Movie stars, prominent scientists, famous musicians and sporting legends are not ready made. There is an astonishing number of household names that were skilled labourers before they went on to success in their respective fields. Here we have compiled a list of some of the most notable former plumbers.
Michael Caine has won two Oscars and appeared in more than 115 movies during his distinguished career, but the lovable cockney was once a plumber’s assistant and was hoping to secure an apprenticeship in the trade after completing two years of national service during the 1950s. Caine’s blue-collar experience was short-lived, though, as he left the job to become an assistant stage manager at a theatre in Sussex. It was here that the youngster found his love for acting after performing a small walk-on role in a play.
Caine is now one of the biggest names in Hollywood, but he admitted that his first nine years as an actor were “brutal” before he finally enjoyed breakthrough success with British film Zulu in 1964. Major roles in The Ipcress File, Alfie and The Italian Job soon followed. His greatest critical success came later in his career as he won two Academy Awards for his work in Hannah and Her Sisters and The Cider House Rules. Caine was knighted by Her Majesty the Queen for his services to cinema in 2000, and he has continued to feature in numerous blockbusters, including The Dark Knight Trilogy and Interstellar.
Conor McGregor has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the world of mixed martial arts during the last decade and made history after becoming the first UFC fighter ever to hold titles in two different weight divisions at the same time in 2016. However, he is another big name with a working-class background: the 29-year-old started out as a plumber’s apprentice in his home city of Dublin during his late teenage years.
McGregor began his MMA training while working nine-to-five and fighting at the weekends, but he turned his back on the trade to take up the sport full-time in 2008. He quickly made a name for himself in the local scene with a series of impressive wins, which led to the UFC signing the Irishman on a multi-fight contract in 2013. McGregor has since become a huge pay-per-view draw and boasts an overall record of 21 wins from 24 fights. His most notable victories include a 13-second knockout of José Aldo in UFC 194 and the defeat of Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205. McGregor’s popularity has transcended the sport, as he is likely to earn around £125 million from the high-profile boxing match with Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas.
Bob Hoskins is another famous movie star with a plumbing past. Like Caine, his career didn’t take off until he was in his 30s and the majority of his youth was spent looking for work and bouncing from one manual labour job to the next: “I was an apprentice plumber once, burnt the boot of the bloke I was with,” Hoskins said during an interview with Empire magazine. “I was on a ladder, and he was fixing a pipe up in the ceiling. I got a blowlamp and set fire to his boot! That was the end of the trade for me.”
Hoskins got his first major TV role in 1975, but it was his performances in British gangster films The Long Good Friday and Mona Lisa where he portrayed intimidating yet vulnerable characters that showcased his unique range and skill as an actor. His most memorable role is arguably as a private investigator in the live action animated hybrid Who Framed Roger Rabbit in 1988. He then returned to being a plumber, but this time as iconic video game character Super Mario in the Super Mario Bros movie. However, he later admitted that it was one of his least enjoyable roles.
Ozzy Osbourne is now known as the “Godfather of Heavy Metal”, but it could have all been very different for the English singer and songwriter, due to the fact that he started out as a plumber’s apprentice after leaving school at 15. Osbourne had several blue-collar jobs during his teenage years, but he got his big break in music after spending six weeks in prison for robbing a clothes shop. His father refused to pay the fine to teach Osbourne a lesson, and it appeared to work as the youngster changed his ways and joined a band called Earth in the late 1960s.
The group changed their name to Black Sabbath soon after. Lead vocalist Osbourne helped to transform the music scene during the 1970s with a succession of rock hits that defined the early years of heavy metal. The Birmingham-born frontman was eventually fired in 1979 after falling out with his band members, but he has since enjoyed a successful solo career with the release of 11 studio albums. Tensions with his former bandmates eased in the late 1990s and he returned to Black Sabbath to record the album 13 in 2013.
Okay, we might be cheating a bit with this one, but the famous theoretical physicist once revealed that if he had a chance to go back to his youth and select a new career path, he would have chosen to fit and repair pipes and other water supply apparatus as a day job. “If I would be a young man again and had to decide how to make my living, I would not try to become a scientist or scholar or teacher,” Einstein said. “I would rather choose to be a plumber or a peddler in hope to find that modest degree of independence still available under present circumstances.”
Einstein is arguably the world’s most famous scientist and he developed one of the two pillars of modern physics — the theory of relativity. He was born in Germany in 1879 and completed his first scientific paper in 1901 after earning a degree in physics. Einstein published four papers soon after that, including the first outlines of his theory of relativity. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Physics in 1922 for his services to the branch of natural science and later immigrated to the US after Adolf Hitler came to power in his homeland.