Celebrity Actors and Their College Majors
Ever wondered what major Hollywood stars studied at college? Sure, most were drama majors, and more than a few attended schools that specialize in performing arts. However, some stars did study “regular” subjects and were working toward “regular” jobs before they got their big break. Here are a few notable examples and their alma maters, in no particular order.
Ashton Kutcher. Known mostly for being a comic actor and prankster, Kutcher was once a very earnest student at the University of Iowa, where he studied biochemical engineering with the hope of developing a cure for his brother’s heart problem.
Kate Beckinsale. Just before her big-screen break in Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing,Beckinsale was studying French and Russian literature at Oxford. Evidently, Beckinsale believed this would give her greater range as an actress. Think: werewolf huntress.
Reese Witherspoon. Famous for playing a Harvard girl in Legally Blonde, Witherspoon was actually a Stanford girl — at least for a year — where she studied English literature.
Courteney Cox. This erstwhile Friend once studied interior design and architecture at Mount Vernon College for Women. (Perhaps that’s where “Monica” first kindled her obsessive cleanliness and her infatuation with domestic spaces.)
Eva Longoria. Long before she was a desperate housewife, Longoria was a student at Texas A&M University-Kingsville where she completed a degree in kinesiology in 1998. Ultimately, Longoria opted not to become a physical therapist and instead put kinesiology — the study of body movement — to work on Wisteria Lane.
Ray Romano. This Everybody Love’s Raymond star was almost everybody’s favorite taxman. That’s right, before getting his big break, Romano attended Queens College in Flushing, New York, where he intended to study accounting.
Halle Berry. Before she was the first African-American to represent the United States in the Miss World competition — and long before she was Catwoman — Berry studied broadcast journalism at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio.
Incidentally, the man Berry once claimed to have a crush on — George Clooney — also majored in journalism, though apparently most of his time was spent on, ahem, other college activities.
Will Ferrell. While many people know this actor for his portrayal of Ron Burgundy, anchorman extraordinaire, most people don’t know Ferrell actually studied to be a real anchorman at the University of Southern California, where he completed a degree in sports broadcasting in 1989.
Maggie Gyllenhaal. Though an accomplished actress, many people are familiar with Gyllenhaal for her comments after 9/11 that the United States was “responsible in some way” for the attacks. Interesting to note that her perspective was likely influenced by her study of Eastern religions at Columbia University. (She received her degree in 1998.)
Incidentally, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maggie’s brother, also studied Eastern religions at Columbia, though never finished.
Gwyneth Paltrow. She played a bookish English professor in Possession and other literary characters such as Emma and Estella from Great Expectations, but apparently Paltrow’s real interest — at least when she went to UC Santa Barbara — was art history.
Kevin Costner. Before he was Eliot Ness, Robin Hood, Wyatt Earp, and, well, the Mariner from Waterworld,Costner was a student at California State University at Fullerton, where he graduated with a degree inbusiness in 1978. Costner even worked for a marketing firm after graduation.
Ashley Judd. Anyone who follows college basketball has probably seen Ashley Judd cheering in the stands at University of Kentucky basketball games. As a student, Judd majored in French, with minors inanthropology, art history, theater, and women’s studies. After leaving school in 1990 just one course shy of graduation, Judd finally graduated last month.
Sean Penn. Made famous by attending Ridgemont High, Penn actually attended Santa Monica College, where he studied auto mechanics and speech.
Tommy Lee Jones. This Oscar-winner and Texas native is also an alumnus of Harvard University, where he completed a degree in English in 1969, and was roommates with John Lithgow and former Vice-President Al Gore.
Incidentally, Harvard boasts at least one more Oscar-winning English major — Matt Damon — who left school in 1992 just three classes shy of graduation.
Brad Pitt. Legend has it that before Brad Pitt was, well, Brad Pitt, he once aspired to be a famous journalist. Pitt studied journalism at the University of Missouri but dropped out just two credits shy of graduation.
Another mega-actor that studied journalism, graduating with a degree from Fordham University in 1977 —Denzel Washington.
Tim Allen. Though marred by his well-documented problem with cocaine, for which he served two years in prison, this Tool-Time star did in fact graduate from Western Michigan University in 1976 with a degree incommunications as well as minors in — *manly grunt* — philosophy and design.
Forest Whitaker. Granted, this Academy-Award winning actor did graduate in 1982 from the University of Southern California with a degree in drama, he was initially accepted to the Music Conservatory to studyopera as a tenor.
And finally … Benjamin Welch. Renowned for his break-out performance as the Mayor of Munchkin City in American Fork High School’s production of The Wizard of Oz, Welch later studied comparative literatureat Brigham Young University, where he completed a master’s degree in 2005.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Benjamin Welch has been a college instructor in writing and composition for nearly six years. When he’s not teaching or playing golf, he offers advice for students seeking information about online education andonline degrees.
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