Sometimes superstardom has no time for school. While students begin counting down the days til the end of the school year, we're listing off several household names who decided that dropping out of high school was a better road to travel. (Note: This is not a PSA intended to give high schoolers any hints!) Let's start with Ryan Gosling. At 13, Ryan starred on "The All-New Mickey Mouse Club" — that much most people know. But after that was over, he headed back to his native Canada to live life and attend school. The acting bug had bitten him, though, and he dropped out, headed to Hollywood and pursued his dream. All things considered, he made the right move… and, just to eliminate any notion that Ryan is perfect, he was apparently a pretty poor student to begin with.
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Drew Barrymore was a star long before she ever opened a textbook. She earned her first acting credit was she was 3 years old and starred in "E.T." at 7. Like many young actors and actresses, she got swallowed up by the Hollywood lifestyle and fell into too many traps to count. By the age of 13, she was checking into rehab. Once she was out, she decided not to pursue her education further.
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Simon Cowell was 16 years old when he decided to end his formal education. Coincidentally, he also attended 16 schools, often having to transfer because of misconduct. He supposedly once told a teacher she was wasting her time trying to teach the students to play musical instruments because they all sounded dreadful (feels like we've heard similar criticisms before). In 1979, he got his first job working as a mail room clerk for EMI Music Publishing. A career in music was born that day.
Maybe he had an inkling that high school wasn't in the cards. At the age of 13, Seth Rogen co-wrote a draft of "Superbad." Yes, 13! At 16 years old, Seth left the Point Grey Secondary School to star in "Freaks and Geeks." In 2013, he told CNN, "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."
Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. was, for a lack of a better term, a pretty terrible student at Santa Monica High School. He didn't like school and was often too distracted. His father finally gave him an ultimatum: either show up to school every day or quit and get a job. Robert went with option B. He was 15 years old.
All that smart comedy came from somewhere, but it wasn't from high school! Jim Carrey dropped out of school when he was just 16 years old. Jim's family was in dire straits financially after his father lost his job. His mother also had a chronic illness, so he often tried to make her laugh to cheer her up. She died in 1991, reportedly of kidney failure.
While his daughter Hailee graduated with honors, Eminem never got out of high school. He failed the ninth grade three times before dropping out. He's said in interviews that school just wasn't for him, but claimed he was always good at English (not surprising). He now encourages kids to stay in school and not follow in his footsteps.
Cameron Diaz left high school at 16 to purse a career in modeling. She has good memories of her time at Long Beach Polytechnic High School in California and has said she even bought marijuana from Snoop Dogg, who also went to her school. "I'm pretty sure I bought weed from him," she told George Lopez in 2011. "I was green even in high school! … I remember him, he was very tall and skinny. He wore lots of ponytails."
Johnny Depp is basically living out his dream as a member of his rock group the Hollywood Vampires. In fact, when he was 15, he dropped out of school because he wanted to become a rock star. He definitely became a star, but in another realm. "I also felt very alienated and isolated in school and some kids and one particular teacher would love to pick on me. So that made me pretty defensive and angry in some ways and you want to do anything to escape that kind of aggression you're experiencing," he once said.
Gisele Bundchen was more interested in being a model than a model student. At the age of 14, she quit school after she was discovered by a modeling scout. Within a year, she was in New York City and a star was born.
Childhood was no picnic for Mark Wahlberg. He has said in the past that he was fighting, stealing and committing crimes as a youngster. Those things were more of a priority than school. He dropped out when he was 13. At the ripe age of 42, he finally took some online courses and graduated. Class of 2013!
Nicole Kidman wanted to be an actual actress, not act like she wanted to be in school. Nicole dropped out when she was 16 years old because she was laser-focused on being a thespian. For years, she built up a catalog of on-screen projects in Australia and then finally moved to the United States.
Quentin Tarantino was a ninth grader at Fleming Middle School when he decided to devote himself fully to only studying movies and the arts. No math. No science. No English. School, though, doesn't work that way, so he quit. "I just knew more about cinema than the other people in the class. I cared about cinema and they cared about themselves," he told NPR. "I wanted the movies to be my movies."
It's not that Avril Lavigne didn't like school. It's that bigger opportunities were available to her. When she was 15, she performed for a music producer on a weekend trip to New York. She was offered a record deal and she took it, which meant she dropped out of school in the process. Her family had plans to homeschool her, but those went by the wayside pretty quickly.
Graduation was only a few weeks away when Charlie Sheen was expelled from Santa Monica High School. Charlie reportedly had an attendance problem in addition to having poor grades. Still, he likely would have graduated had he not dropped out. Finally, in 2013, 30 years after he dropped out, he got his high school diploma. For three decades, he was a mere credit-and-a-half shy of graduation.
When Hilary Swank was 15, she moved to Los Angeles with her mom. The two lived in her mom's car while they tried to make ends meet. Along the way, Hilary attended South Pasadena High School. She didn't last long and had little interest in school. "I felt like such an outsider. I didn't feel like I fit in," she said in 2007. "I didn't belong in any way. I didn't even feel like the teachers wanted me there. I just felt like I wasn't seen or understood." She's a bit of an outsider still, but in a good way — she's in the rare club of people who have won multiple Academy Awards.
Wolfgang Puck, easily one of the world's most famous chefs, knew what he wanted to do at a very early age. At 14, he left school to pursue his culinary career by becoming a full-time apprentice at a hotel. He's reportedly worth $100 million now. Not a bad move, Wolfgang.
Rene Russo dropped out of high school and started modeling at a young age. You would think that a pretty girl would be quite popular in school, as most are. That wasn't the case, she claims. In 2015 while accepting an award at AARP's 14th Annual Movies For Grownups Awards Gala, she thanked her eighth-grade Spanish teacher while ripping the high school's football players. "They called me Jolly Green Giant," she said of the jocks. In a message to her Spanish teacher, though, she said, "You didn't keep me from dropping out of high school, but you did keep me from killing myself."
Isn't it ironic that the two projects that really put John Travolta on the map, "Welcome Back Kotter" and "Grease," featured him playing high school students?! John never finished his education, choosing instead to drop out of New Jersey's Dwight Morrow High School to focus on acting. "Not too many of my friends identified with what I was doing," he once said of his high school days. "I participated in football and basketball and did what they were doing, but not many kids understood my going to acting studios at night."
Whoopi Goldberg has an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. She's doesn't have a diploma. The comic legend has said high school was just too hard for her, so she dropped out at the age of 17. She would find out years later that she was dyslexic and that was why she had trouble learning.