Who comes to mind when you think of actors and actresses who were born into wealth before they achieved their fame? Lindsay Lohan? Nicole Richie? Believe it or not, there are a great deal of celebrities who already had expensive lifestyles like those two, enjoying the fruits of their parents labor long before their careers were even a glimmer of hope in their eyes. Many of them attended ridiculously expensive boarding and prep schools with yearly tuitions costing as much as an average person’s salary. Still others lived in lavish mansions and castles or multimillion dollar homes.
But honestly, ‘rich’ is subjective depending on who’s looking. In the case of these actors, their parents were making at least six figures when they were kids, with some even pulling in millions (or billions) of dollars. While that seems like a huge difference in wealth, think of it this way. The average worldwide wage was only around $17,000 in 2015 and the US average was $56,000. These stars’ families were pulling in well over those averages, putting them among the worldwide elite.
Bearing that in mind, here are 15 Actors You Didn’t Know Were Rich Before They Were Famous.
15. Benedict Cumberbatch
Benedict Cumberbatch was no stranger to acting or an affluent lifestyle before he became famous the world over for his roles as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Strange. Cumberbatch grew up in one of the most expensive areas of London and was educated at boarding and prep schools with tuitions rivaling those of private universities. His parents, Wanda Ventham and Timothy Carlton, were by no means as famous as he is now, but have been well respected stage and screen actors in the UK since the 1960s.
Although often typecast as a villain, Benedict Cumberbatch comes from a line of military officers, diplomats, and wealthy landowners on his father’s side, who are considered a part of the British aristocracy. He’s also related to Alice Cumberbatch, creator of the Cumberbatch trophy, which is awarded to airlines in the UK for flight safety. Of his upbringing, he had this to say to The Telegraph newspaper: “I’m definitely middle class, I think. I know others would argue, but I’m not upper class. Upper class to me means you are either born into wealth or you’re Royalty.” He then added: “Ok, maybe I’m upper-middle class.” Some privilege checking may be in order here.
14. Julia Louis-Dreyfus
While her parents divorced shortly after she was born (in Manhattan no less), Julia Louis-Dreyfus spent her childhood split between Washington D.C. and New York City. Her mother was a poet and worked with special needs kids, but came from a family of doctors. Her father, on the other hand, was chairman of the energy services branch of the Louis Dreyfus Company, a global merchant founded by her great-great-grandfather. The shipping company has offices all over the world, and billions of dollars in annual sales. Yep, billions.
Even without Dreyfus’s $200 million net worth from her acting roles in Seinfeld, Veep, and the like, it’s very likely she could live off the inheritance her father left her last year when he passed away. Although she denies being a billionaire, there’s no denying that she came from money. In 2006, her father (and by extension, his family) was named the 200th richest billionaire in the world.
13. Kate & Rooney Mara
Seeing as both Kate and Rooney Mara have established themselves as prominent young actresses in their own right, you’d think that acting ran in their family. On the contrary, these two ladies come from football royalty of all things.
Their mother’s family are the Rooneys, founders and owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both women’s grandfather, Art Rooney, was good friends with the head of the New York Giants at the time, Tim Mara. Little did these two men know that their great-grandchildren would marry and unite the two families.
Kate and Rooney’s mother, Kathleen Rooney, married their father, who was a Mara. Both sides of their family have kept the teams internal, with their uncles serving as co-owners and CEOs of both the Giants and the Steelers. If that wasn’t enough of an impressive sports legacy, their maternal grandfather, Tim Rooney Sr., also owns the Yonkers Raceway in New York.
12. Bradley Cooper
You might not realize it by looking at him that Bradley Cooper came from a well-off family. He’s often seen as the scruffy, jerky guy who’s wound up and maybe a bit of an oddball, but believe it or not, Cooper had plenty of financial backing growing up. His mother, Gloria, worked at the local NBC station in West Philadelphia, and his father was a stockbroker. His parents sent him to the exclusive private school, Germantown Academy, which prepares kids for an Ivy League education. In fact, he did end up attending one of the “Hidden Ivies,” Villanova University, before transferring to Georgetown in his sophomore year.
To paint a better picture for you of how well his family was doing, one only needs to examine the tuition for all these schools. Between his private high school and colleges, his parents paid nearly half a million dollars to educate him. Bet they were a bit skeptical when he told them he was going to be an actor after all that. Lucky for them, it worked out in his case.
11. Robin Wright
For Robin Wright, her House of Cards portrayal of Claire Underwood doesn’t fall far from her own wealthy beginnings. Like Claire, she was born in Dallas, TX, although we know a lot more about what her real parents did than we do with her fictional family.
Her mother was a Mary Kay cosmetics national sales director and her father was a pharmaceutical executive. High level people in the pharmaceutical industry can rake in millions of dollars per year, depending on the company and actual job title, but it’s safe to say she was pretty well off. Neither of these occupations seem too far fetched for Claire Underwood’s parents to have had, either. Wright’s family moved to the San Diego neighborhood of La Jolla when she was a kid, which also speaks volumes to their status. Average home prices in the seaside town will run you around $1 million, making it the most expensive housing market in the United States.
10. Gwyneth Paltrow
If you happen to be the daughter of a Hollywood producer/director (Bruce Paltrow) and a Tony award-winning actress (Blythe Danner) living in Los Angeles, chances are good that your pockets are lined with gold. So began the charmed life of Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow.
Trained by her parents for a career in the arts, Paltrow grew up in Santa Monica, CA attending the $40,000/yr college prep Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences. She later went to the prestigious Spence School in Manhattan—one of the top all-girls schools in the world. While she admits to never having a trust fund, she certainly never went without, which was why her attempt to participate in Food Bank NYC’s food stamp challenge in 2015 was a bit misguided. Paltrow only lasted four days when she had a craving for chicken, since she bought primarily vegetables and her only sources of protein were eggs and beans. The awareness raising attempt was honorable, but in the end, her “poverty tourism” was what ended up dominating headlines. Nice try, love.
9. Meryl Streep
Arguably one of the greatest actresses ever, Meryl Streep had a bit of a leg up over some of her colleagues from an early age. Like Robin Wright, her father was a pharmaceutical executive for one of the biggest drug companies in the world, and her mother was a fine artist who did commercial work and edited a home furnishings publication. Streep’s parents didn’t spoil her with a private education, however; she went to public school in New Jersey and conquered high school on her own merits. However, her mother did get her private voice lessons with a famous voice teacher in New York City when she was a teenager.
Aside from that, her family has a lot more known history and prestige to it due to research by the author, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. In his book, Faces of America: How 12 Extraordinary People Discovered Their Pasts, it was revealed that one of her ancestors helped found the colony of Pennsylvania right around when the Declaration of Independence was signed. Apparently the Streeps have strong ties to the Northeast, especially Pennsylvania, and to this day, Meryl still owns a home in Connecticut where her parents used to live.
8. Darren Criss
Darren Criss has had a charmed life from an early age. Like his onscreen counterpart in Glee, Criss attended private schools growing up, including an all-boys school during his elementary years. His father was an investment banker who started Eastwest Bank in Honolulu, where he was chairman and CEO. As a middle schooler, Criss’s family lived in the ritzy Aina Haina neighborhood, east of Honolulu, where million dollar homes are the norm. There was always plenty of money around as his dad moved from bank to bank, even serving as office director and financial advisor for private wealth management groups.
Luckily for Darren (and his brother who is also a musician), their father was very fond of the arts, and he served on the Board of Directors for the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in San Francisco. Both of his parents also own a real estate business in one of the most expensive parts of San Francisco, so you know they’ve got to be loaded.
7. Salma Hayek
If you’ve seen Salma Hayek’s latest film, the quirky Beatriz at Dinner, you might find it ironic that her upbringing was much like the one her character openly mocked in the film.
Daughter to an oil company exec, she and her brother enjoyed a pampered life near the ocean, having been completely spoiled by her doting parents. The actress once admitted that her mother loved helping people with her husband’s money, opening up a music school in her hometown of Coatzacoalcos, Mexico, to teach opera to children. Hayek, on the other hand, was more of an animal lover growing up. Her father’s money bought her three tigers whom she played with inside their lavish home. Seriously; she had pet tigers.
Knowing about her affection for animals, Antonio Banderas (who co-starred with her in Desperado at the beginning of her Hollywood career), once gifted her with two monkeys. Now she can afford as many animals as she likes with her own hard earned cash, and allegedly has around fifty animals on a ranch in Washington state.
6. Anne Hathaway
While she was never quite royalty like Mia was in The Princess Diaries, Anne Hathaway was nevertheless wealthy in her own way before attaining stardom. Growing up in Brooklyn, her father was a distinguished labor lawyer for Fortune 500 companies in the New York area. When Anne was a child, he also worked with many international clients in Japan, and he’s worked with some of the top law firms in this country. However, before his monumental success as a lawyer, he worked as a stagehand in Philadelphia area theaters, which is presumably where he met Anne’s mother, Kate, who was also an actress.
Anne didn’t attend a private high school like many of her fellow privileged actors, but she did attend one of the top high schools in the country, Millburn High School in New Jersey. Median incomes in that area were around $160,000 for a family of four when she was a teenager. That’s not exactly Salma Hayek level rich, but it’s nevertheless pretty well off to the majority of the people in the world.
5. Paul Giamatti
Although not one to attract the most glamorous roles, Paul Giamatti had a very upper crust lifestyle growing up. His family has strong ties to New Haven, CT, home to the prestigious Ivy League school, Yale University. Giamatti’s father, Bart, attended the school for his undergraduate and doctorate degrees, became a professor there, and eventually was named president of the university while Paul was in middle and high school. He served in that role for eight years, sending Paul to a boarding prep school just north of New Haven, where yearly tuition actually rivals that of Yale’s.
While Paul also got his degree at Yale, his father then served as both president and commissioner of Major League Baseball—positions with salaries in the millions. In fact, of all the sports commissioners, the baseball commissioner used to command the highest salary (certain NFL heads have recently overtaken them, however). Former MLB commissioner Bud Selig reportedly made around $22 million a year AND gets around $6 million a year in his retirement. That’s a pretty sweet deal, and one which likely afforded Giamatti a great deal of opportunity in his life.
4. Rose Leslie
Neither Ygritte on Game of Thrones nor Gwen in Downton Abbey came from money, but actress Rose Leslie certainly did. She’s a descendent of King Charles II and comes from an ancient Scottish family, Clan Leslie, of which her father is the chieftan of the Aberdeenshire branch. Basically what that means is that Rose grew up in a castle, Lickleyhead Castle to be exact, in the northeastern part of the Scottish Lowlands. The medieval mansion boasts seven bedrooms and seven baths and comes in at around 5,500 sq. ft.
Although Rose lived there as a girl, after she left for school, the family moved to another Clan Leslie castle in the area, Warthill Castle. While Lickleyhead went up for sale a few years ago, it appears that the family still owns it. Currently, you can rent the whole place out for around $800 a night on Airbnb, with Rose’s parents as your hosts.
3. Rashida Jones
Born into entertainment royalty, Rashida Jones is the daughter of famed music producer Quincy Jones, who worked with Michael Jackson on three of his most popular albums: Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad. Rashida’s mother is Peggy Lipton, who played Norma Jennings on the original Twin Peaks (along with cameos in the current version) as well as The Mod Squad TV show, where she earned around $6,700 a week—or roughly $48,000 by today’s standards.
Rashida grew up in the celebrity neighborhood of Bel Air and counted Michael Jackson and Frank Sinatra as her friends. Educated at the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, CA, a prep school with other famous alumni like director Paul Thomas Anderson and actor Matthew Perry, Rashida went on to study religion and philosophy at Harvard, nearly becoming a lawyer before following in her mother’s footsteps as an actress.
Unlike most would-be performers, though, Rashida didn’t have to go to acting school. Her mother’s co-star in The Mod Squad, Tige Andrews, became her acting mentor when she began to pursue it seriously.
2. Emma Stone
Although La La Land actress Emma Stone did move to Hollywood to make it big in Tinseltown, her experience wasn’t exactly like her character’s. Consistently accused of showing her white privilege, Stone actually does come from a very well off background. She was attending a Catholic prep school in Phoenix, AZ before deciding to become an actress. Supposedly she created a PowerPoint presentation to convince her parents how serious she was about her career choice, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Her mother moved with her to Los Angeles while her father bankrolled and supported them from Arizona. The president and CEO of a commercial construction company with numerous government contracts, Emma’s father was already valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars at that point. Now he has a famous, Oscar-winning daughter who could probably easily pay him back for his contributions to her career. Now that’s what we call a return on your investment!
1. Tom Hardy
Tom Hardy can count himself lucky to grow up in both a creative and well off family. His mother, Ann Hardy, is an artist and photographer who has showed her work all over Europe. His father, meanwhile, had a Mad Men-esque career as a Creative Director for an advertising agency in London before focusing on his own creative writing projects in film, TV, and theater.
Hardy grew up in West London attending boarding and prep schools (where he was classmates with fellow Hollywood superstar Michael Fassbender), but like many rich suburban kids, he fell into drugs and crime at an early age. “It’s the suburbs. The life is so privileged and peaceful and so bloody dull, it gives you the instinctive feral desire to f*** everything up,” he told The Guardian in 2007. Fortunately for Hardy (and us), he didn’t muck his life up completely, and he managed to pull himself together and into the A-list star he is today.
What other actors were rich before they hit it big in Hollywood? Let us know in the comments.
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