Celebrity Names Blog

Real Names of Academy Award Winners, Including Meryl Streep! Plus: Jennifer Aniston Gives Her New Dog An Oscar-Related Name

Real Names of Academy Award Winners, Including Meryl Streep! Plus: Jennifer Aniston Gives Her New Dog An Oscar-Related Name
Best Actress Winner Mary Louise Streep (better known as Meryl Streep), A.M.P.A.S.

When the Best Actress category was announced at the 2012 Academy Awards on Sunday, the crowd erupted into applause hearing that 17-time nominee Meryl Streep was awarded her third Oscar — this time for The Iron Lady. But it could have been that Mary Louise Streep, the given name of the actress (and reminiscent of fellow actress Mary-Louise Parker), who was the lucky winner. Though Mary Streep doesn't have the same ring to it that Meryl Streep does, does it?

Many of this year's Oscar nominees and winners are celebrity name changers, a popular practice in Hollywood in which aspiring stars modify their given names on their paths to fame and fortune.  Beyond Meryl, here are the birth names of some of the other noms...
Best Supporting Actress nominee Rooney Mara: Patricia Rooney Mara
Best Supporting Actress nominee Jessica Chastain: Jessica Howard
Best Actor nominee Brad Pitt: William Bradley Pitt
Best Supporting Actor nominee Jonah Hill: Jonah Hill Feldstein
Best Supporting Actor winner Christopher Plummer: Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer
Best Original Screenplay Woody Allen: Allen Konigsberg
Best Adapted Screenplay winner Alexander Payne: Constantine Alexander Payne

In the cases of Rooney and Jessica, each of the ladies took her mother's name when she embarked on a career in showbiz. Jessica's mother's maiden name is Chastain; Rooney's comes from her mother's side of the family — the Pittsburgh Steelers football team-owning Rooneys. And if you caught a glimpse of Brad Pitt on the red carpet at last night, he was with his true namesake — his father, William Pitt — as well as his mother, Jane Pitt, and partner Angelina Jolie, who also modified her given name, Angelina Jolie Voight, before breaking into Hollywood.

In researching Oscar nominee names, we found some other interesting tidbits:

  • Best Actor nominee Nick Nolte's middle name is King, which is a name that's been on the rise in recent years (since 2006 it's been climbing up the charts) — and so is the variant Kingston, which we read about with American Idol alum Michael Lynche's son last week, and of course, Gwen Stefani's eldest son.
  • Best Actress nominee Michelle Williams has a movie star middle name Ingrid -- like three-time Oscar winner Ingrid Bergman. (Michelle recently talked about how agents unsuccessfully tried to get her to change her name when she was just starting out.)
  • Best Supporting Actress winner Octavia Spencer has told us that she's named after Octavia the Younger, the sister of the first Roman Emperor Augustus. We go into detail about her name here.
Lastly, Jennifer Aniston announced over the weekend that she's given her new pitbull mix puppy — adopted with boyfriend Justin Theroux — an Oscars-related name. "We were [at the shelter] for three hours. I was almost walking out with three puppies," she said on The Tonight Show. "That's why we named her Sophie, because it was [like] Sophie's Choice. I was crying — it was so hard."
Sophie's Choice is the critically-acclaimed film that helped Meryl Streep win her second Oscar in 1983. But it was a dark film — centered around Meryl's character who was a Holocaust survivor — and surprising name inspiration. We think Hugo (like Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning flick) makes for a more fun name for pets and kids, which we talk about in depth here, and Rango is another movie name we can see having name potential.
Do you think Meryl Streep's career would have been as great if she kept the name Mary? How about Bill Pitt, instead of Brad, or Allen Konigsberg for Woody Allen? Plus: Share any movies that have inspired named you've given.


Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

February 28, 2012 1:27 PM
By Courtney (not verified)

Stars going by different names is nothing new academy award winner Patricia Neal's given Name is Patsy Louise Leann Rimes Real first name is Margaret Liza Todd Burton's real name is Elizabeth Frances Tood Burton Nell Potts's given name is Elinor Teresa Newman Tony Richardson's real name was Cecil Antonio Richardson Clark Gable's first name was William Sophia Loren's given last name is cicolone ect

February 28, 2012 5:18 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Ever hear of punctuation, Courtney?

February 29, 2012 11:12 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)


March 3, 2012 12:03 PM
By Anne (not verified)

Well, to be precise Meryl Streeps real name has been Mary Louise Gummer for the last 30-something years...

October 9, 2012 1:30 AM
By Malisa Fajardo (not verified)

The birth names of some of the other noms.

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