(Invictus, Shawshank Redemption, Electric Company)
• Previous job: Air Force mechanic
• Payoff: "I knew as a teenager what I wanted to do," Freeman, who turned down a drama scholarship to Jackson State University to enter the Air Force, told collider.com. "I got sidetracked because I also thought I wanted to be an adventurer." But during his military stint, Freeman's dreams of becoming a fighter pilot hit reality: "I was 21 years old when I had the opportunity to sit in a plane and say, this ain't it. There was only one other choice in my life and that was acting." Says Danziger: "You have to follow your passion. Spending 30 years in a line of work that you don't love is the biggest mistake you can make."
Nonetheless, Freeman has had ample occasion to draw on his military experience over the course of his illustrious career, having played, among other roles, a black soldier in the Civil War, a brigadier general dealing with the outbreak of a deadly disease, and even the leader of the Free World himself. (Oh, and he played God, but for that role, he didn't need a plane to get around.)
(Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for AFI)