The Surprising Real Names Of 25 Celebrities

whoopi goldbergCaryn Elaine Johnson’s stage name was literally inspired by a whoopee cushion.

Plenty of Hollywood’s biggest names don’t go by their birth names–Demi Moore, Tina Fey, Mila Kunis, and Dakota Fanning. However, you probably don’t know how the celebrities ended up with their current monikers.

Some are simple–Nicolas Cage, nephew of Francis Ford Coppola, changed his last name to make a name for himself without the worries of Hollywood nepotism. 

Others, like Michael Caine and Martin Sheen are more inspired. And then there’s Whoopi Goldberg, whose name was Caryn Johnson until friends noticed her flatulence problem.

Demi Moore — Demetria Gene Guynes

Moore kept the last name of her first husband Freddy Moore after they divorced in 1984.

Daughter Tallulah also legally changed her name to Lula. Father Bruce Willis first broke the news in 2007 on 'The Late Show with David Letterman.'

'She wanted me to mention here on the big show that she's legally changing her name from Talullah to Lula, just Lula,' said Willis. 'She doesn't like her name.'

Reese Witherspoon — Laura Jeanne

The 'Sweet Home Alabama' actress traded her first and middle name in for her mother's maiden name, 'Reese.'

Katy Perry — Kathryn (Katy) Hudson

Before she was a chart-topping singer, Perry was producing Christian music, under her birth name, Kathryn Hudson. She released gospel record Katy Hudson under the former label Red Hill Records before adopting her mother's maiden name to avoid confusion with this actress Kate Hudson.

Joaquin Phoenix — Joaquin Rafael Bottom/Leaf Phoenix

Joaquin Rafael Bottom was born in 1974 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He is the third of five children, all with equally as interesting names, including River (1970--1993), Rain (1973), Liberty (1976), Summer (1978), and a half-sister named Jodean (1964).

After Joaquin's parents, John Lee and Arlyn Bottom, married in 1969, the couple joined the religious cult the Children of God and traveled around South America. But they soon became disenchanted with the cult and moved back to the U.S. in 1978, where they changed their last name to 'Phoenix' to symbolise 'new beginning.'

Around this same time, a young Joaquin began calling himself 'Leaf,' desiring to have a similar nature-related name like his siblings. In a past Jay Leno interview, Joaquin said he had originally called himself 'Antleaf' as a child.

Leaf would become the name he would use as a child actor until, at age 15, he changed it back to Joaquin.

Mila Kunis — Milena Markovna Kunis

At the age of seven, Milena Markovna Kunis and her family moved from Ukraine to Los Angeles, CA.

Mila's mother, Elvira, and father, Mark, soon enrolled her in acting classes and allowed Mila to shorten her name when she started booking her first roles on 'Days of our Lives,' '7th Heaven' and playing a young Angelina Jolie in 'Gia.'

Drake — Aubrey Drake Graham

When he played wheelchair-bound Jimmy Brooks on the Canadian TV show 'Degrassi,' the actor went by the name Aubrey Graham. But when the Toronto native switched his career focus to rapping in 2009 after signing a recording contract with Lil Wayne's Young Money Entertainment, he started using one name only: Drake.

Natalie Portman — Natalie Herschlag

Oscar-winning actress Natalie Herschlag is better known by her stage name, Natalie Portman.

After being born in Jerusalem, Israel, in 1981 to an Israeli gynecologist father named Avner Hershlag and American mother named Shelley Stevens (her mother's family changed their last name from 'Edelstein' to 'Stevens' when arriving in the U.S. from Russia and Austria), Portman now holds dual American and Israeli citizenship.

Whoopi Goldberg — Caryn Elaine Johnson

Born Caryn Elaine Johnson, this famous actress and 'The View' correspondent didn't become Whoopi Goldberg until, while working in a theatre in San Diego, friends noticed she had a bit of a flatulence problem and began calling her Whoopi after a whoopee cushion.

'If you get a little gassy, you've got to let it go,' Whoopi has said. 'So people used to say to me, 'You're like a whoopee cushion.' And that's where the name came from.'

It was Whoopi's mother who felt her daughter should take a Jewish-sounding last name to advance her Hollywood career. And thus Whoopi Goldberg was born.

Christopher Walken — Ronald Walken

According to a Salon article from 2000, Walken was originally named after actor Ronald Colman.

The change in name came about after singer Monique Van Vooren, who Walken worked for at the time, renamed him Christopher for no real apparent reason. The name stuck, though his friends still call him Ronnie.

Jodie Foster — Alicia Christian Foster

Foster's estranged brother Buddy claims her name change to 'Jodie' came as the result of a nickname, the code, 'Jo D' for their mother's partner, Josephina Dominguez in his book, 'Foster Child: A Biography of Jodie Foster.'

Louis C.K. — Louis Szekely

The comedian's Hungarian surname is pronounced SEK-kay; however, after people had a tough time pronouncing his name, he decided to change it to an easier English translation: SEE-Kay.

Meg Ryan — Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra

Born in Fairfield, Connecticut, to Roman Catholic parents named Susan Jordan and Harry Hyra, Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra changed her name to Meg Ryan after she dropped out of NYU one semester early to pursue her budding acting career.

Jamie Foxx — Eric Marlon Bishop

rumour has it Foxx picked an androgynous name because he noticed female comedians were often picked over men to perform at comedy clubs.

Tina Fey — Elizabeth Stamatina Fey

That's right. Fey shares the name of her '30 Rock' Liz Lemon character. Her stage name is just a shortened version of her middle name.

Ludacris — Christopher Brian Bridges

The rapper has said the stage name explains his split personality.

'The nickname is something I made up,' said Ludacris. 'Part of me is calm, cool, and collective (sic), while the other side is just beyond crazy.'

Before becoming a rapper, Ludacris was known as 'Chris Luva Luva' on Atlanta's Hot 97.

Fergie — Stacy Ann Ferguson

With Black Eyed Peas band mates named, and Taboo, the name Stacy Ferguson just wasn't going to cut it.

After being a member of the children's TV show 'Kids Incorporated' and performing with the girl group 'Wild Orchid,' Ferguson quickly changed her name to something that would pop like her music: Fergie.

Ben Kingsley — Krishna Pandit Bhanji

Kingsley revealed on 'Inside the Actors Studio' he feared a foreign name could hurt his career.

Charlie Sheen / Martin Sheen — Carlos Irwin Estevez / Ramon Antonio Gerard Estevez

With his paternal grandparents originally immigrants from Spain and Ireland, Sheen wanted to take on a more American name. His children share the Sheen surname.

According to a 2003 'Inside the Actors Studio' interview, his father, Martin Sheen, revealed he took his name from CBS casting director Robert Dale Martin, who gave him his big break, and a Catholic televangelist, Fulton J. Sheen, whom he thought was a great actor. Unlike his son Charlie, Martin never legally changed his name.

Emilio Estevez (right), of course, kept his name.

Dakota Fanning — Hannah Dakota Fanning

The youngest nominee ever for a Screen Actors Guild Award, Hannah Dakota Fanning goes by her middle name professionally instead of her legal first name.

Fanning, whose mother Heather Arrington played professional tennis (her father, Dakota's grandfather, was NFL player Rick Arrington) and father, Steven Fanning, a former minor league baseball player, is of Irish and German ancestry.

Michael Caine — Maurice Joseph Micklewhite

According to IMDB, Caine changed his name after advice from an agent.

In 2009, Caine explained re-naming himself after Humphrey Bogart's character in 'The Caine Mutiny' to NY Mag.

'Bogart was my hero, and even though he came from a sort of snobby, aristocratic family--he was a distant relation of Princess Diana--when I was a kid I thought he was a tough guy,' said Caine. 'Any person with my working-class background would be a villain or a comic cipher, usually badly played, and with a rotten accent. There weren't a lot of guys in England for me to look up to.'

Bono — Paul David Hewson

The U2 frontman and humanitarian we all know as Bono wasn't actually born with just one name. Before he became world famous, the Irish musician was known by the name Paul David Hewson. But his wife still reminds Bono of his roots, going by the name Ali Hewson.

The name Bono was originally a nickname, short for 'Bono Vox' meaning 'good voice' in Latin, said to be given by his friend Gavin Friday.

Lady Gaga — Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta

26-year-old Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was born and raised in New York City until one day she hatched her on-stage alter-ego, Lady Gaga.

Chevy Chase — Cornelius Crane Chase

Cornelius Crane Chase was named after his mother's adoptive father, Cornelius Vanderbilt Crane, heir to the successful New York company, Crane Plumbing.

The nickname Chevy was given by his grandmother, from the medieval English 'The Ballad of Chevy Chase.' As a descendant of the Scottish Clan Douglas, she felt the name 'Chevy' seemed fitting.

Pink — Alicia Beth Moore

According to IMDB, the singer derived her stage name from the film 'Reservoir Dogs.' Her friends agreed she resembled Mr. Pink played by Steve Buscemi.

Natalie Wood — Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko

After being born in San Francisco to Russian immigrant parents in 1938, Wood Americanized her name when she became a child actress at just four-years-old.

At age eight, Wood starred in 'Miracle on 34th Street' and went on to have a successful, Oscar-nominated acting career as an adult before mysteriously drowning near Santa Catalina Island in 1981 at age 43.

Now that you know the celebrities' real names ...

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