The Surprising Real Names Of Some Of Our Favorite Celebrities
When Michael Keaton accepted his best actor Golden Globe for “Birdman,” he told the crowd his birth name was actually Michael Douglas. The 63-year-old actor changed his name early in his career to avoid confusion with the actor and TV host Mike Douglas. He is believed to have chosen Keaton because of comedian Buster Keaton.
Plenty of today’s biggest stars don’t go by their birth names — Reese Witherspoon, Mila Kunis, and Natalie Portman.
However, you probably aren’t familiar with how they ended up with their current monikers.
Mila Kunis — Milena Markovna Kunis – At age 7, Milena Markovna Kunis and her family moved from Ukraine to Los Angeles. Mila’s mother, Elvira, and father, Mark, soon enrolled her in acting classes and allowed Mila to shorten her name when she started booking her first roles on “Days of our Lives,” “7th Heaven,” and playing a young Angelina Jolie in “Gia.”
Joaquin Phoenix — Joaquin Rafael Bottom/Leaf Phoenix – Joaquin Rafael Bottom is the third of five children, all with equally interesting names, including River (1970–1993), Rain (1973), Liberty (1976), Summer, and a half-sister Jodean. After Joaquin’s parents, John Lee and Arlyn Bottom, married in 1969, the couple joined the religious cult the Children of God and traveled around South America. But they soon became disenchanted with the cult and moved back to the US in 1978, and they changed their last name to “Phoenix” to symbolize “new beginning.” Around this same time, a young Joaquin began calling himself “Leaf,” desiring to have a similar nature-related name as those of his siblings. In a past Jay Leno interview, Joaquin said he had originally called himself “Antleaf” as a child. Leaf would become the name he would use as a child actor until, at age 15, he changed it back to Joaquin.
Reese Witherspoon — Laura Jeanne – The Oscar nominee traded her first and middle name in for her mother’s maiden name, “Reese.”
Katy Perry — Kathryn (Katy) Hudson – Before she was a chart-topping singer, Perry was producing Christian music under her birth name, Kathryn Hudson. She released the gospel record “Katy Hudson” under the former label Red Hill Records before adopting her mother’s maiden name to avoid confusion with actress Kate Hudson.
Natalie Portman — Natalie Herschlag – After being born in Jerusalem in 1981 to an Israeli gynecologist father named Avner Hershlag and American mother named Shelley Stevens (her mother’s family changed its last name from “Edelstein” to “Stevens” when arriving in the US from Russia and Austria), Portman now holds dual American and Israeli citizenship.
Whoopi Goldberg — Caryn Elaine Johnson – The actress and “The View” correspondent didn’t become Whoopi Goldberg until friends noticed that while working in a theater in San Diego she had a bit of a flatulence problem — they began calling her Whoopi after a whoopee cushion. “If you get a little gassy, you’ve got to let it go,” Whoopi has said. “So people used to say to me, ‘You’re like a whoopee cushion.’ And that’s where the name came from.” Whoopi’s mother felt her daughter should take a Jewish-sounding last name to advance her Hollywood career. And thus Whoopi Goldberg was born.
Miley Cyrus — Destiny Hope Cyrus – Cyrus’ father, Billy Ray, gave her the nickname “Smiley” to match her cheery persona. Over the years, the nickname became shortened to Miley. Cyrus legally changed her name in 2008.
Jamie Foxx — Eric Marlon Bishop – Rumor has it Foxx picked an androgynous name because he noticed female comedians were often picked over men to perform at comedy clubs.
Meg Ryan — Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra – Born in Fairfield, Connecticut, to Roman Catholic parents Susan Jordan and Harry Hyra, Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra changed her name to Meg Ryan after she dropped out of NYU one semester early to pursue her budding acting career.
Michael Caine — Maurice Joseph Micklewhite – According to IMDB, Caine changed his name after advice from an agent. In 2009, Caine explained renaming himself after Humphrey Bogart’s character in “The Caine Mutiny” to New York Magazine. “Bogart was my hero, and even though he came from a sort of snobby, aristocratic family — he was a distant relation of Princess Diana — when I was a kid I thought he was a tough guy,” said Caine. “Any person with my working-class background would be a villain or a comic cipher, usually badly played, and with a rotten accent. There weren’t a lot of guys in England for me to look up to.”
Bono — Paul David Hewson – The U2 frontman and humanitarian we all know as Bono wasn’t actually born with just one name. Before he became famous, the Irish musician was known by the name Paul David Hewson. But his wife still reminds Bono of his roots, going by the name Ali Hewson. The name Bono was originally a nickname, short for “Bono Vox” meaning “good voice” in Latin, said to be given by his friend Gavin Friday.