When you see actors on the big screen, it can be hard to remember that they are people, too, separate from the characters that they play. It’s true that celebrities come in all shapes and sizes, and some of them are nerds like the rest of us. While some fans become famous for their fandom (Hi, Chewbacca Mom!), there are also plenty of famous people who are fans.
It can be nice to discover that an actor is enthusiastic and passionate about hobbies we like, or that they are members of fandoms, because they share in that excitement with fans. In some cases, these stars are involved in the franchises that they are fans of; in other cases, their nerd obsessions come from childhood. Sometimes, an actor’s feelings towards a franchise can influence their career choices, which means that their earlier passion actually leads them to star in or become involved in certain movies or television shows. Others create their own comic books or television shows based on their interests.
Obviously, this list is not exhaustive – but it does highlight some famous actors who are nerds in their free time and haven’t been afraid to express their love for all things nerdy in interviews.
Here are 15 Famous Actors You Didn’t Know Were Huge Nerds:
15. Daniel Radcliffe
Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) described himself as a “late, but massive fan” of Star Wars. It wasn’t until 2014 that Radcliffe watched any Star Wars movies (he claimed he was too busy making some other franchise to see it as a child). But after seeing the original trilogy, he was hooked – he even visited the set of The Force Awakens (2015) and met Harrison Ford and J. J. Abrams. His excitement in interviews about Star Wars only increased as The Force Awakens premiere grew nearer and nearer, talking about his love for the series with both Conan and Ellen.
Radcliffe told Conan that he wanted go to a midnight showing of The Force Awakens dressed in costume, perhaps as a Wookiee. For Ellen’s Halloween episode, he was costumed as Boba Fett – when Ellen told him that he could keep the costume, Radcliffe could not contain his excitement, gasping and responding, “ARE YOU JOKING?”
14. Megan Fox
Megan Fox (Transformers, TNMT) read X-Men and Gen 13 comics growing up, and has in turn starred in comic book movies like Jonah Hex (2010). Not only is she a self-described Lord of the Rings fan, but she also loves anime, such as Sailor Moon (1995). Co-star Simon Pegg (Star Trek) said that he and Fox talked a lot about comic books while filming How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (2008), and that Fox was a big fan of his zombie film, Shaun of the Dead (2004).
Fox talked about her love of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles years before she starred in the live-action TNMT movie (2014) and its sequel TNMT: Out of the Shadows (2016). Given the roles and films that Fox has chosen to pursue, it seems that her interests in comics and animated shows has had an influence on what projects she decides to take on.
13. Oscar Isaac
Oscar Isaac (The Force Awakens, X-Men: Apocalypse) is a self-described “fan boy”. His love of Star Wars began at a very early age; Return of the Jedi (1983) is his favorite Star Wars film, and the first movie that he remembers seeing in theaters. (He has also said that even though it is his favorite, he recognizes that Empire Strikes Back (1980) is a superior film.) His Star Wars knowledge was on display during the interviews leading up to The Force Awakens (2015), in which he played Resistance X-wing pilot Poe Dameron. When asked in an interview what Star Wars character he would like to cosplay as, Isaac opted for a GONK droid – a choice that illustrated his knowledge of the sometimes silly Star Wars franchise. When his brother, Mike Hernandez, who is a journalist for the Miami News Times, interviewed him about the upcoming Star Wars film, they also took time to play Street Fighter together (Isaac won against his brother).
Isaac also campaigned to get the role of Apocalypse in X-Men: Apocalypse (2016). He is not only a fan of the X-Men comics, but had a particular interest in the titular villain. Growing up, he also read other comic book series, including Spawn and X-Factor.
12. Zachary Levi
Zachary Levi (Chuck) grew up playing video games, a hobby that he continues to be passionate about today – Levi’s knowledge of video games was put on display after he hosted the Spike Video Game Awards in 2011. In subsequent interviews, he discussed playing Nintendo console games as a kid, and how he came to appreciate video games with complex and interesting narratives as he grew older.
Levi also created The Nerd Machine, a community website for self-identified nerds to connect. With over 16,000 members, The Nerd Machine is an active online community, and it campaigned on social media for Chuck (2007) to be renewed as the show struggled with Nielsen ratings. The Nerd Machine also hosts an event, Nerd HQ, every year at San Diego Comic-Con. At Nerd HQ, fans have the opportunity to ask questions and interact with celebrities in a relaxed setting; all proceeds from tickets are given to charity.
11. Nicolas Cage
Nicolas Cage (Adaptation, Ghost Rider) was born Nicolas Coppola, but decided to change his name so as to distance himself from his famous uncle Francis Ford Coppola. Cage could choose any name, but he opted for “Cage”, the last name of the superhero Luke Cage. A major comic book fan, Cage also named one of his sons “Kal-El”, which is Superman’s name on his birth planet of Krypton. Cage created a comic book of his own, Voodoo Child, along with his other son, Weston.
Cage has spent quite a bit of money on comics, but has apparently made even more by selling them. In 2002, he auctioned off a collection of over 400 comics for $1.6 million dollars. In 2011, he auctioned off Action Comics 1, the first story to ever feature Superman, for a record-breaking $2.16 million. At the time, it was the most money that any single comic book had ever been sold for (another copy of the same comic later sold for over $3 million dollars).
10. Mila Kunis
Mila Kunis (Black Swan, That ’70s Show) is a long-time gamer who has spoken in multiple interviews about her addiction to World of Warcraft. She played as a mage character named Captainpicard – yes, she named her World of Warcraft character after Patrick Stewart’s character from Star Trek: Next Generation (1987) – and was an active member of an online guild. Kunis also convinced many of her friends to join World of Warcraft. Eventually, the hobby became all-consuming, and Kunis decided to quit cold turkey in 2012, since the MMORPG was taking up too much of her life.
Kunis also is also a big fan of the board game Settlers of Catan, a hobby that she shares with actress Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games). Banks and Woody Harrelson would play Settlers on the set of Mockingjay between takes in Banks’s trailer. Banks apparently beat Harrelson, but maybe Mila Kunis would be competition!
9. Patton Oswalt
Patton Oswalt (Ratatouille) incorporates his fandom knowledge into his comedy – from his references to Blade Runner (1982), Alien (1979), and other classic science fiction movies in his stand-up to his impassioned Twitter account discussing the latest comic book movie, it’s clear that Oswalt knows what is up. Oswalt’s knowledge of Star Wars is also readily available all over the internet, and finds its way into his comedy; he completely improvised his amazing Star Wars filibuster as Garth Blundon on Parks and Recreation (2009). Oswalt has been outspoken both about his dislike of George Lucas’s Star Wars prequel trilogy and his love for the J. J. Abrams-helmed The Force Awakens. Oswalt, who is also a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, appeared in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013) as three different identical brothers: Eric, Sam, and Billy Koenig.
Oswalt is set to star in the upcoming Mystery Science Theater 3000 reboot, yet more nerd cred for the comedian.
8. Vin Diesel
Vin Diesel (Fast & Furious, Guardians of the Galaxy) is a big fan of the tabletop roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons. Despite the media’s surprise at his interest in the game, he began playing as a teenager. It’s even possible to watch him play online for a half hour as Kaulder the human “Witch Hunter” as part of a promotion for his film The Last Witch Hunter (2015) on Felicia Day’s website Geek & Sundry. Kaulder just so happens to also be the main character from The Last Witch Hunter, and the movie’s script was developed based on Vin Diesel’s previous character, Melkor. Vin Diesel acknowledges that he chose the name Melkor from Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, naming his character after the most powerful of the Ainur who fell from grace and became Morgoth. In the film xXx (2002), Vin Diesel’s character even has the name “Melkor” as a tattoo on his stomach.
7. Rashida Jones
Rashida Jones (Angie Tribeca, Parks and Recreation) has said that she was a “straight up nerd” growing up. Her father, music legend Quincy Jones, recounted in his autobiography that she spent her childhood reading, and Jones reminisced about using old-school floppy disks and dial-up modem “before it was cool”. After she graduated from Harvard and began her acting career, Jones has continued to be passionate about technology, discussing how she has tried out all of the state-of-the-art gadgets and virtual reality technology during an interview at E3.
Jones has created and writes her own comic book series, Frenemy of the State, released by Oni Press. The series is loosely based on the idea that Paris Hilton is secretly a highly intelligent covert operative (Hilton doesn’t star, but she is a major inspiration for the socialite protagonist). Jones is currently working on writing the script for the upcoming Toy Story 4.
6. Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith (Clerks, Dogma) is a jack of all trades – the producer, director, writer, actor quadruple threat does it all. Adding to his list of accomplishments, Smith is also an avid podcaster who can be heard on multiple shows on his website SModcast. Smith has given his opinions on a number of superhero movies, which are usually taken with the weight of an expert – he disliked Batman V Superman (2016), but thought that Captain America: Civil War (2016) was the best comic book movie ever made.
Smith also stars as himself in the AMC reality television show Comic Book Men (2012) which takes place at his comic book shop in New Jersey, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash. Smith’s love for comic books began when he was a child, and he has even written comic books, both for Marvel (Spider-Man, Daredevil) and DC (Batman, Green Arrow, Green Hornet).
5. Seth Green
Seth Green (Robot Chicken, Family Guy) created the Emmy Award-winning series Robot Chicken (2005); he now produces, writes, and performs many of the voices for the show. The writing of the show clearly shows Green’s intimate knowledge of many franchises. The sketch comedy show uses stop motion animation to bring action figures and other toys to life. Star Wars, Star Trek, G.I. Joe, and DC Comics parodies all appear in re-occuring sequences, and the show is filled with references to other shows, comics, books, and movies that make up “nerd” popular culture.
Green has also lent his voice to many different genres and projects, including video games (notably as Joker the pilot in the Mass Effect games), television (including Leonardo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle), and films. Green even performed a rap in the music video for “Geek and Gamer Girls” by Team Unicorn; he’s married to one of the band members, Clare Grant.
4. Stephen Colbert
Stephen Colbert (The Colbert Report) has illustrated his fandom knowledge both on The Colbert Report (2005) and on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert (2015). As the host of both shows, Colbert showcased both his knowledge of the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and his fan excitement. In fact, while hosting The Colbert Report, discussing Lord of the Rings was one of the few things that would cause the host to drop his conservative pundit persona completely. Peter Jackson also gave Colbert a cameo in the The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) as the Laketown Spy.
Colbert also claims that he is the original Star Wars fan, as he saw A New Hope (1977) two weeks before the original premiere after winning a radio contest. When the trailer for The Force Awakens was released, he defended Kylo Ren’s crossblade lightsaber design after some fans complained that it did not make sense given what had been established about lightsaber design.
3. Rosario Dawson
Rosario Dawson (Daredevil, Rent) has said that she has “a passion for all things nerdy!” She told Conan that she loves to go to Comic-Con, usually wearing a costume, such as the classic “Guy Fawkes” mask used in V for Vendetta (2006). Then, she helped him to brainstorm possible Comic-Con costumes for him, recommending the Na’vi from Avatar (2009) as a potential costume for the host.
Dawson loves video games, even recommending the game The Last of Us to an interviewer – although she says that she’s holding out for a holodeck. A major Trekkie, Dawson has talked about her love for both The Original Series (1966) and Next Generation (1987) in multiple interviews, saying that the world that Star Trek creates and the future that it envisions is inspirational. And, she also knows some Klingon. Maybe she’ll make an appearance in Bryan Fuller’s upcoming Star Trek series that’s coming to CBS.
2. Simon Pegg
Simon Pegg (Star Trek, Shaun of the Dead) has a New York Times best-selling memoir called Nerd Do Well. He first became known for Shaun of the Dead (2004), the first of the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy of films. He plays Scotty in the reboot of the Star Trek franchise, and the relationship that he formed with J. J. Abrams on the first Star Trek film helped him to land the role of Unkar Plutt in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Pegg is a fan of both Star Trek and Star Wars, refusing to pick one fandom over the other; he is, however, write the screenplay for Star Trek Beyond (2016) which comes out next month. He has a love for science fiction movies because they can be both great pieces of entertainment and explore relevant themes; in recent interviews, he has praised both Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and Ex Machina (2015) as examples of this.
1. Robin Williams
Legendary comedian and actor Robin Williams (Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society) loved gaming – both video games and tabletop games. He named his daughter Zelda after Nintendo’s Princess Zelda – and he even starred in a commercial for Ocarina of Time 3DS with his daughter that makes it perfectly clear where her name comes from. His son Cody is also purportedly named after a video game character, getting his name from the Final Fight character of the same name. Williams was an avid gamer, playing Dungeons and Dragons, Warcraft, Call of Duty, and Warhammer. You name it – he played it.
Williams’ interests did not stop there. In interviews, and in his “Ask Me Anything” post on Reddit, Williams divulged and discussed in great detail his love of the works of Isaac Asimov, anime (including Cowboy Bebop (1998)), Star Trek, and Star Wars. He truly was a Renaissance nerd.
There are many more celebrity nerds in the world! Which ones would you add to our list? Share them in the comments!
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