Fans love celebrities for their good looks and awesome performances. After witnessing their iconic roles, it’s tough to imagine your favorite celebs doing anything else.
However, some of your favorite celebs could have changed the world without a Hollywood career. Why? Because they are secretly geniuses!
Here’s a look at our favorite secret geniuses in the world of acting.
1. Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman is arguably best known for starring in sci-fi blockbusters. She portrayed Padme Amidala in the Star Wars prequels, and she’s returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe to don the mantle of Thor in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder.
Behind the blaster and the hammer, though, is a real genius. Portman went to Harvard under a fake name, earning a degree in psychology. Portman ended up sharing those smarts with the world via two peer-reviewed scientific publications, one written while she was still in high school.
Oh, and did we mention she speaks 6 languages?
2. Conan O’Brien
Conan O’Brien achieved worldwide fame as a funny man. He has hosted multiple late-night TV shows that helped usher in a new age of comedy. But he has a big brain hiding behind all those big laughs.
Not only did Conan attend Harvard, but he graduated magna cum laude. He even wrote a senior thesis of literary analysis where he dissected Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner.
It turns out his ability to critique our shared culture extends far beyond the late-night comedy.
3. Lisa Kudrow
Lisa Kudrow became famous for playing the ditzy Phoebe on the hit TV show Friends. However, that airheaded persona hides a real scientific mind.
Kudrow attended the prestigious Vassar College, and her focus was on hard science. She graduated with a degree in psychobiology and helped her migraine specialist father with a worldwide study. She helped with his research for over eight years and seemed destined to follow in his footsteps as a researcher.
However, success as an actress changed her destiny forever.
4. Ken Jeong
To put it mildly, Ken Jeong has played some fairly silly roles. He played a wild party man in The Hangover trilogy and a disgruntled college professor on Community. In real life, though, you can trust him with your life!
Ken Jeong is a genuine medical doctor. He completed medical school at Chapel Hill and finished a residency in New Orleans. Jeong actually treated patients by day and did stand-up by night, but when his comedy career took off, he left medicine behind.
5. David Duchovny
David Duchovny is best known for playing the alien-hunting FBI agent Fox Mulder on X-Files. And, of course, as the skirt-chasing writer Hank Moody on Californication. As it turns out, Duchovny almost became a genius writer in real life!
The actor earned a bachelor’s in English from Princeton and a master’s in English literature from Yale. He actually started a Ph.D. program in English at Yale before focusing on his acting career.
6. Mayim Bialek
Sometimes, genius celebrities are hiding in plain sight. For example, Mayim Bialek plays one of the geniuses on Big Bang Theory. But she’s the only one who doesn’t just play a big brain on TV!
This former Blossom star actually has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience. She even finished this prestigious degree while she was acting on Big Bang Theory. Of the entire cast, she’s the only one that will still be a “doctor” long after the show is over.
7. Sharon Stone
It’s safe to say Sharon Stone’s roles emphasize beauty more than brains. She’s made audiences very hot under the collar in a number of roles, including an absolutely iconic performance in Basic Instinct.
However, she is not only super-smart, but she has been from a very young age. She got a scholarship to Edinboro University at the tender age of 15 years old.
That’s right: Sharon Stone was taking college classes when most of us were just entering high school!
8. James Franco
James Franco has built an entire career on silly comedy. Despite the occasional serious role like 127 Hours, audiences mostly associate him with crazy comedy films such as Pineapple Express and This Is the End.
One thing the actor does take seriously, though, is college education! After graduating UCLA, Franco attended grad school at Columbia University, New York University, and Brooklyn College… all at the same time! He received a Master of Fine Arts from Columbia, and started a doctoral program in English at Yale in 2010.
9. Kate Beckinsale
Kate Beckinsale has had a surprising breadth of onscreen performances. Nonetheless, she is best known for donning a skintight leather suit and hunting down vampires and other creatures in the Underworld series of films.
However, inside the leather is a brilliant mind. Beckinsale studied both Russian literature and French literature at Oxford University. And she took these studies very seriously: she is completely fluent in Russian, French, and German.
10. Dolph Lundgren
Dolph Lundgren knows what it’s like to be typecast. This tall, muscular actor spent most of the 1980s and 1990s playing villains in films like A View to a Kill and Rocky IV. In all of these roles, though, he comes across as a mostly dimwitted tough guy.
In real life, though, that physique hides a hell of a mind. He got a master’s in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney and then got a Fulbright scholarship to attend MIT.
However, he ended up quitting his MIT program and focusing on acting… a decision that certainly worked in his favor! He once said, “My problem is that people get intimidated by someone big and beautiful like me. They hate to think I can be smart as well.”