25 Surprising Side Businesses from Hollywood Stars
Paul Newman’s salad dressing enterprise is common knowledge, but did you know about these 25 businesses run by Hollywood stars?
What do big-time movie stars get up to in their spare time? While their fictional counterparts might enjoy chopping wood or getting hosed down by friendly females (more on that here), actors themselves have a tendency towards wacky entrepreneurial ideas and hefty industrial investments.
Looking at our findings from some rigorous research (read: Googling), it seems that you can divide famous actors into a handful of groups – those who are trying to do something good for the world, those who are trying to break into internet megabucks and those who like opening restaurants.
Without further chit-chat, here’s a breakdown of which stars are behind which brands which you may or may not know and love…
1. Kevin Costner – Ocean Therapy Solutions
Here’s a brilliant one to start off with – it seems that Kevin Costner’s love of the ocean didn’t stop with Waterworld; he owns a company called Ocean Therapy Solutions, who specialise in separating oil and water.
The former Robin Hood picked up the company from the US government back in 1995, for the cool sum of $24 million. Since, he has developed the technology and successfully came to planet Earth’s aid back in 2010.
This was part of the solution to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, which saw a huge oil slick endanger the Gulf of Mexico region. It was Costner’s company’s biggest success story, seeing BP utilise no less than 32 of his oil-water separation thingies.
2. Jessica Alba – The Honest Co.
Another of the more righteous entries on this list is Jessica Alba’s status as one of the founders of The Honest Company Incorporated, who focus on producing eco friendly products for babies.
The one-time Invisible Woman of The Fantastic Four co-started the company back in 2012 alongside Christopher Gavigan, former CEO of Healthy Children Healthy World.
So far they’ve released toxin-free household products, nappies and body care products. While not as immediately headline worthy as de-oiling the Gulf of Mexico, this is nonetheless a welcome and worthwhile project for Hollywood to inadvertently fund.
3. Justin Timberlake – MySpace
Here’s a slightly surreal one – Justin Timberlake, who portrayed Napster founder Sean Parker in The Social Network, actually co-owns social media website MySpace in real life.
This fantastic quiz question topic became a reality in 2011 (a while after David Fincher’s Zuckerberg biopic came out), when a $35 million deal saw JT sweep up a shedload of stocks with support from Specific Media. This was a big decrease in value from the reported $580 million that the site had been sold to News Corp for just six years prior.
The “Cry Me A River” singer nabbed six ‘around the clock’ personal staff in the deal, with the plans to convert MySpace from Facebook’s little brother into a network supporting musicians and their fans already well underway.
4. Sandra Bullock – Fortis Films, Bess Bistro and Walton’s Fancy and Staple
Some Hollywood stars like to spread their seeds a bit wider, investing in various projects of different sizes after making their millions on the silver screen.
Sandra Bullock is one of these, running her own production company Fortis Films as well as founding a Texas based restaurant called Bess Bistro and a bakery/restaurant/flower shop/event planners called Walton’s Fancy and Staple.
The Speed, Crash, and Gravity actress has found success in all these areas, with each of her ventures having now existed for over five years. Fortis Films failed to get Bullock’s version of Million Dollar Baby off the ground before Clint Eastwood took over, but did successfully launch the American sitcom George Lopez. Her Bradley Cooper co-starring comedy film All About Steve fared less well, earning scathing reviews and a brace of Golden Raspberry awards.
5. Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore and Arnold Schwarzenegger – Planet Hollywood
Although restaurant chain Planet Hollywood is less than ambiguous in its love of all things Tinsel Town, the fact that it couldn’t have come into existence without the support of four action heroes (Moore qualifies thanks to G.I. Jane) isn’t exactly common knowledge.
That’s right – Sly, Arnie, Demi Moore and the ever-cheerful Bruce Willis teamed up to invest in Planet Hollywood way back in 1991. Although they didn’t run the business side, it was their cash that made it possible.
Arnie said ‘Hasta la vista’ to the chain in 2000, distancing himself from the brand he helped create. In a statement, he said “I am disappointed that the company did not continue with the success I had expected and hoped for.” It’s worth mentioning that, at the time, Planet Hollywood was recovering from near-bankruptcy.
6. Will Ferrell and Adam McKay – Gary Sanchez Productions/Funny Or Die
If we listed every film star who has their wallet attached to a production company, the internet might just run out of space. However, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s Gary Sanchez Productions is particularly interesting.
Although the production company has had its fair share of movie success (co-producing Step Brothers, The Other Guys, The Campaign, and Anchorman 2 is no small feat), their founding of FunnyOrDie.com, the best part of a decade ago, is still what sets them apart.
In 2007, the internet wasn’t nearly as obsessed with viral videos as it is today. However, that didn’t stop Ferrell and McKay (his regular writer/director) investing in what would go on to become an Emmy-award winning, HBO-affiliated behemoth of original and exclusive content. Contributors include Judd Apatow and James Franco, while Jim Carrey, Patrick Stewart and Zack Galifianakis have all made appearances (the latter even interviewed Barack Obama).
7. Mark Wahlberg – Wahlburgers restaurant / AQUAhydrate
You don’t get to call yourself Marky Mark and earn the respect of your own Funky Bunch without some street smarts. It should come as no surprise, then, that Mark Wahlberg has his fingers in lots of business-y pies.
First up is Wahlburgers, the cunningly named beef-and-buns based establishment co-owned by Mark Wahlberg and his two brothers Donnie and Paul. It was founded in 2011, and has it’s own TV show Wahlburgers, if you’re that keen on the Wahlberg family.
Also, Mr M Wahlberg is one of the founding financiers of AQUAHydrate water, along with P-Diddy. It, um, has a higher pH level than normal water, we’re told.
8. Robert De Niro – Tribeca (various projects) / Restaurants / The Greenwich Hotel
Did you know that screen legend Robert De Niro is a bit of culinary connoisseur on the side? Well, guess what, he is. As well as co-founding Tribeca Productions in 1989 and the Tribeca Film Festival in 2002, he has branched out into financing restaurants and hotels.
He tasted the potential in chef Nobu Matshuisa’s meals in California, later inviting him to open a restaurant in Tribeca. The chef later opened franchises all over the world. De Niro also got him a cameo role in Casino.
Mr De Niro certainly likes the Tribeca area of New York – he also co-owns the Tribeca Grill restaurant and The Greenwich hotel (also located in Tribeca).
9. Kate Hudson – Fabletics
It’s fair to say, we think, that Academy Award nominated actress Kate Hudson isn’t always appreciated for her talents as a performer. We’d just like to mention here how much we enjoyed her turn in Almost Famous, before we go any further.
However, it’s arguably the other thing that people like Kate Hudson for which has seen her side business flourish financially. Fabletics, co-founded by Hudson, is a retailer of women’s exercise wear. On their site, you can even choose which bits of your body you love ‘showing off’ in a handy survey.
While we may sound cynical in our description here, you can’t fault someone for making a living. Additionally, JustFab, the parent brand of Fabletics, reaches an approximate 35 million customers worldwide via its subscription services, so who are we to scoff?
10. Arnold Schwarzenegger – Arnold’s Sports Festival
Kate Hudson is hardly the first movie star to cash in on the popularity of her appearance. It’s worth remembering that Arnold Schwarzenegger was Mr Universe long before he became one of the most iconic actors of all time. He was cashing in on fitness equipment and instructional tapes as far back as the 1970s.
Over the years, Arnie has invested in a bricklaying business, real estate, restaurants (not just Planet Hollywood, but the ill-fated Schatzi On Main too) and shopping malls. While most of these projects have been sold on or fallen by the wayside, Arnie still finds time to run his own sports festival.
Arnold’s Sports Festival has run every year since 1989 (to our knowledge), in the locale of Columbus, Ohio. It features old school bodybuilding contests as well as meet-and-greets and seminars from the man himself. Advance tickets to the daily expo cost just $10, so we’d wager Arnie sees this as more of a passion project than a money spinner.
This is a long article, hence the multiple pages. Forgive us…
11. Robert Redford – Sundance Institute / Zoom restaurant
It’s the stuff of film festival legend that Robert Redford used his salaries from Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid and Downhill Racer to buy an entire ski area, rename it Sundance and found the Sundance Film Festival, Institute, Cinemas, Catalogue and online ‘Channel’ within a 30 mile radius of his new skiing haven (mainly in Park City, Utah).
Sundance Film Festival has gone from strength to strength, growing in size and stature since its debut in 1978. Sundance London, added into the mix in 2010 (although it won’t be returing for 2015), is a great way of spreading lesser known indie cinema gems into Europe, too.
On a slightly less righteous note, Mr Redford also owns a restaurant called Zoom (also in Park City). For all he’s done for indie cinema, it’s only fair to give him a fun side project to his original side project.
12. Ashton Kutcher – A-Grade Investments / Skype / Foursquare
We’d be surprised if he was your favourite actor, but you cant deny that Ashton Kutcher has spent his money wisely. He is a co-founder of A-Grade Investments, and has chosen several high profile projects to invest in over the years.
Skype and Foursquare are two of the biggest online-based intellectual properties to have benefited from his dosh. Airbnb, a site for renting and lodging, also had his support.
The iPhone, Android and Windows Phone-enabled photo sharing app Path has also been supported by the star of The Butterfly Effect, as has e-commerce company Fab.com. He probably goes back in time to stop himself every time an investment goes bad, we reckon. Arf.
13. Dan Aykroyd – Crystal Head Vodka / House Of Blues
As we said at the start, for every film star who invests in technologies and world-saving, there’s another chucking their cash at food and drink.
One of the wackiest of these is Ghostbusters star (and real life Spiritualist) Dan Aykroyd, who chose to invest in ‘Crystal Head Vodka’ alongside artist John Alexander back in 2007.
Less oddly, Mr Aykroyd also teamed up with actor Jim Belushi (the brother of his Blues Brothers co-star) to finance the House Of Blues restaurant/music venue chain, back in 1992. They both remain attached to the brand to this day.
14. Leonardo DiCaprio – Mobli
Not to be confused with ‘mowbli, my little mobile phone’ from the Ed Byrne Carphone Warehouse ads, Mobli is a photo and video sharing website co-funded by none less than Leonardo DiCaprio.
He may not have an Oscar (criminally enough), but he does have a fair bit of business savvy – the site had 12 million users back in 2013, despite competing directly with Instagram and many others for dominance in the image sharing world.
Tobey Maguire is also an investor, so we assume they talked a lot of business between debauchery and parties on the set of The Great Gatsby.
15. Natalie Portman – Vegan Shoes / FINCA International
Amongst the more charitable celebrities on this list, Natalie Portman has been the ‘Ambassador Of Hope’ for micro-lending organisation FINCA International since 2003. The firm focuses on lending to financial support to low-income female entrepreneurs worldwide.
On the starting-your-own-business side, though, the former Queen Amidala also, for a time, ran her own fashion range, specialising in vegan footwear. Which is, as we found out today, not a made up thing that doesn’t exist. They launched in 2008 and faded into obscurity about a year later. Other vegan-friendly footwear options are available, though.
16. Andy Samberg – CanaryHop
Being known more for his comic music group The Lonely Island than his acting roles in Hot Rod, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, and Cuckoo didn’t stop Andy Samberg from making our list of actors with interesting side-business choices.
When he’s not being a generally hilarious man, Samberg has been investing in CanaryHop, a social media site aimed to help travellers and explorers. It’s one of the stranger online-based projects we learned about while putting this list together.
Mr Samberg’s start-up app is essentially based on the premise of cultural tourism – travellers (hoppers) get paired up with colourful locals (canaries), who can offer experiences like tours, music shows and water sports.
17. Elizabeth Hurley – Organic Fruit Bars / Organic Beef Jerky
The Austin Powers, Bedazzled, and Gossip Girl actress/model Elizabeth Hurley isn’t one who normally gets much coverage on this site. However, she did find (until a recent closure) a rather odd way to spend her spare time – by buying a farm and launching an organic foods brand.
While 10/10 could have predicted that she also has a swimwear range, it’s a bit of a surprise to learn that Elizabeth Hurley owned a farm and sold her own range of organic food to such high-profilers as Waitrose and Harrods, for a time.
Her years as a farmer began in 2003, she gave up on the idea in 2012. A shame, because that was a brilliantly weird piece of trivia.
18. Edward Norton – CrowdRise
This one’s much more up our alley – one-time Hulk, Fight Club founder and Birdman-nemesis Edward Norton is no stranger to branching out from the acting world. And while he supports a lot of charities and causes, CrowdRise is a company that he actually co-founded.
As you may already know, CrowdRise is an e-commerce site that aims to enable online crowdsourcing for charitable donations. Like KickStarter, CrowdRise uses rewards and gameification to ‘make giving back fun.’
They recently earned some scorn by making profits from some new investors, when they had previously only stayed afloat by charging admin fees. Supporting so many charitable causes surely can’t be a bad thing, though.
19. Lily Cole – Impossible.com
Another model-turned-actress here, but one with a refreshingly thoughtful cause as her side project. Lily Cole (who you will recognise from The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus and/or Doctor Who’s The Curse Of The Black Spot, we’d wager), runs an altruism encouraging website called Impossible.com
The idea with this one, which we like a lot more than many of the apps and websites on this list, is to create a culture of giving by offering services for free. The idea is that, if you think something ‘impossible,’ a member of the site might help you out.
Lily Cole is the sole creator of the site, but she had help and support from Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia. It’s a social network which would add a touch of niceness to the internet, if it became as popular as some of the others.
20. Clint Eastwood – Tehama Golf Club / Mission Ranch Hotel
Since the late 1990s, Dirty Harry himself has owned a private golf club out in California. In 2005, he bought the condemned former dairy farm next door and converted it into a luxury hotel.
While it’s not the most exciting of actor side projects, it’s quite nice that Eastwood apparently approached it as more of a legacy project than a big money-maker.
Eastwood aims for sustainable development, using solar and wind generators, an organic farm and native plants to run the resort. You’d better bring more than a fistful of dollars if you fancy going – prices for a night at Eastwood’s resort range from $135 to $335. Actually, we were expecting it to be pricier, to be honest.
21. Armie Hammer – Bird Bakery
Not all stars dream big, with Armie Hammer’s being one of the littlest enterprises on this list. The Lone Ranger actor invested in a bakery – the Bird Bakery of San Antonio, Texas – back in 2011.
Although Mr Hammer himself enjoys a ‘taster’ role, it’s his wife (model and TV journalist) Elizabeth Chambers who does the actual baking. They have a range of Lone Ranger cupcakes, we’re told.
22. Steve Carell – Marshfield Hills General Store
Opening a bakery with your wife is one thing, but Steve Carell’s decision to buy out his local convenience store is one of the most bizarre facts we learnt on this trawl for interesting business ideas from Hollywood stars.
The star of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Anchorman, and Get Smart bought the Marshfield Hills General Store in Massachusetts to save a slice of Americana from the big developers.
As well as the usual groceries, you can also pick up signed merchandise from the man himself, who has been known to stock a few shelves himself since buying up the shop in 2009.
23. Gwyneth Paltrow – Goop.com
Although it may have completely missed your radar if you’re not the fashionable or trendy type, Gwyneth Paltrow has been running her own lifestyle website Goop since 2008.
Originally intended as a weekly unbiased newsletter, Goop now aims to be ‘an indispensable resource for all who love to make, go, get, do, be and see’.
If that’s a bit cryptic for you, we’ll just explain that you can find advice about fashion, health, fitness, travel and ‘the psyche’ there, if you’re into such things.
24. Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith – Overbrook Entertainment
If you were the star of The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air and embarking on a big blockbuster career, what would you choose to invest in? A production company through which you could produce masses of movies for yourself would be tempting, surely.
That’s exactly what Big Willy did, launching Overbrook Entertainment in 1997 with his wife Jada Pinkett Smith and producer James Lassiter. It is through this company that Smith has supported almost all of his non-franchise flicks including Ali, I, Robot, The Pursuit Of Happyness, I Am Legend. and Seven Pounds.
Lately, Smith has used Overbrook to try and launch his son to super-stardom, with The Karate Kid and After Earth among his projects. They also produced the Annie remake. It’s not all been great, then.
25. Kevin Smith – Jay And Silent Bob’s Secret Stash
And finally, of all the entries on this list, this has to be our favourite – Jay And Silent Bob’s Secret Stash is a comic book store owned by Kevin Smith, positioned in Red Bank, New Jersey.
It’s become the home to the reality TV show Comic Book Men and a whole host of podcasts, but exists mainly as a proper, functioning comic book emporium. Smith bought it for $30,000 in 1997, and it attracts visitors from all over the world, apparently.
The walls are adorned with View Askew memorabilia, including the Bluntman And Chronic comics from Chasing Amy. Smith attempted opening a second branch in Los Angeles, but it closed after three years.
There are some questionable business decisions in this article, but this is one we wholeheartedly approve of.