While actors frequently find themselves playing soldiers on screen, it’s rare that they actually have real-life experience upon which to draw. However, this isn’t always the case: some stars actually spent time serving their country prior to starting their showbiz careers. In particular, these iconic actors all earned their stripes in the military before making it big in Hollywood – and some of them may surprise you…
40. Humphrey Bogart
One of Hollywood’s most groundbreaking actors, Humphrey Bogart was bucking tradition way before he broke into the movie business. After throwing his chance of an Ivy League education, the actor joined the U.S. Navy and served in the Atlantic in World War I’s final year. As legend has it, Bogart even received his famous lip scarring during an attack on his ship.
39. Kirk Douglas
Born to Jewish parents, Kirk Douglas was appalled by the actions of Nazi Germany in World War II. So much so, in fact, that he postponed a burgeoning theater career in order to fight against Hitler’s forces. Nevertheless, the icon didn’t get his wish; after enlisting in the Navy, he was sent to fight Japan in the Pacific instead.
38. James Earl Jones
We all know James Earl Jones for his distinctive voice and screen presence. However, there was a time when the actor almost gave up on his dreams to pursue a military career. Having been drafted to serve his country in the Korean War, Jones considered staying in the Army for its financial security. Luckily, a superior made him realize the military life wasn’t for him.
37. Harry Belafonte
A musician, movie star and civil rights activist, Harry Belafonte can thank the military for helping to develop his diverse career. Following time spent in the U.S. Navy during World War II, the entertainer was afforded a chance at a higher education due to the G.I. Bill. Soon after, Belafonte enrolled at university in New York, a move that arguably set him on the path to stardom.