9 Successful Celebrities Who Majored in English Literature

Published By
Alina Olkhovska
Published On
December 4, 2023

What do Conan O’Brien, Hugh Grant, and Sting have in common? Many of them achieved success in various professions after studying English literature. It seems to reason that many authors pick their professions because they are passionate about language. Just a few examples are Amy Tan, Philip Roth, and Stephen King. The same is true for well-known writers and directors like Christopher Nolan.

01. Emma Watson

Actress Emma Watson is best recognized for playing Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movie series. Watson, however, is also a smart person who studied English literature at Brown University. It is no secret that Watson loves reading and writing, and her choice to major in English Literature is a reflection of this. She had the chance to investigate a wide range of literary genres and theories when she was a student at Brown, which likely influenced her artistic sensibility and thoughtfulness in her public advocacy work. Watson has improved her analytical and critical thinking abilities via her study of English literature, and she has also developed a greater love for literature. Her commitment to learning and reading has surely affected her career and personal decisions, allowing her to be a well-rounded person and a motivating role model for young people everywhere.

02. Conan O'Brien

Few people are aware that Conan O’Brien holds a degree in English literature from Harvard University because of his success in the entertainment industry. O’Brien has always had a profound passion for books and language, despite his image as a witty and irreverent demeanor. His exposure to classic literature when a student at Harvard, including works of theatre, poetry, and fiction, surely shaped his sense of humor and his capacity to develop clever jokes. Conan O’Brien’s degree in English literature surely had an impact on his sense of humor and his capacity to develop clever gags. Language and storytelling are key elements of humor as well as literature, which is a type of artistic expression. O’Brien’s academic education has also made it easier for him to connect with a variety of guests on his talk show since he can talk about literature and culture just as easily and intelligently as he talks about comedy.

03. Sting

The pupils at St. Paul’s School in Cramlington likely never thought that their English teacher would become a rock star. Gordon Summer, an English literature graduate from Northern Counties College of Education, turned his life around and became the well-known musician, Sting.

Although the song “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da ” may not display his wide vocabulary, the lyrics of his many other songs are evidence of his poetic side.

4. Christopher Nolan

The seventh art has also welcomed several graduates of English literature. Popular film directors such as James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, and Martin Scorsese studied English although not all of them ultimately obtained a degree. Christopher Nolan, however, completed his studies and graduated from University College London.

He applies these skills and knowledge to writing and co-writing many of the screenplays for his films. For example, Inception, for which he wrote the screenplay, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture in 2011.

05. Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon also pursued an English major when she attended Stanford, even though she had already had some acting success by this time.

The actress rose to fame for her role as the main character in Legally Blonde and its sequel. Her portrayal of a young blonde lawyer who is not taken seriously because of her appearance led to a Golden Globe nomination. But it was her performance in the musical Walk the Line that won her an Oscar for Best Actress. Witherspoon is not the only famous student of English literature in Hollywood. There is a long list of actors and actresses that includes the names of several distinct personalities:

  • Jodie Foster
  • Harrison Ford
  • James Franco
  • Vin Diesel
  • Paul Newman
  • Chevy Chase
  • Emma Thompson
  • Sigourney Weaver
  • Hugh Grant
  • Matt Damon
  • Emma Watson
  • Susan Sarandon
  • Joan Cusack
  • Christopher Reeve
  • Renee Zellweger
  • Tommy Lee Jones

We could add many more names here. Several of them earned their degrees at prestigious universities such as Oxford, Harvard, or Columbia and graduated with honors.

6. John Legend

Storytelling and the use of language to communicate feeling and meaning are frequent elements in both music and literature. A artist like John Legend can write better songs if they have a profound understanding of language and its power thanks to a degree in literature. Many of John Legend’s songs touch on themes of love, identity, and social justice that are also prevalent in African-American literature. This suggests that John Legend’s degree in English from the University of Pennsylvania, which focused on African-American literature, has had an influence on his music and lyrics. Because of his ability to utilize language and storytelling to encourage and inspire people, his experience in literature has also made him a smart and compelling public speaker and champion for social change.

07. Tom Hiddleston

Tom Hiddleston is a well-known British actor who has been in a number of movies and television shows, including “The Night Manager” on the BBC and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hiddleston did, however, graduate from the University of Cambridge with a degree in English literature before beginning his acting career. Tom Hiddleston’s acting career has surely been affected by his English Literature degree from the University of Cambridge since he has a strong respect for language and narrative. Hiddleston’s performances frequently demonstrate his capacity to convey sophisticated and nuanced discourse with clarity and subtlety, which is evidence of his command of language and literature. Shakespeare is really one of Hiddleston’s biggest influences, and during his career, he has been in a number of performances of the playwright’s works.

08. Stephen Colbert

Northwestern University awarded Stephen Colbert a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. He participated in the Northwestern campus comedy scene throughout his stay there, writing for and acting in a number of comedic productions. Colbert’s degree in English literature probably had a big impact on how successful he was as a comedian, author, and television host. He now possesses the abilities and expertise required to interact meaningfully with his audience, produce captivating satire, and communicate successfully.

09. Hugh Grant

A writing degree may help an actor’s career by giving them a strong foundation in storytelling, character development, and dialogue—skills that any actor should be able to master. Hugh Grant, a British actor, in particular, holds an Oxford University Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. Both in terms of the jobs he has taken on and his capacity to perform on stage and film, his academic education has had a considerable effect on his acting career. He has a strong command of the English language thanks to his background in English literature, which he has effectively used to his performances as romantic leads. His performances have always been distinguished by his ability to articulate and deliver lines with clarity and precision. His schooling has also equipped him with the critical thinking abilities needed to examine and understand texts, an ability that has been helpful in his interpretation of scripts and characters.

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