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30 Celebrities Who Started Off as Adult Film Stars

Cameron Diaz

Cameron Diaz

Love her or hate her, Cameron Diaz has been a Hollywood mainstay for years at this point. But before her fame, Diaz starred in an adult film. The world will probably never see it, though, because she bought the rights to it with her earnings from the 1994 film The Mask. She later commented to Vogue: "If you are a woman who’s been labeled as a sex symbol... inevitably you get to a point when you are no longer a sex symbol... that’s where I think a lot of women get in trouble.”

Ironically, Diaz starred in a 2014 comedy Sex Tape, which required a few nude scenes. "People have seen my butt. I've shown the top of my butt, the bottom of my butt," she told Marie Claire. "I'm not opposed to doing nudity, as long as it's part of the story. I'll do whatever has to get done if it's the right thing." 

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Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger

There’s no Arnold Schwarzenegger sex tape floating around on the internet, and for that, we should all be grateful. However, before this body builder-turned-actor-turned-politician hit the big times, he did take some risque shots for a pornographic magazine. After Dark, the magazine in question, has featured quite a few big names over the years.

After Dark only lasted a few years because of fierce competition from other big-name (and more explicit) magazines.  It was originally marketed as an entertainment magazine covering everything related to performance art with the first issue releasing in May 1986. Compared to competitors, After Dark's website claims it placed a "greater emphasis on quality writing," though there was "plenty of skin on show" after Louis Miele took over the editorship. 

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Matt Leblanc

Matt Leblanc

Matt Leblanc may forever be known and remembered as Joey from Friends, but his beginnings as an actor were a bit more sultry. The actor took an opportunity in the early '90s to be featured in The Red Shoe Diaries, a premium cable show that straddled the line between drama and porn. 

Funnily enough, Leblanc almost wasn't an actor at all, even in adult films! During an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, he surprised audiences with claims he almost became a carpenter. "Everyone in my family goes to work with some kind of tool in their hands," he said. I made a complete kitchen and installed it in a house." In fact, he dropped out of school for carpentry because he already knew all of the practical skills, and the rest is history!

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Shu Qi

Shu Qi

Lin Lui-hi AKA Shu Qi made her big-screen debut as Lai Kwai in the 2002 film The Transporter. She was among the best-paid models in Tawain in 2014, but before her big break, she was no stranger to the world of adult entertainment. She has appeared in Chinese editions of both Penthouse and Playboy

Aside from explicit films like Sex & Zen II, she portrayed a performer in the industry for the 1996 film Viva Erotica, which focused on Hong Kong's erotic film industry. Because of this film, Qi won an award for Best Supporting Actress at the 1997 Hong Kong Film Awards.

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David Duchovny

David Duchovny

You might know him as Fox Mulder from the X-Files, but before he was chasing aliens David Duchovny dipped his toes into the waters of adult entertainment. He starred in the same early-90s Showtime series as Matt Leblanc,The Red Shoe Diaries. While it was technically billed as “erotic drama” it was little more than softcore porn. 

Director of the seires Zalman King has fond memories of working with Duchovny on the series, telling an interviewer for DVDtalk Geoffrey Kleinman that he'd "for sure" work with him again. As for how Duchovny even began hosting the show, King said, "I did a movie first which will be coming out on DVD Soon, which was the original Showtime movie, which launched the Red Shoes Series and he played the main character in that and I contracted with him to be the host of the series."

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Sasha Grey

Sasha Grey

Sasha Grey was a big figure in the adult film industry of the early 2000s, and she used that fame to break into mainstream acting as well. Her credits include both television (Entourage) and movies (The Girlfriend Experience). She rode the new technological wave that created an entirely new and convenient way to experience adult content. The Economist reported that the industry's revenue skyrocketed to around $40-$50 million during the 2000s!

Out of the biggest stars on the early 2000s online platforms, Sasha Grey is at the top. Her first film, Fashionistas Safado: the Challenge, released in 2006 and instantly set the tone for the rest of her X-rated career after asking her costar to punch her "in the stomach." Well, that's an interesting way to get your name out there. In fact, she won an award for Female Performer of the Year in 2008, emphasizing how influential she was during her five years performing.

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Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone

Before the fame of the Rocky franchise, Sylvester Stallone was a young actor down on his luck. Facing homelessness, Stallone starred in the adult film The Party at Kitty and Stud’s. This movie was later renamed Italian Stallion, to piggyback off the notoriety of Stallone’s role as boxer Rocky Balboa. 

The softcore romance film was released in 1970 and marketed as a romance. Directed by Morton Lewis, The Party was actually Stallone's first lead role! Apparently, the famous actor only worked on the film for two days, was paid a heft sum of $200, and went his own way. Seems to have worked out in his favor!

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Sunny Leone

Sunny Leone

Now considered a notable model and actress for American and Indian productions, Sunny Leone was once a prominent performer in adult entertainment. Named Penthouse Pet of the Year in 2003 (weird name, but whatever) and performed for Vivid Entertainment up to 2010. During those years, she rose through the ranks of porn stars, landing a top 12 spot.

After appearing in her first Bollywood film -- erotic thriller Jism 2 -- Leone officially transitioned away from pornography into mainstream acting in 2013. She announced to MTV, "I am lucky that the audience is accepting me. I have come my way from [porn industry]. I don't have any plans as of now to go back there."

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Spalding Gray

Spalding Gray

Spalding Gray’s acting credits paint a picture of an accomplished actor. He’s done movies. He’s done TV. And, strangely, he’s done porn. Before his career really began to take off in the '80s, he starred in a number of adult films in the late '70s. Some fans remember him for his autobiographical monologues while certain fans remember... other things. 

More than anything, Gray is remembered for his stark honesty. The Huffington Post analyzed his personal journals and monologues, revealing just how much fear consumed his life. "I felt a slight feeling of loss and bitterness that these people were using me as their jester," Gray wrote in 1979 seemingly in reference to his work as an actor. In a tragic turn of events, Gray went missing in January 2004 and was pronounced dead two months later after his body was found in New York's East River. 

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Jon Hamm

Jon Hamm

Best known for his award-winning performance as Don Draper in the period drama Mad Men, Jon Hamm's acting career began with him waiting tables and taking up odd jobs, as cliché as it sounds. One of those jobs was working as a set designer for an unnamed softcore pornography movie.

In August 2009, Hamm told Elle magazine that the softcore gig was his ultimate "low point" in his early career. “I’m, like, $150 a day? I will totally do that…. But it was soul-crushingly depressing," he lamented. "There was no actual [sex], but it was so sad; the actors were dead but they were trying their best. I was like, Man, this can’t... be it.”

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Riley Steele

Riley Steele

Riley Steele is another adult film star to make the jump to mainstream movies, but only barely. While she is probably most well known for her work in the porn-themed Pirates of the Caribbean spoofs, she also had a role in Piranha 3D, which we guess is technically a legit acting credit? But honestly, porn is more reputable than that terrible series of movies. 

Born in California, Steele got her start in the performance industry working at Starbucks and a snack bar like most amateur actresses in Hollywood. She then met Jesse Jane in 2005 who led Steele to the world of pornography, but Steele wouldn't be convinced until a few years later. But once she signed with Digital Playground, her life changed forever.

 

 

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Francois Sagat

Francois Sagat

French actor Francois Sagat is no stranger to the world of porn -- he’s starred and directed in numerous adult films. So many that there are too many to list here. But this X-rated reputation doesn't mean he’s a stranger to the world of mainstream movies, sporting roles in films like Saw IV and Man at Bath

As one of the top gay actors in the industry with a one-of-a-kind scalp tattoo, he's come a long way since his first performance at age 25 under the pseudonym Azzedine. He switched to his birth name after transferring his practice to the U.S. and shooting his first film there Arabesque. Sagat retired from pornography in 2017 but made a brief return to film a Justice League parody.

 

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Sibel Kekilli

Sibel Kekilli

During the early seasons of Game of Thrones, Sibel Kekilli made a name for herself as the character Shae, a prostitute and handmaiden. But before this rise to stardom, she starred in several adult films in her home country of Germany. Her past came to light in 2004 when she starred in the film Head-On

Kekilli was a porn star for around six months with the stage name Dilara, but she kept that stage of her career private until it was released by the media after her Head-On success. Her father told Bild, "The disgrace is too great for the family... I can never forgive her for it. I don't want to ever see her again." Harsh, much?

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Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan

We all know Jackie Chan from his iconic performances in numerous Kung Fu movies, but even this martial arts master found himself on tough times early in his career. In the '70s, Chan starred in a Hong Kong-based comedy porn called All in the Family. Sounds like a weird combo, but you know you want to see it. 

Chan admitted to this early-career appearance, telling HYPE he's never regretted his decision. “I had to do anything I could to make a living 31 years ago, but I don’t think it’s a big deal, even Marlon Brando used to be exposed in his movies. The porn movie at that time was more conservative than the current films." 

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Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe never bore it all for a movie, but during a period when she was on the decline, she did appear in nude photos for a magazine.  While her on-screen persona was limited to the dumb blonde trope, that wasn't the reality. Scholar Sarah Churchwell claims, "The biggest myth is that she was dumb. The second is that she was fragile. The third is that she couldn't act. She was far from dumb... [and] such a good actress that no one now believes she was anything but what she portrayed on screen."

Plus, nobody can forget her performance of "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" for JFK's birthday on May 19, 1962, at Madison Square Garden in New York. The song itself wasn't the source of awe, however, because she drew more attention from her form-fitting beige dress that appeared nude. The moment has been parodied and referenced in countless shows, films, and specials over the years, including the 2012 series Smash.

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Robert Kerman

Robert Kerman

Robert Kerman AKA R. Bolla is no stranger to fans of horror movies -- he’s had roles in classics such as Cannibal Holocaust and The Goodbye Girl. a minor role in Spider-Man. But he also had a prolific adult film career that’s equally iconic, if not more so, with his credits including the infamous adult film Debbie Does Dallas

According to The Rialto Report,  Kerman profited greatly from his porn career, claiming that he rose to fame during the industry's "golden age" in the '70s and '80s. During these decades, Kerman starred in around 250 pornographic films but sorely regrets it. "In retrospect, I'm really sorry that I did it," Kerman told Channel 4, "because I probably ruined the best years of my life as an actor." Even so, he was inducted into the AVN Hall of Fame in 1998. 

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Traci Lords

Traci Lords

Traci Lords has starred in numerous cult classics, like Serial Mom and Blade, but she’s probably most infamous for appearing in Penthouse magazine when she was only 16. After that, she went on to star in numerous adult films like What Gets Me Hot! in 1984 as well as appearing in the magazines Velvet, Juggs, and Club.

Lords starred in some of the first porn films during the industry's "golden age," was hailed as the "Princess of Porn," and made more than $1,000 per day as the best-paid sex performer ever. But her career in the industry wasn't made to last as she transitioned to mainstream acting in the late '80s.

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Channing Tatum

Channing Tatum

Channing Tatum is basically synonymous with 2012's Magic Mike for many Gen X and Millennial women, but that's not the only place he purposefully flaunted his abs for a sultry set. In fact, the film was directly inspired by Tatum's early days as a male stripper in Florida. That gig only lasted eight months before he decided he'd rather model with his clothes on. 

The plot of Magic Mike features Tatum as the lead character Mike who is a young dancer taken under the wing of an experienced performer to learn how to "hustle on and off the stage." That same year Tatum -- appropriately -- won People magazine's yearly award for the "Sexiest Man Alive."

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Kim Kardashian

Kim Kardashian

We probably don't need to spell out Kim's rise to fame. Out of everyone on this list, no one should be more grateful to the world of porn than Kim Kardashian. It’s literally the only reason she is famous. After her sex tape with then-boyfriend Ray J was “leaked”, her hit reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, followed shortly behind. 

Kim sued Vivid Entertainment for distributing the tape as Kim Kardashian, Superstar, but she later settled he later dropped the suit and settled for $5 million that allowed Vivid to release the tape. The Kardashians profited greatly from the tape and were criticized for the so-called publicity stunt, but the family didn't seem to care. Kim later went on to pose nude for a December issue of Playboy.

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Simon Rex

Simon Rex

Simon Rex has done a little of everything. He’s an actor, a rapper, a comedian, a model, was an MTV VJ in the '90s, and unsurprisingly dabbled in the adult entertainment realm early in his career. Before his rise to stardom, Rex appeared in several solo scenes with the stage name "Sebastian."

First working as a nude model for Brad Posey's Club 1821, he transitioned to the three X-rated films. According to Vulture, he took the parts "to pay for rent and food for his girlfriend's 2 year old son." Soon after, he was recruited by a casting director and began modeling mainstream for Calvin Klein, Versace, and Levi's. Plus, we can't forget his professional acting gigs in What I Like About You, the Scary Movie franchise, and National Lampoon.

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Adam West

Adam West

Adam West was Batman for an entire generation of kids in the '60s, but in the '80s he had roles in a number of softcore films. That being said, his roles were all non-sexual, but it’s still bizarre to think of the Caped Crusader popping up at all in soft porn. 

While he never appeared in a completely X-rated film, his version of Batman did! The character was parodied in 2010 and became the top bestselling superhero porn parody ever on Adult Empire. West probably doesn't want to be remembered by this spoof, but it happened anyway.

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Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton

Socialite. Model. Businesswoman. Heiress. Porn star? How did "New York's leading It Girl" turn global superstar in two years? Right after her TV show The Simple Life alongside Nicole Richie first aired, the leaked sex tape "1 Night in Paris" with ex-boyfriend Rick Salomon solidified Paris's fame forever. 

Paris wasn't particularly thrilled about the video and was caught in a suing battle with Saloman for two years. In 2006, Paris told British GQ, "I never received a dime from the video. It's just dirty money and [Salomon} should give it all to some charity for the sexually abused or something. To be honest, I don't even think about it anymore."

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Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner

Though billed as an “independent film," the 1986 movie Sizzle Beach, U.S.A. was little more than softcore porn -- starring Kevin Costner. That’s right, before his hit films Dances with WolvesThe Untouchables, No Way Out, and Field of Dreams, Costner got his start with a skin flick!

IMDb describes the movies as, "A fabulous Malibu beach house is the setting for sin in sun, as a trio of lovely ladies find love in Los Angeles over one sizzling summer." Alternatively named Hot Malibu Summer, the movie was filmed in the winter of '78, ironically enough.  Plus, many fans don't realize that Sizzle was his debut film. In fact, most resources that list his filmography cite The Touch from 1983 as his first film appearance. 

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Ron Jeremy

Ron Jeremy

In terms of porn stars, not many names are as recognizable as Ron Jeremy. And it’s this fame that has allowed him to break into the world of mainstream movies. Granted, he’s playing a fictionalized version of himself most of the time, but you can still catch him in films like Ghostbusters and Boondock Saints

Unfortunately, Jeremy is infamous for much more than his films. In September 2021, USA Today reported that 21 women testified against Jeremy for "using his fame" to "lure" and "rape" his accusers. Jeremy was originally arrested back in January 2020 and eerily echoes the ongoing Harvey Weinstein scandals that began a few years prior. 

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Perrey Reeves

Perrey Reeves

Entourage actress Perrey Reeves is another actor featured in the Playboy Entertainment erotic drama the Red Shoe Diaries. While she only appeared in one episode and didn't have to go "all the way" in terms of bearing it all like some of the other actors, Reeves did appear topless throughout the scene. 

Among other facts that you might not have known about Reeves, she moved to Costa Rica in 2012 to start a yoga retreat called The Sanctuary at Two Rivers. She's been a yoga practitioner since the early '90s and is particularly interested in Ayurveda, which is a form of alternative medicine. We're not saying she fled to Costa Rica because of Red Shoe Diaries, but we also don't have evidence against it either. 
 

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Anna Nicole Smith

Anna Nicole Smith

What a surprise! Anna Nicole Smith started her career in adult entertainment? We're shocked! All jokes aside, Anna Nicole Smith is one of the celebrities on this list who was very publicly involved in pornographic modeling from the start. In 1993, she won Playboy's "Playmate of the Year" award and launched her modeling career.

From Guess and H&M to Heatherette and Lane Bryant, Smith was a successful model but couldn't replicate the same success into the acting realm. Her leading role in the '96 direct-to-video film Skyscraper could have been her big break but it was no more than "soft-core exploitation." Tragically, Smith died in Hollywood in early 2007 from an accidental overdose.

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Joan Marie Laurer

Joan Marie Laurer

Joan Marie Laurer AKA Chyna has worked in everything from professional wrestling and modeling to bodybuilding and porn. You heard that last part correctly. First garnering fame in the world of WWE wrestling, the company claims she left "a lasting legacy as the most dominant female competitor of all time."

Aside from revolutionizing WWE, Chyna was also considered a sex symbol in the early 2000s. She modeled for Playboy twice and starred in five X-rated films after a sex tape with wrestler Sean Walman was released in 2004. Playing off Paris Hilton's infamous tape, it was dubbed 1 Night in China, becoming AVN's best-selling title in 2006. 

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Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren

From the stage to the big screen, Helen Mirren has done it all. And we mean everything.  Not only is she the only person to achieve the Triple Crown of Acting in both the US and the UK, but she dabbled in the realm of adult entertainment with roles in Caligula and the film Hussy.

If you know anything about Caligula, Mirren isn't shy about baring it all onscreen. appears naked onscreen. Caligula is an excessively erotic historical drama produced by the magazine Penthouse. Mirren told People, "Everyone was naked in that. It was like showing up for a nudist camp every day. You felt embarrassed if you had your clothes on in that movie."

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Katie Morgan

Katie Morgan

Katie Morgan first entered the adult entertainment industry after being arrested for smuggling 100 pounds of marijuana into the U.S. in 2000. Those charges resulted in a hefty bail and plea bargain; thus, she turned to porn to pay off her debts. Her first appearance was in the 2001 Dirty Debutantes 197.

According to the 2003 HBO documentary Katie Morgan: A Porn Star Revealed (2005), Morgan revealed that she chose the pen name "Katie Morgan" because of Gone with the Wind and the rum Captain Morgan's. Morgan retired from the industry in 2008 for talk show hosting gigs and traditional acting, but returned to shooting after seven years. 

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Nina Hartley

Nina Hartley

Marie Louise Hartman AKA Nina Hartley is (obviously) a pornographic actress, but you might be surprised to know that she's also worked as a director, sex educator, sex-positive feminist, and author. According to Hartman, she saw the first adult film directed by a woman, The Autobiography of a Flea, and chose her career because of it. While she was studying for nursing school in the early '80s, she worked as a stripper at the Sutter Cinema, which is when she chose her stage name "Nina."

First, Harley was featured in photo spreads for Hustler and High Society, but she quickly landed her debut role in the film Educating Nina. Aside from adult entertainment, Hartley is an avid social reformer and sex-positive activist. "Sex isn't something men do to you," Harley preaches. "It isn't something men get out of you. Sex is something you dive into with gusto and like it every bit as much as he does."

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