.
The legendary Jimmy Stewart, star of "It’s a Wonderful Life,” held several jobs while still in high school, including painting lines on highways and laying bricks for local construction companies. He also worked as a magician’s assistant for two summers: his first exposure to show biz.
SNL alum and late night host Jimmy Fallon had a decidedly unglamorous first job. The actor and comedian said in an interview with the White House that he started out mopping the floors at a supermarket.
Bill Murray unsurprisingly had some odd jobs (emphasis on the odd) before striking it big. He described being semi-fired from a Chicago grocery store after a misunderstanding with a customer, but the store kept him on as a chestnut-roaster. Murray freely admits that "No one wants roasted chestnuts. I still don't know how to roast a chestnut."
Known for his roles in "Gladiator” and "A Beautiful Mind,” Russell Crowe was once Russ le Roq, a nightclub DJ pursuing a music career.
The "Glee” and "Crazy Rich Asians” actor got his start as a backup dancer for various pop acts including Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, and Mariah Carey. It makes sense, considering his "Glee” character, Mike Chang Jr., had aspirations of becoming a professional dancer.
Not every actor suffered to get to be where they are: Ryan Gosling had his first acting role as a child on "The Mickey Mouse Club” after attending an open audition, and ended up living with Justin Timberlake’s family during his time on the show. That’s show biz, kids!