Ever since the world was initiated into celebrity culture, public figures have been notoriously associated with narcissism and arrogance—often known for being superficial about everything around them. Sure, they sometimes play heroic figures in films and TV series, but that doesn’t mean they’re real-life superheroes, right? Well, as it turns out, life imitates art more than you’d think.
Over the years, numerous celebrities have saved lives by risking their own. From successfully breaking up knife fights to rescuing surfers trapped in insane riptides, here are ten stars who have done such outstanding deeds that you’ll end up stanning them harder than ever before.
Back in 2018, Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch and his wife Sophie Hunter were riding in an Uber when they came upon a Deliveroo cyclist being brutally assaulted by a gang of four muggers. Cumberbatch then reportedly leapt out of the car to yell at the attackers before physically engaging with them.
“I had hold of one lad and Benedict another,” Uber driver Manuel Dias later told The Sun. “He seemed to know exactly what he was doing. He was very brave. He did most of it, to be honest.” Dias went on to recall how the gang had tried to harm Cumberbatch but he defended himself by pushing them off their tracks. “Then I think they also recognised it was Benedict and ran away… If he hadn’t stepped in, the delivery cyclist could have been seriously injured. He asked the rider how he was and when he said, ‘I’m okay,’ Benedict just hugged him.”
No mission is impossible for Tom Cruise. In 2021, the Top Gun: Maverick actor saved co-star Elisabeth Shue from the active tail rotor of a helicopter between scenes. Unaware of the deadly spinning rotor, Shue started running to the back of the helicopter when Cruise “lunged after her, but only was able to grab her legs, tackling her to the ground.”
“At that point she turned white, and he pulled her back towards the front of the helicopter and they walked away,” aerial camera operator Bill Bennett admitted, as noted by The Sun. “All of us in the helicopter, were quite shaken up by the close call, but there was nothing to be said. Tom had, in that instant, truly saved her life.”
In 1996, Cruise also reportedly rescued five people stranded in the Mediterranean after they were forced to abandon their burning sailboat.
Longtime friends Meryl Streep and Cher were on an ice cream run in New York City when they encountered a woman being assaulted in a distance. “We walk down the street and we hear screaming,” Cher recalled on The Late Late Show with James Corden. “We come around the corner and this gigantic man is ripping the clothes off of this girl. And Meryl starts screaming, and I start screaming, and we run towards this gigantic man and he turns and starts running towards us.”
“We split and he ran through us,” she continued. “We went up to the girl and all of her clothes were torn and she was clutching her bag. So we’re putting her together and trying to get her to look a little bit like she hasn’t just been ravished, and she looks at us, and she goes, ‘Oh, my God, I’ve been saved by Meryl Streep and Cher!’.”
Streep had previously mentioned the incident while speaking at the Committee to Protect Journalists awards in 2017. “Someone else was being abused and I just went completely nuts and went after this man. Ask Cher—she was there. And the thug ran away, it was a miracle,” she said.
On Monday 1 August 2022, Slumdog Millionaire actor Dev Patel successfully broke up a knife fight in Adelaide, Australia—where a man and a woman were reportedly feuding in the street and later inside a service station when the former was stabbed in the chest.
“We can confirm that last night, in Adelaide, Dev Patel and his friends witnessed a violent altercation that was already in progress outside of a convenience store,” the actor’s representative told Variety. “Dev acted on his natural instinct to try and de-escalate the situation and break up the fight. The group was thankfully successful in doing so and they remained on site to ensure that the police and eventually the ambulance arrived.”
The statement from Patel’s team stressed that “there are no heroes in this situation and sadly this specific incident highlights a larger systemic issue of marginalised members of society not being treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
“The hope is that the same level of media attention this story is receiving (solely because Dev, as a famous person, was involved) can be a catalyst for lawmakers to be compassionate in determining long-term solutions to help not only the individuals who were involved but the community at large,” the statement concluded.
After graduating high school, The Office star John Krasinski spent six months in Costa Rica where he had a life-altering experience as a teenager.
“One of the places I went was this amazing beach called Manuel Antonio that I didn’t realise had an insane riptide,” he told Playboy in 2018. “While I was swimming there—this is a story I’ve never told anybody—this Costa Rican girl and an American guy were swimming right next to me, and we were knee-deep. I went underwater for a second, and when I came back up he was screaming at the top of his lungs. Literally in three seconds the girl had been swept 150 yards out.”
Fortunately, Krasinski’s mother was a lifeguard and had taught him to swim from a very young age. “In that moment, I didn’t ask anyone. There was no one to help me. I just went out and tried to save her,” he continued. “And then of course when I got out there, I was in a crosscurrent with her. It was one of those moments of ‘Oh my God, you just made a poor choice and it might cost you your life.’ ”
But Krasinski’s survival instincts kicked in and he managed to get the girl “within 20 yards or so of the shore” when other surfers swam out to help them the rest of the way. “Granted, not everybody needs to have life-or-death experiences, but that changed my entire life. All of a sudden I grew up,” the actor said.
In August 2011, Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet saved space tycoon Richard Branson’s 90-year-old mother, Eve, when a fire broke out at his $70 million private residence in the British Virgin Islands with 20 people inside.
“I’d just about got outside and the rain was pouring down and I didn’t have my contact lenses in, but I was making my way out and Kate and her two children were behind me,” Eve told The Observer in 2014. “Then she just sort of picked me up and took me down four steps and that was it. I’m sorry, I can’t make a story out of it.” She continued, “I suppose I might have been a bit slow for her.”
Well, in Winslet’s defence, it takes a lot of quick thinking when you’re surrounded by flames—even if it’s making sure that people aren’t held up behind others!
Leonardo DiCaprio may not have bode well with large boats on Titanic but that’s not the case for the actor in real-life. On 30 December 2019, DiCaprio and his girlfriend Camila Morrone were vacationing with friends on a rented boat when they heard an emergency call reporting about a man who had drunkenly fallen overboard from a yacht.
DiCaprio’s boat happened to be in the same area when the man was spotted and rescued in rough water. “Leo and his friends and their boat captain decided to join the search and their efforts resulted in helping save a man’s life,” a source told People. “It was reported that the man had been treading water for 11 hours. The boat crew was happy to try and assist—even more so that they were able to help get the man to safety.”
In April 2012, The Notebook star Ryan Gosling rescued a lady in Manhattan from being hit by a taxi. “I literally, literally just got saved from a car by Ryan Gosling. Literally. That actually just happened,” British journalist Laurie Penny first tweeted, setting off a Twitter frenzy.
“I was crossing 6th Avenue in a new pink wig. Not looking the right way because I am from London,” she continued. “Ryan Gosling grabbed me away from a taxi.” You’ll be a bit sad to hear that Gosling didn’t go, “Hey, girl.” However, he did say, “Hey, watch out!”
When she’s not helping fund vaccine research or supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, Dolly Parton is literally out there rescuing lives herself. While filming Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square, the country music star reportedly saved her nine-year-old co-star, Talia Hill, by pulling her away from the path of an oncoming vehicle.
“We were on set, and I was at the hot chocolate station, and they said ‘Go back to your beginning positions’,” Hill said in an interview with Inside Edition. “So, there [was] a vehicle moving, and I was walking, and somebody grabbed me and pulled me back—and it was Dolly Parton.”
The nine-year-old continued by stating how Parton told her: “Well, I am an angel, you know,” a reference to her role in the Netflix film. “I was in shock, she hugged me and shook me and said, ‘I saved your life!’. And my mom’s going, ‘Yes, you did, Dolly Parton. Yes, you did!’.”
With Shark Week 2022 in full swing, deep sea predators have now gripped our Instagram timelines and Facebook feeds alike. Every year, the week-long marathon of shark-related programming on Discovery Channel reminds audiences around the world of the dangers lurking in the oceans which they oh-so-adore.
While some enthusiasts binge the programme like there’s no tomorrow—complete with shark-inspired decor and even cutlery—others retreat further into the safety cities have to offer from the predators. But this is not the case for some famous celebrities. From being stuck in the same cage with a great white to falling straight into the mouth of an apex predator, more than a handful of public figures have gotten up close and personal with sharks. Let’s recount eight of them today, shall we?
In 2006, Wolf of Wall Street star Leonardo DiCaprio was taking part in an underwater expedition in Cape Town, South Africa, when his wholly-rational fear of sharks was tested to the extreme after he came face-to-face with a great white.
“I had a huge fear of sharks, and when I did Blood Diamond in 2006 I actually got stuck in a cage with a great white, which was awesome,” he said during a 2014 interview with Ellen DeGeneres. “It was a gigantic great white… They actually said in 30 years this has never happened, but the tuna kind of got stuck on the top of the cage and the great white leapt out and tried to bite it and went into the cage with me. Half of its body was in and out, and I flattened down at the bottom, and it was this far away, and it chomped a few times but I survived it.”
Former TV lifeguard David Hasselhoff had a terrifying run-in with a tiger shark, one of the most dangerous predators living in the ocean, while filming David Hasselhoff’s Sharkwatch, a series of films for The Underwater Channel. Speaking to Britain’s Hello! Magazine, the Baywatch star recalled the incident by stating: “Suddenly, a tiger shark loomed towards me—a big girl, around 10 foot long. Although I’m 6 foot and no lightweight, I felt as if I appeared nothing more than a snack to her.”
“She opened her huge mouth. All I could see were rows of white razor-sharp teeth,” he continued. “I held out the bait, hoping that would keep her happy. I admitted to Mark [the show’s expert] that I’d been more scared than I’d ever been when the shark had opened her mouth.” Luckily, Hasselhoff’s trick with the bait worked and he was able to escape the tiger shark unscathed.
In 2016, John Krasinski opened up about a time he and his wife Emily Blunt had a close encounter with a shark while 100 feet deep in the ocean during their honeymoon. “Emily never wanted to learn scuba diving and I was like, ‘We’ll never get into trouble with sharks’,” Krasinski said on an episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. “All of a sudden one broke off from the circle and started swimming behind us. I saw it and Emily didn’t. He started to charge [at] Emily, so my decision was, ‘If I spook her and she moves a lot, he might bite her’.”
Krasinski then decided to roll with it and the shark eventually ended up swimming by the actress. But when the Devil Wears Prada star realised what had happened, “she kind of passed out underwater.”
“All of her air just went to the top,” Krasinski said. “It was pretty scary.”
While appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live, American actress Hayden Panettiere called herself a shark magnet—claiming that anytime she’s in the ocean, be it paddleboarding or swimming, a shark appears out of thin air. The Scream 4 star then went on to describe a particularly scary experience while scuba diving.
“This safety diver got in to take pictures of my brother and my mom, and they had their fins on. And when the shark comes too close, you put your fins in their face, and I didn’t have my fins on. And, all of a sudden, they start going, ‘Shark, right behind you’,” Panettiere said.
“I swam for my life… They were yelling at us because the worst thing to do is to swim away from the shark and make all the splashing,” she continued. “I was like, ‘Guys, you yelled shark… How else do people react?’ I practically walked on water back to the boat.”
During Shark Week 2020, Will Smith faced one of his biggest fears by agreeing to swim with the ocean’s apex predators. The actor, 51 years old at the time, appeared on a Discovery Channel special called Will Smith: Off the Deep End and swam with a tiger shark—later revealing that he was so terrified of them that he didn’t learn to swim until he was in his 40s.
“I blame Steven Spielberg,” Smith was heard saying in the programme, referring to the director’s 1975 hit film, Jaws. “I was literally scared in the bathtub. I literally felt like a shark could come out of the spout.” But the Bad Boys star added that he’s become more determined to conquer his fears as he’s gotten older. “I am a firm believer that fear creates the greatest atrocities and evils that have ever been committed on this planet,” he said.
Smith then went on to admit how the experience changed him fundamentally. “There was Will Smith before the sharks and there is Will Smith after the sharks,” he concluded.
While on a break from filming Disney Channel’s Teen Beach Movie, Ross Lynch decided to have some fun and go snorkelling off the coast of Puerto Rico. The star had headed out into the water with his friends when a shark—that Lynch described as being “a good enough size to take a limb”—approached and gave them a real scare.
“We were snorkelling for three hours, so we were a bit far out and a shark started swimming up to us. And we all freaked out and… held on to each other real close,” Lynch explained. Luckily for the actor and his friends, the predator showed no interest in them and swam back into the deep.
Australian actor Ryan Kwanten is no stranger to blood and bites. In an episode of Esquire Network’s The Getaway, the star highlighted how he’s also a shark attack survivor. When he was just 12 years old, Kwanten had a terrifying experience with a shark off the coast of Sydney, Australia which made him give up a possible surfing career.
“I fell off the top of a wave and put my hand down, expecting to get the sandbank, and it went straight into the mouth of a shark… [but] it was a wobbegong shark; it’s got more gums than teeth… I didn’t get bitten, I got gummed [but] there are scars to prove it,” he admitted.