Screen icons who started in sport…
There are countless examples of sports stars enjoying a second life on the celebrity circuit… but what about celebrities whose first brush with fame came in the world of sport?
Here are some high-profile stars who enjoyed a brief brush with sporting success before the big time came calling…
The Stath is one of the finest physical specimens in Hollywood, so perhaps it’s no surprise he honed his action man credentials as a diver, competing in the 1990 Commonwealth Games in the 10m, 3m, and 1m competitions, long before his big film breakthrough in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
His skills plunging in to the depths must have come in handy for his latest film role, which saw him fighting off a rogue shark in The Meg – surely the most inspired piece of casting ever.
The former Doctor Who star was known for injecting energy and dynamism into that role, and he also brought those skills to the football pitch in spades as a youngster, captaining Leicester City’s youth team.
Sadly for Smith, a serious back injury called time on any hopes of breaking through as a professional, but the Foxes’ loss would turn out to be telly’s gain. Films and TV shows about football are notoriously terrible, but Smith might be one of the few actors who could convincingly pass muster in the action shots.
Any actor playing James Bond has to be in good nick – thankfully for Connery he didn’t need to hit the gym too hard after snubbing the chance to be a professional footballer to concentrate on his acting career. The veteran Scottish actor caught the attention of the legendary Sir Matt Busby when his East Fife side played Manchester United on a pre-season tour.
The then 23-year-old Connery rejected a £25-a-week deal – probably the wisest financial move he would ever make.
The late, great Smokey and the Bandit star became the toast of Hollywood in the 1980s, but could have flourished in American football without an unfortunate twist of fate.
Reynolds was tipped for a major breakthrough after winning a scholarship to Florida State but injured his knee in the first game of his sophomore season.His bad luck continued when he injured his other knee and lost his spleen in a car crash just a few months later, cutting short his early promise.
Burt would at least get to act out his dreams on the silver screen in one of his most famous films, The Longest Yard.
And finally, things could have turned out very differently for current Hollywood leading man Clooney if he hadn’t fluffed his lines for the Cincinnati Reds. Clooney was tipped for the top as a teenager, quickly attracting the attention of the Major League Baseball side for his expert fielding abilities.
Unfortunately for the Ocean’s Eleven star, his throwing ability would leave a lot to be desired, and he would wisely opt to follow in the family tradition by entering the world of entertainment instead.