Acting is a tough business, and a big advantage is starting out young. This means that a lot of people have stopped pursuing their education in order to try and start a career. This is a risky move, of course, but it has worked out for many actors. There have been many who never graduated college. But here are 12 who didn’t graduate high school either to purse their careers, or just because they really hated it.
1. Chris Rock
The comedian dropped out at 10th grade, but his education didn’t stop there. “After I left high school and got my GED,” Chris told Oprah. “I studied broadcast journalism for a year at a community college.” The interesting thing about this is that he later made a sitcom based on his own life called Everybody Hates Chris.
But of course the show about his younger self would either have to end or follow his life after he dropped out. In season three Chris sits down with a counselor to talk about his failing eighth-grade exams. The counselor advises Chris to get mental evaluations and recommends a remedial course. “I’ve always found most guidance counselors kind of have one foot in and one foot out of the school,” the comedian told TV Guide. “Yeah, if there’s a troubled kid, I’ll talk to him. Otherwise, I’m going to sit here and smoke.”
So the show was pretty honest about the comedian’s high school experience. The show ended after four seasons. In the finale Chris takes the GED, so the fact that he did go another route in his education is addressed.
2. Jessica Chastain
The actress was nominated for an Academy Award twice for Zero Dark Thirty and The Help. Although she might have reached a great amount of success, she decided to drop out of school early. The red head once went to El Camino Fundamental High School but left for a surprising reason.
“Nobody knows this about me,” the actress told Entertainment Weekly. “I dropped out of high school. I was not a hard worker. I was a terrible student.” She does however have a diploma. “Eventually I got my adult diploma, but I did not graduate. It wasn’t that I just dropped out and never went back — at the end of the year I had too many absences to graduate… I would cut school and sit in my car, reading Shakespeare.” The actress went on to Juilliard thanks to a scholarship.
3. Mark Wahlberg
The actor has been pretty successful in action and comedies despite dropping out. He actually never received his high school diploma until he was 42-years-old. “I never made it past the ninth grade,” explained the actor in the Huffington Post. “My circumstances were not unlike millions of other teens today, who live in tough working class neighborhoods surrounded by drugs, violence and crime, and who struggle to stay on the right path without positive influences.”
But he never gave up on getting his degree even though he could have. “I was fortunate to find out I could attend high school online,” continued Wahlberg. “For almost a year, I’ve been taking classes and studying any chance I could get – on the set, traveling for work and at home. It has been both humbling and challenging, but I’m happy to report that I am officially a high school graduate, having received my diploma this summer.”
4. Charlize Theron
Here is another beauty who had a hard time in high school! “I wore really nerdy glasses because I was blind as could be and the boys didn’t like [me],” the blonde revealed to PEOPLE. “I didn’t have any boyfriends, but lots of crushes.” She was bullied for her clothes and glasses, which might have partially been the reason why she never finished. She went on to modeling and became successful at acting.
5. Emma Stone
The actress’s big break was the comedy Superbad. But it turns out the opportunity was so big that she decided to walk away from school for it. “I was playing a senior,” explained Stone to Vanity Fair, “and had I graduated I would’ve missed that opportunity, and had I missed that opportunity I wouldn’t be here right now.” It looks like she benefited from putting all her eggs into one basket.
6. John Travolta
At the young age of 17 the actor dropped out of his high school in Jersey and moved to New York. He then went on to take his first role, touring in Grease. As we all know he made it from live performing to movies with Saturday Night Fever, Grease, and more. He has been nominated for two Oscars so far.
7. Kristen Stewart
She became a household name thanks to the Twilight saga, so she definitely has made money from her acting career. Before that she dropped out of school at young age of 13. The actress has nothing good to say about her experience. “I was glad to leave school,” the actress told Daily Telegraph. “I was missing a lot of classes and they were failing me.”
The actress started her career at 9, which probably made her an outsider. “I couldn’t relate to kids my own age,” she continued. “They are mean and don’t give you any chance. Once you have done with school, you realise that it is just a smaller version of life, and really I have felt that I should have been an adult since I was aged about five.”
8. Ewan McGregor
The Scottish actor is notably known for playing young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels. Although the movies might not be the proudest moment of his career, he has definitely had success. Most, however, wouldn’t know that he dropped out due to being miserable in school. His parents encouraged it, and he went on to take acting classes instead. He got his big break years later in Lipstick on Your Collar.
9. Michael J. Fox
The actor has been in many classics including Back to the Future and Family Ties. But before all of that he was in Canada and dropped out at 11th grade. However not everyone was supportive about this decision and thought he needed an education to fall back on.
“You’re making a big mistake, Fox,” a teacher told him, according to USA Today. “You’re not going to be cute forever.” However the actor replied, “Maybe just long enough, sir. Maybe just long enough.” So he made the move to Los Angeles to start acting. He has since written books and won four Golden Globes.
10. Seth Rogen
The funny man was able to carve out a real career for himself in movies. But what led to that was dropping out and having supportive parents. “I dropped out of high school and went and worked on a TV show,” Rogen said, referring to Freaks and Geeks, according to CNN. “We were writing a script all throughout high school. I probably worked harder than most people who were just doing high school stuff, honestly. I did stand-up comedy all throughout high school. I think, honestly, if you have a career in mind that isn’t academically oriented, then high school is probably not going to lead you to what you want to be.”
11. Daniel Radcliffe
The actor’s costar Emma Watson made headlines for going to Brown University, but the Harry Potter star went a different route. While experiencing the success from the infamous saga, Radcliffe decided to drop out rather than finish school. The actor has probably already made a lifetime worth of money, but it looks like he has still been able to keep up his acting career after the franchise.
12. Robert De Niro
The legend quit high school in order to pursue acting. It all worked out for him, and he also got an honorary degree from Bates College. “In many ways, leaving school when I did was an advantage. I saved nearly $6,000 by not having to pay tuition and expenses for four years of education,” the actor said at the commencement at Bates. “I feel a little foolish, because if I had waited until now not to go to college, I could have saved around a quarter of a million.” After his joke he continued, “it worked out just fine. I saved the money, and I got the degree.”
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