Those of us who follow the entertainment industry can get used to seeing familiar actors and singers in their current surroundings, which helps to obscure the fact that many of them were actually born somewhere quite different than where we might assume.
In many cases they can switch an accent on or off at will like a chameleon, and in other cases they were born in an unusual place by circumstances that brought them far away from their traditional homes.
If you are the type who loves to collect trivia nuggets then you may know quite a few of these below, but chances are there will be at least a handful that you would never have suspected.
Natalie Hershlag, who uses her grandmother’s maiden name of Portman as her stage last name, was born to an American mother and Israeli father in Jerusalem, Israel, in 1981. Her mother Shelley moved to Israel several years earlier to be with her father, Avner, whom she met at Ohio State University.
When Natalie was 3, the small family moved to Washington DC, and then later to Connecticut and Long Island, New York. She still goes back to Israel often, and she claims to feel most at home there.
In one of the more mysterious stories on this list, Keanu Charles Reeves (his real name, by the way), was born to a British mother and a Chinese-Hawaiian father while the pair were together in Lebanon. Reeves’ mother became a performer and costume designer as she moved the family to Australia and then New York City, while divorcing Reeves’ father in the process.
The family (including a new baby sister born in Australia) finally settled in Toronto in the late sixties, which is where Keanu lived until he moved to Los Angeles in 1986.
Depending on your age, this may not even be too surprising, but during the early part of his career, Mel Gibson was known to all as an “Australian actor.” He first gained international fame by starring in the Mad Max series of films, which were made in Australia and released between 1979 and 1985. He’s always been able to turn his Australian accent on and off at will, due to the fact that he was born in Peekskill, New York in 1956, and lived there for the first 12 years of his life, before moving to Sydney with his parents and 10 brothers and sisters.
He’s now known more for his escapades in and around his home in Malibu, California, but the trivia doesn’t end there. His mother, Anne Reilly Gibson, was born in Ireland, and Mel himself has both an American and an Irish passport.
Known to the whole world as the very British Hermione Granger and friend of Harry Potter, Watson herself was born in the City of Lights in 1990. Her parents are both British-born lawyers (though her mother has some French blood) who lived for an extended period in Paris, and who divorced and moved back to Oxford when Emma was five.
She performed in school plays and on the debating team, but a chance audition at the age of nine led to her first-ever professional job, on the first Harry Potter film.
Known as arguably the most famous female film star in the history of Australia, it’s an odd bit of trivia that the actress was actually born in Hawaii in 1967. Her parents are both full-blooded Australians, who just happened to be living in Honolulu at the time due to an extended assignment by her father at the National Institute of Mental Health.
The family moved back to Sydney when Kidman was four years old, where she spent the rest of her youth. She still has dual American and Australian citizenship.
This one actually shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who was paying attention. Born in 1975, Theron spent the first 16 years of her life in the area in and around Johannesburg, and her first language was actually Afrikaans, which comes from Dutch rather than English. She went to Milan, Italy on a modeling contract when she was 16, and then she settled in New York City after that, on her way to her current home in Los Angeles. Theron’s flawless American accent has helped many forget her interesting roots, and her being named the “Sexiest woman alive” and winning a Best Actress Oscar in 2004 have made it so no one really cares how she got here.