15 Actors Who Changed Their Names

December 15, 2015

Remember when Natalie Hershlag won the Oscar for “Black Swan” in 2010? Or when Eric Marlon Bishop blew everyone away in “Django Unchained?” If these names don’t ring a bell, read below to see which of your favorite actors were born with something else on their birth certificates. 

 

Mindy Kaling
Born Vera Mindy Chokalingam, Kaling said her parents got her middle name from the TV show “Mork & Mindy.” When she rose to prominence in the American entertainment industry, she took on her middle name as her first, and shortened her last name. 

 

Nina Dobrev
“The Vampire Diaries” star Nina Dobrev was born in Bulgaria as Nikolina Konstantinova Dobreva, but she shortened both her first and last name to become what we know her as today, which is sometimes a good move for actors with last names that might be difficult to say or spell. 

 

Vin Diesel 
Vin Diesel sounds a lot more like an action star than Mark Sinclair. However, the “Fast and Furious” star actually changed his name back when he was a teen bouncer in New York City, years before he rose to fame in Hollywood. 

 

Whoopi Goldberg 
Most actors would probably stray from being named after bodily functions, but Caryn Elaine Johnson (aka Whoopi Goldberg) was drawn to the idea. As an actor at the San Diego Repertory Theatre, Goldberg confessed to farting often, drawing comparisons to the infamous whoopee cushion. “We had a small theater, so if you had to let it go, you had to let it go!” she told Marlo Thomas.

 

Tina Fey
Tina Fey is one of the biggest names in comedy. But did you know that Tina isn’t actually her real name? Fey was born as Elizabeth Stamatina Fey, but goes by a shortened version of her middle name: Tina. 

 

Ice Cube
Actor and rapper Ice Cube is known around the world by his stage name, but his family knows him as O’Shea Jackson. He says he adopted his name Ice Cube from his older brother, who said he was “too cool” for his age. 

 

Michael Keaton 
When you hear the name Michael Douglas, the “Wall Street” actor is probably the first person to come to mind. What you may not know is that “Birdman” star Michael Keaton was born with the same name! However, he changed his last name to make the whole ordeal a lot less confusing for Hollywood.

 

Antonio Banderas

Like Fey, this Spanish actor also chose to adopt his middle name as his first. Although he was named José Antonio Banderas at birth, he is better known today simply as Antonio Banderas. 

 

Natalie Portman 
Natalie Portman has become a household name after starring in dozens of films and winning an Academy Award for her role in 2010’s “Black Swan,” but the name her fans have come to know isn’t the one she was given at birth. Portman was born in Jerusalem as Natalie Hershlag, but it’s rumored she adopted her grandmother’s maiden name to help preserve her privacy as a child star. 

 

Aaron Paul
The “Breaking Bad” actor has a relatively simple name, but that wasn’t always the case! Paul’s real last name is Sturtevant, which he changed because it was too difficult to pronounce. Instead, he now uses his middle name as his last. 

 

Jamie Foxx
The story behind Jamie Foxx’s stage name is certainly not one you would expect! As a young comic going by the name of Eric Marlon Bishop, Foxx found it hard to secure a place in open mic nights. After noticing that female comedians were often called to the stage first because there weren’t as many of them, he began going by the gender-neutral name Jamie. His last name, Foxx, was inspired by comedian and actor Redd Foxx. 

 

Elizabeth Banks
Born Elizabeth Irene Mitchell, Elizabeth Banks is yet another actor who changed her name to avoid confusion with another star. The Screen Actors Guild suggested she adopt Banks as her surname, and the rest is history!

 

Charlie Sheen 
Interestingly, both Charlie and his dad Martin have adopted the last name Sheen in their acting careers. However, unlike his father, Charlie changed his last name legally. Born Carlos Irwin Estévez, Sheen also changed his first name to avoid confusion with his uncle at family gatherings.

 

Queen Latifah 
Dana Owens, better known as Queen Latifah, chose her stage name at a young age. She says she chose the nickname Latifah as a child, but later added the prefix Queen as her first name when she signed her first record deal. 

 

Ben Kingsley
The Oscar-winning actor was born Krishna Bhanji, a name in tribute of his father’s Gujarati descent. He took on the name Ben, which was his father’s nickname. Not much is known about why the actor changed his name, but it’s hard to imagine him going by anything else!

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