Star Schooling: 5 Celebrities With Interesting College Degrees

From Natalie Portman’s Harvard psychology degree to Gerard Butler’s law school background, here are five celebrities with undergraduate degrees that are quite different from their current occupations. 

Many of the most famous celebrities today have spent years honing their crafts, whether it’s music or acting. Indeed, these talented individuals had to start from somewhere: however, quite a few of them actually didn’t begin their careers strutting through red carpet premieres or even earning a college degree in their respective fields. 

READ ALSO: Star-Studded Pastimes: The Surprising Hobbies Of 5 Celebrities

In fact, your favorite celebrities might’ve earned degrees or studied courses that have nothing to do with the performing arts. Here are five particular stars with interesting undergraduate degrees that may surprise you: 

Gerard Butler: Law at the University of Glasgow

Scottish actor Gerard Butler actually graduated with a law degree from the University of Glasgow during his earlier years, according to Boutayna Chokrane of Vogue. It’s a little hard to imagine him working behind a desk, rather than fighting bloody battles in 300 or voicing the head of a viking clan in the How to Train Your Dragon movies. Yet Butler went as far as becoming a trainee lawyer in a firm after graduating, and before that, holding a position as president of the Law Society in Glasgow. 

Gerard Butler at the TIFF premiere of "September Of Shiraz" in 2015
Gerard Butler at the TIFF premiere of “September Of Shiraz” in 2015/Photo by Tabercil via Wikimedia Commons

“I’m not the most academic of guys. Considering the amount of work that I put in, it’s amazing that I got through law school. And with an honors degree,” he tells Cal Fussman in a 2009 interview with Esquire.

“But when I put on a suit and a tie, I became desperately unhappy. There was something else at work, something I didn’t have control of,” he continues in the Esquire interview. So Butler quit the lawyer life and began a career in acting. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before he got a role in 2011’s Coriolanus alongside Ralph Fiennes—an adaptation of a Shakespeare play by the same name, and one that received glowing reviews from critics

Since then Butler has become the famous Scottish talent (and for many, heartthrob) that we know today, which shows how important it is to follow one’s passions. 

Rosamund Pike: English Literature at Oxford University

English actress Rosamund Pike is quite the eloquent speaker, especially when it comes to books, as many have seen in her video for The Dior Book Tote Club. In the feature, Pike goes around a bookshop recommending her favorite reads with plenty of enthusiasm and knowledge. Perhaps a part of her talent comes from understanding her source materials and characters, which may be because she graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Oxford’s Wadham College in 2001. 

Rosamund Pike
Rosamund Pike/Photo via Instagram @mspike

The former Bond girl and Golden Globe winner wasn’t just a graduate of the prestigious university—she also achieved an Upper Second class degree. In the UK school system, it’s the second-highest honor one can get for academic achievement. Shortly after finishing university, she got the role of the beautiful Miranda Frost in Die Another Day alongside Pierce Brosnan. 

Pike also infuses her love for literature in entertainment projects that she produces, like TV shows. In a 2023 interview with Michael Hogan of The Guardian, the actress talks about her deep interest in Chinese literature. Pike was so enamored with it that she worked as an executive producer for the Netflix series The Three-Body Problem, the eponymous adaptation of Cixin Liu’s Chinese sci-fi book series. 

Chris Martin: Greek and Latin at University College of London

Lead vocalist of Coldplay Chris Martin has certainly written tunes that many consider to be classics. Yet the musician himself is actually a classicist with an undergraduate degree in Greek & Latin from the University College London. Much like Pike, the English singer-songwriter graduated with honors—and the highest one at that, a First Class degree

Chris Martin at Manchester's Etihad Stadium in June 2023
Chris Martin at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium in June 2023/Photo by Raph_PH via Wikimedia Commons

It does make sense that someone who studied the great Greek poets like Euripedes or Hesiod could come up with moving lyrics to songs like “Fix You” and “Yellow.” So while Martin didn’t exactly become a professional classicist, he’s definitely putting his knowledge and talents to good use. 

What’s more, it was actually during his time as an undergraduate student that he formed the famous band with fellow alumni Will Champion, Guy Berryman, and Jonny Buckland, according to Biography

Natalie Portman: Psychology at Harvard 

Natlie Portman took multitasking to a whole new level when she played Padme Amidala in the popular Star Wars prequel trilogy. She was still in high school when she began taking on the role, according to Anjelica Oswald of Business Insider. Yet despite an already blossoming acting career, Portman pursued further education, earning a Psychology degree from Harvard in 2003. 

Natalie Portman at the SDG High Impact Spotlight Initiative in September 2023
Natalie Portman at the SDG High Impact Spotlight Initiative in September 2023/Photo by the European Union/Corey SIPKIN via Wikimedia Commons

Both beauty and brains, Portman would go on to author scientific papers as well. In a 2011 feature for The New York Times, Natalie Angier writes about how the Oscar-winning actress even made it to the semifinal rounds of the U.S.’s most competitive and elite research competition, Intel Science Talent Search, while she was still a high schooler in the 1990s. Her award-winning paper was about converting waste into useful forms of alternative energy, something that was quite advanced at the time. 

“I’ve taught at Harvard, Dartmouth and Vassar, and I’ve had the privilege of teaching a lot of very bright kids,” Abigail A. Baird, a former mentor of Portman in Harvard, shares in The New York Times feature. “There are very few who are as inherently bright as Natalie is, who have as much intellectual horsepower, who work as hard as she did. She didn’t take a single thing for granted.”

It’s not wholly surprising that someone as accomplished and prodigious as Portman not only has a high intellect, but also a strong drive to be the best at what they do—regardless of their field. 

Rowan Atkinson: Electrical Engineering Newcastle University

Far before Rowan Atkinson became a household name with his lovable roles as Mr.Bean, Zazu from The Lion King (perhaps a fun fact that not everyone knows), and the ever-funny bumbling priest in Four Weddings and a Funeral, the actor was just an undergraduate student who wanted to become an electrical engineer. 

Rowan Atkinson in the "Johnny English Reborn" movie premiere in 2011
Rowan Atkinson in the “Johnny English Reborn” movie premiere in 2011/Photo by Eva Rinaldi via Wikimedia Commons

Though many remember Atkinson for playing a mischievous and oftentimes foolish Mr.Bean, the actor is quite the opposite in real life. According to Kate Watson-Smyth in a 1998 article for Independent, Atkinson was a bright child who grew up to be a soft-spoken man. He would eventually graduate with a degree in electrical engineering at Newcastle University, earning the highest marks of his year. 

He’d then go on to pursue a postgraduate degree in electrical engineering at Queen’s College in Oxford University. Yet Atkinson seemed destined for the stage: he took up acting on the side during his further studies, becoming a member of the Oxford University Dramatic Society, Oxford Revue, and the Experimental Theater Group.

He ended up making a memorable cameo in Four Weddings and a Funeral before television producer John Lloyd tapped him to become Mr.Bean—the rest, as they say, is history. 

Banner photo by Raph_PH via Wikimedia Commons.

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