Hollywood 'Stars' and college degrees?

I think I got trumped today by my five-year-old daughter but, for the greater good of parenting, I lied. Or at least I thought I lied - but maybe I didn’t!

We were talking about college today (that in itself is a whole other story) and she told me that she was going to be an actress (this was after she decided to be veterinarian and a jockey, by the way), and that actresses did not NEED to go to college.

I promptly answered that they had to have their ACTING degree. Now I know there are degrees in acting – but really and truly, if we define actors as those on the ‘Walk of Fame’ let’s say - just to narrow the field - how many of our box office billionaires actually have a college degree? I can find the answers for some individuals (I’m pretty sure Anthony Hopkins has a degree in english lit or somesuch), but can anyone find the numbers AS a GROUP?

I’d really, really like to sleep better at night knowing this answer…

[sub]Sheep 1… I lied… Sheep 2… will this scar her for life?.. Sheep 3… Did I lie to my daughter?!.. Sheep 4… what was that noise?.. Sheep 5…[/sub]

Well, this isn’t a very good answer, but here’s everyone in IMDB with ‘graduated’ in their biography.

Robert Vaughn (the Man from U.N.C.L.E.) is said to have a doctorate in communications and political science from USC*.

[sub][sup]*although some sites say he “is working on it” or “has been accepted into the PhD program”[/sup][/sub]

Thanks bradministrator - I only got through about half of the 'A’s and half of them graduated HIGH SCHOOL in 19xx.

:eek: I did lie, oh my gosh I lied… maybe I can sort that list by the super-nova stars and get a better reading?! Nothing like qualitative quantitative results… :rolleyes:

And KarlGauss you’re NOT helping my sleep any, either!!


One of those brothers’ Larry in Bob Newhart show who never spoke is supposed to have a law degree.

I would guess that very few actors actually have an acting degree. A higher percentage probably have arts degrees in something, but I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them don’t.

I think it would be better to talk to her about how difficult acting is for most people, and how little it really pays.

Here’s an excellent summary from the Dept. of Labor Statistics, from which we learn that the average salary for members of the Screen Actor’s Guild is $1,400 per year, and 80% of all members earn $5,000 per year or less.


Larry(Bill Sanderson) was the one with the law degree but the non-speaking brothers on Newhart were Daryl and “my other brother Daryl”.

Sigourney Weaver, Ted Danson, Jennifer Connely and Fred Savage all have degrees from Stanford.

Jodie Foster graduated magna cum laude from Yale in 1985 with a B.A. in Literature.

and some others, from this site

Gillian Anderson
Degree in Fine Arts (B.F.A.) from De Paul University

Cate Blanchett
Economics and Fine Arts degree from University of Melbourne,

Benjamin Bratt
BFA, University of California (Santa Barbara)

Sandra Bullock
Degree in drama at East Carolina University

John Cleese:
Degree in Law from Downing College, Cambridge University.

Glenn Close:
B.A. in theater and speech from William and Mary (Phi Beta Kappa).

Tracy Chapman:
B.A. in anthropology from Tufts University.

Bill Cosby
Doctorate in education from University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Geena Davis
Degree in drama from Boston University

Phil Donahue:
B.A. in theology from University of Notre Dame.

Michael Douglas:
B.A. in pre-law from University of California at Santa Barbara.

David Duchovny:
M.A. in English literature from Yale.

Gloria Estefan:
Psychology degree from University of Miami.

Peter Falk:
B.S. in political science from New School for Social Research in New York; M.B.A. at Syracuse

Roberta Flack:
B.A. in music education from Howard University.

Andy Garcia
Degree in Theatre from Florida International University

Art Garfunkel
B.S. in mathematics and music from Columbia University.

Mel Gibson
Dramatic Arts, University of New South Wales

Hugh Grant
Degree in English Literature from Oxford University.

Tom Hanks
Degree in drama from California State

Ed Harris:
B.Fine Arts (B.F.A.). from California Institute of the Arts.

Hugh Hefner
B.S. in psychology from University of Illinois.

Katharine Hepburn:
B.S. in psychology from Bryn Mawr.

Holly Hunter
Degree in drama from Carnegie Mellon University

William Hurt
Degree in theology from Tufts

James Earl Jones:
B.A. in drama from University of Michigan

Tommy Lee Jones:
B.A. in English from Harvard (cum laude).

Ashley Judd:
Degree in French and arts from University of Kentucky (Phi Beta Kappa).

Kevin Kline
Degree in speech and theatre from Indiana University

David Letterman
Ball State University

Ray Liotta
BFA from University of Miami

John Lithgow:
Harvard graduate (magna cum laude); Fulbright Scholarship; attended London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

Lucy Liu
Degree in Asian languages and cultures from University of Michigan

Ali MacGraw:
B.A. in art history from Wellesley College.

Bill Maher
A.B. from Cornell

Dylan McDermott
Degree in drama from Fordham University

Ed McMahon:
B.A. in speech and drama from Catholic University.

Jim Nabors
B.S. in business administration from University of Alabama.

Bob Newhart:
B.S. in commerce from Loyola University.

Paul Newman:
B.A. in economics and dramatics from Kenyon College.

Edward Norton
Degree in history from Yale

Conan O’Brien:
Degree in history and American literature from Harvard.

Gilda Radner:
B.A. in education from University of Michigan.

Christopher Reeve
A.B. from Cornell

Tim Robbins
Degree in theatre from UCLA

Susan Sarandon
Degree in drama and English from Catholic University of America

David Schwimmer
B.S. in speech/theatre from Northwestern

Brooke Shields
BA (French Literature) from Princeton

Elizabeth Shue
Degree in Political Science from Harvard

Gene Simmons:
B.A. in education (speaks four languages).

Paul Simon:
B. A. in English literature from Queens College.

Jimmy Smits
MFA from Cornell

Wesley Snipes
BA in theatre and dramatic arts from State University of New York-Purchase

Mira Sorvino:
Degree in History from Harvard

Howard Stern:
B. A. in communications from Boston University.

James Stewart:
Degree in architecture from Princeton University.

Meryl Streep:
M. F. A. degree from Yale.

Donald Sutherland:
B.A. in engineering from University of Toronto.

Marlo Thomas:
B.A. in English from University of Southern California; graduated cum laude.

Sela Ward
Degree in art and advertising from University of Alabama

Denzel Washington:
B.A. in journalism and drama from Fordham University

Sigourney Weaver:
M.F.A. from Yale.

Renée Zellweger:
B.A. in English from University of Texas

From Sam Stone’s link:

Aspiring actors and directors should take part in high school and college plays, or work with little theaters and other acting groups for experience.

In any event, the real reason to stay in school rather than running off to be an actor is the same reason you should stay in school instead of running off to be a professional basketball player - because the vast majority of them do not make it in those fields. Banking your entire future on a longshot event just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Ever surprising is the fact that Dolph Lundgren (yes, that Dolph Lundgren) has a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering.

Quite agreed, Sam Stone; but arguing THAT particular logic with a five-year-old (who believes she can fly if she can just get a hold of the ‘right’ pixie dust) wouldn’t have worked. My bottom line was that even actors/actresses have their degrees…

And apparently I didn’t completely pull that from thin air, though at the time I didn’t know whether my claim was substantiated. I’m going to do a little research on specific actors (such as Robin Williams, who she’s seen in quite a few movies) and make it a point to mention it in the next movie we watch… :wink:

AND the links everyone has provided are most helpful; yet again the SDMB is crashing through the barriers of ignorance to shed light on a few mushrooms! :smiley:

La femme de mes rêves, Natalie Portman, is part of Harvard’s class of '03 (majoring in psychology, IIRC).

Perhaps she could counsel Anakin into not turning over to the dark side. :smiley:

I think it would be better to talk to her about how difficult acting is for most people, and how little it really pays.

That’s not going to help a five-year-old. :smack:

I was sixteen before I decided firmly on a career path. Before that I was careening around between artist, musician, veterinarian, horseback rider (showjumping and dressage and stuff), cetacean biologist, and astronaut.

Let the kid have her fantasies. Destroying any of them now is only going to limit her imagination about what she wants to do. Eventually she’ll be old enough to decide on something she loves and wants to do for the rest of her life, regardless of whether it’s hard and requires a lot of work. If you use “it’s hard and it doesn’t pay much” as an excuse, she’ll end up discounting any career possibility that looks like it won’t be easy.

One the other hand, some of the most accomplished actors, including several oscar winners, dropped out of college:

I seem to recall that this was an honorary degree. Do I remember that right? If so, that so does not count. :stuck_out_tongue:

Danson started at Stanford, but transfered to and received his degree from Carnegie Mellon.

College will help an actor, but not really in the way that it helps a rocket scientist.

Taking acting classes in college will not really increase or decrease your chances at getting any given acting job. But they will help you become a better and more knowledgable actor, which is arguable what school really should be about.

The thing that is really more important than classes is taking part in school productions. College is a hotbed of oppertunity to be cast in a play that is looking for college-age kids and expecting the kind of experience that college-age kids have. The more you act, the easier it is to get jobs in the future- both because of experience and because of the people that you meet. College is a great way to get an “in” to the local acting scene.

But it really is a toss-up. College costs money. A degree in theater will not help you get a job in the same way that getting a degree in computer engineering will. The good thing is you don’t really have to worry about your grades- the most important thing is what you learn. The bad thing is that you arn’t getting an automatic advantage over non-college educated people. Your worth still lays more with your talent and experience than with any pieces of paper you may have earned. You have to decide if college is worth it for you personally. I know actors that have chosen either way.

I second that. Think about it, too. If it’s not lying to let her have the fantasy that she can be a famous actress (and I say it’s not), it’s not lying for you to preserve your fantasy that your perfect little girl will finish college, no matter what. :slight_smile:

My younger daughter plans to own a horse ranch when she grows up. She’s going to have a lot of land, and she’s going to design the ranch house herself (it’s going to look like a dragon). She’ll breed horses, give riding lessons, and have a bed and breakfast, and she may homeschool her children, who will help her on the ranch. The first time she brought this up, I thought of all kinds of practical difficulties. Horses are expensive, a ranch house shaped like a dragon would be very impractical to design and build, B&B’s are rarely lucrative… Then I realized what I was doing and cut it out. I do sometimes work a reference into the conversation about the value of a college education for a small businesswoman, but other than that, I let her dream.

When I was 10, I told my mother that I wanted to be a writer. She told me all about how difficult it is to get published, and how you can hardly ever make a living at it, and how I should get some kind of back-up plan so that I could get a real job. All great advice - for a college student. Unfortunately, it’s kind of daunting to have cold water poured on you when you’re little and you’re just starting to dream.

Remember, telling stories isn’t exactly lying. That’ll serve you well in the coming years.