Home Veterans 10 Surprising Marines Who Became Actors

10 Surprising Marines Who Became Actors


For some, service in the military is a life-long ambition and goal. For others, it helps to make life clearer. Still for others, it’s a civic duty at a critical time in the nation’s history. Regardless of the reason, the time in the Corps leaves an indelible mark on those who have served in its ranks. It’s no different for Marines who become actors after they take off the uniform. Enjoy these 10 surprising Marines who became successful actors on TV and film:

Gene Hackman

Gene Hackman Marine
Photo from Wikipedia

Even though he’s well known for his roles as an admiral in Behind Enemy Lines and a submarine captain in Crimson Tide, Gene Hackman spent time as a Marine. When he left home at 16, he lied about his age, joined up, and served for four years as a radio operator.

Harvey Keitel

Harvey_Keitel_Cannes_2015 Marine
Photo from Wikipedia

Also joining the Marines at 16, Harvey Keitel served in Lebanon during Operation Blue Bat in 1958. He’s best known for his roles in Taxi Driver and Reservoir Dogs. Interestingly, he was originally cast as Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now, but was replaced after artistic differences. He also supports a mandatory draft, once saying, “We, the people, should participate in the privileges we have in this democracy that we live in, and we should all share in the dangers and the risks with our lives to protect the freedoms that we have.”

Don Adams

Don Adams Marine
Photo from Wikipedia

Born Donald  Yarmy, Don Adams served as a Marine in World War II, contracting malaria during the Battle of Guadalcanal. While he began his acting career as a stand-up comic, Adams is best known and most loved for his character Maxwell Smart, a bumbling secret agent in the TV show Get Smart.

David Eigenberg

amd-marine-david-eigenberg-jpgDavid Eigenberg enlisted in the Marine Reserves and found that his time as a Marine left a deep impression on him.  Best known for his role as Miranda’s husband, Steve, on Sex and the City, Eigenberg is now a principle character in NBC’s Chicago Fire. Eigenberg is married to his wife, Chysti, who he met at a USO gala event at Fort Monroe, Virginia, where she was an Army specialist.

Barry Corbin- WarGames

Barry_Corbin_1993Barry Corbin, best known for his role as Maruice Minnifield on Northern Exposure, spent time as a Marine before pursuing his acting career. He left Texas Tech University and spent two years at Camp Pendelton where he trained South Vietnamese officers. He moved back to Texas and served in the USMC Reserve’s 40th Rifle Company in Lubbock.

Glenn Ford

Glenn FordA close friend of William Holden, Glenn Ford was already pursuing a career in acting when World War II interrupted his plans. Joining the USMC during the 40s, eventually left the military as a captain in the Naval Reserve. Ford had a 50-year career in movies including those such as 3:10 to Yuma, The Blackboard Jungle, and Gilda. He was awarded Legion d’Honneur and given the rank of Knight of the Legion of Honor by France to honor his contributions during World War II.

Christopher George- The Rat Patrol

Christopher GeorgeAnother future actor who lied to enlist in the Marines, Christopher George’s fabricated date of birth (1929), which was a year older than his actual date of birth, followed him for most of his career. George was the skipper for a crash boat and was a gunner on rescue aircraft during the Korean War. He originally had a 3-year enlistment, but ended up serving another year.  In acting, George is known for acting alongside John Waye in The Train Robbers, El Dorado, and Chisum.

Drew Carey

Drew Carey MarineThe host of Whose Line is it Anyway? and star of The Drew Carey Show enlisted in the Marine Reserves for six years.  After his service, he began his comedy career as a stand-up comedian. Now, he hosts The Price is Right and keeps sick kids who are home from school company.

Jacques “Jock” Mahoney

Jock-mahoneycolourJock Mahoney enlisted in the Marines and served as a fighter pilot and instructor during World War II. After the war, he was a stunt man who doubled for the likes of Hollywood notables John Wayne, Gregory Peck, and Errol Flynn. In addition to a long career in film and television, he was Tarzan in 2 movies and played the lead in the TV series The Range Rider.

George Peppard

George_Peppard_(1964)George Peppard is best known for 2 roles: Audrey Hepburn’s love interest in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith on the popular TV series The A-Team. He joins the list of Marines who enlisted before 18—he was 17.

Surprised by some of these familiar (and not-so-familiar) faces? If you’re a movie and television buff, make sure that you read our next installment of more talented, successful actors and actresses who spent time serving our country as Marines.


Jo My Gosh writer and military spouseJo is the author of Jo, My Gosh! a blog about her journey as a newlywed military wife. When she’s not working from home, she’s writing, reading, trying new recipes, watching sports or cross stitching. Catch her on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook and say hi!

If you have any problems viewing this article, please report it here.


  1. […] The journeys that people take to success never cease to amaze me. We rarely find out how celebrities, artists, and athletes rise to fame. And yet, as evidenced by these 12 Marines, so many of them are influenced by the experiences and opportunities of their youth. After reading about them, it’s hard not to see how the Marines shaped their future careers as actors. Don’t miss out on the first series featuring 10 more! […]

  2. You missed …
    Bea Arthur
    Bradford Dillman
    John Doman
    Adam Driver
    Dale Dye
    Ronald “R.” Lee Ermey
    Mike Farrell
    Christopher George
    Scott Glenn
    Sterling Hayden
    Louis Hayward
    Bob Keeshan
    Brian Keith
    Dan Lauria
    William Lundigan
    Jock Mahoney
    Lee Marvin
    Alvy Moore
    Gerald S. O’Loughlin
    Hugh O’Brian
    Charles Portis
    Ralph Waite
    Burt Young
    and …. more


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here