Most famous folks started out as regular schlubs just like us. When they were young and in college, they lived in squalid dorms or apartments with roommates, eating ramen noodles and building their furniture out of empty kegs and pizza boxes.
Although some roommates end up as mortal enemies or cautionary tales, both members of each of these celeb pairings achieved their dreams. Was it because of innate greatness or just the mutual desire to be successful enough to live alone? Whatever the reason, some of these famous flatmates even remain good friends to this day.
Tommy Lee Jones and Al Gore
Paired randomly during their freshman year at Harvard, the pair hit it off so well that they asked to room together for their rest of their time in college. They remain close friends to this day, and when Gore received the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2000, it was Jones, not a fellow politician, who gave the nominating speech at the convention.
John Cusack and Jeremy Piven
Both actors are natives of the Chicago area, where Piven’s parents ran (and still run) a professional theater workshop. Cusack joined the program as a child, at which time he met Piven. The two lived together briefly as struggling young actors before they both made it big in movies. They went on to make ten films together, including Say Anything, Serendipity, and Runaway Jury.
Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve
As friends and roommates attending New York’s famed Juilliard School, Williams and Reeve vowed that if one of them “made it” in show business, he would help the other one achieve his dreams, too. Not only did both end up becoming respected actors, but they also remained lifelong friends. When Reeve was injured in a horseback-riding accident in 1995, Williams offered to pay any medical costs not covered by Reeve’s insurance. He eventually became passionately involved with the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, which helps fund research in paralysis and spinal cord injuries.
Ving Rhames and Stanley Tucci
The actors became friends after living together at the State University of New York-Purchase, where they were both in the drama program. It was Tucci who suggested that Rhames change his first name from Irving to “Ving,” which Tucci thought sounded catchier and more marketable.
Judd Apatow and Adam Sandler
These two funnymen shared an apartment in Los Angeles while they were trying to break into show business as stand-up comedians. In Apatow’s 2009 film, Funny People, which starred Sandler, the opening sequence featured real-life footage of a much younger Sandler making prank phone calls, shot by Apatow while they lived together.
Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman
Show-business legend has it that while students together at the Pasadena Playhouse, this pair was voted “least likely to succeed.” Hackman eventually moved to New York to pursue stage work and found an apartment in Murray Hill; Hoffman soon followed, sleeping on his friend’s kitchen floor. Although the arrangement was supposed to last only a few nights, Hoffman refused to leave. Both actors have reminisced about their time as roommates, describing the fun they had playing bongo drums on the building roof.
Holly Hunter and Frances McDormand
Randomly assigned as roommates while studying at the Yale School of Drama, the duo moved to New York after graduation and lived together again. Hunter was called in to audition for two brothers who were making their debut film as writer-directors, but she had a previous commitment, so she suggested that McDormand go instead. Not only did McDormand win the part—the lead in the movie Blood Simple, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen—but she and Joel got married in 1994.
Kiefer Sutherland and Robert Downey Jr.
Although both actors had parents who were successful in the entertainment industry, they had to pay their dues like any other young actors. For three (presumably wild) years in the ’80s, the pair lived together while trying to start their careers.
Mel Gibson and Geoffrey Rush
In 1979, these two future stars acted in a local production of Waiting for Godot in Sydney. During the run of the show, they shared an apartment, a situation that Gibson has described as “pretty desperate.”
The next time you’re tempted to lecture your roommate about cleaning the bathroom or to argue about whose turn it is to do the dishes, imagine that person holding an Academy Award or millions of dollars. You never know who your roommates could turn out to be—so you’d better keep them on your good side.