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Class Acts: Where the 2016 Academy Award Nominees Went to School

Class Acts: Where the 2016 Academy Award Nominees Went to School
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Noodle Staff February 26, 2016

Before they were famous, they were . . . students. Find out where this year’s Oscar hopefuls pursued higher education.

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Before they were famous, many Hollywood actors, producers, directors, writers, and composers were SAT-taking college hopefuls.

Find out where this year’s Academy Award nominees went to school — and see if you share an alma mater with any of them!

Best Picture

# “The Big Short"

Steve Carell graduated from Denison University with a degree in history.

Ryan Gosling was homeschooled while working in TV as a child; he later dropped out of high school to pursue acting.

Brad Pitt attended the University of Missouri, majoring in journalism with a focus on advertising.

# “Bridge of Spies"

Alan Alda graduated from Fordham University; he was also a student staff member of Fordham’s radio station, WFUV.

Tom Hanks studied theater at Chabot College, later transferring to California State University, Sacramento before dropping out.

Steven Spielberg graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a degree in film and television production, but his collegiate career was anything but typical. He earned his B.A. at age 55 — 37 years after first enrolling — and submitted “Schindler’s List" (which had won seven Oscars) as his student film.

# “Brooklyn"

Jim Broadbent graduated from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

Domhnall Gleeson earned a B.A. in media arts from the Dublin Institute of Technology before embarking on a career as a writer, director, and actor.

Nick Hornby, who wrote the movie’s screenplay, graduated from Jesus College, Cambridge.

# “Mad Max: Fury Road"

Zoë Kravitz graduated from the Rudolf Steiner School in Manhattan and attended the acting conservatory at the State University of New York at Purchase College.

Charlize Theron studied at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City until a knee injury derailed her dance career.

# “The Martian"

Jessica Chastain graduated from The Juilliard School with a B.F.A. degree. She notes that she earned a full scholarship funded by Juilliard alum Robin Williams.

Kate Mara was accepted into New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts to study musical theater, but eventually deferred the offer of admission to work as an actor.

Kristen Wiig studied art at the University of Arizona, where she took an acting class to fulfill a requirement. She eventually withdrew from school to work in theater in Los Angeles.

# “The Revenant"

Jill Brooks, the visual effects executive producer on the film, majored in drama with an emphasis in design for television and film at San Diego State University.

Stephen Mirrione, the movie’s editor, earned a film and digital media degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

An executive producer on “The Revenant" and the director of movies like “Rush Hour" and “X-Men: The Last Stand," Brett Ratner graduated from New York University.

# “Room"

Joan Allen graduated from Northern Illinois University with a B.F.A. in theater.

William H. Macy attended Bethany College, where he studied veterinary medicine; he later transferred to Goddard College to pursue theater.

# “Spotlight"

Michael Keaton attended Kent State University for two years, but dropped out to pursue stand-up comedy.

Liev Schreiber earned a B.A. in semiotics from Hampshire College and an M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama.

John Slattery went to Catholic University of America, where he earned a B.F.A.

Stanley Tucci graduated from the State University of New York at Purchase College with a B.A. in drama.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Bryan Cranston (“Trumbo") graduated from Los Angeles Valley College with an associate degree in police science.

Matt Damon (“The Martian") attended Harvard University, but left before earning his degree. He worked on an early version of “Good Will Hunting" while he was still in school.

Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Revenant") dropped out of high school and eventually earned his GED.

Michael Fassbender (“Steve Jobs") studied at the Drama Centre London, but dropped out to tour with the Oxford Stage Company.

Eddie Redmayne (“The Danish Girl") graduated with honours from Trinity College, Cambridge University with a degree in the history of art.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett (“Carol") graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Australia.

Brie Larson (“Room") was a student at the American Conservatory Theater as a young child, but then began homeschooling as her acting career started to take off.

Jennifer Lawrence (“Joy") withdrew from her Kentucky high school, but enrolled in online classes. She was able to graduate two years early.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies") graduated from the University School of Milwaukee.

Sylvester Stallone (“Creed") attended the University of Miami with plans to study dramatic arts, but left before earning his degree.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Rooney Mara (“Carol") graduated from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.

Rachel McAdams (“Spotlight") earned a B.F.A. from York University’s theatre program.

Alicia Vikander (“The Danish Girl") was admitted to law school in her native Sweden, but landed her first leading role a few weeks before classes began, so she never matriculated.

Best Achievement in Directing

Lenny Abrahamson (“Room") studied physics and philosophy at Trinity College Dublin.

Alejandro G. Iñárritu (“The Revenant") majored in communications at Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, Mexico.

Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight") graduated from Boston College with a bachelor’s in philosophy before studying acting at the graduate level at the Yale School of Drama.

Adam McKay (“The Big Short") went to both Penn State and Temple University, though he withdrew from Temple a semester and a half before earning his bachelor’s degree.

George Miller (“Mad Max: Fury Road") graduated with a medical degree from the University of New South Wales. He raised funds for his first movie by working as an emergency room doctor.

Best Achievement in Music (Original Score)

Carter Burwell (“Carol") earned a degree in fine arts from Harvard University, though his focus at that time was animation, not music.

Ennio Morricone (“The Hateful Eight") earned a diploma in trumpet performance from the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.

Thomas Newman (“Bridge of Spies") graduated from Yale University — twice: once with a with B.A. and once with a master’s (both in music).

John Williams (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens") studied piano at The Juilliard School. He wanted to be a concert pianist (and has had to settle for the five Oscars he’s won since 1971).


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