Celebs Who Have Surprisingly Dark Histories

Ashley Hunte
Woody Harrelson on a beach
instagram | @woodyharrelson

The life of a celebrity isn't always as glamorous as we might think. At the end of the day, they're just people, and they go through hardships all the time.

For some celebrities, they had to deal with hardships before they could make names for themselves. In this list, we'll explore celebrities who have some surprisingly dark stories.

CW for abuse and violence.

Kelsey Grammer's life has been full of tragedy.

The Frasier star has had a great deal of tragedy in his personal life. This all dates back to 1968, when his father unfortunately fell victim to a home invasion and tragically died.

Then, in 1975, tragedy struck his family again.

Grammer's younger sister was kidnapped and murdered in 1975. And then, just five years after that horrific event, his two half-brothers died in a tragic scuba diving accident. For all those tragedies to happen in such a short period of time is just heartbreaking.

Charlize Theron witnessed her mother kill her father in self-defense.

Unfortunately, Theron's father was an alcoholic and abusive towards herself and her mother. When she was 15, Theron's father attacked them with a gun, when her mother fatally shot him in self-defense.

Theron is very open about her traumatic past, though.

"None of those bullets ever hit us, which is just a miracle. But in self-defense, she ended the threat," she recalls.

"I'm not ashamed to talk about it, because I do think that the more we talk about these things, the more we realize we are not alone in any of it."

Johnathan and Christopher Nolan have a dangerous brother.

Christian Bale as the Batman.

The older brother of Johnathan and Christopher Nolan was accused of allegedly kidnapping and "extracting" money out of a financier, which ended up killing the man. The U.S. found there was "insufficient evidence" to bring him in (from Costa Rica, where this allegedly took place), so he never got booked for it.

He did attempt to escape prison before, though.

Woody Harrelson's father was a hitman.

His father was paid $250k to assassinate a judge in 1979 in order to stop him from presiding over a drug kingpin's trial, but got arrested and served two life sentences for it. He stayed in prison until his death in 2007.

Glenn Close grew up in a cult.

Her father relocated them to the Swiss headquarters of a cult called the Moral Re-Armament in the '60s. They stayed there for two years, and then her father moved them back to the U.S. and moved to the Congo by himself for 16 years.

Joaquin Phoenix was actually born into a cult.

Joaquin Phoenix laughing awkwardly.
Giphy | Joker Movie

His parents were briefly part of the Children of God sex cult in 1970, but left when they realized it wasn't for them.

"Cults rarely advertise themselves as such," he said. "It's usually someone saying, 'We're like-minded people. This is a community,' but I think the moment my parents realized there was something more to it, they got out."

Mariah Carey's memoir details her siblings' abusive behavior.

In her 2020 memoir, The Meaning of Mariah Carey, Mariah shares details on the abusive and criminal behavior her brother, Morgan, was alleged to have done. This includes nearly killing their father, physically abusing their mother, and being hired as a hitman (though the person who hired Morgan ended up carrying the hit out themselves).

In addition, Mariah Carey's sister did some terrible things.

In the same memoir, Mariah writes that sister Alison had at one point drugged her, inflicted burns on her, and attempted to pimp her out when Mariah was just 12. Both siblings have attempted to sue the singer for defamation.

Jackie Chan's mother had a criminal past before he was even born.

Jackie Chan's mother was widowed during World War II, and tried to sell her daughters from her first marriage, but ended up not doing so. She then became an opium smuggler and gambler who got arrested, and then married the man who arrested her.

They then moved to Hong Kong, where Jackie Chan was born.

The family had changed their name to Chan after moving to Hong Kong (and before Jackie was born). His father was also a spy, apparently. Jackie Chan didn't know any of this while he was growing up.

Dylan McDermott's mother lived with a gangster.

McDermott's mother had him when she was just 15, and when he was only five, she was murdered by the gangster who she'd moved in with. He then went to live with his father.

Hope Solo was conceived during a conjugal visit.

Solo's father was serving in prison for embezzlement when she was conceived during a conjugal visit between himself and her mother. He was also later falsely accused of murder.

Her father also kidnapped her when Solo was only seven.

Her father, a man who was often running from the law and experiencing homelessness, took Hope and her brother on a trip to Seattle without her mother knowing. He was arrested after a few days.

Dennis Hopper's father was a spy.

Dennis Hopper, standing and looking sad.

During World War II, Hopper's father worked as a spy, and had his death faked by the government. His family believed he was dead until he showed up right after the war ended.

Carey Elwes' parents had to travel to Cuba to get married.

His mother, Tessa Kennedy, came from money, while his father, Dominick Elwes, did not. Her parents filed a restraining order which forced the couple to flee to Cuba to get married. A decade later, Dominick died of an intentional barbiturates overdose after not wanting to help in a murder cover-up.

Leighton Meester was born in prison.

Meester's parents were both arrested and served time for being part of a drug smuggling ring that brought over 1,200 pounds of marijuana to the U.S. from Jamaica. During that sentence, her mother gave birth to her. They ended up having a really good relationship, though.

Frances McDormand was abandoned as a toddler.

Frances McDormand smiling and nodding while in an award show audience.
Giphy | The Academy Awards

McDormand was adopted by a pastor and his wife, and was one of 9 kids who ended up being fostered by them at one point. Her birth mother, who'd attended the pastor's church, had abandoned her as a toddler.

Nancy Kerrigan's father died during a fight with her brother.

Her brother and father got into a fight in 2010, which resulted in her father having a fatal heart attack. The incident led her brother to carry out a two and a half year prison sentence.