Actors’ names have to look great in lights. And if they’re born with a name that is difficult to pronounce or that links them to a famous movie director (why would anyone want to distance themselves from Francis Ford Coppola?), they might consider a simple switcheroo. Or several.
Birth name: Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta
A star was indeed born. She might be new to the acting scene, but it is difficult to remember a time when Lady Gaga wasn’t a star. She is a seasoned music icon and goes by a stage name inspired by Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga.” The nickname Ga Ga stuck, and the lady born as Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta has asked in various interviews to be called Lady, Gaga, Lady Gaga, Jo Calderone, Stefani, Yüyi, and Enigma. Enigma, indeed.
Birth name: Natalie Hershlag
Born in Jerusalem and fluent in Hebrew, Portman filmed her first movie at the age of 13 and has filmed at least 47 more under her stage name, Natalie Portman. Portman is her grandmother’s maiden name, so she retained her family heritage while going on to receive an Academy Award and two Golden Globe Awards, along with numerous other awards and accolades. While shooting the Star Wars films, Portman received her psychology degree from Harvard, with honors.
Birth name: Nikolina Konstantinova Dobreva
Dobrev’s birth name is quite popular in Bulgaria, where she was born. The Vampire Diaries star chose to shorten and simplify her name, as she now lives in Canada and works in the U.S.
Birth name: Destiny Hope Cyrus
Between her stage name, birth name, married name, and dual TV personalities on the Disney hit Hannah Montana, it might be hard to keep them all straight. After all, Miley played Miley Stewart, who was also a Hannah.
Despite being named Destiny, her famous father, Billy Ray Cyrus, called her Miley because she smiled a lot, so the nickname stuck and was what she chose to use in her professional career. Destiny Hope Cyrus legally changed her name at 15 to Miley Ray Cyrus and took the last name of Hemsworth when she married actor Liam Hemsworth in 2018.
Birth name: Nicolas Kim Coppola
Cage changed his name because he is the nephew of famous film director Francis Ford Coppola. As a way to distinguish himself from his famous uncle, he chose the last name of his favorite superhero, Luke Cage. He has filmed more than 90 movies over his career and has a renowned on-screen and off-screen personality.
Portia de Rossi
Birth name: Amanda Lee Rogers
At 15, Amanda took the name “Portia” from the heroine in The Merchant of Venice and added “de Rossi” so it sounded more exotic. She is legally named Portia Lee James DeGeneres after taking the name of her wife, Ellen DeGeneres.
Birth name: Eric Marlon Bishop
Foxx started his career as a comic and noticed right away that female comedians were called first to the stage in an improv lineup. So he did what some women do during a job hunt: changed his name to something gender ambiguous on paper. Foxx has filmed almost 40 movies.
Birth name: Mark Sinclair Vincent
Diesel first changed his name working as a bouncer in New York City. It is a pragmatic choice to use a fake identity when your job is throwing people out of the club.
Birth name: Caryn Elaine Johnson
Eighty-seven movies into her career and Whoopi says this about her name: “Here’s the thing. When you’re performing on stage, you never really have time to go into the bathroom and close the door. So if you get a little gassy, you’ve got to let it go. So people used to say to me, ‘You are like a whoopee cushion.’ And that’s where the name came from.” New York Times, 2006
Birth name: Elizabeth Stamatina Fey
This SNL comedian once roasted her own name in the fifth season of 30 Rock. Tina came from her middle name, Stamatina. Her best friend and fellow comedic actor, Amy Poehler, calls her Betty. And her 30 Rock character’s name, Liz Lemon, is a derivative of her given name, Elizabeth.