It could be argued that prison is just like the world we live in, but with less space and more psychopaths. In this claustrophobic bubble of a universe, there are no members of the opposite sex or walks in the park, but there are plenty of people with big guns to tell you when to go to bed, and as for Netflix, forget about it.
So just imagine how rough a ride this is for a pampered movie star who’s been used to the good life and being treated like royalty. Naturally, in such an environment, things are going to get a little tense and the brutal conditions are going to bring out the worst in folks, but sometimes when you’re back’s against the wall, and you’re being crushed daily by an unfeeling and uncaring machine on a daily basis, it can bring out the best in folks too.
Some movie stars not only survived being banged up in a a brutal and unforgiving world of nightmares and monsters, but like the sinner who finds redemption, an underdog who succeeds against the odds, and a caged bird who is finally released, some have finally made good use of the lessons they learned the hard way and celebrated their liberty by make ridiculous amounts of money and becoming impossibly successful.
So enjoy your freedom while you can folks, Here is Screen Rant’s 11 Movie Stars Who Have Been Sent To Jail.
11. Wesley Snipes
Just like Al Capone, Wesley Snipes was put under lock and key for that most heinous of crimes – tax evasion. The government always insists on their pound of flesh and will imprison you in a tiny cell if they don’t get it – as poor Wesley found out when he was sentenced to three years on April 24, 2008 for willful failure to file federal income tax returns.
The star of Blade and Demolition Man argued that he was being unfairly persecuted by the IRS because he was a Hollywood actor who had received bad advice from his financial advisers. The facts, however, speak for themselves, and if you earn a reported $37m over a five year period (1999-2004) and fail to declare it, then expect a knock on the door from some serious looking gentlemen, no matter who you are.
After serving more than two years, Wesley was released from Pennsylvania’s McKean County prison and has since appeared in a handful of straight-to-DVD movies. Yet after blowing up a comically grim and oppressive jailhouse in The Expendables, it would appear Wesley has turned a corner, and the whole world waits expectantly to see if the actor can find his mojo with a resurrection of his most famous character – Blade.
10. Christian Slater
Bearing a striking resemblance to how Jack Nicholson looked before all the boozing and late nights with the ladies took its toll, Christian Slater also excelled at playing the “sardonic drifter” and “eternal outsider” in films such as Heathers and True Romance. The star of Young Guns II also shared the same sort of reckless appetite for the wild life as Nicholson. The only difference is, it cost Slater his liberty on more than once occasion.
The man who once famously said, “Work is my hobby, staying sober is my job,” was first arrested in 1989 for drunk driving and assault. He served ten days in the slammer, but obviously, lessons remained unlearned, because the Hollywood heart-throb was sentenced to community service in 1994 for trying to board a commercial plane with a gun in his luggage. Three years later, Slater was sentenced to a three-month term in jail followed by three months in a residential rehab center for assaulting his then-girlfriend, Michelle Jonas, and a police officer.
Nowadays Slater regards his prison stint somewhat philosophically and admits it might just have saved his life, “Honestly, [it was] not so bad. Jail was a result of me not taking time for myself. So I was forced to take some time for myself. It was necessary for me. When you’re going down that path, you either kill yourself or you’re forced to take time out.”
9. Stephen Fry
Before he became a divine being and supreme educator of mankind, bashful Brit Stephen Fry was also a common jailbird. The words “Stephen Fry” and “movie star” are not natural bedfellows, but neither are the words “Stephen Fry” and “felon.” Yet the English comedian, writer and presenter has been both during his 59 years, making him a true renaissance man, or perhaps a Jack of all trades and master of none.
How did such a cultivated, genteel and well-heeled soul such as Fry end up slurping porridge win the big house? Well it was a result of that most middle-class of crimes: credit card fraud. As an Oscar Wilde-obsessed 17-year-old, the star of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland once stole a coat from a pub. In that coat was a credit card, and in that credit card were the seeds of Fry’s downfall.
Ninety days and ninety nights of wanton indulgence and craven excess at other people’s expense followed, and led Fry straight through the foreboding gates of Pucklechurch Prison where he was given three long hard months to reflect on his brazen stupidity.
8. Robert Downey Jr.
Crime may not pay, but going to jail, getting sober, and making the most of your freedom to exploit extremely lucrative movie deals obviously does. Especially if your name is Robert Downey Jr. From washed-up coke addict to Marvel’s brightest asset and undisputed King of Hollywood, the Iron Man star is proof that fortune is like last night’s bed, waiting to be made.
Yet, when busy staring blankly at the cold and unforgiving walls of the jailhouse, could Downey, who signed the first $100 million contract in movie history, have ever imagined that one day he’d be considered not so much an actor but a “strategic cost” to the big money corporations who stand to make billions from the films he appears in.
Probably not. The former poster boy for wasted talent was arrested far too many times to count in the late 1990s for drug-related charges. It all came to a head when he was sentenced to three years at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran, California. He spent a year there, and was released in 2000, but it all went pear-shaped again soon after and he was back on probation and in rehab. This time it worked and after making a bizarre comeback of sorts in a video for Elton John’s “I Want Love” in 2001, Downey was on a roll that took him all the way to 2008 and the beginnings of the lucrative Iron Man cash cow.
7. Kiefer Sutherland
The original member of The Lost Boys liked a drink. He also liked to drive, but when you mix the two hobbies it’s a recipe for disaster. Just ask Kiefer Sutherland, who was arrested in Los Angeles on September 25, 2007 on drunk driving charges. To aggravate an already raw situation, this was the fourth DUI charge Sutherland faced since 1989, and the powers that be decided to hand the Flatliner a bright orange jumpsuit and 48 days of lock-up.
Ironing laundry and darning socks in the Glendale City Jail, Kiefer was banged up for Christmas, New Year’s Day, and his birthday, but the 24 star found the hardest thing to endure was the no smoking ban, “There’s no smoking. The lights never go out, 24/7. You can’t cover anything. You can’t even put your head under a blanket. All the cells have cameras in them.”
Although Kiefer may have not been able to seek the solace of his nicotine sticks, he had plenty of fan mail to keep him company at night according to Officer John Balian, who said, “The guy’s been getting a ton of fan mail. Easily more than 100 letters a day.”
6. Mark Wahlberg
Before he was a movie star, Mark Wahlberg was a felon, and he credits the 45 days he spent in the slammer when he was just 16, as turning his life around and preventing him from going down the path signposted “a life of crime and early death”, and making a sharp turn for the one signposted “fame and fortune.”
The Boogie Nights star’s crime was a pretty serious one. Wahlberg was charged with attempted murder after attacking a middle-aged Vietnamese man named Thanh Lam with a large stick and knocking him unconscious. The young Wahlberg, who developed an addiction to cocaine when he was just 13, attacked a second Vietnamese man named Hoa “Johnny” Trinh on the same day and believed he had left his victim blind in one eye. Wahlberg said to the cops who turned up to arrest him the same night, “You don’t have to let him identify me, I’ll tell you now that’s the motherf**ker whose head I split open.”
Since his time in prison, a repentant Wahlberg has applied for a pardon for the crime in the state of Massachusetts, citing his charity work in his application as proof that he is changed. Johnny Trinh who was not blinded by Wahlberg’s attack, but who lost his sight in his left eye by a grenade attack during the Vietnam war, has since said, “Wahlberg was young and reckless but I forgive him now. Everyone deserves another chance.”
5. Lindsay Lohan
If every there was a case to be made against the toxic influence of fame and corrupting influence of celebrity on a person of tender years, then what better exhibit to drag before the court then Lindsay Lohan. The former three-year-old fashion model and Disney kid is of course no stranger to the courtroom. Yet being told off by the judge for violating her probation and missing mandatory DUI classes was all something of a routine joke for the Mean Girls star, until the hammer finally fell in May 2011 and she was sentenced to 90 days in jail followed by 90 days of inpatient rehab treatment.
Due to the overcrowded conditions, Lohan only served 14 days of the jail sentence, but she stressed that she found her short spell behind bars weirdly cathartic and said, “The weirdest part for me was I finally had silence in my life. As terrified as I was and as scared as I was, I finally felt like I didn’t have to answer to anyone and I didn’t have to do anything for anyone. That was the weirdest part of it.”
4. Danny Trejo
If you’re going to make a living playing bad guys, then it certainly helps if you look the part, and boy does Danny Trejo look like he’s been freshly dug up from the mean streets and dragged viciously through the darkest back alleyways of hell. Which is quite apt, because out of everyone on this list, prison was a way of life for Trejo and not just a career blip.
As a child drug addict and criminal growing up in Echo Park, the Machete star did time in a juvenile offenders’ camp and six California prisons between 1959 and 1969 for armed robbery and drug offenses. His last stay in the big house lasted for five years, and while serving in San Quentin Prison, he became a champion boxer in that prison’s lightweight and welterweight divisions. Yet during his time inside, Trejo also participated in the twelve-step program to overcome drug addiction and do something positive with his life.
Trejo has now been sober for 42 years and, after becoming a drug counsellor, he became an unlikely movie star. Trejo can trace his success back to a time in prison when he was at his lowest ebb and offered up a prayer to the almighty which went, “God, if you’re there, everything will turn out the way it’s supposed to. If you’re not, I’m f*cked.”
3. O.J. Simpson
Obviously no list of this nature would be complete without “the Juice.” Better known as an American football player, O.J. was also a movie star who appeared in a fair few films such as The Naked Gun trilogy. Yet above everything else, “the Juice” is known as a felon. In fact, along with Charles Manson and the Kray twins, O.J. was one of the most famous criminals of the last century, in part due to the international publicity surrounding his pursuit, arrest, and trial.
Following his controversial acquittal for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman on June 12, 1994, (Currently being dramatized in FX’s American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson) “the Juice” was once again on the loose, and the crime remains unsolved to this day.
In 1997, the Goldmans filed a lawsuit against O.J. and a civil jury found him liable for the wrongful death of and battery against Goldman, and battery against Brown. As a consequence “The Juice” was ordered to pay $33,500,000 in damages.
Further run-ins with the law continued for Simpson, including charges of battery and burglary, and drug investigation and money laundering investigations by the FBI, but it was in December 5, 2008, that Simpson finally found himself looking down the barrel of 33 years in prison for armed robbery and kidnapping. “The Juice” will be held until at least 2017, but after that, anything’s possible.
2. Robert Mitchum
When detectives raided a small party in the Laurel Canyon area of Los Angeles and busted Robert Mitchum for smoking a joint, the Cape Fear star reportedly said, “Well, this is the bitter end of everything—my career, my marriage, everything.” It wasn’t, but the laconic, sleepy-eyed actor was sentenced to 60 days in jail and several years’ probation.
Doing a stint as a jailbird only appeared to make the public love Mitchum more. Perhaps it was something to do with photographers from Life magazine taking pictures of the star in prison fatigues when he was mopping up at Castaic, California prison farm.
The first film Mitchum appeared in after his release was Rachel and the Stranger, and it was a box-office hit. The effortlessly cool Mitchum appeared to take his stint in prison like most things, in his laid-back stride, and later said of his experience, “It was like Palm Springs, but without the riff-raff.”
1. Tim Allen
Before he became famous as the voice of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story, Tim Allen Dick was a drug mule. On October 2, 1978, Allen was arrested in the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport for a little indiscretion. That little indiscretion turned out to be 650 grams of cocaine.
So what’s a man to do when caught red handed with enough marching powder to fuel an entire army? Well, pleading guilty to drug trafficking often works in your favor, as does providing the names of other dealers in your little network.
Ratting on his associates worked a treat for Allen, whose helpful assistance reduced a possible sentence of life imprisonment to two years and four months in a Federal Correctional Institution in Sandstone, Minnesota, about which Allen had this to say.
“When I went to jail, reality hit so hard that it took my breath away, took my stance away, took my strength away. I was there buck naked, humiliated, sitting in my own crap and urine — this is a metaphor. My ego had run off. Your ego is the biggest coward.”
After being cuffed, stuffed, and serving time for his crime, Allen dropped the Dick from his name and it was very much a case of “to infinity and beyond” for Allen.
OK punk! Visiting hours are over, but before the door slams shut, and the warden screams lights out, you got anything to add, you better say your peace now.
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