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48 Famous Men Who Changed Their Names
What’s in a name? For some, it’s the fear of sounding “foreign” in an acting market that may prejudice non native thespians, or a production company that can’t seem to pronounce anything beyond three syllables. Names contain opportunities, embarrassments, and vestiges of past selves. Also, sometimes, names just sound dumb. For these famous folks, the only name we know is the name they want us to know. But you can’t run from a birth name. So here are the names these men were first called by. And why they made the change.
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Foxx was born “Eric Marlon Bishop.” He changed his name when performing stand up comedy, hoping to get earlier call times with a more gender neutral name.
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Maurice Joseph Micklewhite Jr. used the stage name “Michael Scott” before deciding on “Caine.” Though he performed with the name for decades, he only officially changed in 2016.
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John was born “Reginald Kenneth Dwight” and chose a stage name that would pay homage to two musicians: saxophonist Elton Dean and singer Long John Baldry.
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Okay, so Elba’s name is really “Idrissa Akuna Elba,” making the change less a departure than a shortening. Still, it’s hard picturing a movie poster with Elba as Idrissa. (For many of us, however, he’ll always be “Stringer.”)
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Robert Allen Zimmerman first changed to “Robert Allyn” before finding inspiration in the poems of Dylan Thomas. “Robert” became “Bob” and “Allyn” became “Dylan” and the rest is rock and roll history.
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Following his father, Carlos Irwin Estévez changed his last name to “Sheen.” Martin Sheen was born Ramón Gerardo Antonio Estévez.
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Joaquin Rafael Bottom changed his surname to match his siblings who had chosen “Phoenix.”
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John Roger Stephens changed his name after signing with Kanye West’s record label. The name, he was told, reflected an old school sound.
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Peter Gene Hernandez has said the name change originated from his desire to sound other worldly—and so that record labels wouldn’t think of him as the next Enrique Iglesias.
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Nicolas Kim Coppola is the nephew of legendary director Francis Ford Coppola. He changed his name to “Cage” to stand apart.
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Mark Sinclair decided to adopt his father’s surname “Vincent” as well as a nickname given to him while working as a bouncer in New York: “Diessel.”
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Born William Bradley Pitt, Pitt decided to drop “William” and simply use “Brad” as his stage name.
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When people kept mispronouncing Aaron Paul Sturtevant’s last name, he stopped his name at “Paul” instead.
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Like Pitt, Edward Thomas Hardy decided to drop that first name nonsense, forever confusing fans of mid nineteenth-century English literature.
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Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou is just too damn hard to say. George Michael. There. Wham! Better.
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It’s not clear why Jonah Hill Feldstein took out his surname. It does make the realization that actress Beanie Feldstein is actually his sister that much more mind-blowing, though.
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Both Benjamin Géza Affleck-Boldt and his brother Caleb Casey McGuire Affleck-Boldt decided to simplify their names for their acting careers.
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Malick was born “Zain Javadd Malik.” Why add the “y” for a stage name? Cuz it’s frickin cool, that’s why.
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José Antonio Domínguez Bandera decided to drop the first name and tack an “s” on the surname.
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You don’t know the face, but you definitely know the name … the made up name. Lauren was actually born “Ralph Lifshitz.” Would you wear a Lifshitz? Thought not.
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Another iconic designer, Kors was actually born “Karl Anderson Jr.”
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Adam Richard Wiles has said that “Calvin Harris” sounded more racially ambiguous and would be better given his more soul-like genre. It’s not a great answer, but there it is.
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Enrique José Martín Morales IV’s decided on the stage name Ricky Martin.
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The cost of making it as an actor sometimes entails awesome-sounding last names. Thomas Cruise Mapother IV had to cut a few syllables and make the sacrifice.
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Like many actors on the list, Walter Bruce Willis went with the middle name, last name combo for his stage identity.
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A childhood nickname, “Kit,” born Christopher Catesby Harington, didn’t find out his real name until he was eleven.
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Jaaason …. Joel Desrouleaux? Doesn’t quite roll of the tongue when shouted over the club.
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Stevie was born Stevland Hardaway Morris. “Steveland” became “Stevie” and “Wonder” …. well, it just seems fitting after hearing him sing.
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First on the list of monosyllabic singers is Paul David Hewson. Hewson was named “Bono Vox” by a childhood friend. (“Bonavox” being latin for “good voice.”) Later, Bono adopted the first name as, well, his only recognizable name.
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Apparently Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner used to wear a black and yellow sweater that reminded a band member of a bee. Get it?
Josh St. Clair
Joshua St Clair is an editorial assistant at Men’s Health Magazine.
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