Times are tough and jobs are hard to come by, so why would someone throw everything they've worked so hard for away just to start anew? Sanity? More money? Or, maybe they’ve already reached the apex of their career and desire a new challenge. Take a look at these guys who were already successful and famous, but decided to get noticed for something different.
Ben Affleck: Famous Actor/Writer to Award-Winning Director
Ben Affleck is 40 and it seems like he's already done everything in the entertainment biz. He starting acting as a young boy and he's been everything from a student, a prick retail store manager, a comic book artist, a best friend, a bully, a lover, a professional bank robber and more. After the release of the 1993 cult favorite "Dazed and Confused" and his collaborations with Kevin Smith in "Mallrats" and "Chasing Amy," Affleck took the next step in his career as an actor and screenwriter. In 1996, Miramax bought the rights to his and longtime childhood friend Matt Damon's years-old "Good Will Hunting" script, in which they both also starred in. The duo's work garnered an Oscar for "Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen." It seemed that Affleck was destined for a long, happy career in acting and writing -- but he wasn't done. Like Clint Eastwood and George Clooney before him, he wanted to direct.
Affleck wrote the second of his three screenplays and made his directorial debut with his 2007 film "Gone Baby Gone," making it the first time he wrote and directed. I'd venture to guess that he felt he had to do everything himself if he wanted to get anything done right after 2003's "Daredevil" and "Gigli" flops. Then, Ben achieved the acting, writing & directing trifecta with 2010's "The Town," but it wasn't until last year's "Argo," Affleck's third directed film about the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, that he would really get the attention of Hollywood as a director. "Argo" has received seven Oscar nominations, and the Academy's snub of Affleck for a Best Achievement in Directing nomination has only seemed to garner more respect. His movie has gone on to win two Golden Globes for Best Director and Best Motion Picture (Drama), and a SAG Award for Outstanding Ensemble in a Motion Picture.
Ronald Reagan: Movie Star to President of the United States
Reagan had an early career as a radio sports announcer in Iowa before moving to Hollywood and becoming a movie star. In all, he made over 50 films; unfortunately, he got called to stateside-active duty for WWII before he could really enjoy and exploit his star status. While active, he produced hundreds of training videos for soldiers, and after the war he went back to California to rat out the Communists in Hollywood. This guy just loved his country.
Originally a Democrat, the new Republican impressed California politicians with his "A Time for Choosing" speech in support of Barry Goldwater. That landed him the nomination for governor of California, which he won. After two terms as governor, he ran and beat incumbent Jimmy Carter for President of the United States, where he served two full terms. Reagan died in 2004 due to increasingly poor health from Alzheimer's disease.
Jerry Springer: Cincinnati Mayor to Trashy TV Talk Show Host
The guy has been dealing with screaming idiots for years. Inspired by JFK at age 12, he took an early interest in politics. After failing to get elected as an Ohio congressmen, Springer found a spot on the City Council, and eventually became the 56th Mayor of Cincinnati (after failing to get the nomination for Ohio governor). While in college studying political science he also moonlighted as a radio broadcaster tackling political issues; this affinity for political & news broadcast lasted well into his mayoral term and after it. His insightful radio commentary eventually helped him launch "The Jerry Springer Show."
Originally the show was about serious political & social topics before it took a low-brow dive to boost its rating and stay on the air in the mid-‘90s. The transition seemed to work as the show is still going strong after 22 seasons.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: The Terminator to The Governator
At the ripe age of 20, he was known as Mr. Universe. Later, it was Mr. Olympia, a title he held seven times. While bodybuilding, he was featured in the documentary “Pumping Iron,” which documented one of the Mr. Olympia contests and eventually helped jump start his struggling acting career. He went on to become a household name for his notable roles in "Conan the Barbarian," "Predator," "The Terminator" movies and as everybody’s favorite ferret-wielding hero in "Kindergarten Cop." Then, Arnold decided to turn his attention to politics.
Schwarzenegger became the Governor of California in 2003 after a spontaneous two-month campaign. Soon enough the “Governator” was cleaning house in California, squashing his Democratic “girly men” opponents in office and playing a key role in the passing of some major propositions. He served two terms before leaving office in 2011. Arnold is now back to acting and is rumored to appear in another Conan and Terminator movie.
Bruce Jenner: Famous Athlete to Reality TV Pawn
It may not have been your typical full-time, paying gig, but it definitely took work and it paid off big. Jenner was just the hero America needed after the Soviet Union won the medal count in the ‘72 Olympics in Munich. Bouncing back from failing to medal in ’72, Jenner made his first dash to greatness in ’76 at the Montreal Summer Olympic Games winning gold in the Decathlon. Now a national treasure, Jenner decided it was the time to capitalize on his fame and left the amateur life of the track and field world behind. Swapping his discus and future Olympics glory for a bowl and spoon, Jenner became another famous face on the Wheaties cereal box appearing both in 1997 & 2012 and becoming one of their seven official spokesmen.
Jenner briefly had a mildly successful stint as a GT race car driver in the ‘80s after turning his attention to acting where he had more success in TV than he did in feature films; both films Jenner appeared in, "Can't Stop the Music" (1980) and "Jack and Jill" (2011) won the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture. I think he got the hint, but these days Jenner can still be found on TV, usually in a reality show along with the rest of his family. I honestly can’t keep up with all the Kardashians, but I know I’ve heard that name somewhere before…
OJ Simpson: Famous Athlete to Funny Actor to Scary Criminal
Heisman winner, check. NFL MVP, check. A slew of other football awards and records, check, check, check. Friend of a Kardashian, last good check.
The guy retired with 11,236 total rushing yards after 10 seasons in the league, and he's still the only player to rush for over 200 yards in a game six times. What else could a highly decorated collegiate and professional athlete want? A shot at the silver screen, of course. In fact, Simpson didn't even wait until he was done with football in '79 before he transitioned into film acting. Simpson sustained a pretty successful career into the 1990's, most remembered for his role in the "Naked Gun" franchise playing Nordberg prior to his personal trials and tribulations.
As if falling down a flight of stairs in a wheelchair isn’t bad enough, Simpson was facing arrest for double murder charges in June 1994. Simpson fled the day he was supposed to turn himself in, which gave us a nationally televised slow-paced car chase that I’m sure any cognizant being with a TV at the time could remember. He was eventually tried in 1995 for the murders of his ex-wife and her friend Ron Goldman, and was found not guilty in the “Trial of the Century.”
Simpson faced a civil trial two years later where the judge awarded $33.5 million to the Goldman family, which Simpson did little to pay. Simpson is now locked up for 33 years with a parole option after a mandatory nine years, stemming from his involvement a Las Vegas robbery back in 2008. Needless to say, "The Juice" is no longer loose.
Jesse “The Body” Ventura: Professional Wrestler to Governor of Minnesota
Like Reagan, this Vietnam vet turned professional wrestler turned politician, is known across generations; ironically, most 20 and 30-somethings associate him with his younger wrestling and acting years ("Predator") than his more recent political activity, which is the only reason my grandfather has even heard of him.
After the heel retired from wrestling and commentating, back in Minnesota, Ventura opted to run for local office; becoming Mayor of Brooklyn Park and later Governor of Minnesota by winning people over with his "Everyman" politics and down-to-earth nature. Nowadays, Jesse hosts a conspiracy theory show with his son. I wonder if he was ever tempted to use his character’s words of wisdom in office: "Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat!"
Carl Weathers: NFL Linebacker to Beloved Actor
Well, well, well, what do we have here? Another football player who thinks he can act. Even though Carl Weathers had a brief NFL career as linebacker for John Madden’s Raiders, his first true passion was acting. After retiring from football in 1974, Weathers got his big break playing opposite of Sylvester Stallone as Apollo Creed in the Rocky franchise. Post-Creed role, Weathers joined up with both Schwarzenegger and Ventura to give us a triple shot of athletes turned action stars. But unlike the others he didn’t turn to politics; Carl kept at it and turned to more comedic roles where he has since shined. Still quite active (on shows like "Arrested Development), you’ll most likely find him salvaging through people’s leftovers for meat scraps to add to his broth, as this guy always has a stew going.
Al Franken: SNL Star to U.S. Senator
When "Saturday Night Live" premiered in 1975, they got a little help from this funny guy. As an early writer, Franken helped establish a foundation of satirical comedy and helped net SNL a few of their first Emmys. In his two stints with the show, he helped establish notable characters like Stuart Smalley before departing in protest of Norm MacDonald hosting Weekend Update over him. It was sad to see him go because he was good enough, he was smart enough, and doggone it, people liked him!
However, it seemed like he was headed towards politics since the ‘70s, especially after he self-promoted the “Al Franken Decade” on the show in the ‘80s, but he didn’t do it right away. He hosted a radio show to counter the conservative ones and wrote a few New York Times bestselling books critical of right-wing politics before getting elected to office as a U.S. Senator for Minnesota.
Chuck Norris: Action Hero to Internet Sensation
Chuck Norris stared the Devil in the face, and the Devil backed down. FACT!
I wouldn’t blame him either if I was face-to-face with one of the most feared martial arts legends of all time. After returning from Air Force duty in Korea, with a new knowledge of Korean martial arts, Norris developed his own fighting style known as Chun Kuk Do, “The Universal Way.” Losing only 10 fights in his career, he made his way up through the ranks and became the first westerner to receive the rank of 8th degree Black Belt Grand Master. Upon reaching fame as a martial artist in the ‘70s, Norris took to the screen starting out as an action star working with the likes of Bruce Lee and Steve McQueen.
In the ‘80s his fame started to fade, but was resurrected a decade later by his signature role as Sgt. Cordell Walker on “Walker, Texas Ranger”. Needless to say, he is a modern-day icon; the man almost made it on Mount Rushmore but the granite wasn’t tough enough for his beard. He will live on eternally as an Internet meme, known for his impossible feats. For example, did you know that Chuck Norris has already been to Mars? That's why there are no signs of life.
Next: 10 Former Fat Actors
Rappers Named Ice: Gangsta Rappers to Not-So-Gangsta Actors
If you were a rapper with the moniker “Ice” in the ‘80s or ‘90s, you pretty much had permission to do whatever you wanted to, including acting, talent be damned.
Even Vanilla Ice got in on the action. After he stormed into the hip-hop scene in 1990 with “Ice Ice Baby,” and before he just as quickly faded back into obscurity, Van Winkle made an amazing cameo appearance in "TMNT 2: The Secret of the Ooze." After he experienced one of the “coolest experiences“ of his career, he followed it up with a starring role in "Cool as Ice," which won him a Golden Raspberry Award.
Ice Cube, hailed as one of rap’s top lyricists, gained fame and fortune early on with rap group N.W.A. before flying solo. While straddling genre lines with his music collaborations, Ice also ventured into acting in the early ‘90s with his debut role in “Boyz n the Hood." With encouragement from friends, Cube took his pen to paper again, but this time to write films. He is most recognized for his involvement and creation of the “Friday” franchise. He is still active today after releasing umpteen albums and starring in over 25 movies and sadly, Coors Light commercials.
After the Army, Ice-T started out as a bank robber before becoming a Grammy award-winning rapping and metal artist. But using music to distance himself from the law was hard to do when releasing songs like “Cop Killer.” Ironic that Ice-T has now been in over 75 movies and TV shows, typically playing police, most notably in his current role of 13 years, Fin on "Law & Order: SVU."