High schools in the Hollywood, Los Angeles area have historically served as talent pools for the movie industry. Due primarily to its strategic location during the time when Hollywood’s film industry began setting its roots, Hollywood High School started the home grown talent trend. Top tier entertainers such as Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland and Lana Turner all called the school home.
As the film industry grew, and its front of camera talent began to come from all over the world, Hollywood High School’s status as the industry’s top minor league franchise began to wane. Starting in the 1970s, new home grown talent from the Los Angeles area public and private schools – like Beverly Hills High School and Santa Monica High School – captured the hearts and minds of the public, forever changing the way the industry tells its high school success stories.
But Hollywood High School still boasts some of the film industry’s biggest success stories. According to box office numbers, the ten following actors reached the pinnacle of box office success, exceeding the billion dollar mark. A few honorable mentions not listed in this top ten include Hollywood home grown talent such as Mila Kunis (Fairfax High) and Sean Penn (Santa Monica High) among others, reached the low end of the billion dollar box office mark. Laurence Fishburne, a multi-billion dollar box office draw, and a six week attendee of Hollywood High, does not neatly fit the home grown talent category. Finally, multi-billion box office actors such as Carrie Fisher (Beverly Hills High) and Demi Moore (Fairfax High) have little to no recorded box office statistics for the past five years.
10. Joseph-Gordon Levitt
With a box office inflation-adjusted total of $1.7 billion attached to his name, Joseph-Gordon Levitt ranks as one of the younger members of the box office billion dollar club. Levitt experienced what might be called a high school dream, working steadily on the sitcom 3rd Rock From the Sun as he attended Van Nuys High School. With approximately thirty film credits already under his belt, his box office break came about largely due to his role in the hugely popular Batman movie, The Dark Knight.
This actor says his high school years were a positively formative period; “Being on TV when I was a teenager in high school was way harder than anything I’ve experienced since. It prepared me for what it is to work in pop culture.”
9. Charlie Sheen
A member of a well known Hollywood dynasty, Charlie Sheen‘s career shines, albeit sometimes not so bright, on both the big and small screens. With some thirty movies to his credit, including the top grossing movie, Platoon, Sheen’s long list of credits explains his high placement on the Hollywood home grow box office list. The total box office gross to his name sits at an Inflation Adjusted Box Office Total of $1,746,544,800.
Sheen attended Santa Monica High School for a time prior to breaking into the family’s business. His education, however, was patchy. He once said: “Dad kept us out of school, but school comes and goes. Family is forever.”
8. Kristen Stewart
Due largely to the enormous success of the Twilight franchise, at twenty-five years of age, Kristen Stewart ranks as the youngest of the homegrown box office billion dollar box office club with an Adjusted Box Office Total currently sitting at the $1,967,752,400 mark. Only time will tell whether or not her early franchise success or her current search for the serious will define her box office legacy.
Stewart attended public middle-school in Los Angeles before calling it quits on the formal schooling route. Stewart likened her experience with the Twilight franchise with high school, saying to Seth Meyers during a Late Night interview, “Those are my high school years. I am in no way choosing indie movies to step away from it… Twilight blew up and I still think of it as something that made me who I am.”
7. Gwyneth Paltrow
Known today primarily as a celebrity lifestyle entrepreneur, Gwyneth Paltrow‘s film resume and box office numbers are recorded at an inflation adjusted total of $2,336,016,400. Paltrow’s box office power recently got a boost with her role recurring role in the Iron Man franchise.
A second generation Hollywood actress, Paltrow got her educational start at Crossroads School in Santa Monica. Her industry-wise parents guided her career choices early on. Paltrow once remarked, “I wasn’t the high-school play queen or anything. And my parents would not let me act until I graduated from college.”
6. Angelina Jolie
Hard work and a widely diverse resume consisting of a variety of films account for Angelina Jolie‘s success at the box office, which currently comes in at $2,518,085,400. While known early on in life for her work in actions, adventures and thrillers, Jolie’s most recent venture into the cartoon and fantasy genres has proven to be her most financially lucrative career move.
Coming from a Hollywood industry family, Jolie attended Beverly Hills High School. No fan of formal schooling, Jolie once quipped, “Going to school is like going to war, people let you down all the time.”
5. Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio‘s titanic box office career, with a total gross figure of $3,166,594,000, builds on much more than his highest grossing movie, Titanic. As a relatively young member of the billion dollar box office club, DiCaprio already has approximately twenty-five feature films on his resume.
DiCaprio attended John Marshall High School for a short time prior to getting his start on the big and small screen. Hard work earned him some big breaks in the 1990s, insuring he never needed worry about full-time education again. DiCaprio does, however, reflect on his high school years from time to time. He once remarked of it, “School, I never truly got the knack of. I could never focus on things I didn’t want to learn.”
4. Denzel Washington
The oldest member of the list, Denzel Washington‘s Inflation Adjusted Box Office Total of $3,273,505,800 far surpassed the billion dollar box office mark. Hard work in the form of participation in over forty films, none that can be characterized as the typical Hollywood blockbuster franchise, explains his high ranking home grown box office success position. A graduate of Harvard Westlake in Studio City, CA., he once reminisced “I messed up in school so much they were sending me home, but my mother sent me right back.”
3. Nicolas Cage
With over fifty films under his belt and an inflation adjusted box office gross tipping the scales at $3,560,068,700, there’s no disputing the fact that Nicolas Cage worked hard for his success. Two National Treasure films top his box office list. However, it’s his body of work that accounts for the greater part of the total.
Cage dropped out of Beverly Hills High School at the age of 16 and spent most of his teenage years living his life on the big screen. He was once quoted as saying, “As a teenager I was more of an anarchist, but now I want people to thrive and be harmonious.”
2. Robert Downey, Jr.
High school apparently had little effect on Downey’s big screen success. He attended Santa Monica High School. But, following a life’s journey of learning experiences, Downey has reflected on those years saying, “I consider myself intelligent, but being a high-school dropout, I might not have pursued certain skills.”
Living a very public life and experiencing periodic interruptions in his career did little to slow down Robert Downey Jr.’s march to the upper echelons of Hollywood’s homegrown A-list.
His box office total of $3,768,422,700 puts him at the number two spot on the homegrown box office leader board. Catching the Marvel Comics film wave with roles in the Iron Man and Avengers franchises explains his incredible box office records. Future roles in the same franchise are set to see Downey take the top spot on this list in the near future.
1. Cameron Diaz
Cameron Diaz started out at California and Long Beach Polytechnic High School, before transitioning into the world of professional modeling. Not known as a backward looking person, one-time cheerleader Diaz rarely publicly reflects on her high school years as either a positive or negative influence on her life’s choices.
Diaz’s entrance into the film industry got off the ground running after her stint in modelling, due to a string of successful comedies. After a career that spans over thirty films – including her appearances in the Shrek franchise, her highest grossing films – Diaz currently ranks at the top of the Hollywood homegrown box office billion dollar club with an inflation adjusted box office total of $4,065,559,700.
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