Stage names in the US and foreign countries

It seems like in the US the incidence of aspiring actors/actresses who change their birth name to a more “marketable” stage name has declined. I have no facts to back this up, just the feeling that over the years the importance of an “American-sounding” (Anglo-Irish?) name has declined. For the first half of the century at least, “foreign-sounding” names were routinely Anglicized or flat out changed to something more in line with the dominant US culture. E.g., in the old days, a Malkovich or Buscemi would have been “encouraged” by a studio to change his name to Miller or Butler. Nowadays it seems we have progressed beyond that.

So, my question is, did this name-change phenomenon occur in foreign countries as well? Did people who aspired to fame on the stage and screen change their names to be more reflective of that country’s dominant ethnic group? Or is this phenomenon unique to the US?

And is my original supposition correct, that the US has become more progressive in this matter, or do studios still routinely rename aspiring performers?

I thought that most name changes now come from the performer’s themselves because of union regulations.

Actor Richard Hatch (of Battlestar Galactica) is wary that “Survivor” Richard Hatch is going to cause some confusion.

Craig T. Nelson added the T because there already was a Craig Nelson in SAG. Michael Keaton was born Michael Douglas and ended up having to change his name because Michael Douglas’ father decided to change his name.

I have no idea if there are more or fewer name changes among European actors. It probably depends upon rates of surname frequency.

Good point re: the union regulations. But your example of the Douglas family reinforces what I was asking. IIRC, Kirk Douglas changed his name (or had it changed for him) from Issur Danielovitch. Would he have to, or choose to, change it today?

Zeljko Ivanek didn’t feel the need to change his name when he came to the US. I don’t know how old he was when he moved.

Phil Hartman was born Phil Hartmann and changed his name presumably to make it easier to spell.

There are probably other examples like this today, but it probably doesn’t happen as often today.

I’ve heard this also accounts for some of what appears, to the uninitiated, to be unbearably cute respellings of everyday names. For instance, the actor who played the
nearsighted kid in “Unforgiven” was listed in the credits as
“Jaimz” something or other.

> Kirk Douglas changed his name (or had it changed for him) from Issur Danielovitch. Would he have to, or choose to, change it today?

He probably still might change it, since the original is harder to remember & spell.

If the Richard Hatch from Survivor wants to become an actor, he’ll probably start using his middle initial or bill himself as Rich Hatch.

What about people who changed their names to something more complicated, such as Engelbert Humperdinck? His real name is Arnold Dorsey.

A talented musician in the UK by the name of Quentin Cook changed his name to something more “showbiz” before embarking on a successful career with several bands and solo projects. I was never quite sure why he chose the name he did; Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim) doesn’t really sound much better to me.

Which is more memorable - Arnold Dorsey, or Engelbert Humperdinck?

Kevin B.

Some non-Americans who changed their names (and their birth names):
Elton John (Reginald Dwight)
Boy George (George O’Dowd)
Richard Burton (Richard Jenkins, Jr.)
Michael Caine (Maurice Joseph Mickelwhite)
Charo (Maria Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza)

Man! What a mouthful!

And that name’s pretty big, too. :wink:

Martin Sheen’s real name is Estévez (I believe his father was from northern Spain). I saw him in an interview where he explained that he changed it because he perceived he would get nowhere with a Spanish name. he also observed times have changed and his son Emilio Estévez has kept his name.

>> Maria Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza

I am skeptical about this name. In Spanish the standard is you have a given name and two family names (mother and father (Which by the way, makes more sense to me than the English way but that’s another story).

You can have a compound given name (in other words two or more) but more than two is just an affectation (like the guy who gave his son all the names of a soccer team) and uncommonly a family name can also be compound. So, say MAria-Rosario Martínez-Molina Baeza would be very uncommon but possible. Maria Rosario as given names, martínez Molina the father’s family name and Baeza the mother’s family name. As I say, this would be VERY unlikely but possible. But as originally written that is a joke. Nobody would go by that name in real life

It’s the Screen Actors Guild that requires all of its member to have unique names. The earliest example of this was Stewart Grainger, whose real name, James Stewart, was already taken. Michael J. Fox needed the J. because of another Michael Fox.

But the days when a performer was expected to change his or her name is long past. Malkovich may have been OK in the old days (though as a character actor, not a star), but when you see names like Lolita Davidovich of Fyvish Finkel, you know things have changed.

Some people still take stage names for various reasons, but it’s not all that common.