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It's Showbuzz: School dunces are top of the class now.

A WHOLE epic cast of Hollywood's top-achieving actors and actresses played the role of dunce in their schooldays.

Many of them dropped out before even graduating from high school.

And one of the world's biggest superstars, James Bond actor Sean Connery, was only 13 years old when he left the classroom for ever. Cher, Demi Moore and Jim Carrey just made it to 16.

Others at the bottom of the class included Nicolas Cage, John Travolta, Roseanne, Olivia Newton-John, Richard Pryor, Roger Moore and Ringo Starr. They may all have left school without a diploma, but they're top of the class with millions of moviegoers - and their bank managers - today.

Sean Connery, once named The Sexiest Man Alive, was just a drifter after leaving school. He polished coffins and posed for art classes. He says: "I grew up with no notion of a career - much less acting."

In his spare time, the 6ft 2ins superstar-to-be, worked at building up his muscles. He came third in a bodybuilding contest - which set him on the road to fame. Sean landed a role in a local stage production of South Pacific.

From there, he went on to a movie career which included seven James Bond films and blockbusters like The Rock, First Knight and Hunt For Red October.

Sultry Demi Moore was best at playing truant when she was at school. She used to hide under a sweetshop counter while her mother searched for her in vain. After leaving school at 16, Demi got a job at a debt collecting agency in Los Angeles.

She admits: "I was fumbling through life. I was cross-eyed and clumsy - an ugly duckling."

The breakthrough for Demi came when she found she had a flair for modelling. She posed nude on the cover of the magazine Oui, and moviemakers sat up and took notice.

Demi began her film career by acting in a low-budget horror movie called Parasite. Today she is one of Hollywood's biggest female earners.

Top actor Jim Carrey was a bright, straight-A student, until misfortune hit his family. When Jim was 14, his father was fired from a well-paying job. So Jim had to help make ends meet by working night shifts in a local factory after being at school all day.

Suddenly, the worn-out schoolboy dropped from being one of the school's brightest pupils to one of its biggest dunces. He dropped out at 16, having been taught a valuable lesson. Jim said later: "I learned that life offers no assurances.

"So you might as well do what you're really passionate about."

Oscar-winning actress and singer Cher was good at writing - as a schoolgirl she practised signing her autograph over and over again. Somehow, she knew this skill would come in useful later.

Cher recalls: "I didn't think I'd be a singer or a dancer. I just thought I'd be famous."

At 16, Cher left home to go to live in Los Angeles. She soon attracted the attention of her new next door neighbour, singer Sonny Bono.

The couple married and, under Sonny's guidance, Cher became a singer. As the double act, Sonny and Cher, their hit tune I Got You Babe sold more than three million copies. Sonny died in a ski-ing accident. Cher is still making hits, such as Believe and movies like Tea With Mussolini.

Like the other "dunces" she is scoring top marks at the box office.
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Author:Durham, Frank
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Sep 19, 1999
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