A few of these actors are relative newcomers to show business, whereas others have been around for some time. They had their starts in theatrical productions, television series, comedy clubs, and vaudeville. While awaiting their big breaks, they worked as waiters, a juggler, a dancer, and a screenwriter.
One was so down-and-out that he had to sell his blood. Another had to sell his dog, unable to afford to feed the beloved pet. Although all of them either won fame and fortune or are well on their way to such success, each actor on this list was homeless before making it big.
10. Christian Olivo
Christian Olivo took an unusual path to acting. Choosing to be homeless, he bought a gym membership and invested in acting classes. Rising at 5:00 AM, he ran on the beach every day and walked for miles across Los Angeles. Instead of dating, he spent his time practicing acting and honing his athletic prowess as he prepared for his future as an action movie star.
His sacrifice and hard work are beginning to pay off. He’s landed roles in FX’s Versace: American Crime Story and HBO’s Insecure. The actor earned a perfect math score on his Scholastic Aptitude Test and graduated summa cum laude. Then he attended the United States Air Force Academy and played a variety of sports.
He also studied acting at Arizona State University and with Los Angeles acting coaches Anthony Meindl and Matthew Barry. The determined Texan’s stint of homelessness appears to be forever behind him, a mere stepping-stone to future stardom.
9. Chris Pratt
Chris Pratt dropped out of college after a single semester, accepting a friend’s offer to buy him a one-way ticket to Maui. There, he was homeless, sleeping in a van when he didn’t spend the night on the beach. He drank, smoked marijuana, and worked only enough to “cover gas, food, and fishing supplies.”
While waiting tables at Maui’s Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Pratt met Rae Dawn Chong. She offered him a part in Cursed Part 3, a movie she was directing. Today, as Pratt continues to work, his ambition expands.
First, he wanted to move beyond playing a “bad guy.” Then he wanted to try his hand at sidekick roles. Next, he wanted to do comedy. Now, he’s able to turn down some roles.
To date, his biggest roles have been Andy Dwyer in the television series Parks and Recreation, Peter Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy, and Owen Grady in Jurassic World.
8. Drew Carey
Comedian Drew Carey had never given a speech before he accepted a 2010 invitation to address a Friends of Youth assembly. He told his 650 listeners that supporting such organizations is worthwhile, explaining how the Cleveland, Ohio, chapter of Big Brothers helped him after his father died when Carey was eight years old.
Carey was suicidal at 18 when he took a bus from Ohio to visit his brother, who lived in California. On the way, Carey was homeless in Las Vegas for a time. To buy macaroni and cheese, he sold his blood plasma for $40. Now, when he buys Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner Deluxe, he feels like a “big shot.” According to Carey, the young people to whom he spoke could benefit from Friends of Youth the same way he’d been helped by Big Brothers.
After appearing in comedy clubs across the country, Carey demonstrated his comedic skills on Star Search and The Tonight Show. This led to The Drew Carey Show in 1995, after which he hosted The Price Is Right game show. Unlucky in youth, Carey has since enjoyed the success and happiness that once eluded him.
7. W.C. Fields
In 1891, when his father injured himself by stepping on a shovel (in some accounts, a rake), 11-year-old W.C. Fields laughed at the mishap. His father spanked him, and the next day, Fields left home. He only returned for brief visits with his mother when his father was away.
For a while, the homeless boy lived in a hole in a vacant lot. Later, he moved into rooms above a wheelwright’s shop. The suite, furnished with “discarded chairs and stools,” represented a clubhouse for Fields and his friends, who brought him food from their families’ larders.
He also stole bakery items from stores and milk from residents’ porches. The free lunches provided by saloons to their customers were additional sources of sustenance. Fields would tell waiters to bring him two plates—one for himself and the other for his father. Fields would tell them that his absent father would be by shortly to buy drinks.
Fields started his entertainment career as a juggler, performing in Pennsylvania and across Asia, Australia, Europe, South Africa, and more. He got his first big break when he joined the Ziegfeld Follies, performing while the showgirls changed their costumes.
Not long after, he became an “overnight success” in movies. He worked for Paramount Studios, where he wrote some of his own scripts. Among the films for which he’s best known are The Bank Dick and My Little Chickadee, costarring Mae West. He also starred as Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield.