“Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life,” so said Oscar Wilde over a century ago. Yet, it’s as true today as it’s ever been. We know actors draw on their life experience for roles; rappers rap whole albums dedicated to their life on the streets. But what about the times it happens in reverse and actors can’t seem to leave their on-screen characters on screen?
In extreme cases, we can’t even tell where fiction ends and reality begins. The young Ellar Coltrane lived a real-life Truman Show for 12 years; he spent four days per week filming Boyhood. The movie follows 12 years of Mason’s (Coltrane) life, from first-grade all the way to college. Audiences get to see the boy’s real reactions to events like the 9/11 bombings, the Harry Potter phenomenon; basically, his entire maturation.
On the surface, Charlie Sheen and Charlie Harper’s lives are so similar that we don’t even know where to draw the line. But, it looks like Harper is actually more chill than the legend himself. Maybe these actors have spent too long playing the character, maybe Wilde’s words are just too true, but here are 10 celebs whose off-screen life seems to mirror their on-screen role a bit too closely.
10. Courteney Cox
Back in 2009, when Cougar Town first started airing, Courteney Cox was still married to her husband, David Arquette. The show centered around a recently divorced, single mother coming to grips with dating again. With a host of other actors, it soon became one of the more popular shows, being nominated for and winning multiple awards.
But barely a year into her stint on the show, Cox announced her split from Arquette after 11 years together. It seemed like her character’s life was beginning to wear off on hers, too. But in 2013, Cox started dating Snow Patrol guitarist, Johnny McDaid, and they announced their engagement in June 2014. Speaking of cougars, the couple has a 12 year age difference between them.
9. Michael Richards
As goofy Cosmo Kramer on Seinfeld, Michael Richards is known for his eccentric behavior and almost-painful candor. But his eccentric behavior is accepted; he’s the crazy neighbor we all love to hate on. However, it appears that Richards absorbed a bit too much of Cosmo Kramer.
In 2006, he was recorded making racist comments while performing at L.A.’s Laugh Factory. Hecklers are a part of any stage show, but Richards took particular offense to a group of African-American hecklers. His ensuing tirade was recorded and the video posted online. Following the nationwide condemnation, Richards appeared on David Letterman‘s show to apologize and pledged to seek help for his issues.
8. Philip Seymour Hoffman
Considered one of the finest actors of his generation, Philip Seymour Hoffman seemed to nail every performance. Whether he was in an artistic flick or a full-on action thriller, whether playing an absolute scumbag or degenerate, audiences could always relate to his character.
While studying at New York University, the thespian admitted he had struggled with substance abuse. But upon graduation, he spent a few months in rehab and remained clean for 23 years, which is why many were shocked to hear that he had passed away from a suspected drug overdose on February 2, 2014. By all appearance, he seemed to have slipped back into drug use, but had gotten good at hiding it. The scenario strongly echoed the struggles of his character of drug addict/embezzler Andy Hanson, in 2007’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.
7. David Duchovny
Off screen, everyone’s favorite alien-hunting FBI Agent Fox Mulder seemed to have the perfect life. Married to actress Téa Leoni since 1997, the couple have two kids and seemed happy together. So when he was admitted into rehab for sex addiction, many were baffled.
But on closer examination, the David Duchovny situation seems kinda twisted. Since he had to go into rehab after being cast as the sex-mad author in Californication, you could say life was imitating art. But digging a little deeper, it appears that art may also be imitating life, as Duchovny reportedly cheated on multiple girlfriends throughout the 90s.
6. Lee Thompson Young
In August 2013, it was reported that Lee Thompson Young had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Young first became popular as the teenage secret-agent on Disney’s The Famous Jett Jackson. The child star had successfully made the leap into acting mature roles, starring in episodes of Scrubs, Smallville, Lincoln Heights and CSI: NY.
The young actor had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder but was apparently taking medication for the condition. His tragic suicide echoed the suicide of his character, FBI Agent Al Gough, on ABC’s FlashForward in 2009.
5. Lillo Brancato Jr.
In his role as young mobster Matthew Bevilaqua on HBO’s The Sopranos, Brancato wanted a part of every scheme in town. In real life, it seems that life got a little too real for Brancato. He was busted for heroin possession in June 2005, but later that year, he committed a more serious crime.
In December 2005, an off-duty cop interrupted Brancato and an accomplice while they were attempting to rob a nearby home. In the shootout that followed, the officer was shot and later died of his wounds. Brancato and his accomplice, who were also wounded, were soon arrested by the police. He was found guilty of first-degree attempted burglary and sentenced to ten years. He served eight before being released on parole in 2013.
4. Anailin de la Rua de la Torre and Javier Nunez Florian
The directorial debut of filmmaker Lucy Mulloy cleaned up big time when it was shown at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. Una Noche (One Night), was the story of twin siblings Elio and Lila, and their pal, Raul, who flee oppression in Cuba and try to get to America on a raft. The film won best actor, best cinematography, and new director honors.
But the twist in the tale is that the actors who played Elio and Lila actually went missing on the way to the festival. It was the first time any of the young actors had ever left their native Cuba, but the pair disappeared during a stopover in Miami. They apparently wanted to flee Cuba for real, and later resurfaced to apply for political asylum in the United States.
3. Johnny Galecki
The first time you encounter Dr. Leonard Hofstadter, you almost feel sorry for him. The uniform of black thick-framed glasses, beat up Converse All Stars, hoodies: he’s the stereotypical nerd. But as the seasons progress, he shows you how much fun a physicist can have. He has on and off relationships with many beautiful women till he gets engaged to Penny in season 6.
In real life, Galecki seems to be as much of a “playa” as he is on screen. He dated Sara Gilbert, his former Roseanne co-star, who also played Leslie Winkle on Big Bang, in the 90s. He also dated Kaley Cuoco in real life from 2007 to 2009.
Unfortunately, the player doesn’t seem to have it as rosy off-screen. Just like in the series, he dates the ladies, they break up, they stay friends. Exactly how it is off-screen; Gilbert credits Galecki for supporting her when she came out as a lesbian, and the two have remained friends since then. It’s exactly the same scenario with Cuoco, they stayed friends since they broke up; they still work together on Big Bang and he was a guest at her wedding in 2013. Looks like Galecki is perpetually in some weird friend-zone…
2. Felicia Pearson
The character of the baby-faced assassin Snoop from The Wire was loosely based on Pearson’s own background. Growing up on the tough streets of Baltimore, Pearson worked as a drug dealer. When she was 14, she shot and killed another teenager, following an altercation. Jailed at 16 for second degree murder, Pearson served six and a half years for the crime. Soon after her release, she joined the cast of The Wire and the rest is history.
In 2011, she was arrested along with 60 others in a large-scale DEA raid, eerily similar to the kind that happens on the show. She pled guilty the day before her trial was supposed to start and was sentenced to a suspended seven-year prison term.
1. Jon Cryer
Two constant themes for the first eight seasons of Two and A Half Men were Charlie moaning about how Alan mooches off him, and how Alan always griped about paying his ex-wife alimony. But can you really blame the guy? His chiropractic practice just never seemed to take off.
Jon Cryer is facing a similar situation. In 2013, his ex-wife, Sarah Trigger, accused him depriving their teenage son, Charlie, of “a befitting upbringing.” Cryer was paying $8,000 in child support, but according to her, it was barely enough for their son to go on holiday or hang out with his friends.
At that time, Cryer had just renewed his contract on Two and a Half Men, and was earning $2 million a month. Trigger filed a lawsuit in a California family law court, requesting that Cryer increase his monthly checks from $8,000 to $90,000.