Does potential sense potential in others? Does talent recognize talent? Most would say, yes. That work ethic and drive to succeed possessed by some can be readily noticed in others. That has to be it, right? How else can we describe the surprising number of celebrities that bunked together many years before they each hit it big on their own? They certainly weren’t rich and famous back then and most were just struggling to make it just like the rest of us.
The odds of one of a pair of struggling actors hitting it big are rare, but both separately on their own, extremely rare. But somehow they made it. Before they hit it big, they split the rent, scrounged for laundry change, and hustled to make auditions as most struggling actors do. These celebrities knew each other at the ground floor. Some stayed close, others drifted apart; but all were driven to realize their dreams and reach a level of success that most of us only wish we could attain. Most of us know about Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, or Robert Downey Jr. and Kiefer Sutherland, but here on this list some names might surprise you. These are fifteen sets of surprising celebrity roommates.
15. Ryan Gosling and Justin Timberlake
It’s no secret that Justin Timberlake and Ryan Gosling were buds back in their Mickey Mouse Club days, along with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. But did you know that Gosling actually lived with Timberlake’s family during that period in the 1990s? As Justin explained to Ellen DeGeneres, “[Gosling’s] mother had to keep her job in Canada the second year that we were on the television show and my mom was his guardian for like six months. So we actually lived together when were that age. So we were probably a little closer than the rest of the kids that were on the show just because we had to share a bathroom.”
14. Tommy Lee Jones and Al Gore
The Oscar-winning actor Tommy Lee Jones and the future Vice President Al Gore both attended Harvard and shared a dorm room during that period. Jones later gave the nominating speech for his old college roommate at the 2000 Democratic National Convention, saying, “I lived with him for four years. What did we do? We shot pool and watched Star Trek, when maybe we should have been studying for exams. He’d challenge me to shooting contests. We’d see who could hit a tin can from the farthest away. And it was usually Al.” Jones added, “ I always knew that he had the brains and the heart to change the whole world.”
13. Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson
Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson met their sophomore year at the University of Texas in Austin. They were both sitting through the same droll playwriting class all the while daydreaming of making their own films. The two soon became roommates and bonded over lengthy discussions about their favorite film directors. They soon collaborated and wrote popular projects together such as 1996’s Bottle Rocket, and 1998’s Rushmore, which lead to The Royal Tennenbaums (2001), and continued success. Wilson once remarked, “Sometimes I stop and think how strange this all is. Something that began as a little idea in Austin, that Wes and I just walked around talking about between ourselves, has turned into all this.”
12. Connie Britton and Lauren Graham
Back in the 1990s, Connie Britton and Lauren Graham were two struggling actresses trying to make it big in Hollywood. The future Nashville star and the future Gilmore Girls star hit it off and moved to Los Angeles together. On her former roommate, Graham once remarked, “We lived in an empty house that we weren’t supposed to be living in… We had no furniture and all we ate were Rice Krispies Treats.” She also noted that Britton would leave her dishes in the sink and secretly borrow her shoes. Despite each moving on to highly successful careers they both remain good friends to this day.
11. Frances McDormand and Holly Hunter
McDormand and Hunter were roommates while in college at the Yale School of Drama and moved to New York City together after graduation. As a young actress, Hunter was in a play and caught the eye of young filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, who asked her to audition for their first film, Blood Simple. She wasn’t available but sent her roommate McDormand to try for the part. She got it and within a year would marry Joel Coen. Hunter and McDormand moved to Los Angeles and shared an apartment with the Coens. Of Course, Frances McDormand would go on to star in six more Coen films.
10. Judd Apatow and Adam Sandler
In the days before Adam Sandler hit it big, he shared an apartment with future director Judd Apatow. They pair met when they were both aspiring comics appearing regularly at the Hollywood Improv. Their apartment in the San Fernando Valley was small and Apatow likened rooming with Sandler as like living with “the comfortable naked guy at the gym.” Once Sandler got his big break and moved to New York City where he was featured on Saturday Night Live he continued to pay rent just in case he got fired. However we know his career took off from there and he never returned to his Valley apartment. It’s fair to say Apatow also did well for himself.
9. Raven-Symone and Lindsay Lohan
The pair met, while still both Disney stars, at a fashion shoot and as Raven-Symone puts it, “When I first met Lindsay Lohan, we clicked because we did the fashion shoot together, she was cool.” The then briefly shared an apartment together, technically. Symone claims Lohan was really busy working and was hardly ever there, “She paid rent, and she was there probably three times.” “She had her clothes in the apartment we were supposed to live in together,” Symone continued. The pair eventually went their separate ways and they have hardly remained close.
8. Jonah Hill and Justin Long
The two stars met in 2006 on a movie set while they were still aspiring actors. They shared a California home together for a while before Long decided it was time to make a change. According to Long, their arrangement had evolved into the two quarrelling “like an old married couple.” He says he was constantly badgering Hill to clean up after himself. “We fought over recycling. He would recycle everything. I would find banana peels and shards of glass in the recycling bin. We started getting in little fights like that, he left the bathroom door open, didn’t clean up after himself. Little things like that. It was time for a separation,” observed Long. Despite their “break up,” the pair has remained great friends.
7. Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, these two struggling actors were friends and roommates in both California and New York. “He was the worst. We had to hose the rooms down and sweep them out,” Hackman joked. “I slept on his floor,” Hoffman added. The pair roomed together, along with Hackman’s first wife, Faye, until privacy issues become too much and Hoffman got bounced over to the apartment of their mutual friend, future Oscar-winner Bobby Duvall. Duvall’s situation was more to Hoffman’s liking: music, girls, and a constant flow of actors and singers who would stay for a few nights, sleeping on the sofas. On their early days together, Hoffman says, “If we had been at a party with a bunch of unemployed actors and somebody had said, ‘See those three? They’re going to be Hollywood stars,’ the whole place would have erupted, and we would have been part of the laughter.”
6. Michael Douglas and Danny Devito
The unlikely pair met in the 1960s and roomed together in New York City’s Upper Manhattan for a while when they were both still struggling to make it as actors. “He was neat. That’s not very good for his image!” Douglas said of DeVito in May 2010, “But he was neat, and he was in love with [future wife] Rhea [Perlman].” On his former roommate Douglas, DeVito replied, “Michael did the laundry.” “Did he tell you I was a slob?” Douglas asked. “No, really, he was a great roommate. It was a magical time. We were getting paid to act!”
5. Conan O’Brien and Jeff Garlin
Jeff Garlin lived in Chicago, while Conan O’Brien worked as a writer for Saturday Night Live in New York City. However, during a period of a writer’s strike, O’Brien moved in with Garlin in Chicago. Of their time together, Garlin noted, “He was a great roommate. I was the bad roommate. My bedroom had air conditioning and I rarely invited anyone in there. He was not happy about it, because his room was really hot. And I used to wake him up all the time to make him do impressions to make me laugh. I love the guy.”
4. Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve
The two lifelong best friends first met in 1973 as Juilliard students, being the only two accepted into the Advanced Program, taught by John Houseman. The two became roommates during those early years. Of their relationship, Reeve said, “Robin was able to share his real feelings with me, and I always did the same with him.” “My friendship with Robin Williams is one of the real joys of my life,” said Reeve. “Robin is a person who gives to people 24 hours a day. The gift of joy, the gift of laughter. Just to be in a room with Robin Williams is a privilege. He’s a gift to the world.” After Reeve and his wife passed away in 2004, Williams vowed to take care of their orphaned son. In 2005, when he was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award, the lifetime achievement award of the Golden Globes, Williams dedicated it to Reeve.
3. Ving Rhames And Stanley Tucci
The unlikely pair became roomies when they both were studying drama in the early 1980s at the State University of New York (SUNY) – Purchase. The story goes that it was Tucci who convinced the young Irving to shorten his name to Ving, as it was catchier; a story that Rhames verified during the 1999 Golden Globes when he presented an award to Tucci. After college, Rhames went on to his breakout role as Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction and the Mission: Impossible franchise, while Tucci has been busy with parts in films like The Lovely Bones and The Hunger Games series. The two remain friends to this day.
2. Ali Larter and Amy Smart
The celebrity duo did some modeling together in Paris before hitting it big in Hollywood. When Smart convinced Larter to try acting, the two beautiful blondes moved in together in Los Angeles. From there they tried to find work as actresses and, after some minor television and film gigs, did well landing roles on the teen hit Varsity Blues (1999). “Oh my gosh. I talk to Amy Smart all the time. She’s still one of my best, best friends,“ Larter said in a 2013 interview. The pair are still very close today and can often be seen out shopping and having lunch together.
1. Winona Ryder and Gwyneth Paltrow
Back in the 1990s, Gwyneth Paltrow and Winona Ryder were joined at the hip. The two actresses were not only roommates early in their careers but also dating best friends, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. That is, rumor has it, until Paltrow found the script for Shakespeare in Love that was intended for Ryder. Paltrow stole the role and then, of all things, won an Academy Award for it! Oh, the nerve! For her part, Paltrow denies the whole thing, “that’s an urban myth,” she stressed, “I swear to God I did not, I’m raising my right hand on the Bible. I swear to God.” Paltrow does acknowledge that she hasn’t seen Ryder in years, however.