30 Celebrities Who Changed Their Names

From shortened last names to childhood nicknames that stuck, these celebrities made a major switch before entering Hollywood

01 of 30

Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas
Kirk Douglas. Nancy R. Schiff/Getty Images

The late Kirk Douglas was born Issur Danielovitch in upstate New York, the son of poor and illiterate Russian immigrants Herschel and Bryna, who later went by Harry and Bertha.

He told PEOPLE in 2015 that, before pursuing a career in show business, he changed his name because his given name was too unwieldy and too Jewish for Hollywood at the time.

"I wish I had kept it," he said, looking back on the decision. "It's more interesting to keep your original name. But can you imagine that name on a marquee?"

The Douglas name carried over to Kirk's son, Michael Douglas, whose name would force another actor on this list to adopt a name change.

02 of 30

Dove Cameron

"Clueless, The Musical" Opening Night
Dove Cameron. Bruce Glikas/Getty

Born Chloe Celeste Hoffman, the actress legally changed her name to Dove as a tribute to her late father, who called her that as a nickname.

"He called me Dove more than he ever called me Chloe," she told StyleWatch. "He passed away when I was 15, and I decided to legally change it. So it's on my passport — everything legal is Dove."

However, she shared on Twitter in September 2017 that she responds to both names, and friends and family still call her Chloe.

03 of 30

John Legend

John Legend. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

Born John Roger Stephens, the singer's stage name comes from a childhood nickname that stuck.

"John Legend is a nickname that some friends started calling me, and it kind of grew into my stage name," he told MTV in 2008. "It grew to the point where more people in my circle would know me by that name than by my real name."

04 of 30

Meg Ryan

Meg Ryan. Cindy Ord/Getty

Ryan's moniker might sound short and sweet, but her real name is quite a mouthful: Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra.

She began using her grandmother's maiden name, "Ryan," as a surname when she joined the Screen Actors Guild, Entertainment Weekly reported.

05 of 30

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn. Archive Photos/Getty

The origins of Hepburn's true name are shrouded in mystery. Sources have disagreed on the exact birthname of the Belgian-born actress, but The New York Times reported she was born Edda van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston.

The names Edda, Audrey (the English form of the Dutch name Edda) and Andrey (a feminine form of Andrew) can be found in different biographies, although Edda is found most frequently, according to Britannica.

Sources do agree, however, that Hepburn's mother was the Dutch baroness Ella van Heemstra and that her British father's surname was Ruston, though he went by the more aristocratic-sounding name Hepburn-Ruston, believing he was a descendant of Mary, Queen of Scots, the encyclopedia reports.

06 of 30

Vin Diesel

Premiere Of Disney And Marvel's "Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2" - Arrivals
Vin Diesel.

Apparently, the name Mark Sinclair didn't sound tough enough for the actor when he worked as a New York City bouncer before his big break.

The action star shortened his mother's maiden name Vincent to get his new first name. As for "Diesel," he once revealed on Late Night with Conan O'Brien that he got the nickname from friends who said he was always full of energy.

07 of 30

Nicki Minaj

amfAR's 24th Cinema Against AIDS Gala, Arrivals, 70th Cannes Film Festival, France - 25 May 2017
Nicki Minaj. David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock

Trinidadian-born rapper Minaj's stage moniker is a shortened version of her real name, Onika Tanya Maraj.

08 of 30

Calvin Harris

2012 MTV Video Music Awards - Arrivals
Calvin Harris. Frederick M. Brown/Getty I

Fans might have raised an eyebrow when Taylor Swift thanked her then-boyfriend "Adam" at the 2016 iHeartRadio Awards — but Harris goes by Adam Richard Wiles when he's not spinning records.

The Scottish musician told the Shortlist in 2009 that he decided to change his name "to exploit the racial ambiguity of his stage name," according to Esquire.

"My first single was more of a soul track, and I thought Calvin Harris sounded a bit more racially ambiguous," he said. "I thought people might not know if I was Black or not. After that, I was stuck with it."

09 of 30

Charlie Sheen

Charlie Sheen. Michael Buckner/Getty

Martin Sheen's youngest son, Carlos Irwin Estevez, adopted his father's stage name when he began acting using the name Charlie.

In contrast, Charlie's siblings — Emilio, Ramón and Renée — who are all actors, continue to use their Spanish last name, Estévez.

10 of 30

Diane Keaton

AFI Life Achievement Award Gala Tribute To Diane Keaton - Arrivals
Diane Keaton. Steve Granitz/WireImage

Keaton's real surname is Hall, as in Annie Hall, the character she played in the Woody Allen film of the same name, which won her an Oscar in 1978. Allen wrote the role specifically for the actress, whom he had previously dated, taking her real last name and combining it with her nickname, Annie, according to Stig Björkman's Woody Allen on Woody Allen: In Conversation with Stig Björkman.

The Marvin's Room star originally changed her surname to Keaton, her mother's maiden name, because there was another actress named Diane Hall in the Actors' Equity Association, according to Vogue.

11 of 30

Olivia Wilde

Celebrity Sightings in New York City - June 13, 2017
Olivia Wilde. James Devaney/GC Images

Paying tribute to Oscar Wilde, one of her favorite authors, actress Olivia Jane Cockburn changed her last name to Wilde when she began acting.

12 of 30

Katy Perry

Katy Perry In Germany
Katy Perry. Britta Pedersen/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa /MediaPunch

The pop star was born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson but changed her name so she wouldn't be confused with actress Kate Hudson (though Perry released her self-titled first album under the name "Katy Hudson" in 2001). Perry is her mother's maiden name.

13 of 30

Miley Cyrus

The Voice - Season 12
Miley Cyrus.

Cyrus legally changed her name from Destiny Hope to Miley Ray (a rendition of her childhood nickname "Smiley") in 2008.

14 of 30

Nina Dobrev

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Nina Dobrev. Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

Bulgarian actress Dobrev shortened her name from Nikolina Konstantinova Dobreva.

15 of 30

Jamie Foxx

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Jamie Foxx. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

The Oscar-winning actor was born Eric Marlon Bishop but changed his name to the more gender-ambiguous Jamie Foxx during his stand-up days.

The actor-comedian chose the more feminine-sounding name because female comedians were often called to the stage first, Yahoo! reports.

He chose "Foxx" in honor of Sanford and Son star Redd Foxx.

16 of 30

Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix. Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

The actor's parents changed the family's last name from Bottom to Phoenix in the late 1970s to represent a new beginning.

17 of 30

Bruno Mars

102.7 KIIS FM's Jingle Ball 2016 - Show
Bruno Mars. LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 02: Bruno Mars performs at 102.7 KIIS FM's Jingle Ball 2016 at Staples Center on Dec. 2, 2016, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

Born Peter Gene Hernandez, he later told Latina magazine, "My dad nicknamed me Bruno since I was 2 years old.

"I was going to go by 'Bruno,' one name. Mars just kind of came joking around because that sounds bigger than life. That was it, simple as that."

Mars would later reveal that his father nicknamed him "Bruno" after professional wrestler Bruno Sammartino.

18 of 30

Michael Keaton

The 31st Santa Barbara International Film Festival - American Riviera Award
Michael Keaton. Matthew Simmons/Getty Images

The actor was forced to change his last name from Douglas to Keaton to enter the actor's union since his birth name, Michael Douglas, was already taken by a future Academy Award-winning actor.

19 of 30

Tom Cruise


He might be the only Tom Cruise in Hollywood, but not in his family! The actor's birth name is Thomas Cruise Mapother IV. He began using his middle name as a surname at the behest of an agent.

20 of 30

Demi Moore

"Blind" New York Premiere
Demi Moore. Gary Gershoff/WireImage

Sometimes less is Moore! Born Demetria Gene Guynes, the actress shortened her first name to just Demi. The star's last name is a holdover from her first marriage to singer Freddy Moore.

21 of 30

Whoopi Goldberg

44th Chaplin Award Gala - Backstage
Whoopi Goldberg. Mike Coppola/Getty

Born Caryn Elaine Johnson, the Oscar-winning actress explained that her stage name "Whoopi" comes from the whoopee cushion.

"If you get a little gassy, you've got to let it go. So people used to say to me, 'You're like a whoopee cushion.' And that's where the name came from," she told The New York Times in 2006.

Goldberg is her mother's maiden name, which she opted to use in the hope of being taken more seriously.

"My mother did not name me Whoopi, but Goldberg is my name, it's part of my family, part of my heritage. Just like being Black," she revealed to The Jewish Chronicle in 2011.

22 of 30

Marilyn Monroe

Portrait Of Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe. Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

It's hard to imagine the iconic actress by any other name, but Monroe went by several different monikers throughout her life, even before she landed in Hollywood.

Monroe was baptized Norma Jeane Baker, but the name on her birth certificate was Norma Jeane Mortenson. It changed again after she married James Dougherty and adopted his surname.

She didn't legally change her name to Marilyn Monroe until 1956, although she had been publicly known by the moniker since 1946. Ben Lyon, a 20th Century Fox executive, gave her the name Marilyn because she reminded him of actress Marilyn Miller. She picked Monroe after her mother's maiden name.

She later went by Marilyn Monroe Miller after marrying author Arthur Miller in 1956.

23 of 30

Natalie Portman

77th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
Natalie Portman.

Born Neta-Lee Hershlag, the Israeli-American actress took her paternal grandmother's maiden name, "Portman," as her stage name for privacy reasons.

24 of 30

Alicia Keys

2016 MTV Video Music Awards - Arrivals
Alicia Keys.

Turns out, the singer's name and impressive piano skills are no coincidence! Keys changed her name from Alicia Augello Cook to reflect her love of music.

25 of 30

Winona Ryder

23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - Red Carpet
Winona Ryder. John Shearer/Getty

The actress changed her last name from Horowitz when asked how she would like to have her name appear on the credits of her first role. She suggested Ryder as Mitch Ryder's album was playing in the background.

26 of 30

Jennifer Aniston

Vanity Fair Oscar Party, Los Angeles, USA - 26 Feb 2017
Jennifer Aniston.

No, Aniston's real name is not secretly Rachel Green — it's Jennifer Linn Anastassakis! Her Greek father, actor John Aniston, changed the family's last name when he went into show business.

27 of 30

Elton John

Elton John Performs At Save On Foods Memorial Centre
Elton John. Andrew Chin/Getty

Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight, the singer started going by the name Elton John in honor of two blues legends: saxophonist Elton Dean and singer Long John Baldry. As he grew to "dislike" his birth name, he legally changed his name in May 1972, adding the middle name "Hercules."

"When I became Elton John, it was like a new lease on life," he said in a 1987 interview, The Daily Express reported. "I didn't particularly like being Reg Dwight. It had too many unhappy memories."

He added, "I hated the word 'Reg,' anyway. It was just a horrible name."

28 of 30

Martin Sheen

As the son of a Spanish immigrant father and Irish mother, the West Wing actor was born Ramón Antonio Gerardo Estévez. However, he never changed his birth name legally, revealing to Closer Weekly in June 2022 that the name change is one he "regrets."

"That's one of my regrets," he said to the outlet. "Sometimes you get persuaded when you don't have enough insight or even enough courage to stand up for what you believe in, and you pay for it later."

He added, "I never changed my name officially. It's still Ramon Estévez on my birth certificate. It's on my marriage license, my passport, driver's license."

29 of 30

Lily James

The Pam & Tommy star was born Lily Chloe Ninette Thomson, but she adopted the last name James in memory of her late father, James Thomson, who died of cancer in 2008.

30 of 30

John Wayne

Perhaps the most famous movie star in American film history, Wayne maintained a rugged, masculine presence on-screen for decades — though it may not have worked out that way had he acted under his birth name, Marion Morrison.

After playing a few small parts, including one under the name "Duke Morrison" (Duke is a lifelong nickname for the star), two studio executives decided to bill the rising star "John Wayne" in his first supporting role in the 1930 film The Big Trail.

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