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Fairy-Tale Endings: True Hollywood success stories

By Bryan Sims on May 1st, 2011 •

Hollywood movies are full of inspirational stories about success despite the odds, but sometimes the best tales happen offscreen. These true-life fairy tales happened to the writers, actors and directors behind major onscreen hits. Hopefully they'll give you a pick-me-up if you're feeling like you'll never see the bright lights.

Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone was a struggling actor who only had $106 to his name when he saw Muhammad Ali fight Chuck Wepner. Wepner, who was given no chance against Ali, lasted 15 rounds and even knocked Ali down before getting knocked out. Inspired, Stallone wrote the rough draft of the Rocky script in three days. By chance, the script was picked up after Stallone was turned down at an audition for a different movie and mentioned he had written the story. Rocky won the 1976 Oscar for Best Picture, gave birth to five sequels, and introduced the world to the Italian Stallion.

Good Will Hunting

It's the story of a young math genius who works as a janitor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and finds direction in his life with the help of a psychologist played by Robin Williams. The movie was written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck--two childhood friends who also co-starred in the movie. It went on to gross $138 million at the U.S. box office, win two Oscars, and launch their careers onto the Hollywood A-list.

Hilary Swank

When Hilary Swank and her mother moved to Southern Califor-nia to pursue Swank's acting career, they were so broke that for a while they had to live out of a car. Many years and lots of hard work later, she is the third youngest woman ever to win two Academy Awards for Best Actress. For her first Oscar role in Boys Don't Cry, she only earned $75 a day. She's since gone on to win a second Oscar for her performance in Million Dollar Baby and become one of Hollywood's biggest names.

Napoleon Dynamite

A cult classic, Napoleon Dynamite is an independent film created by the husband and wife team Jared and Jerusha Hess, about a dorky student who saves his high school friend's class-president campaign with slick dance moves. It was edited on a $6,000 Macintosh with Final Cut Pro. Jon Heder, the main actor, was paid $1,000 to play Napoleon Dynamite. After becoming all the rage at the Sundance Film Festival, it was picked up by major production companies, released nationwide, and grossed $44.5 million.

Finding Forrester

This movie tells the story of a teen writing prodigy who grew up in a troubled neighborhood and finds a mentor in a famous writer. Finding Forrester was written by Mike Rich, who had no screenwriting experience and worked on the screenplay as a side project while paying the bills with his day job. The success of Finding Forrester allowed him to start writing full-time. He's gone on to write other inspirational movies such as Secretariat, Radio, and The Rookie.

Like any good Disney movie, these stories show that with hard work, passion, and a little luck, dreams really do come true.

Bryan Sims, CEO

Sources: imdb.com; ali.com; boxing-memorabilia.com; youtube.com; people.com; wga.org; boston.com; biography.com; absolutewrite.com