Making it big as a celebrity, and staying that way, is among the riskiest, unlikeliest and angstiest of life gambles. With the uncertainty that is the daily bread of the film and TV businesses, no wonder stars often feel so helpless, anxious and out of control that, according to psychiatrist Werner Muensterberger in his 2014 study Collecting: An Unruly Passion: Psychological Perspectives, they channel their energies into collecting weird things.
Good doctor Muensterberger calls it “an experiment in self-healing” that reduces the “tension between id and ego.” Make of that tension what you will, but stars, given the resources and the need, sometimes go to extremes to possess what others would walk right past at any garage sale. And with Guillermo Del Toro’s astonishing exhibition currently at the Los Angeles County Museum—room after room of artificial eyes, Goya paintings, life-size Bride of Frankenstein figures—we have a unique opportunity to view up close just how fascinating and bizarre personal collections can be.Take Leonardo DiCaprio. You could make the case that he’s obsessed with collecting supermodels, but he also lusts after super rare action figures from sci-fi and fantasy movies like Star Wars, E.T., and 2001: A Space Odyssey. This raises the question: Does DiCaprio’s jones put him in competition with Ben Stiller, who scours high and low for Star Trek memorabilia to add to his mammoth collection?
We can’t confirm whether Amanda Seyfried talks to the animals, but we’re reasonably sure they don’t talk back: The actress has an extensive private collection of taxidermy. Yikes, paging Norman Bates. Speaking of serial killers, convicted murderer John Wayne Gacy’s paintings have been bought by Johnny Depp, who also digs limited-edition movie-star Barbie dolls and personal items used by Beat writer Jack Kerouac, including a suitcase, sweatshirt, coat and rain hat bought by Depp for over $50,000.
The collecting bug even hits fashion-forward guys like Jay Z, Bradley Cooper and Robert Downey Jr., for whom it’s all about fine watches. But can they compete with Charlie Sheen, who has been known to rock a $700,000 Patek Philippe from his near $6 million stash? Or with John Mayer, who can adorn his wrist with any old Rolex timepiece from his astonishing collection, reportedly valued at $20 million?
Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie are known to collect knives—lots and lots of knives. Don’t say you’re surprised.
Are celebrity collections about trying to create an ordered outpost in a chaotic world? Is it about mere investment? Is it the appeal of a never-ending pursuit? For Tom Hanks, who owns a big collection of fully functioning vintage typewriters, it’s a respect for individuality and a vanished way of life. Hanks nicely summed the collecting bug in a 2013 New York Times opinion piece: “No one throws out typewritten letters, because they are pieces of graphic art with a singularity equal to your fingerprints.”