People often think that becoming famous or reaching millionaire status creates instant happiness, and that all real world problems will just seem to disappear. While Biggie may have told us “Mo Money Mo Problems,” to the average person, that seems like a problem worth having. The celebrity lifestyle is portrayed as ultra glamorous, and filled with non-stop parties and beautiful people. So, it’s difficult to imagine what kind of problems would arise, besides family members that would undoubtedly come out of the woodwork to ask for funds.
With so much glitz and glamour, it seems unfathomable that anyone with that obscene amount of money could ever be blue. Yet, if we’ve learned anything from watching celebrities so closely over the years, it’s that no amount of money can fix the problems that can happen in anyone’s life. From tragic love stories to death and loss, even the hottest celebrities in Hollywood have gone through some seriously depressing episodes in their lives.
While it may seem strange to feel sorry for someone who is beloved by millions and can purchase a luxury car (or house) on a whim, there are some tragedies in life that even the biggest celebrities can’t seem to move on from or avoid. From tragedies in their past to marital woes to the intense scrutiny by the media, sometimes the public has felt sympathy for those in the celebrity world. Proving that not even the largest sums of money can buy happiness, check out 15 times that the public felt sorry for some of the richest Hollywood actors.
15. Catherine Zeta-Jones
When Catherine Zeta-Jones was first romantically linked to Michael Douglas, the public thought it was strange that she would date such an older man. While Douglas was definitely thought of as an attractive Hollywood A-lister, he was also twenty-five years her senior. It took the public a bit of time before they ultimately accepted and respected their relationship, but that didn’t mean that her life was all cake and roses. Coming out publicly about her mental illness, she gave a series of interviews detailing the struggles she dealt with in her bipolar disorder. On top of all that, Douglas was diagnosed with throat cancer, and she became his caretaker through the battle for his life. While Douglas ultimately beat cancer, he gave a few interviews that caused true embarrassment to his now-wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones. Commenting that it was the years of giving oral sex to a woman with HPV that gave him throat cancer, the world couldn’t help but feel sorry for Zeta-Jones for having to deal with that sort of public embarrassment.
14. Jennifer Aniston
When Jennifer Aniston first made her entrance through Central Perk’s doors on the first season of Friends, she became instantly beloved by the public. Women everywhere ran out to get a “Rachel Green” hairstyle, and they all longed for her to find true love. So, when she was married to Brad Pitt in July of 2000, it finally seemed like she had found her Prince Charming. They became a staple on the red carpet, with her dominating the TV world and him being a force to be reckoned with on the silver screen. Yet, all of that changed when Pitt starred alongside Angelina Jolie in Mr. & Mrs. Smith. The two split shortly after, and he quickly moved on to the ultra glamorous Jolie. The world began taking up “Team Aniston” shirts with pride, and it became blatantly clear whose side they had all taken. Everyone felt so sorry that Aniston had lost her other half in such a public manner, and fervently wished she would find love again.
When Rihanna was first introduced to American audiences, she was seen as the ultra-talented Barbados artist that was wowing the music industry. Under the tutelage of Jay-Z and being romantically linked to Chris Brown, Rihanna was quick to be on the road to being the world’s next superstar. Yet, everything changed on the fateful night of February 8, 2009. After a physical altercation that left Rihanna’s face battered and bruised almost beyond recognition, Brown was arrested on assault charges. Although the arrest was bound to be made public due to their celebrity status and police documents detailing the event, it was the photos that were leaked to TMZ that were the most damning for the “Umbrella” singer. After seeing the photos of her battered face, the public couldn’t help but feel sorry for this talented music artist. As if the beating weren’t bad enough, she inadvertently became the face of domestic abuse in the eyes of the public.
12. Jennifer Hudson
When Jennifer Hudson was voted off in seventh place during the third season of American Idol, no one could have predicted how high her star would rise in the celebrity world. Not only was she praised as a singer, but she went on to win the Academy Award for her portrayal in Dreamgirls. Yet, despite her amazing professional career, it was her personal life that captured the majority of headlines. William Balfour, the estranged husband of Hudson’s sister was sentenced to life in prison after killing Hudson’s mother, brother, and nephew. He was given three separate life sentences for their murders, and the world was in shock over the horrific incident. Hudson remained out of the spotlight directly following the manhunt for Balfour, but eventually emerged as the strong survivor she is known as today. The world applauded her strength and perseverance during such a tragic time in her life, and felt deep sympathy for this accomplished American Idol castoff.
11. Joaquin Phoenix
The ‘90s were filled with musician angst and tumultuous times for celebrities, which became blatantly clear with incidents like Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Another heartbreaking loss in the celebrity world was the death of River Phoenix in 1993. After a night out at The Viper Room, Phoenix met up with his brother, Joaquin, and others just three days after Joaquin’s 19th birthday. River ended up overdosing on a mix of cocaine and heroin and ultimately died at the age of 23-years-old. It was Joaquin that made the frantic phone call to 911, and is undoubtedly remembered as one of the worst moments in his life. While Joaquin has gone on to become a huge film star in his own right, one can’t help but feel sorry for him due to the loss of his older brother. The fact that he was there on that fateful night is just another horrific aspect of the tragedy.
10. Kelsey Grammer
Kelsey Grammer was first introduced to audiences through his role on hit television shows like Cheers and Frasier, but has proven that he is more than a sitcom actor in recent years. Previously known as an ultra private person, the world began seeing more of him when his then-wife, Camille, became a cast member in Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. After just one season on the show, it was revealed that Grammer was leaving Camille for a Virgin Air flight attendant, who is now his new wife. While the world never really embraced Camille, it was difficult not to take her side when it was discovered her husband was starting a brand new family with his new stewardess girlfriend. Whether it was an attempt to turn around his public persona or it was a genuine interview for him to unleash his demons, Grammer gave an interview with Oprah Winfrey about the tragedies in his family’s history. At 13 years old, Grammer’s father was murdered, and his two half-brothers died in a scuba-diving accident. Yet, it was the abduction, rape, and murder of his little sister, Karen Grammer, that truly tugged on the heartstrings of viewers.
9. Liam Neeson
Liam Neeson is a beloved actor that continues to entertain audiences on the silver screen. While many remember him from his portrayal in the Taken film series, others still hold a special place in their heart for his film portrayal in Love Actually. Eerily, real life mirrored his character, since Neeson became a widow just like his Love Actually character. Neeson married Natasha Richardson in 1994, but in 2009 she suffered a skiing accident that caused permanent brain trauma. Typically, a skiing accident that causes such a severe injury would take place far from the beginner’s slope, but Richardson suffered her injury from just a minor fall at Quebec’s Mont Tremblant. Even after being evacuated to a Montreal hospital and then later to New York, Richardson succumbed to her injuries and was survived by Neeson and their two sons. The world’s heart broke for the newly single father, and still hasn’t recovered from this fluke skiing accident in Canada.
8. Scott Eastwood
The interesting thing about this new crop of Hollywood A-listers is that many of them are the sons and daughters of Hollywood’s elite. From Dakota Johnson (daughter of Melanie Griffith) starring in 50 Shades of Grey to Gigi Hadid (daughter of Yolanda Foster) being the face of Guess, the next generation of celebrities are all grown up. When Scott Eastwood (son of Clint Eastwood) was first introduced to audiences, people were alarmed at how closely he resembled his father. People were enthralled by his dashing good looks, which was only heightened when he starred in Taylor Swift’s music video, “Wildest Dreams.” However, it seems that not even someone that was born with a silver spoon in their mouth is safe from tragedy. In an interview with GQ Australia, Eastwood opened up about why it is that he might still be single. He stated, “I dated a girl a couple of years ago who died in a car accident. …Her airbag exploded. It shot a projectile through her body. It split her spine, and …I’ve never told anybody that.”
7. Sandra Bullock
When Sandra Bullock was finally able to shed Razzie past by winning the Academy Award for her portrayal in The Blind Side, the world felt that she had finally arrived as a respected actress in Hollywood. Yet, during the same time that she was receiving accolades and acknowledgement from the industry, she was also receiving the biggest shocker of her life. Her husband, Jesse James, was revealed to be a serial cheater, with a string of mistresses coming out of the woodwork. While it was bad enough that Bullock was being betrayed by her husband and it became known to the world, the worst part of the ordeal was that her true feelings about her then-husband were on display during replays of her acceptance speeches. Always thankful to her husband at every turn, it was her speech during the Golden Globes that truly made the public feel sorry for her. Stating, “There’s no surprise that my work got better when I met you, because I never knew what it felt like for someone to have my back,” Bullock was truly blindsided by her husband’s infidelity.
6. Melissa McCarthy
The double standards in Hollywood have been prevalent for years, with male actors continuing to receive roles despite their age and size. Yet, women in the entertainment industry are expected to be of a certain size, and are often pushed out to pasture once they reach a particular age. Breaking all barriers, Melissa McCarthy burst onto the scene as a hilarious comedian and actress with hit films like Bridesmaids and This Is 40. While there were some that appreciated that Hollywood was embracing more than just the typical size zero actress, others were still not on board with someone of McCarthy’s size on the silver screen. One of her biggest critics was Rex Reed of the New York Observer. After watching McCarthy’s 2013 film, Identity Thief, Reed wrote a scathing review where she was referred to as “tractor-sized” and “hippo.” Reed was pounced on for “fat-shaming” the actress, and the world felt sorrow that even one of the most celebrated female comedians in Hollywood was still ridiculed over her weight.
5. Charlize Theron
As one of the most celebrated and beautiful women in Hollywood, Charlize Theron is an Academy Award winning actress that is also the face of Dior. Yet, what many people don’t realize is that Theron has a past filled with tragedies and loss. As a child growing up in South Africa, Theron’s father was battling alcoholism and was physically abusive. In an act of self-defense, her mother shot and killed her father as a young Charlize looked on. While this was cause enough to garnish heartfelt sorrow for her troublesome past, the media can be a fickle thing. Once celebrated for her strength in becoming a single mother to her adopted son, Jackson, the media quickly turned on her during a particularly heated exchange in a parking lot. The paparazzi snapped shots of Theron wrestling with her son as she attempted to get him into the car, which is something every mother has dealt with at some point in time. Rather than pawning it off as a mother dealing with a temper tantrum-fueled toddler, media reports depicted Theron as one of the worst mothers in Hollywood.
4. Michael J. Fox
Oftentimes, an actor starts to lose their luster once they have reached the peak in their careers, especially if their peak was in the ’80s like in the case of Michael J. Fox. As the beloved son in the hit television series, Family Ties, he transitioned to film with relative ease in the hugely popular Back to the Future trilogy. Yet, he soon became famous in another capacity when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991. Although he became the face of the disease, he returned to television in 1996 in the critically acclaimed series, Spin City. He created the Michael J. Fox Foundation to draw awareness to the disease, as well as increase funding to find a cure. As his symptoms worsened, the public began to see the tragedy of the disease unfold. It seemed unfathomable for such a beloved star to be afflicted with such a tragic and incurable disease.
3. Angelina Jolie
When Angelina Jolie became one of the most hated women in the world due to her whirlwind romance with then-married Brad Pitt, it seemed like nothing could turn around her public persona. People immediately started taking sides, and pitting her against everyone’s favorite “Friend” Jennifer Aniston wasn’t exactly helpful to Jolie. The best thing Jolie and Pitt could do for their public image was exactly what they did: stay together, throw themselves into charity work, and adopt a bunch of really cute kids. Things started to really turn around for Jolie in the eyes of the public, especially since becoming the Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Refugee Agency. After finally gaining back the respect of the general public, she also gained something else: pity. After learning she had a mutation in her BRCA1 gene that gave her an increased chance of breast and ovarian cancer, Jolie removed her ovaries, Fallopian tubes, and underwent a double mastectomy removing both of her breasts. Not only did she raise awareness for preventable cancer treatment, but she also gained sympathy from the public over her brave decision to be more proactive in her health issues.
2. Roman Polanski
Even before Roman Polanski became known to American audiences as a famed director and producer, he had already achieved much in his life. While living in Poland, his family survived the Holocaust, and his first feature film was nominated for an Academy Award. Yet, the media attention that he gained from his world-renowned films also drew intense scrutiny that only heightened through the years. Before it was revealed that the Manson Family was to blame for the death of Polanski’s pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, false media reports actually insinuated that somehow Roman was at fault, referencing the dark nature of his previous hit film, Rosemary’s Baby. It’s incredible that the media was allowed to attack Polanski during such a tumultuous time in his life, but it definitely wasn’t the last occurrence. Recent documentaries like Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired and Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out have brought attention to how the media played a huge role in the aftermath of his arrest for statutory rape in 1977. Despite differing thoughts on the case, the fact remains that even the victim in the case has come forward to state that she has forgiven him and doesn’t think he should face jail time.
1. Keanu Reeves
There aren’t many celebrities that have the same history of past tragedies the way Keanu Reeves has. Recently, there was a video detailing some of the tragic incidents in his past, while simultaneously showing that she still lives in a modest home and rides the subway like regular folk. The world couldn’t help but feel heartfelt sorrow for this Matrix actor, since so much of his past was filled with death and loss. His father abandoned the family when he was just 3-years-old, and he basically lost contact with him by the age of 6. Keanu’s closest friend, River Phoenix, died of an overdose at the age of just 23-years-old, and his first Hollywood love died tragically in a car accident. Reeves began dating fellow actor, Jennifer Syme, and the two were expecting their first child in 1999, when she gave birth to a stillborn. Within 18 months of that tragedy, Syme perished in a car accident.