A fact that emerged while researching this list is that Hollywood riches to rags (star to homeless) stories are few and far between compared with rags to riches (homeless to star) stories. In fact, the observation that several Hollywood stars became homeless after they had made their millions is remarkable because it is very difficult to become poor after one has risen above a certain threshold of wealth accumulation. However, the few documented riches to rags cases (star to homeless) become less surprising after one learns that most cases involved individuals who struggled for many years with addiction issues, and a few with mental health issues.
The other side of the coin are the plethora of Hollywood rags to riches (homeless to star) stories. However, the abundance of rags to riches stories is not surprising because Hollywood epitomizes — probably better than any other industry in the U.S — the American Dream ideal which suggests that anyone can make it with hard work, perseverance and talent.
Although our options while compiling the list of riches to rags (star to homeless) cases were limited, the plethora of Hollywood rags to riches (homeless to star) stories meant that we were able to choose some of the best known names in the industry.
Here are 10 Stars Who Became Homeless (And 10 Homeless People Who Became Stars)
20. Star To Homeless: Amanda Bynes
Amanda Bynes came to prominence as a child star in the 2000s on Nickelodeon’s comedy sketch, The Amanda Show (1999-2002), and later on The WB sitcom, What I Like About You (2002-2006). She also appeared in several movies, such as What a Girl Wants (2003) and Hairspray (2007).
Bynes was arrested for DUI in 2012 and later in Ventura County in 2013 for allegedly starting a fire on a private driveway. She was placed on psychiatric hold and her parents filed for conservatorship. After she was released from psychiatric hold, she was spotted in November 2014 sleeping on a sofa at The Beverly Center and later wandering. She accused her parents of refusing to provide her with shelter, but TMZ reported that her parents had wanted her to stay away from WeHo. They obtained a place for her in Glendale, but she refused to stay there.
19. Homeless To Star: James Cameron
Before he sold the rights to his screenplay for the movie The Terminator, James Cameron was in such a tight financial situation that he was forced to live out of his car. However, he was convinced that his screenplay could become a successful movie. He insisted on directing the screenplay himself, despite the fact that the production companies he pitched the movie to thought he did not have the experience to direct it.
Cameron continued to search until he found Gale Anne Hurd, who bought the rights to the screenplay for $1 and agreed to let him direct the movie himself. The pre-production and casting of the movie started in 1983. His first choice for the role of The Terminator was Lance Henriksen until Arnold Schwarzenegger auditioned for the role.
18. Star To Homeless: Nick Stahl
Nick Stahl, who starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger as John Connor in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), had started a promising career as a child actor when he co-starred with Mel Gibson in The Man Without a Face (1993). Sadly, substance addiction interfered with his career and, in 2012, his wife announced he was missing.
Roseann and Nick had married in June 2009, but due to Stahl’s substance abuse problem they separated in January 2012, and his access to their daughter was restricted. He became homeless after the separation and stayed with a friend. But in May 2012, Roseann reported that Nick had disappeared and admitted he had a history of leaving home to hang out on Skid Row.
17. Homeless To Star: Halle Berry
Halle Berry went broke after she arrived in New York in 1987 at the age of 21 in search of work as an actress. She wasn’t bothered at first because she believed her mother would send money. However, Judith refused to send her daughter money, apparently believing she was squandering her money. Halle became homeless and was forced to stay in a homeless shelter.
However, she overcame the challenges and went from being penniless and homeless to becoming a successful model and one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood.
She won the Primetime Emmy Award and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Mini-series or Movie for her role in Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999). She also won the 2002 Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Monster’s Ball (2001). She was the first black woman to win the award.
16. Star To Homeless: Erin Moran
Erin Moran achieved fame at the age of 14 as Joanie Cunningham on ABC’s popular 1970s sitcom, Happy Days. But despite her early success, she passed away broke and homeless in April 2017. Her life went into a downward spiral after her California home was foreclosed in 2010. She moved into her mother-in-law’s trailer home in Indiana with her husband Steve Fleischmann. However, her mother-in-law kicked her out of her trailer in October 2012 after she got tired of her riotous lifestyle.
Moran remained broke and homeless despite a $65,000 settlement she received after she and her Happy Days former castmates reached an out-of-court deal with CBS in July 2012 over unpaid royalties.
15. Homeless To Star: Steve Harvey
In an interview with People magazine, Steve Harvey, comedian, TV host, actor and producer, shared his early experiences as a struggling comedian in the 1980s. Before his first stand-up comedy act in October 1985 at the Hilarities Comedy Club in Cleveland, Ohio, Harvey had worked as a boxer, an autoworker, an insurance salesman, a carpet cleaner and a mailman.
He revealed that he was homeless before he started on Showtime at the Apollo. He lived in his 1976 Ford Tempo for three years because he could not get a job that paid reasonable wages. He would sneak into hotels, gas stations and swimming pool showers to clean up. He described the three years as “rock bottom” and the “darkest days” of his life.
14. Star To Homeless: Debbie “Storm” Clark
Media reports revealed in 2011 that Debbie “Storm” Clark, the former star of the 1980s and 1990s hit TV show, American Gladiators, and her 10-year-old son, Crayton, had been living homeless in San Diego for some years after a career-ending injury forced her to leave the show.
After she left American Gladiators, Clark tried to find new employment and establish a career as a personal trainer but failed. After she also failed as a country music singer, she went for training at a culinary school and took several odd jobs, but still could not make ends meet. She soon found herself out in the streets with her son.
13. Homeless To Star: Daniel Craig
The British actor had a rough start as a struggling teenage actor while training at the National Youth Theater in London. For many years, he waited tables and spent the night on park benches.
He made his debut in The Power of One in 1992 after graduating from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1991. He secured roles in films, such as Disney’s A Kid in King Arthur’s Court (1995). Later in 2001, he played supporting roles in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Road to Perdition (2002). He came to prominence when he was named the next James Bond actor in 2005 after actors such as Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. His first Bond movie, Casino Royale (2006), earned a BAFTA award.
12. Star To Homeless: Brett Butler
Brett Butler, a comedian and actress, was the former star of the ABC sitcom Grace Under Fire (1993-1998). She became homeless in 2011 after struggling with substance addiction for many years. Her substance abuse interfered with her performance on Grace Under Fire. Her erratic behavior and unpredictable mood swings forced ABC to cancel her contract and end the show abruptly in 1998. After the show ended, Butler relocated to a farm in Georgia and lived there until she ran out of money and ended up homeless in 2011.
She began making career comeback efforts in 2011 soon after she became homeless. She appeared on The Rosie Show in 2012 and on the CBS soap The Young and the Restless. She also secured a recurring role on the FX show Anger Management (2012-2014), alongside Charlie Sheen. She later appeared on The Leftovers in 2015 and How To Get Away With Murder in 2016.
11. Homeless To Star: Jim Carrey
The Canadian-American actor was in eighth grade when his father lost his job as an accountant. This forced Jim and his siblings to find jobs to supplement the family’s income. The family eventually became homeless, living in a VW camper van, driving around the city during the day, searching for jobs and spending nights parked at random locations in Scarborough, Ontario. They finally set up camp permanently on the front lawn of the family’s eldest daughter.
James tried to start a career as a stand-up comedian in 1977 when he was 15. His first stand-up act at Toronto’s Yuk-Yuk club failed, but he persisted and eventually dropped out of school to focus on his chosen career. He moved to L.A. in 1979 where he caught the attention of Rodney Dangerfield. He got his first major role in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994).
10. Star To Homeless: Danny Bonaduce
Danny Bonaduce achieved fame as a child actor, but ended up poor and homeless after he couldn’t find any more lucrative TV and movie roles. He portrayed Danny Partridge on the 1970s smash hit sitcom, The Partridge Family, but became homeless in his late teens after the TV series ended. He’d been struggling with substance addiction and alcohol abuse for some years and spent time in and out of rehab. He lived for some years in his car near Grauman’s Chinese Theater in L.A. where he was accosted by autograph seekers, as he later recalled.
He started on the path to recovery in the late 1980s after he had gone jobless and homeless between 1974 and 1988. He became a radio personality and comedian, and hosted his own talk show, The Danny Bonaduce Show on Chicago’s The Loop WLUP-FM. He also starred in a number of TV shows, including the VH1 reality show Breaking Bonaduce.
9. Homeless To Star: David Letterman
David Letterman began his career as a radio talk show host. He later worked as an anchor and weatherman with an Indianapolis TV station before relocating to Los Angeles.
When he first arrived in L.A. in the 1970s, hoping to become a comedy writer, he could not afford to pay any rent. He lived in his old 1973 Chevy pick-up truck with his wife, Michelle, for several months until he was hired by Jimmie Walker to write jokes with others, such as Jay Leno and Paul Mooney. He caught the attention of Jimmie Walker while performing at The Comedian Store.
He finally got his own show, The David Letterman Show on NBC, on June 23rd, 1980. Today, he is one of the most successful TV hosts ever, making millions of dollars a year from his late-night TV talk show, and has his own Netflix show.
8. Star To Homeless: Natasha Lyonne
Natasha Lyonnne, who starred in the American Pie movies (1999-2012) and the romantic comedy movies Slums of Beverly Hills (1998) and But I’m a Cheerleader (1999), went missing in the summer of 2005 after she was charged with trespassing and harassment of neighbors. Neighbors said she was behaving erratically and had missed some rent payments before she was evicted by her landlord.
She surfaced on the streets of NYC homeless and later reported at Manhattan’s Beth Israel Medical Center under a fake name. She received treatment at the hospital for a variety of issues.
Thankfully, she has since recovered and revived her acting career. She was nominated for the 2014 Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Nicky Nichols on Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black.
7. Homeless To Star: Sylvester Stallone
In the 1970s, before he became a Hollywood superstar, Sylvester Stallone was evicted from his apartment after he went broke and could not pay his rent. He became homeless and spent weeks sleeping outside at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC. There he spotted a casting notice for a more ‘mature’ movie called Party at Kitty and Stud’s (1970) and ended up starring in it.
After landing minor roles in a number of movies, he got the idea for Rocky (1976), and wrote the screenplay in three days. Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff offered him $350,000 for it. Stallone insisted he would accept the offer only if they allowed him to play Rocky. Rocky cost $1.1 million to produce, but earned $225 million. The movie, which established his acting career, was nominated for ten Academy Awards and went on to win the Academy Awards for the Best Picture.
6. Star To Homeless: Margot Kidder
Margot Kidder, a Canadian-American actress, played Lois Lane alongside Christopher Reeve in the 1970s and 1980s Superman films. After the Hollywood star was involved in a car crash in December 1990, she went bankrupt because she was unable to work during the period she was undergoing treatment. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a manic episode in 1996.
She went missing for some days and was eventually found living in cardboard boxes behind the house of a woman in Glendale, California. Unwashed, disheveled, and missing two front teeth, she announced to the incredulous house owner behind whose home she was living that she was Margot Kidder. She has since recovered and now lives in Montana as a grandmother and political activist. She has reportedly been free of symptoms of bipolar disorder and we’re extremely happy to hear it.
5. Homeless To Star: William Shatner
William Shatner was first cast as the captain of the USS Enterprise, James Tiberius Kirk, in the Star Trek franchise in 1966. However, the show was canceled after three seasons.
After the show was cancelled in 1969, Shatner encountered difficulty finding new roles because he had become widely known as Captain Kirk. He became homeless and was forced to live out of a truck while struggling to pay child support and alimony. His situation improved after he returned in 1973 as the voice of Captain Kirk in the animated Star Trek series and secured a number of other important roles in movies such as Big Bad Mama (1974) and The Devil’s Rain (1975). The entire cast soon returned to their roles for Paramount’s production of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).
4. Star To Homeless: John Drew Barrymore
John Drew Barrymore came from a family of actors, so he might have taken his future success as an actor for granted while growing up as the son of the famous actor John Barrymore. He tried to make a name for himself in the profession but eventually dropped out. Barrymore might have succeeded as an actor, but his career was obstructed by his chronic substance abuse issues.
He appeared in several episodes of the popular 1960s Western TV series Gunsmoke. He also appeared as a guest star in other Westerns, such as Rawhide and Wagon Train. He got a role in a Star Trek episode, but failed to show up. His acting career ended in the mid-1970s after his substance problems worsened. He ended up a homeless man and was arrested and thrown into jail on multiple occasions.
3. Homeless To Star: Chris Pratt
Chris Pratt first achieved fame for his role as Andy Dwyer in the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation (2009–2015) and recently has been seen as the Velociraptor expert Owen Grady in Jurassic World (2015). However, when he first arrived in Maui, Hawaii, in 1999, after dropping out of college, he was homeless and lived with a friend in a van. They spent their time drinking and working only to earn enough to buy more drinks.
While he was working at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Pratt met Rae Dawn Chong, who decided to cast him in Cursed: Part III (2000). That was Pratt’s first experience of acting. He later said that the experience was sufficient to convince him that he wanted to become an actor. Pratt has also played leading roles in Magnificent Seven (2016) and Passenger (2016). He played Star-Lord Peter Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy 1 & 2.
2. Star To Homeless: Willie Aames
Willie Aames started his career in the 1960s as a child actor, appearing on several TV shows, including Gunsmoke (1971-1973) and The Wonderful World of Disney (1974). His career peaked during the time he played Tommy Bradford on the popular ABC family drama Eight is Enough (1977-1981). He also played Buddy Lembeck on Charles in Charge (1984-1990).
After years of struggling with alcohol abuse, he began finding it difficult to get roles and, by 2008, he was facing bankruptcy. His home was even foreclosed. Aames became homeless and was spotted on the streets, sleeping in parks and parking garages, but he sometimes stayed with friends. He was forced to take odd jobs to make ends meet, including construction jobs. He eventually recovered from the setback and returned to work as a director and screenwriter
1. Homeless To Star: Jennifer Lopez
Before Jennifer Lopez came into prominence as a dancer, singer, actress, and fashion designer, she had to make hard choices. Her mother, Guadalupe Rodriguez, wanted her daughter to go to college, so she opposed Lopez’s decision to become a dancer. Lopez insisted on her career choice and was forced to leave home to avoid the incessant clashes with her mother. She became homeless for several months, sleeping on a sofa at the studio where she worked.
She became a Fly Girl dancer on In Living Color in 1991 before she moved from dancing to acting in 1993. Her first major role was in the 1997 biographical movie Selena. She received a Golden Globe nomination for her role in the movie. She appeared in several other major movies, including Anaconda (1997) and Out of Sight (1998).
Do you know of any other stars who became homeless or homeless people who became stars? Share with us in the comments.
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