Many people seem to believe that modern day celebrities are egocentric, self-entitled narcissists with little to no regard for us regular folk. In some cases, that’s most definitely true — who can forget the time Christian Bale verbally abused Terminator Salvation director of photography Shane Hurlbut for nearly four straight minutes after he accidentally ruined a take? There’s no denying the fact that some celebs can be complete jerks in real life, but that’s not always the case.
Sometimes, the rich and the famous are surprisingly humble IRL, going out of their way to sign autographs and pose for selfies. Taking time out of their often busy schedules to interact with fans is indeed commendable, however there’s a select group of celebrities that have gone above and beyond to help others. From TV doctors who became real life saviors to Hollywood A-listers who performed daring rescues, the following stars have all saved lives.
Performing CPR is NBD for Matthew McConaughey
Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey was in the right place at the right time for one fortunate woman at the 2001 Toronto Film Festival. During a screening of McConaughey’s film Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, the woman began suffering a seizure. The actor leapt into action and "ultimately saved her," Toronto police confirmed (via The Guardian). The handsome Texan is known for being super laid back, and his reaction to the praise heaped upon him following the incident was typically nonchalant.
"It was no big deal, she needed help and I was there," McConaughey said. "Someone was saying they needed a doctor and this woman had a seizure and she wasn’t breathing, and I gave her mouth-to-mouth because I had been trained on how to do it." The humble-as-heck actor deflected all plaudits, but McConaughey’s co-star Amy Irving insists he was a "hero" that day. "He did something when the rest of us didn’t know what to do." Ironically, Thirteen Conversations About One Thing is a film about the chaotic nature of life’s events, including how "bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people," according to Roger Ebert. It’s a good thing life didn’t imitate art on this occasion.
T.I. saved a fellow musician’s life
T.I.’s past is more colorful than his wardrobe, but he isn’t such a bad guy — in fact, he has a habit of saving lives. In 2010, the rapper-turned-actor was on his way to a video shoot when he heard that a man planned to jump from a nearby building. "Something in me just said, ‘Man, you gotta try and help," T.I. said (via Rolling Stone). He recorded a video message that police played for the would-be jumper, and it convinced him to come in from the ledge. T.I. also saved the life of Creed frontman Scott Stapp in remarkably similar circumstances.
Stapp was severely injured after a 20-foot fall from a hotel balcony following a multi-day drug binge. Exactly how that fall occurred is a bit in dispute, as Stapp described it in his memoir, Sinner’s Creed, as an accident, while T.I. later told GQ that the rocker was attempting "to jump." Regardless, Stapp, who had life-threatening injuries, including a fractured skull, allowed T.I. to call for help. The "Higher" singer later told TMZ that he "loves" his unlikely savior, describing the rapper as someone who has "a good heart" and "does good things."
Harrison Ford is a savior from the sky
Internet rumors have pegged Harrison Ford as being a bit of a jerk in person, but the Indiana Jones star has proven that, when it really matters, he’s a genuine good guy. In 2000, hiker Sarah George succumbed to altitude sickness and dehydration while climbing Table Mountain in Idaho. Another hiker called for help and, amazingly, it was Ford who came to the rescue. An experienced pilot, Ford was able to swoop in and chopper the stranded 20-year-old to safety. "I can’t believe I barfed in Harrison Ford’s helicopter," George said (via ABC).
The following year, Ford came to the rescue of 13-year-old Boy Scout Cody Clawson after he got himself lost near Yellowstone National Park. Ford once again volunteered his services, locating the lost child in just two hours. "He said, ‘Good morning,’ and I recognized [his voice] because he said it just like he did in Star Wars," Clawson recalled (via ABC). "He asked how I was doing and said, ‘You certainly should have earned a merit badge for this.’" The word "cool" doesn’t even cover it.
Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne saved someone with a bad critique
Speaking of jerks who aren’t really jerks, next up we have Simon Cowell. The reality TV mogul is well-known for not holding back with his appraisals of would-be singers, and it turns out this approach actually did one X Factor contestant a huge favor. In 2007, a hopeful named Jacqui Gray auditioned on the UK version of the show, and Cowell told her that her voice sounded very strange. Fellow judge Sharon Osbourne picked up on this as well, and both she and Cowell urged Gray to see a doctor, which she did. It turned out she had a potentially fatal lung infection.
"I was diagnosed with bronchiectasis and told if I had not got it seen to, it could have killed me," the mother-of-two told The Mirror. "I want to thank them both. I may not have got through X Factor but they gave me something much more important than that … they really did save my life." Cowell admits to having mellowed out since becoming a father, but his bluntness was actually a blessing in disguise in this case.
Mark Harmon risked his own life to save a teen
Mark Harmon‘s NCIS character is notoriously methodical, but in real life, the actor doesn’t hesitate when someone is in danger. In 1996, a car crashed and caught fire near Harmon’s Brentwood home. When he realized someone was trapped inside he jumped into action, smashing the window with a sledgehammer and pulling the 16-year-old to safety. The teen suffered third-degree burns and was hospitalized for months, but he survived, and he knows just who he has to thank for that.
"I owe everything to him," Colin Specht told CBS in 2013, 17 years after his ordeal. "I have no doubt that I would not be alive. He had more to lose. He had a wife, children, and the career based on his face and his looks." Harmon will always be a hero to Specht, but the actor has played down his bravery. "I won’t take credit for it, because if the car explodes and I’m there next to the car, then you’re talking about two young boys who don’t have a father," he said. Luckily for Harmon and his family, he wasn’t harmed.
Jack Osbourne’s heroics were part of a group effort
Jack Osbourne and Lisa Stelly’s Hawaii wedding went off without a hitch in 2012, but drama is almost guaranteed when it comes to the Osbourne clan. According to his then-wife, Jack (son of fellow life-saver Sharon Osbourne and rock icon Ozzy Osbourne) saved a woman after she got into difficulty in the water. "Really proud of Jack and his friend Tyler who saved a woman on the beach yesterday who’d had a heart attack and drown," Stelly tweeted, adding, "They resuscitated her until the ambulance came."
Some controversy ensued when it transpired that several other people had helped the woman before Osbourne got to her, but if he hadn’t chipped in with some "chest compressions" there’s no telling if she would have made it. "As soon as the EMTs arrived, I backed away and let them take over," Osbourne said in a statement posted to Facebook. "The last thing I want to do is take all of the credit when in fact there were a few people who helped save her life." Osbourne and Stelly divorced in 2019, citing irreconcilable differences.
Saving lives is actually David Lee Roth’s side hustle
Rock legend David Lee Roth has probably helped save more lives than we can fit on this list. In 2004, the New York Post revealed that the Van Halen frontman had started training as a paramedic. Though he was hesitant to discuss it at first, the rocker confirmed that he’d been on "over 200 individual rides" at that point. "Not once has anyone recognized me, which is perfect for me," Roth said. He went to great lengths to remain anonymous (he even cut his famous blond locks off) because he felt any publicity would "diminish" what he was doing.
According to the Post, Roth helped save the life of a Bronx woman by "shocking her back to life with a defibrillator" after she’d suffered a heart attack. "It’s been an eye-opening adventure," the ’80s legend said. His consultant and tutor, Linda Reissman, was full of praise for her famous pupil. "He is very serious," Reissman said. "You would never know you were dealing with a rock-n-roll guy, his commitment really is touching."
Gerard Butler saves both on and off the big screen
Back in 1997, little-known actor Gerard Butler saved a young boy from drowning. Butler and his mother were enjoying a picnic next to the River Tay when they saw 14-year-old Daniel Smith in real trouble. In true action-hero fashion, the Scot dived in and dragged the limp teen onto the riverbank, where a Spanish tourist took over with artificial respiration. "I wouldn’t call myself a hero," a humble Butler said at the time (via Daily Record). "I just acted instinctively. When I brought him out he was lifeless. I’m just glad he’s alright now."
20 years after he saved his life, the Hollywood star spoke at Smith’s wedding via video. "I said, ‘I feel like I’ve been there at all the most important moments of your life: I was there the day you almost drowned and now I’m here for your wedding,’" Butler revealed while promoting 2017’s Geostorm. "It was lovely and kind of taking things full circle, to do that for his wedding."
The ocean was no match for Heidi Klum’s heroics
Supermodel, or superhero? During a 2013 family vacation in Hawaii, German bombshell Heidi Klum rescued her seven-year-old son Henry from the ocean. She then went back into the water and saved two more people. All was well on the beautiful beach until Henry and his two nannies were suddenly swept away by the riptide. Klum and Martin Kristen (her bodyguard/boyfriend at the time) reacted quickly and, luckily, nobody drowned.
"We got pulled into the ocean by a big wave," Klum told Us Weekly. "Of course, as a mother, I was very scared for my child and everyone else in the water." Klum said that Henry is a strong swimmer and was able to get himself to shore after being pulled from the dangerous current, freeing her up to assist his paid helpers. "We were able to get everyone out safely," Klum confirmed. The TV personality suffered a wardrobe malfunction during the dramatic rescue, but nobody’s going to judge her for forgetting to rearrange her bikini when her child is in mortal danger.
Arnold helped a swimmer say ‘Hasta la vista, baby’ to the Grim Reaper
Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t just play the action hero in his movies. Back in 2004, the sitting governor of California and his family took a week-long break in Maui (what is it about Hawaii and celebrity rescues?) when he spotted someone in trouble approximately 100 yards off shore. Undaunted by the distance, Schwarzenegger sprang into action and swam out to the man, who had cramped up and was in real danger of drowning.
"He saw a man in distress in the water and brought him back to the shore," an aide to the former Mr. Universe said (via The Sydney Morning Herald). "The man was hanging onto a boogie board and the governor knew there was something wrong and asked the guy if he was okay." Schwarzenegger, who was 56 years old at the time, told the man to hang on and towed him back to land. The Terminator star advised the shaken civilian to sit for half an hour, which he did. The man recovered, and there was no need for a chopper.
Patrick Dempsey will save you, and duly inform your mother
Patrick Dempsey became a pro at fake-saving lives while playing neurosurgeon Derek Shepherd on Grey’s Anatomy, but in 2012, he did it for real. Dempsey reacted quickly when a Ford Mustang rolled three times and landed inches away from his Malibu home. Crowbar in hand, he rushed out to the car and found the driver (17-year-old Weston Masset) barely conscious. "I was scared for my life," Masset told ABC News (via Yahoo!). "I was upside down." He wasn’t upside down for long, however — the actor pried the door open and freed the trapped teen, who couldn’t quite believe what was happening. "Are you famous?" Masset said, to which Dempsey replied, "Yeah, I’m a doctor."
Once the boy had been airlifted to hospital, Dempsey went ahead and called his mother to let her know what had happened. "He had a certain authority in his voice," Mary Beth Masset said (via People). "I asked if he was a paramedic and he said, ‘No, this is Patrick Dempsey.’ I thought, ‘McDreamy?!’" Perhaps McHero is a more appropriate nickname.
The odds were apparently in the favor of Jennifer Lawrence’s neighbor
Jennifer Lawrence has her critics, but we’ve got irrefutable proof that she’s actually a pretty decent person. The actress made her debut as Katniss Everdeen in 2012, and the training she underwent to play the heroine of The Hunger Games franchise apparently rubbed off on her. That same year, she jumped into action when she witnessed a young woman collapse outside of her Santa Monica home. She and another bystander attempted to revive her, but when she didn’t come to, they called the authorities.
"Jennifer Lawrence and some other locals helped a juvenile female who appeared to have been drinking and was outside an apartment building," Sergeant Richard Lewis of the Santa Monica Police told Us Weekly. "Miss Lawrence and several others waited beside the female until the police and paramedics arrived." While this isn’t the most daring rescue on this list, Lawrence still deserves kudos for her actions. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately "88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes" in the U.S. every year, and this young woman could have easily become another statistic had it not been for J-Law and her quick-thinking neighbors.
Tom Cruise saves on the land, air, and sea
In 1996, Hollywood heartthrob Tom Cruise witnessed 23-year-old Heloisa Vinhas get hit by a car. The actor accompanied the injured woman to hospital and, after learning that she didn’t have insurance, covered her medical bill. "If he’s not Superman, he can be Batman — Batman doesn’t have super powers," the grateful victim told People. That same year Cruise saved the lives of five people while sailing off the coast of Capri. When a nearby vessel caught fire, he sent his skiff over to aid the stranded passengers.
In 2012, a crew member was knocked unconscious after an accident on the set of Oblivion. There were fears he might end up paralyzed or worse if he didn’t receive urgent attention, so Cruise readied his private jet, and had his pilot fly the injured Brit directly to a spinal injury specialist. "Tom had no obligation to put himself out like that," a source told the Mirror. "It really meant a lot to the rest of the people on the set." Cruise sometimes gets a bad rap in Tinseltown, but he’s proven time and again that he’s a genuine hero.
Sean Penn seems to be attracted to natural disasters
When Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans in 2005, Sean Penn was there, attempting to pull people out of the toxic sludge that inundated the city. He offered his services in the face of another natural disaster in 2010. After an earthquake devastated Haiti, Penn quickly arrived on the scene to lend a hand. An eyewitness told TMZ that the actor personally saved a woman and an orphan child. After pulling them from a pile of rubble, he reportedly drove the pair to a makeshift hospital and then took them back to his place to recuperate.
Penn was at it again in 2012, when he visited the flood-hit region of Badin in Pakistan as part of an eight-member delegation of United States diplomats. According to The Express Tribune, the two-time Oscar winner handed out blankets, food, and other items to those that had been affected by massive floods the previous year.
Mila Kunis save a seizure victim from a scary ordeal
Some celebs refuse to even talk to the help, but Mila Kunis isn’t that person. In 2012, the Black Swan actress helped save the life of a 50-year-old man who suffered what a source described to TMZ as a "violent seizure" while he was working at her Los Angeles home. Kunis came to the man’s aid after she witnessed him "choking, coughing up blood and vomiting." While Kunis’ friend called for help, the former That ’70s Show star turned the man’s head to one side so that he wouldn’t choke, and another person shoved a wallet into his mouth to prevent him from swallowing his tongue.
"Paramedics arrived on scene, rushed the man to the hospital, and he’s since made a full recovery," a law enforcement source revealed to the gossip site. Kunis allegedly even "volunteered to ride in the ambulance" with the man, but was told that "it wasn’t necessary."
Danny Trejo saved a kid, but stays humble about it
He’s known for playing "the mean Chicano dude with tattoos" in the movies, but in real life, Danny Trejo has a heart of gold. The actor had a troubled upbringing, growing up in the California prison system. Trejo later spent time in San Quentin where, in a round-about way, he learned how to act. "Knowing that there’s a riot coming, you’re absolutely scared to death with every fiber of your body," he told NPR. "You have to stand there and make everybody think you like it." Today, he’s an actor, a drug counselor, and a genuine hero.
In 2019, Trejo witnessed a road accident that left one of the two vehicles involved overturned. When he realized that a baby was trapped inside the rolled car he jumped into action, crawling in through a broken window. With the help of another bystander, the Machete star managed to free the child and pull him to safety. Speaking to a photographer on the scene (via CNN), Trejo was incredibly humble about his act of heroism. "The only thing that saved the little kid was his car seat," he insisted.