In this day and age, where social media and the Internet has granted us information to everyone’s personal lives, including celebrities, no secrets stay safe, and any childhood secrets or dark stories that are untold come to the surface eventually. The celebrities on this list all have disturbing things that have happened to them in their upbringing, but they aren’t always from drug infested homes or have abusive parents. Some of them get much weirder than that.
It is very interesting to note by looking through this list just how many well-known celebrities there are that have not had semi-decent upbringings, and have had to deal with some serious emotional family issues. Does going through that add to your acting repertoire and the performances you can portray?
Unfortunately, many of us out there have gone through traumatic experiences as children. However, many have been able to press onward and make something of ourselves and not let our upbringing pull us downwards. Today, we’re going to go over the top 15 celebrities who had disturbing upbringings before they got to where they are today.
15. Angelina Jolie
One of the most famous Hollywood actresses of today, Angelina Jolie certainly didn’t have such an upbeat and wonderful childhood. This woman went through some rough patches.
At the age of 14, Angelina Jolie dropped out of acting classes in order to pursue becoming a funeral director. She had been taking acting classes for almost two years when the enticement of dead bodies took over. Wearing mainly black clothing and experimenting with knife play, she quickly started to take a much darker turn.
She began to suffer frequent bouts of depression all throughout her teenage years. Through years of emotional torment and sadness of not being able to connect to her fellow peers, she turned to cutting herself with knives. Angelina said in an interview: “I collected knives and always had certain things around. For some reason, the ritual of having cut myself and feeling the pain, maybe feeling alive, feeling some kind of release, it was somehow therapeutic to me.”
14. Robert Downey Jr.
The actor who started off playing small roles in his father’s films, Robert began acting at the age of 5. It wasn’t a great road to travel down, however. Robert Downey Jr. grew up like any child of a hard-partying celebrity. Roberts’ father, who happened to be a former filmmaker and actor, brought his son around a lot of the drugs he was doing. His father, addicted to several different drugs, allowed his son Robert to smoke marijuana for the first time when he was six years old.
This damaged Robert greatly, causing vast amounts of emotional trauma and issues for him regarding his father. In several interviews, Downey had stated that he felt his father was expressing his love for him when they would do drugs together. This also caused Robert to deal with the trouble of drug addiction for his entire life, relapsing multiple times in the process. He was also arrested for possession of cocaine and heroine in 1996.
13. Drew Barrymore
Drew Barrymore was a child star who was clubbing at the famous Studio 54 by age 9. This child star couldn’t handle all the fame she had acquired so quickly and had to find ways to cope. She picked up some pretty terrible habits for any child to have, like when she was 9 she began smoking cigarettes. By the time she was 11, she began drinking hard liquor and beer.
As she got older, it progressively became more and more substances. At 12, she started smoking marijuana. Then, she started doing cocaine and was a full blown addict. It wasn’t long before her hardcore partying (and how would you not hear about a 13 year old doing blow?) got the attention of the public. Before she was 14 years old, Drew entered into rehab and tried committing suicide shortly thereafter. Drew was convinced that she wasn’t going to live past 25 if she continued the path she was on.
12. Jack Nicholson
This one’s not your typical drug or party childhood. This one’s rather weird. When Jack Nicholson‘s mother was only 19 years old, she gave birth to Jack. Her name was June Nicholson. She also happened to be an aspiring actress.
She was unmarried at the time, as well as unsure about who had been Jack’s father, but she had wanted to make a career for herself in the movie business. She would let her parents take over, and raise Jack themselves as if he was their son. June pretended for a lot of Jack’s life that she was actually his sister. This happened all the way up until he was 37.
His mother actually died of cancer in 1963. At the time, Jack was only 26. Fast-forward to 1974, a reporter for TIME magazine was researching his cover story on the actor when he discovered this deeply buried information.
11. Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey is a man who is commonly known for amazingly portraying total psychopaths on the big screen. Who can blame the man, he does a great job! One of his more notable roles that will come to mind was his role in the film Se7en. He pulled off the stalking, insane killer act well enough to earn himself an MTV Movie Award for the Best Villain.
According to Kevin’s older brother, Randall Fowler, there’s a definite reason behind it. Kevin’s older brother has shed some light onto him and his brother’s gruesome upbringing with a total psychopath/sociopath, abusive, twisted father. Randall describes their father as an ultra conservative sadist, who was heavily into Nazi ideology.
Both him and Kevin were supposedly severely beaten by their father, abused sexually, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Randall claimed that he would’ve committed suicide, but he knew if he did that his brother would face the same fate.
10. Liv Tyler
Liv Tyler‘s mother, Bebe Buell, just so happened to be a Playboy playmate back in the early seventies. Her mother also had the habit of partying, and hanging out with and “entertaining” famous musicians and artists alike. It has become public knowledge that Liv’s mother had public relationships with Steven Tyler, Todd Rundgren, and Rod Stewart.
With her mom being all over the place, Liv was right there with her mother. She saw things as a child she shouldn’t have ever seen. For her entire childhood up to her teens, she would join her mother in this crazy lifestyle and move back and fourth between her grandparents’ house.
It wasn’t until she was 9 years old that Steven Tyler of Aerosmith met her, and heavily suspected he was her father due to their uncanny resemblance. This wasn’t actually confirmed until 2 years later when Liv was about 11 years old.
9. Leighton Meester
For those that don’t know, Leighton Meester played the role of Blair Waldorf in the hot TV series Gossip Girl, a show that skyrocketed her career. Although her childhood wasn’t completely normal, it was more her family that had the extreme turn of events happen to them.
She was actually born while her mother was doing time in prison late into her pregnancy. Pretty much all of Leighton’s family, including her mother, father, aunt, and grandfather were all caught and arrested for smuggling over 1,200 pounds of marijuana over from Jamaica. This was back in 1983, and had apparently been going on for quite sometime.
During that time when the four were arrested, Leighton’s aunt had broken out of prison, and actually became the first woman in the entire United States to get herself onto the U.S. Marshals Most Wanted List. Leighton was really the only one out of the family to make something of herself.
8. Tobey Maguire
Before Tobey Maquire was cast as the infamous Spider-Man that we all know and love, he was caught in a barrage of some serious family issues. The first two years of his life were fairly rough with his parents being so young, unmarried, and unprepared for a child. Growing up, he never really had a stable place to stay. They were always moving from one location to another but also swapping what parent he lived with and what other family members he would live with.
As a child to be really admired his father and wanted to become a chef. Instead though, his mother offered him $100 if he decided to take a drama class instead. He reluctantly agreed.
Tobey has stated that the biggest issue their family had was his father. He couldn’t handle the fact that they had very little money and were poor. That essentially led him to go and rob a bank. He was so desperate that he just decided to go and rob the bank that was across from his house in the middle of the day, without any facial covering whatsoever.
It’s probably not surprising that he didn’t make it far at all and was arrested almost immediately on the spot. Because he was unarmed, and was his first offense, he only ended up serving two years in prison.
7. Kelsey Grammer
To surprise those that don’t know: Kelsey Grammer is the voice of the notorious Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons. It’s one of the voices he is most notable for doing. Perhaps he is good at performing this villain due to some of the tragedies he has had to deal with in his own life.
All throughout his life, he had to deal with death of close family members starting when he was only 11. His grandfather was his primary caretaker and had passed away. Shortly after that, Kelsey had to deal with his father being murdered by someone setting his car on fire while he was inside.
Death would continue to run rampant in his family, taking his sister next in a brutal murder. Later on after that, two of his half-brothers ended up dying in a scuba diving accident. It’s bad luck like this that really makes you wonder if there’s something going on that we don’t know about?
6. Keanu Reeves
Keanu Reeves is one of many Hollywood actors that had a rougher upbringing as a child. Born into poverty, his mother was a simple showgirl and his father left when he was just two or three years old. His entire childhood and teenage years were scattered.
He actually never graduated high school due to him switching between five different schools throughout his four years.
Once he had found some success in Hollywood, his luck didn’t really lighten up much.
Back in 1993, Keanu was really good friends with another actor named River Phoenix who ended up overdosing. Fast forward to the year 2000, and he struggles to deal with his girlfriend at the time having a stillbirth.
Not even a year later the same girlfriend died in a car crash, leaving Keanu devastated. He has stated that he has never gotten over it, and he still thinks about her all the time, and how much he misses his family and what it would be like for them to be with him in the present. I guess you can’t really blame the guy.
5. Demi Moore
Demi Moore actually didn’t even finish high school, and dropped out at the age of 16 so she could fully pursue her acting career. To get by, she had to pose naked for a magazine in 1980. Funny enough, that naked shoot helped boost her into the movie business even further.
Going back a little bit, she was born to a single teenage mother who also happened to suffer from bipolar, depression, and alcoholism. To make matters worse, her stepfather struggled heavily with alcohol and various drug addictions, and struggled to keep a job.
This chaotic environment resulted in her family having to move well over 15 times in her childhood alone. Demi witnessed more domestic violence than she ever needed to. Both her parents suffering from severe alcoholism would lead to physical brawls with each other in front of Demi. It wasn’t until 1980 that her stepfather actually committed suicide.
4. Ashley Judd
Fun fact: did you know that Ashley Judd was, at one point during her Hollywood career, one of the highest-paid actresses and had several incredible on-screen performances. With all her success, she kept her childhood on the down low for a long time.
Her childhood in general left her with severe psychological trauma. She opened up to the world about them in her biography back in 2011. In the book, she talks about attending around 13 different schools from ages 5 to 18 and how she suffered neglect, as well as abuse.
She says the earliest she can remember feeling lonely and depressed was at seven years old. She felt forgotten about (her mom and sister often toured for their country music duo, The Judds) and witnessed multiple domestic violence incidents as well as chaotic amounts of drug and alcohol abuse within her home. To add on to all of this, she said she had several sexual predators she had to deal with throughout her teenage years.
3. Charlize Theron
For such an elegant and charming Oscar-winning actress, it might be commonplace to assume she came from a very wealthy and groomed family. Unfortunately, that could not be more wrong.
Her father was an extremely abusive alcoholic. He would often torture her and her mother, mentally, but she claims he was never physical. This happened all throughout her childhood but one day, it all came to an end. When she was only 15 years old, she had seen her mother shoot and kill her father in an act of self-defense when he had come to attack both of them.
After that traumatic experience, she ended up moving to Milan to begin her modeling career, and only two years after that, then 18-year-old Charlize Theron arrived in Hollywood with nothing but the clothes on her back, a suitcase, and $400 cash.
2. Rose McGowan
Rose McGowan had revealed that she used to be a member of one of the more notoriously known cults called the “Children of God.” This group combined a “free love” attitude and preparing for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
At just an early age, she started to become suspicious and questioned things when she saw that part of the cult’s practices was to sexually enslave women for the men of the cult. This group at one point started to allow sex between children and adults, and at that point her father had managed to pull her out of this organization.
She has stated that at a very early age, she had thought the entire belief system was absolutely absurd. She had said it was like slavery and brainwashing. You were blocked from any outside knowledge so the only existence you had was what you are told and you had to obey it.
1. Woody Harrelson
Woody Harrelson has been gaining popularity for years now, and is commonly known on the Hollywood movie scene. He seems particularly good at nailing violent and crazy characters like in the shows Natural Born Killers, Seven Psychopaths, and True Detective. As it turns out, he probably pulls from his past experiences for a lot of the characters that he plays.
Crazy enough, Woody’s father, Charles, was actually a contract killer. Not only that, but he was actually convicted of murdering a US judge for a sum of money, making him an actual hitman. Unfortunately for his father, it cost him 15 years in federal prison in 1973. He was, however, paroled and released from prison five short years later.
He has stated in several interviews that he had absolutely no contact with his father between 1968 all the way up until 1981. After Charles got arrested and served out his sentence, Woody tried to get him a new trial and even visited him often, but of course that failed.