We don’t really expect our actors to be geniuses. Many of them start their careers off young and often don’t get the opportunity to pursue an education. And even smart actors occasionally slip up and say really dumb things in interviews. But there are a few actors who have gotten into the most prestigious schools and societies, all thanks to their intelligence. Some of them hold impressive degrees, others have written books, and one of the following actors has even practiced as a doctor. We hate to break it to you, but here are seven actors who are probably smarter than you are.
1. Natalie Portman
This actress has a very impressive resume. Not only does she have an Oscar for Black Swan, but she has a degree in psychology from Harvard. She enrolled in the university after Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. After graduating, she gave a very heartfelt commencement speech about her experience at Harvard. “Today I feel much like I did when I came to Harvard Yard as a freshman in 1999,” she started. “I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove that I wasn’t just a dumb actress.” She certainly isn’t dumb or stopping at Harvard. She later took a graduate course at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
2. Nolan Gould
Nolan Gould might play the goofy Luke Dunphy on Modern Family, but in real life he is anything but. He graduated high school at the young age of 13 and started college at 14. On top of that, he is a member of Mensa. Mensa is a society of people who have very high IQs, and his is 150. “I’m a member of Mensa, but you know that doesn’t make me like all knowing,” Gould told The Wall Street Journal. “I’m good at certain things but not really the math and science. I’m more of a History/English guy.” He also says the the membership puts a little pressure on him. When he makes a mistake people like to point out that he might be more like Luke than he thought.
3. Matt Damon
Before Matt Damon hit it big as an actor, he was studying at Harvard. While there, he wrote a draft of the script for Good Will Hunting, which led to his Oscar win. The actor revealed at the Tribeca Film Festival that professor Sheldon Glashow told him his character should be into math instead of physics like he intended. In 1997, he did an interview with The Harvard Crimson to talk about his time there. “I loved Harvard. It was a huge, huge part of my life. I still have time left and I want to go back when I get a chance,” said the actor. “I always had an underdog complex growing up, even on an unconscious level. But, my time at Harvard was amazing. I still keep in touch with all my college friends.” He never went back to finish his studies, but he received an honorary Harvard Arts Medal in 2013.
4. Cindy Crawford
She may have become successful in a field that is more about looks, but that doesn’t mean this beauty isn’t smart! She was valedictorian of her high school class. She also got a scholarship at Northwestern and majored in chemical engineering. Like many other celebrities, she dropped out of school to pursue her career and joined a modeling agency.
5. Conan O’Brien
Other celebrities might have been accepted to Harvard, but not many can say that they graduated magna cum laude! Conan O’Brien graduated as a history and literature major. He was also the president of a semi-secret society called Harvard Lampoon, which published a humor magazine. The society was apparently good for something since Greg Daniels, executive producer of Deedle-Dee Productions, and Al Jean, show runner of The Simpsons, are also alumni who have all worked together since they graduated. Of course, the funny man had to go back to his alma mater to give a speech in 2010.
6. Ken Jeong
You may know Ken Jeong best as the actor who plays crazy characters in The Hangover and Community. Now he is moving on to being a leading man in his own sitcom, Dr. Ken, which is loosely based on the actor’s life. Before he was a comedian, Jeong studied pre-med at Duke University, then went on to get his MD at UNC Chapel Hill, and finished up his residency in New Orleans.
“I was so intense as a doctor,” Jeong said, according to People. “And I was always stressed out, patients were surprised I did stand-up comedy on the side.” When he got his big break in The Hangover, he couldn’t believe it. “I was happy just being the doctor from Knocked Up, much less what happened after. The Hangover changed my life from black-and-white to Technicolor.”
7. Mayim Bialik
Mayim Bialik is best known for portraying Amy on The Big Bang Theory and for being the lead character in Blossom. But somehow she also found the time during her career to get a Ph.D. in neuroscience! The actress got a bachelor’s degree in the subject and Hebrew/Jewish studies from UCLA. She then went on to get her Ph.D. with a specialty in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in adolescents with Prader-Willi syndrome. She also wrote a book called Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way on parent-child bonding and the science of hormones.