Hollywood is a town littered with broken dreams. Many descend upon Tinseltown with one desire – to become rich and famous, but quickly discover that the reality of achieving star status is next to none. After spending all of their savings, they are broke and often head home, with their shattered dreams and ego broken.
But even for those who have found riches beyond their wildest dreams, the journey getting there was tough –brutally, so, in some cases. Before the glitz, the glamour, some celebrities were forced to live in their cars, unable to afford rent, while they pursued fame and fortune.
Some like Chris Pratt chose to live in his pickup while seeking acting work whereas others were forced into the situation. For instance, Jim Carrey, along with other members of his family were all forced to work janitorial jobs while living in a Volkswagen camper. Others were escaping an abusive childhood, like Lil Kim.
Thankfully, for these 12 stars, their story had a fairy tale ending. These are 12 Stars Who Slept In Their Cars Before Becoming Famous.
12. Dr. Phil
He’s a man who needs no introduction and rakes in a cool $70 million a year. That a lot of money for TV shrink. But as a teenager, Dr. Phil lived out of a car with his father. “I was homeless living in a car with my dad,” McGraw reportedly told the Globe in 2009. “We eventually got a room at the downtown YMCA for five bucks a week.” He made his name when he began appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Show, giving advice to those who needed it.
How things have changed: in 2010, he splashed out $30 million for a Beverly Hills mansion.
11. David Letterman
On April 2014, he announced his retirement from the Late Show With David Letterman after nearly 50 years of live broadcasting. But the talk show host had a rough start in his now glittering and revered career. Way back in 1973, after deciding he wanted to be in entertainment, he moved from Indiana to Los Angeles and had to live out of his red 1973 Chevy pickup truck. The 68-year-old is now worth $400 million and resides in New York in a home he first bought in 1994 for $5 million. Over the years, he has purchased property surrounding his main home, creating a private oasis.
10. Chris Pratt
It was recently reported that after the runaway success of Jurassic World, bringing in a whopping $1 billion worldwide, Pratt was negotiating a $30 million fee to star in the sequel. Not bad for an actor who was broke and living in a van on the streets of Maui when he was 19. A small role in a low-budget horror movie changed all that and the fee he got for it (a mere $700) kept him alive for the entire year. During an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in April 2015, he said: “that script is for Cursed Part 3. The movie that I got paid $700 to do. I was like, ‘Score! I live in a van. …Woo hoo!'”
9. Hilary Swank
After winning two Academy Awards for Best Actress and receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hilary Swank firmly established herself as one of Tinseltown’s acting elite. It was a long way for the 41-year-old actress to come after growing up in a trailer park in Washington and spending eight weeks with her mother living out of a car when they first moved to Los Angeles. “My background is not something I forget,” Swank has said. “It helps me to not take what I have for granted.” She certainly hasn’t as she’s carved out quite the career.
8. Jim Carrey
This 53-year-old has had a slew of box office hits helping him amass a $150-million fortune. But Carrey was poor – dirt poor, growing up. So much so, his entire family took janitorial jobs and lived out of a Volkswagen camper. “My father was a musician who got a ‘regular job’ to support his children,” he says of his past. “When he lost his job that’s when everything fell apart. We went from ‘lower middle class’ to ‘poor’. We were living out of a van. I quit school at age 15 to begin working to help support my family as a janitor. I’d have a baseball bat on my janitor cart because I was so angry I just wanted to beat the heck out of it.”
7. Drew Carey
Sure, he’s worth an estimated $165 million now, but life wasn’t always a bundle of laughs for this comedian. For 18 long months, he lived out of his car while trying to earn a spot on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. Drew Carey did managed to secure a spot and Carson gave Carey a rare seal of approval, inviting him to his couch and calling him “funny as hell.” Carey went on to carve out a solid showbiz career on Whose Line Is It Anyway? and The Price Is Right.
She’s a prolific singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer, actress, and author/poet. Jewel has sold over 27 million albums worldwide and received four Grammy Award nominations. But this 41-year-old’s life was far from a song when she was 18. Growing up in a house in Alaska without plumbing, she decided to embark on a city-to-city tour, gigging at every stop, living in her car for an entire year. “Money will not make you happy, but it takes away a lot of stress,” she’s said. “To this day, the things I love the most are having a place to live, never worrying about my electrical bills, being able to buy the groceries I want to buy, and being able to pay the doctors.”
5. Tyler Perry
This actor and director is worth an eye-popping $400 million, proving himself to be a box office powerhouse thanks to such films as Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Madea’s Family Reunion and on the small screen with Love Thy Neighbor, The Haves and the Have Nots, For Better or Worse and If Loving You Is Wrong. But for six long years, Perry was homeless after he spent every last cent on his musical I Know I’ve Been Changed. “Can you imagine a six-foot-five man sleeping in a Geo Metro?” he once quipped.
4. Kelly Clarkson
She’s America’s first and often favorite American Idol, which she credits with changing her life. Prior to auditioning, Clarkson was a poor struggling singer from Texas, who descended upon Los Angeles only to have her apartment building burn down, which left her living in her car. Now, she’s worth a cool $29 million thanks to such hits like “Since U Been Gone,” “Breakaway,” and “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).”
3. William Shatner
Shatner probably wished someone would beam him up and help him escape the hell of a year that was 1969.When he and his then wife Gloria Rand divorced, Shatner was broke and down and out, living in his pickup truck. “It was the early 1970s and I was recently divorced,” he once Details magazine.”I had three kids and was totally broke. I managed to find work back east on the straw-hat circuit—summer stock—but couldn’t afford hotels, so I lived out of the back of my truck, under a hard shell. It had a little stove, a toilet, and I’d drive from theater to theater. The only comfort came from my dog.”
Two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe later, he is worth an estimated $100 million and reports continue to come in that he made $600 million as the commercial pitchman for Priceline.com.
2. Lil’ Kim
This rapper’s early life was plagued by abuse and poverty before her mother left her abusive father when she was nine-years-old. When her mother left her abusive father, it left both of them with no roof over their heads. “There was a time when my mother and I were living out of the trunk of her car,” the rapper has said. Things didn’t fare better when she was put in her father’s custody – she ran away and spent time living either with a series of boyfriends or on the streets. But being discovered by up-and-coming rapper Biggie Smalls, also called the Notorious B.I.G., changed all that. Now the 41-year-old is worth $18 million.
1. Sam Worthington
This Australian actor was unemployed and out of work for quite some time while he was waiting for his big break. He revealed in an interview that he “sold everything I owned and was just living in the car basically, not doing much.” And he was still living in his car until Lady Luck shined upon him and an audition with director James Cameron changed his life. He went on to win acclaim for his role in Avatar and find even more success with Clash of the Titans. As of late, the 38-year-old and recently married star, listed his Hawaiian mansion for sale for $6.5 million.