Mobsters and Drug Dealers: Life Imitating Art


It’s been all over the news that 30-year-old Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, the Baltimore resident who played a character of the same name on The Wire, has been arrested in a large-scale drug raid similar to the kind carried out on the show. Pearson, whose legal troubles predated the show, apparently slipped back into her old habits when the show went off the air. This seems to be the latest in a perhaps not-so-strange tendency for the lives of actors to be in some way affected by their art, whether for good or for ill. Sure, we know lots of actors fall in love with each other on set, but what about actors that are inspired to more interesting ends? Click through for our list of actors whose lives have mirrored those of their own characters.

David Duchovny on Californication

Though casting-wise, Duchovny’s rumored sex addiction probably made him the perfect choice to play Hank Moody, the sex-crazed author on Californication, the show’s influence seemed to hurt the actor, not help him. In 2008, after filming was completed for the second season of the Californication, Duchovny checked into a rehab facility for sex addiction. Well, it certainly made watching that season a lot more interesting.

Everybody on The Sopranos

Okay, so just three people. But that’s a lot! In 2001, Robert Iler, the actor who played mobster Tony Soprano’s son on the show, was arrested for armed robbery and possession, acting out his Baby Bing alias by mugging a couple of teenage tourists with his friends. He also let himself get caught in a 2005 underground poker club raid, just for good measure. Next up, Lillo Brancato Jr, who played Matthew Bevilaqua, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after he was involved in a burglary that left an off-duty police officer dead. And lastly, Tony Darrow, who played mob captain Larry Boy Barese (and also had a small role in Goodfellas), recently pled guilty to a 2009 charge of extortion conspiracy. Apparently, he collaborated with the Gambino crime family to beat up a guy who owed money to a loan shark. Some people never learn.

Robert Downey Jr. in Less Than Zero

Robert Downey Jr. is notorious for having started with drugs at a very young age, something that is not wholly unusual for actors. But after his role as the disaffected rich-kid druggie in the 1987 adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero, he spiraled into years of addiction, rehab and relapse. He told the Guardian, “Until that movie, I took my drugs after work and on the weekends. Maybe I’d turn up hungover on the set, but no more so than the stuntman. That changed on Less Than Zero. I was playing this junkie-faggot guy and, for me, the role was like the ghost of Christmas future. The character was an exaggeration of myself. Then things changed and, in some ways, I became an exaggeration of the character. That lasted far longer than it needed to last.”

Colin Firth in Love Actually

In Love Actually, Colin Firth plays Jaime Bennett, who falls for his Portugese housekeeper Aurélia despite their inability to speak the other’s language. In the end, he wins her and her family over by learning Portugese and proposing to her in her own language. Adorably, she has also learnt English, “just in cases.” Aw. But Firth went through something similar in his real life while courting Livia Giuggioli, the Italian director and producer who is now his wife. Her parents were initially against the match, but after he learned Italian to impress them, they warmed up. We know, in this case, it’s more like art imitating life, since Colin Firth married Livia Giuggioli about five years before the Love Actually was made, but it’s just all so cute that we couldn’t help it.

Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side

Bullock won as Oscar for her performance as Leigh Anne Tuohy, who adopts a black son, 17-year-old Michael Oher, in the semi-biographical film. During her Oscar acceptance speech, she thanked mothers “who take care of their children and their babies no matter where they come from.” Soon after, she adopted her own black son, a baby from New Orleans. Regardless of race, saving a baby’s life is worth an award all on its own.

Charlie Sheen on Two and A Half Men

Even though we’re so sick of Charlie Sheen that even mentioning him makes our heads hurt a little, he does (sorry, did) play a hedonistic, abrasive, semi-crazy alcoholic named Charlie on Two and A Half Men, and he seems to be playing one in his life right now too. Not only that, but check out this mashup of indicative fictional moments from his entire career.