Picture a Hollywood actor with a Ph.D. degree. Dissertations and Hollywood actors are seldom spoken of in the same breath. Every so often we hear of famous actors dropping out of school or college! It then comes as a shocker to hear about our favourite actor or actress getting a master’s or doctorate degree. Because of constantly packed schedules, pursuing further education is a challenge for many. However, the tight schedules have not deterred certain actors from venturing into academia. Some famous dissertations in the past 50 years were, in fact, written by actors! These talented actors and actresses have shown that with commitment and passion you can do it all. Their journey in academia highlights a side of them most of their fans never expected.
So here go 10 famous actors who have written dissertations.
1. Rowan Atkinson
Rowan Atkinson or Mr. Bean, is among the most famous comedians worldwide ever. He has fans all over the globe. Born on January 6, 1955, Rowan Atkinson first gained recognition in 1979. He has been a part of some movie productions including Mr. Bean (which gave him worldwide recognition and what most of us know him for), Four Weddings and a Funeral, Never Say Never Again (which was a James Bond Movie), Blackadder, and Johnny English, among others. Apart from acting, he is a comedian, among the top of his era, and a screenwriter. He also has awards to his name including the Olivier Award and BAFTA (British Academy Television Award for Best Entertainment Performance).
Rowan Atkinson on top of having quite a successful acting career pursued a doctorate. It’s a shocker for a lot of people. Probably because the roles he plays on the television have often portrayed him as dumb. Well, that’s just acting! In the real world, he is quite smart, having graduated with a Master’s Degree in electrical engineering. In 2006, at the Oxford University, he obtained a doctorate after successfully completing his dissertation.
2. Mayim Bialik
Commonly known for her role in the Big Bang Theory where she plays Amy, Mayim Bialik is quite an exceptional woman. Apart from being a very talented actress, she is a holder of a Doctorate in Neuroscience which she received in 2007. The 41-year old actress attributes her interest in academia to a tutor she once had while playing in Blossom. In particular, the biology tutor inspired her love for science. Interestingly, her character in the Big Bang Theory, Amy, is a brilliant biology scientist.
Her dissertation was based on research she conducted on hypothalamic regulation in patients, mainly adolescents with Prader-Willi syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Having joined the acting scene at a very young age, it was unlikely that she would pursue her education to the level that she has. She had opted to leave acting and focus more on academia but chose not to when she was offered the role in the Big Bang Theory. Largely because it was close to her science career. Being a strong advocate for women in science, she used this opportunity to be an inspiration for young women wanting to pursue a career in science.
3. Dolph Lundgren
Dolph Lundgren is a household name in the Hollywood scene, especially when it comes to action movies. The Swedish-born actor stands tall at 6 ft. A number of his acting roles have definitely taken advantage of this. He starred in several films, including Kindergarten Cop, The Expendables, A View to Kill (which was a James Bond film), and Rocky IV. Dolph’s journey to becoming an actor was quite an unexpected one. He was once a bouncer, then a bodyguard of Grace Jones, actress and singer. His status changed from bodyguard to boyfriend. It was then that his career in acting began. He has starred alongside famous names including Jet Li, Sylvester Stallone, and Jason Statham in the Expendables among others.
This very talented actor is surprisingly a Degree and Master’s holder, both in chemical engineering from the Royal Institute of Technology and the University of Sydney respectively. Apparently, he was to pursue further education at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). But that never happened. We can only speculate what would have happened if he had proceeded. He was a brilliant student. A man with both the talent and the brains.
4. David Duchovny
Popularly known for his role of Agent Mulder in the television series The X-files, Duchovny is an all-rounded person and wears many hats. Other than being a talented actor, Duchovny sings and writes music; he is a producer, a director, and a writer. What most are unaware of is that he is a graduate of both Princeton and Yale Universities. His focus was mainly on the arts and language. In 1882, his poetry got recognition from the Academy of American Poets. Some of his works include The Schizophrenic Critique of Pure Reason in Beckett’s Early Novels and Magic and Technology in Contemporary Fiction and Poetry, an incomplete doctoral thesis. He is a four-time Emmy Award Nominee.
5. Peter Weller
Peter Weller, the first RoboCop, has a doctorate in Italian Renaissance art history, which he received from UCLA back in 2013. Weller got a worldwide fan base for his role in RoboCop of the crime-stopping Cyborg. It isn’t surprising that this very talented actor is book smart. He should be an inspiration to others. It took him over thirty years to finally get the much coveted doctor’s degree. Having graduated in 1969 from North Texas State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, in 2004, he finally received his Master’s in Roman and Renaissance Art from Syracuse University. From there he proceeded to pursue his Ph.D. Peter Weller has written and published papers. He also lectures.
6. Dan Grimaldi
Mention Dan Grimaldi and the first thing that comes to mind is the television series The Sopranos. What many aren’t aware of is that he is a college professor and a proud holder of a doctorate in data processing, which he obtained from the University of New York. In his case, his life in academia came before his acting career. At the Kingsborough Community College, he is popularly known as Professor, and he lectures in computer science and mathematics. As an actor, he also appeared in some episodes of the television series Law and Order, which aired between 1991-2001.
7. James Franco
James Edward Franco is a talented actor and filmmaker. He is an alumnus of a number of colleges and universities including University of California, Yale University, Columbia University, Warren Wilson and Brooklyn College, and Rhode Island School of Design. He’s done films, comedies, and television series which include Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Oz the Great and Powerful Sausage Party, and Angie Tribeca. His academic journey has seen him receive a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing, a Master’s in Fine Arts, and a PhD. in English.
8. Robert Vaughn
One of the most prolific actors to ever grace our screens, Robert Vaughn graduated from the University of Southern California in 1970 with a Ph.D. in Communications. He wrote his dissertation titled Only Victims: A Study of Show Business Blacklisting and published it as a book later. His acting career has spun across decades, from the 60s when he starred in the TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. till date. Robert Vaughn is a household name, especially for the older generation as he was a sensation in a number of television series and movies.
9. Bill Cosby
Bill Cosby is notably known for his standup comedy and acting. He ranked among the top Hollywood actors at the peak of his career, even having a show in his name. He sure did know how to keep viewers glued to the screens. This talented star is a Master and Ph.D. Degree holder which he received from the University of Massachusetts. His Doctor of Philosophy degree was in Education. Much of his worldwide stardom is attributed to his character in the Bill Cosby Show. Other appearances include A Different World. His dissertation focused on elementary schools, particularly teaching tools – use of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.
10. Ilan Mitchell-Smith
llan Mitchell-Smith is known for his role in Weird Science where he played the role of John Hughes, a high school nerd. It must have been easy for him to play the role because years later, he followed academia and abandoned acting. However, he came back in 2011. He is a brilliant professor and an amazing actor. Another hat he wears is in the gaming world where he has several works published, such as chapter 11 in Dungeons and Dragons among others.
He accepted a Bachelor of Arts Degree from UC Davis in Medieval Studies and a Master’s from Fordham University. His focus is in English and Filmology among others.
By Kevin Nelson