In 2007, Gabourey Sidibe was studying for a nursing exam in Dobbs Ferry, NY, when her phone rang. Ms. Sidibe had been chosen out of hundreds of young women to play the leading role in a movie called Precious. She'd never acted on film before. Today, she is up for an Academy Award.
Just how unlikely is it to become a movie star?
Using the Ulmer Scale, a list of Hollywood's hottest actors, Book of Odds puts your chances at being a movie star at 1 in 1,505,000. Compared to movie stardom, a person is likelier to be:
- Struck by lightning. Each year, a person's odds of being hit by a lightning bolt are 1 in 835,500. Compared to the odds of being a movie star, becoming a human lightning rod is unsettlingly likely. Not that it's always an either/or situation. Jim Caviezel, best known for his portrayal of Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, is both a movie star and a lightning strike survivor. He was struck in Italy, while filming the Sermon on the Mount scene for The Passion. He reportedly had the realization that he would be struck by lightning several seconds before getting "lit up like a Christmas tree."
- Cryogenically frozen. Alcor, the largest cryonics lab on Earth (based in Scottsdale, AZ), currently houses 90 patients, bathed in liquid nitrogen. It also has almost 1,000 living, paying members who expect to be frozen. With luck, these men and women—scientific advancement providing—will be thawed out someday and have their life functions restored. While the chances of being brought back to life are subject to debate, the chances of being frozen in the first place are perfectly calculable...and they’re higher than the chances of being a movie star. The odds a person who died will be cryogenically frozen at Alcor are 1 in 883,200. Patients currently cryopreserved there include Facts of Life writer Dick Clair and baseball Hall-of-Famer Ted Williams.
- Both syphilitic and too young to drive. Believe it. The odds an adolescent 10 - 14 will be diagnosed with primary or secondary syphilis in a year are 1 in 1,000,000.
- On the No Fly List. Of the more than 400,000 individuals in the US government's Terrorist Screening Database, about 4,000 have been deemed dangerous enough—or at least suspicious enough—for the US No Fly List. Those on the List are barred by law from flying on any flight to, from, or within the United States. Not all of them are US citizens, but enough are to make their odds of being on the List greater than the odds of being a movie star: the odds a US citizen is on the No Fly List are 1 in 960,800.
- Bumped from JetBlue. As a more relatable air-travel example, since the random reader is unlikely to be a suspected terrorist: those flying JetBlue® are extremely unlikely to be involuntarily taken off their flights. It speaks well for the airline. The odds a passenger on JetBlue® Airways will be involuntarily bumped from his or her flight are 1 in 1,127,000. Quite rare—but still a bit likelier than being a movie star.
Rare though it may be, movie stardom does come to ordinary people—take Natalie Hershlag, Julie Smith, Margarita Cansino, or Thomas Mapother IV. They all became movie stars.
We know them today as Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, Rita Hayworth, and Tom Cruise, respectively.
For more information on the Ulmer Scale click here.