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Celebrity jobs before they were famous

Taryn Smee

When we look at celebrities, we sometimes assume that they have always been famous but as these stories show, even our most beloved performers had to start somewhere.

Steve Buscemi was a firefighter

Steve Buscemi at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival for the premiere of Blank City. Photo by David Shankbone CC BY 3.0

Steve Buscemi at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival for the premiere of Blank City. Photo by David Shankbone CC BY 3.0

Buscemi is now known for his roles in Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and Fargo but he started his career in 1980 as a firefighter in New York City.

He worked with Engine Co. 55 for four years before making his stage debut in 1985. In 2001, he went back to his old company and helped during the aftermath of 9/11, working 12-hour shifts along with his old colleagues.

Christopher Walken was a lion tamer

Christopher Walken in a scene from the movie ‘McBain’ (1991). Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Christopher Walken in a scene from the movie ‘McBain’ (1991). Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Walken and his two brothers Kenneth and Glenn were child actors in the 1950s and when Walken was 16 he got a job as a lion tamer at a circus. The lion was called Sheba and Walken has been quoted as saying “she was very cute, like a dog.”

Harrison Ford was a self-taught carpenter

Harrison Ford on the set of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back directed by Irvin Kershner. Photo by Lucasfilm/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Harrison Ford on the set of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back directed by Irvin Kershner. Photo by Lucasfilm/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Before his big break Star Wars, Ford had some small parts in films such as Apocalypse Now and American Graffiti.

During the 1960s Ford taught himself carpentry to support his family and it is still a hobby that he enjoys to this day.

Christopher Lee worked for the Intelligence Services

Christopher Lee at the Berlin International Film Festival 2013. Photo by Avda CC BY-SA 3.0

Christopher Lee at the Berlin International Film Festival 2013. Photo by Avda CC BY-SA 3.0

The Hammer Horror favorite was born in May 1922 into a privileged military family. At the outbreak of World War II, the young Lee volunteered to join the RAF and was accepted for pilot training.

Flying Officer C. F. C. Lee in Vatican City, 1944, soon after the Liberation of Rome.

Flying Officer C. F. C. Lee in Vatican City, 1944, soon after the Liberation of Rome.

A damaged optic never meant that he was not able to fly and he was accepted into the RAF Intelligence Services instead, where he worked in North Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Russia.

Bob Ross was an Air Force sergeant

Bob Ross. Photo by Getty Images

Bob Ross. Photo by Getty Images

Beloved host of The Joy of Painting started his career as a carpenter then joined the Air Force at the age of 18. He would serve in the military for 20 years and rose to the rank of master sergeant.

It was during his service that he discovered a love of painting and went on to learn the “alla prima” aka wet-on-wet method which would make him famous from his mentor, Bill Alexander.

Helen Mirren worked in an amusement park

Helen Mirren attends the Moet British Independent Film Awards 2014. Photo by See Li CC BY 2.0

Helen Mirren attends the Moet British Independent Film Awards 2014. Photo by See Li CC BY 2.0

The multi-award-winning actress has always had the theatre in her heart. She started acting in plays at primary school and was accepted into the National Youth Theatre at the age of 18.

Before she made the break into acting Dame Helen worked at an amusement park in her hometown of Southend-on-Sea. Her main job was to work as a “blagger,” someone who attracts people to rides within the park.

Mick Jagger was a hospital porter

Before finding fame with the Rolling Stones Mick Jagger was set to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a teacher, but accepted a scholarship to study business at the London School of Economics.

Mick Jagger – The Rolling Stones live at San Siro Stadium, Milan, Italy, June 10, 2003. Photo by Kronos CC BY-SA 3.0

Mick Jagger – The Rolling Stones live at San Siro Stadium, Milan, Italy, June 10, 2003. Photo by Kronos CC BY-SA 3.0

During his tenure as an undergraduate student, Jagger worked as a hospital porter at Bexley Mental Hospital for 4 pounds 10 shillings a week. Apparently, his experiences there inspired the early hits 19th Nervous Breakdown and Mother’s Little Helper.

Rod Stewart worked at Highgate Cemetery

Rod Stewart, Ekeberghallen, Oslo, Norway. Photo by Helge Øverås CC BY 2.5

Rod Stewart, Ekeberghallen, Oslo, Norway. Photo by Helge Øverås CC BY 2.5

Stewart left school at the age of 15 and worked as a screen printer. He tried to get into football but after he didn’t make it past the trials stage he focused on his second love, which was music.

Highgate Cemetery.

Highgate Cemetery.

While waiting to make his big break he worked for a time as a gravedigger in Highgate Cemetery. Stewart says he only measured out plots, marking them off with string.

Warren Beatty was a rodent catcher

Publicity photo of Warren Beatty for film Shampoo.

Publicity photo of Warren Beatty for film Shampoo.

Prolific actor, writer, director and producer Warren Beatty was a star football player at high school and was offered ten football scholarships for college. Beatty declined the scholarships and went on to study liberal arts and acting in New York City.

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Before he went off to college at the age of 17, he got a job at the National Theatre in Washington, patrolling the alleys catching rodents.