Fame, that elusive quality coveted by many and achieved by few, almost always has an expiration date. Today’s “it” actors and actresses have a far greater chance of becoming tomorrow’s has-beens and reality-show contestants than they do of being the next Elizabeth Taylor or Jack Nicholson. That’s why so many young upstarts branch out beyond acting into entrepreneurial roles, becoming clothing and perfume designers and recording albums—often all at the same time. Rather than focus on one extracurricular, they stretch themselves into utter mediocrity, ensuring a second career that’ll probably end around the same time as the first.
Celebrities like that (*cough* Lindsay Lohan) should look to performers who’ve found hobbies outside of Hollywood that they actually excel at—hobbies that could easily turn into second careers should their acting-role offers start petering out.
John Travolta: Pilot
Not only can Travolta sing, dance, and act, but he can fly, too! He started taking lessons as a teenager and became a certified pilot who now acts as an ambassador for Qantas, an Australian airline. In fact, he’ll be personally flying all three hundred members of Oprah’s audience to Australia. (Oprah announced the surprise trip [travel dates TBA] during her final season’s premiere show, in September 2010.) But this is hardly the first time Travolta’s used his piloting powers for good: in January 2010, he flew one of his private planes to Haiti to deliver relief supplies (as well as Scientology doctors and ministers) to earthquake victims.
Ricky Gervais: ’80s New Wave Pop Star
We know and love him as David Brent on The Office and as Andy Millman on Extras, but back in the ’80s, he was part of the British synth-pop duo known as Seona Dancing. He and partner Bill Macrae released two singles, “More to Lose” and “Bitter Heart,” before parting ways in 1984. It’s hard to picture now, but Gervais was once a sexy singer who could’ve been the next David Bowie or Depeche Mode, had he and his bandmate struck it big. If he ever tires of comedy, perhaps he can return to his pop-star roots.
Debra Messing: Circus Star
As a graduate acting student at NYU, Messing had to take a circus-themed class in which she learned not only how to juggle, but how to master the rather terrifying trapeze. She’s mentioned her juggling and trapeze abilities at least a couple of times in interviews, which might mean she secretly longs for the life of a rambling circus performer.
Jeff Goldblum: Jazz Pianist
Goldblum has brought his musical skills to the small and big screens many times, including on the TV shows Law & Order: Criminal Intent and The Larry Sanders Show and in the movie The Switch. He dabbles in music offscreen, too, playing gigs around L.A. with a jazz band called Mildred Spitzer Orchestra. And according to one September 2010 interview with a British TV show called This Morning about his starring role in the play The Prisoner of Second Avenue, Goldblum also plays piano to ease his preshow nerves before going onstage.
Jennifer Tilly: Poker Player
Tilly’s an Oscar-nominated actress who’s appeared in numerous TV shows and movies since the early ’80s, but these days, she’s better known as the one to watch at any big poker tournament. She shocked professionals and amateurs alike at the 2005 World Series of Poker tournament in Las Vegas by winning the Ladies’ No-Limit Texas Hold ’Em event. She won the World Poker Tour Ladies Invitational Tournament in 2005 as well. Now she and her boyfriend, Phil Laak, a fellow poker champion, are one of the most successful couples in the sport. Tilly still acts (she’s a frequent voice on Family Guy), but she also writes a column for Bluff magazine. Her head’s clearly still in the game.
Brad Pitt: Architect
With as many homes as he, Angelina, and their kids have occupied all over the world, is it any wonder Pitt fancies himself an architecture aficionado? He told BusinessWeek back in 2005 that his interest in architecture became a passion when he hired famed architect Frank Gehry, whose work he greatly admired, to design a wine cellar in 2001 and got to work closely with him. Pitt has since lent his voice to the PBS TV series Design e2, commissioned architecture firms to build environmentally sustainable homes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, and, in 2008, announced his plan to help design an eco-friendly, eight-hundred-room resort in Dubai.
50 Cent: Boxer
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson told reporters in January 2009 that he and Nicolas Cage were going to start working on a movie called The Dance, in which Jackson plays a boxer sent to prison. But it’s possible he won’t need as much training as the average actor, since he was an amateur boxer as a kid. “When I wasn’t killing time in school, I was sparring in the gym or selling crack on the strip,” he told Blender magazine in 2007. He started boxing as a preteen, even qualifying for the Junior Olympics during the 1980s. He abandoned the sport to sell drugs, but now that he has a far more lucrative (and legal) career, he’s free to indulge in a childhood pastime.
It’s inspiring to know that celebrities, with all their fame and fortune, still have dreams and hobbies to pursue, just like the rest of us. Perhaps we should take a cue from Brad, Jennifer, and company and figure out our next big steps in life. Not only is it good to have options if one career path doesn’t work out, but you also just never know when juggling, flying, or having a good poker face might come in handy.Photo source: Wikimedia Commons