DMV Photographer! Cruise Director! Realtor! Stars Spill on Their Pre-Fame Jobs

From real estate investing to mail order catalogs and carpentry, here are some surprising gigs celebrities tackled before making it big

01 of 12

Chris Pratt

Chris Pratt/Instagram

Long before he joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Jurassic World, Pratt was living in a van in Maui working as a waiter.

As the actor told Entertainment Weekly, he waited tables at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. when he was discovered by actress Rae Dawn Chong, who cast him in a movie she was directing. He moved to Los Angeles and continued to serve as a waiter until landing his breakout role in Everwood.

02 of 12

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger Portrait Session
Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1985. Harry Langdon/Getty Images

Before he became the star of the Terminator franchise, the governor of California and one of the most successful bodybuilders of all time, Schwarzenegger was a successful entrepreneur.

As the actor details in his autobiography, Total Recall, he and his best friend, the late bodybuilder Franco Columbu, started a construction business together after they moved to Los Angeles. Schwarzenegger also headed a mail-order business out of his apartment, and supplied workout pamphlets to customers looking to build muscle.

After saving up money, Schwarzenegger began investing in real estate. Through sound investments, he made his first million not through acting or bodybuilding, but through those investments, he told author Timothy Ferriss in Tools of Titans.

03 of 12

Stephen King

Stephen King
Francois Mori/AP

King — who has written legendary novels such as It, The Shining and Misery — worked as an English teacher at Hampden Academy in Maine back in 1971, according to his website.

King kept teaching until two years later when a major sale of his novel Carrie would allow him to quit his job and write full-time.

04 of 12

James Franco

James Franco
James Franco. Kevin Winter/Getty

Before his big break, Franco dropped out of UCLA to go to a small acting school. His parents told him he would have to support himself in his pursuits, and after having difficulty landing a job elsewhere, Franco applied to McDonald's and was hired the same day.

"I was treated fairly well at McDonald's," Franco said in an essay in the Washington Post. "If anything, they cut me slack. And, just like their food, the job was more available there than anywhere else. When I was hungry for work, they fed the need."

05 of 12


Halsey. Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Halsey answered some fan questions on Twitter and shared that they had "loads" of "normal" jobs before becoming a Grammy-nominated singer — including driver's license photographer.

"Loads lol," the "Darling" singer responded to a fan asking about their previous jobs. "Nanny, server, busser, hostess, delivery person, Baker, receptionist, I took license photos at the DMV."

A fan then followed up and asked the singer if they'd let folks retake their license photo if they didn't like it.

"Hell yeah I was always the go-to for that," they wrote back.

06 of 12

Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone Rocky

When Stallone was 18, he was hired by a Swiss boarding school for girls to work as a gym teacher and dorm bouncer. During that time, he discovered his love for acting and went on to study drama at the University of Miami.

Stallone then moved to New York and earned $37 a week as a movie house usher while searching for roles in films and plays.

07 of 12

Harrison Ford

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox/REX/Shutterstock (5886297bq) Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope - 1977 Director: George Lucas Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox USA Scene Still Scifi Star Wars (1977) La Guerre des étoiles
Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox/REX/Shutterstock.

Before Ford became a household name thanks to Star Wars, he was having a difficult time finding roles in feature films.

To supplement his income as an actor, Ford worked a second job as a carpenter that allowed him to step away from television roles to concentrate on getting parts in movies, which is what he really wanted.

"I discovered another way of putting food on the table for my young family, by doing carpentry, I was able to wait it out," Ford said in an interview. "Because I always knew that tenacity was more important than almost anything else."

08 of 12



Madonna Louise Ciccone, better known now as Madonna, worked a part-time gig at Dunkin' on West 57th Street in New York in the late '70s, according to the New York Times.

Before becoming a legendary pop star, she also worked at the Russian Tea Room before she was fired from her job in coat check, the newspaper reported.

09 of 12

Taraji P. Henson

Taraji P. Henson
Taraji P. Henson. Kristina Bumphrey/StarPix/Shutterstock

Empire star Henson, a graduate of Howard University, worked as a supervisor on a five-star dining cruise before leaving to California to make it as an actress when she was 26.

"One day, [my dad] looked at me and said, 'How do you expect to catch fish on dry land?' So I moved out here with my son with $700 in our pocket," Henson told PEOPLE.

10 of 12

Hugh Jackman

Arrivals for NY Red Carpet Premiere of ?The Front Runner? in NYC
Splash News

Long before Jackman helped launch the X-Men movie franchise as the rugged Wolverine, he spent a year as a teaching assistant at the premiere British boarding school, Uppingham School, in 1987.

"[I was] an 18-year-old Aussie teaching English to a bunch of English kids," Jackman told the BBC. "I thought, if that was my school fees, I'd be pretty annoyed."

11 of 12

Jon Hamm

Jon Hamm
Jemal Countess/Getty

Mad Men star Hamm waited tables before landing the role of Don Draper on the iconic television show.

"I've probably been a waiter longer than I've really been anything else," Hamm told Vanity Fair in 2009. "Or I'm probably coming up on even. But barely."

12 of 12

Grace Dove

VANCOUVER, BC - SEPTEMBER 29: Actress Grace Dove attends the Bones Of Crows screening during the 2022 Vancouver International FIlm Festival Opening Gala at the The Centre for Performing Arts In Vancouver on September 29, 2022 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Phillip Chin/Getty Images)
Phillip Chin/Getty

Before Alaska Daily's Grace Dove played a reporter on TV — she worked as one in real life!

The actress told PEOPLE that as a teen she worked as journalist for her local paper in Prince George, British Columbia.

She was later offered a full-time job at her local radio station, which she considered taking though ultimately turned down to pursue her dream of acting.

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