When she was awarded “Best International Actress” at this year’s Goldene Kamera awards last Saturday in Hamburg, Julianne Moore surprised the audience by holding a thank-you-speech in (still fairly good) German. Her father used to be stationed in Frankfurt when Moore was a teenager. Here are 5 more Hollywood stars who are more German than you may think…
1. Leonardo DiCaprio
Even though his name sounds a 100% Italian, Leonardo DiCaprio’s ancestry is actually mostly German. Mum Irmelin Indenbirken (even for me as a native German speaker that name is a little bit of a tongue twister!) was born in Germany before she emigrated to America with her parents as a young child in the 1950s. And even Leo's dad George is only of half Italian ancestry. The other half is – you might have guessed it – German.
This also explains Leonardo’s lesser known second name: Wilhelm (the German form of William) after his maternal grandfather. A better known fact: Before his beloved “Oma” Helene passed away aged 93 in 2008, Leo frequently visited his granny, who in turn was born in Russia, in her small hometown of Oer-Erkenschwick in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. As a teenager he also usually spent several weeks of his summer vacation with his grandparents Wilhelm and Helene in Germany and thus picked up a few words of German along the way.
Fun fact: After Leo’s overnight success with Titanic in 1997, hordes of teenagers were camping in Helene’s front garden in the hope of catching the star visiting his grandmother. Thankfully, the teenagers grew up quickly so that in recent years Helene and Leo were able to catch up in peace.
Leonardo on why Oma is the best:
Leonardo owes the world to Mama:
2. Sandra Bullock
Sandra Annette Bullock is the child of an American father who was stationed in Germany with the US army and a German mother who worked as an opera singer and voice teacher. After she was born in Arlington, Virgina, the family lived moved back to Germany and lived there for 12 years. Thus, Sandra spent most of her childhood speaking German in Nuremberg, Bavaria. Until the age of 18, Sandra held American/German dual citizenship and reapplied for German citizenship in 2009. So she is officially German, too!
Fun fact: When giving speeches at award shows, Sandra regularly surprises the audience by speaking in (almost) accent-free German. Examples include her laudation for the best foreign language film at the Oscars 2012.
Watch Sandra saying "Danke, Tante Christel und Onkel Heinz" – so cute! 🙂
3. Michael Fassbender
He may look more Irish, but his surname gives the German roots away… Hollywood Star Michael Fassbender was born in Heidelberg, Germany to an Irish mother and a German father. When he was two years old, the family moved back to Ireland where Michael’s parents ran a guest house.
He did, however, keep in touch with the other side of the channel: While growing up, Michael and his sister spent the summers in Germany, which is why the actor now speaks German fluently, albeit with a strong English accent.
Fun Fact: In Inglourious Basterds, Michael’s character is English, but pretends to be German general for an undercover mission in a pub full of Germans. He manages to talk himself out of his strange accent by pretending to be from a remote mountain village where everyone speaks like him. Later, however, he gives his true identity away with the typical English hand sign when ordering a drink.
4. Diane Kruger
Diane Kruger is what many German girls dream of, but only very few achieve: She is a German actress, but has been in Hollywood films throughout her career. Therefore, not everyone may know that she was actually born Diane Heidkrüger in a 8,000-inhabitants village called Algermissen in Lower Saxony. She left her village and Germany early in order to become a professional ballerina.
After successful auditions for the Royal Ballet School in London, however, she had to give up Ballet due to an injury. She then became a fashion model in Paris and later on one of our best German exports in Hollywood. Today, she divides her time between Paris, Vancouver and Los Angeles.
Fun Fact: In Inglourious Basterds, she played a German film star who works undercover for the resistance movement led by Brad Pitt. Normally speaking perfect English, she put on a teRRRible German accent as her character Bridget von Hammersmark.
5. Kirsten Dunst
Anyone else thought that Kirsten Dunst looks like she must have mostly Scandinavian ancestry? I certainly did before I found out that Kirsten is, again, more German than most people know. Kirsten was born in New Jersey, but her dad Klaus Dunst is a true Hamburger (literally)…
Her mum Inez (née Rupprecht, a name more German-sounding than Dunst) used to work for German airline Lufthansa and has German and Swedish ancestors. Just like Sandra, Kirsten gained German citizenship in 2011 in addition to her United States citizenship and is now officially half German.
Fun Fact: In a 2011 episode of Conan, Kirsten shows off the German swearwords she has learned so far. As a German myself, I have never heard anyone say the word “Scheißkopf”. So I believe Kirsten either made that up as the literal translation of “shithead” or snapped it up from someone… but this person was certainly not German. What's cute as well: "NeuSCHWEINstein" (New pig stone) 😀
Over to you: Did I miss anyone? Or do you know any celebs with a multicultural background? Let me know in the comments!