It’s no secret that actors are a troubled breed – it’s not often a performer can call upon great emotion without having real trauma to reinforce it.
In the modern digital age, it’s almost impossible for a star to have an indiscretion without a TMZ reporter shoving his lens where it’s not wanted, but there are movie stars who have enjoyed dark episodes in their early years; backgrounds that they’re not necessarily keen to discuss on chat show couches.
Join us as we delve into the shady pasts of Hollywood’s great and powerful…
Before he became associated with abs, underpants and Funky Bunches, a pre-Marky Mark Wahlberg led quite the life of crime in his native Boston: it’s estimated he was cautioned by police between 20-25 times as a teen. He developed a substance addiction at an early age and had a civil action filed against him for racially-motivated attacks. Aged 16, he attacked a Vietnamese man with a stick and left him permanently blind; Wahlberg was charged with attempted murder and sentenced to two years imprisonment – serving a 45-day sentence. “I did a lot of things that I regret, and I have certainly paid for my mistakes,” said Wahlberg in 2006. “It wasn’t until I started doing good and doing right by other people, as well as myself, that I really started to feel that guilt go away. So I don’t have a problem going to sleep at night.”
Hardy is an actor capable of drawing from an infinite reservoir of intensity, so it comes as no surprise that he has plenty of real-life problems to draw from. Early on in his career, the ‘Bronson’ star was hooked on alcohol and crack but managed to hide his addictions in order to continue working. “I’d end up high and frightened in places that scared me,” says Hardy. “I might wake up somewhere the other side of London, or in another country or bed with someone I didn’t know, not knowing how I got there. Bleeding… I was lucky I didn’t get hepatitis or AIDS.” Hardy credits the arrival of his son in 2003 as the moment he finally turned his life around. “Children need things. Not want things. Want and need are two different things I have always mixed up.”
“You’re young, you’re drunk, you’re in bed, you have knives; s**t happens.” That’s U.N. Goodwill ambassador Angelina Jolie, there, commenting on the years before she became known as the most glamorous women in Hollywood. The daughter of actor Jon Voight, Jolie – who says she always considered herself “just a punk kid with tattoos” – struggled through school and turned to self-harm and drugs before she turned 20. Tumultuous relationships with actor Jonny Lee Miller (whom she married, wearing a shirt daubed with his blood) and Billy Bob Thornton (whom she married after two months) made her tabloid fodder, until the Brad Pitt half of Brangelina convinced her to settle down and start a brood of adopted babies.
You’d think as the voice of Buzz Lightyear, the star of Disney’s 'Toy Story’ franchise, Tim Allen’s record would have to be squeaky clean. Not so. For you see, pre-fame Tim Allen was searching for an altogether different kind of buzz as a drug trafficker, and in 1978 he was arrested at a Michigan airport in possession of over a pound of cocaine. Allen pleaded guilty for intent to supply and provided the names of other dealers in order to avoid a life sentence – he ended up serving two years in prison before he was paroled. Picking his life back up with comedy, he was a stand-up star within a decade, and in 1994, had America’s top-rated TV show ('Home Improvements’), best-selling book (Don’t Stand Too Close To A Naked Man’) and #1 movie ('The Santa Clause’). Then came 'Toy Story’.
While on holiday in Northern Ireland with then-girlfriend Jennifer Grey in 1987, 'Ferris Bueller’ star Broderick found his car on the wrong side of the road and ploughed into an oncoming vehicle, killing the two passengers (Anna Gallagher, 28, and her mother Margaret Doherty, 63) instantly.
Broderick told the police he had no recollection of the accident (“I don’t remember even getting up in the morning”) and avoided a charge of causing death by dangerous driving, instead getting convicted for careless driving which carried the paltry fine of $175. Honda were criticised in 2012 for hiring Broderick to star in their car advert.
Samuel L Jackson
As an actor, Samuel L Jackson utilises his intense glare and persuasive manner to intimidate and threaten all manner of villains. As it turns out, these skills are not just limited to Jackson’s work-life. In the ultimate example of a pre-fame, 'I didn’t know he was in this’-style discovery, Samuel L Jackson was actually one of the ushers at Martin Luther King’s funeral.
In 1969, Jackson and other students channelled great vengeance and furious anger when they held teaching staff hostage at Morehouse College, demanding a reform of the curriculum – it worked, but Jackson was convicted for unlawful confinement. Sam also started moving in the same circles as the Black Panther movement when it became militant, but in a move reminiscent of the Fresh Prince, his mother sent him to live in LA, where he would forever be confused with Laurence Fishburne.
Robert Downey Jr
Robert Downey Jr’s rap-sheet makes for uncomfortable reading – the fact that he’s now one of the most in demand actors in Hollywood is nothing short of astonishing. Marijuana? Check. Coke? Check. Heroin? Check – it’d probably be easier to list the drugs Downey Jr wasn’t busted with. In 1996, RDJ was arrested speeding down Sunset Boulevard with drugs and a handgun. A month later, he was caught trespassing in his neighbour’s house after falling asleep in a child’s bed.
Even during his first career comeback – fresh out of jail, he was cast in TV series 'Ally McBeal’ – Downey Jr was high as a kite: “It was my lowest point in terms of addictions. At that stage, I didn’t give a f**k whether I ever acted again.” Five years of rehab finally got through to him, as did 'Gothika’ producer Susan Levin, who married him in 2005, and – says Downey Jr – saved his life.
Anyone willing to date Marilyn Manson and wear a see-through chainmail dress to a movie premiere has to have let a little crazy into their life. So perhaps the discovery that 'Planet Terror’ star Rose McGowan was raised as part of a cult shouldn’t come as too much of a shock. The second eldest of six children, McGowan’s hippie parents ran the Italian leg of the Children Of God, a 'new-religious movement’ which used a method called 'Flirty Fishing’ to attract new members with sex. Alarmingly, the movement (definitely not a cult) advocated for members to become sexually active as children (says McGowan: “I waited until I was 14”). At the age of 15, McGowan officially emancipated herself from her parents.
His most popular on-screen persona was that of gormless 'Cheers’ bartender Woody, but off-screen, Harrelson harboured a dark secret while furthering his career: his father was a natural born killer. Woody’s estranged father, Charles Voyde Harrelson, was discovered to be a hitman when he assassinated San Antonio Federal Judge John H Wood Jr in 1979. Harrelson Snr’s convictions for murder and armed robbery put Woody’s arrest for planting hemp seeds in 1996 in perspective, but before he died in prison in 2007, while serving a life sentence, he and Woody did eventually make amends. “My father is one of the most articulate, well-read, charming people I’ve ever known,” said Woody at the time. “Still, I’m just now gauging whether he merits my loyalty or friendship.”
So often cast as the hero cop, it’s disheartening to discover that screen legend Bruce Willis has a criminal record. Yes, Bruce Willis’ LP 'The Return Of Bruno’ is one of the most criminal records ever released: an album of such cringeworthy crooning we’ve still not forgiven him for it. Post-'Moonlighting’ but pre-'Die Hard’, Willis decided he quite fancied a pop at a singing career, and to the eternal shame of the public, we bought it hook, line and sinker (single 'Under The Boardwalk’ reached #2 in the UK pop charts). Once John McClane swaggered into town, 'The Return Of Bruno’ was quickly swept under the rug; these days, Willis makes his living being mildly annoyed by everything. Terrifyingly, he has not yet ruled out the return of the return of Bruno.