Star-Studded Pastimes: The Surprising Hobbies Of 5 Celebrities

From painting queer works of art to collecting vintage typewriters, we explore the interesting hobbies that stars like Lucy Liu and Tom Hanks do during their time off from the red carpet.

There’s a lot more to famous faces than meets the eye. Most people need hobbies to decompress from the daily hustle and bustle of life, and famous stars are no exception. Even celebrities need fun activities to turn to when they’re on break from red carpet appearances, award shows, and press tours.

Some celebrities have some pretty interesting hobbies, too. We’ve covered a few unexpected ones in a past article, like Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio’s shared love for sculpting, as well as Paris Hilton’s frog hunting activities. To the curious looking for more, below are five other celebrities with pretty amazing, albeit surprising, pastimes: 

READ ALSO: Unpredictable Pastimes: 6 Of The Most Unexpected And Unique Celebrity Hobbies

Tom Hanks

Academy award-winning actor Tom Hanks is yet another celebrity with a rather unconventional yet endearing hobby: collecting vintage typewriters. Indeed, Hanks happens to be a fan of the old machines and their solid, metal keys. Hobbies centered around objects with a long history—like fountain pens and typewriters—aren’t particularly rare, but they are quite niche.

Tom Hanks at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival
Tom Hanks at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival/Photo by John Bauld via Wikimedia Commons

According to a May 2023 article by Peter Charalambous of ABC News, Hanks has quite the impressive collection of typewriters, having amassed hundreds of the machines in different colors, brands, and models. The same article also revealed how the actor—in a sweet gesture—sent signed machines from his collection to various typewriter repair shops as gifts.

The actor’s love for typewriters extends well beyond collecting, as he even wrote a collection of short stories featuring the object in 2017, Uncommon Type. He also made an appearance in the 2016 documentary, California Typewriter, which features creatives who still continue to use and love the vintage writers. 

Lucy Liu

Here’s a little-known fact about the effervescent Lucy Liu: she also happens to be an artist whose works have been featured in many exhibitions (including one in 2019, Unhomed Belongings). Perhaps the main reason why not many people know this is because the actress adopted the moniker “Yu Ling,” which is her Chinese name. 

Lucy Liu at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival
Lucy Liu at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival/Photo by Georges Biard via Wikimedia Commons

As Yu Ling, Liu has sold and auctioned her work for prices of up to $70,455, according to the website of her alma mater, the University of Michigan. Though she had been practicing art since 1993, she only revealed her true identity just a few years before 2019. The star has created works in a variety of mediums, though what many of them have in common is their deeply reflective and intimate themes. 

“Protection. Safety. Vulnerability. Introspection. Connection. These are the words Lucy Liu’s art brings to mind,” writes Reena Devi for Artsy. Many of Liu’s more erotic paintings are sapphic in nature, featuring women in acts of passion and quiet affection. 

Steve Martin

Steve Martin isn’t just a gifted comedian and actor who’s brought smiles to his audiences for years—he’s also a pretty serious and talented banjo player. In fact, Martin has been playing the instrument for 60 years, reports Kory Grow of The Rolling Stone. Though some people perceive the banjo to be a casual instrument seen in idyllic country scenes, Martin believes in the instrument deeply, and considers the skill of playing it as “equal to classical musicianship,” according to The Rolling Stone feature. 

Steve Martin (right) with fellow banjo player, Alison Brown (left)
Steve Martin (right) with fellow banjo player, Alison Brown (left)/Photo via Instagram @stevemartinreally

As proof of his deep love for banjo playing, the actor even started “The Steve Martin Banjo Prize” in 2010. Since its launch, the competition has put millions of dollars into the banjo community, with an annual $50,000 award for a master bluegrass or old time banjo player, according to the prize’s website

Martin doesn’t hide his beloved hobby, so those looking to see him in action can certainly do so. He’s posted a number of videos on his official Youtube channel, as well as collaborations with other players like Alison Brown

Idris Elba

When Idris Elba isn’t gracing the silver screen with his smooth, baritone voice and stellar acting chops, he’s mixing some head-bopping tunes as a renowned DJ—yes, seriously. A video featuring his set in Amsterdam has more than six million views on YouTube, and another full set for Radar Radio garnered two million views. He’s still going strong too, with a whole set from Higher Ground Miami Music Week 2023 on Youtube as well, and even performances in Coachella.

Idris Elba and his wife, Sabrina Dhowre Elba
Idris Elba and his wife, Sabrina Dhowre Elba/Photo via Instagram @sabrinaelba

“A good DJ is a vibe-builder; an energy-shifter. I play house music and use the beats to energy-bend,” he explains in an interview with Gentleman’s Journal. “When people go to a club, they’re primed and ready for that environment, but to get a whole crowd tuned into the right frequencies so that everyone’s going ‘Wow’ takes a certain type of skill.”

It does make sense that the man with a golden voice also has some amazing musicality. Interested listeners can also tune into the actor’s official Spotify, IDRIS, with tracks that have millions of views as well. 

Rod Stewart

Singer-songwriter Rod Stewart can do everything, it seems. Besides creating some of the greatest hits of the 1970s to 1990s, the English musician also creates detailed model railways. Yet Stewart’s creations aren’t miniatures one would imagine in toy shops; according to Dave Simpson of The Guardian, his Grand Street & Three Rivers City—a model he based on Chicago and New York—is “a stunningly realistic 139 square-meter (1,500 sq ft) depiction of a mid-20th-century industrialized city.”

Rod Stewart with Jools Holland on piano
Rod Stewart with Jools Holland on piano/Photo via Instagram @sirrodstewart

Though Stewart needed some help setting up the model railway’s electricals, as he reveals to the BBC, he states he built 90 percent of the urban jungle with his own two hands. Not even his busy music career could stop him, as he also worked on skyscrapers and other parts of the city’s scenery while on tour. 

With so much going on in the model train setup, it comes as no surprise that it took Stewart a lot of time to build—23 years, to be exact. “It’s very expensive, but worth it, ’cos it’s my favorite hobby and I work on it every day,” he tells Simpson in a separate The Guardian feature. 

“A lot of people laugh at it being a silly hobby, but it’s a wonderful hobby,” he told the BBC. Full respect to a man who understands the value of having fun, even well beyond childhood. 

Banner photo by Georges Biard via Wikimedia Commons

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