20 celebrities who studied English literature and writing

Eva Mohyrova
What career should you pursue after gaining your degree in English? Obviously, the choice is big, and it is all yours to make. However, if you need some inspiration, take a look at these 20 famous people who gained a degree in English language and literature and made the most out of it.

What can you achieve if you decide to pursue a career in English literature and writing? It turns out, probably much more than you expected.
English majors are known for their passion for reading, creativity, and sometimes the ability to over-analyse everything (this comes naturally if you read too many good books). These qualities can definitely help you achieve a lot in life, just like they helped these celebrity English majors.


An English actor and film producer, Hugh Grant is well-known and critically acclaimed for his roles in Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Love Actually, etc. He studied English Literature at Oxford University’s New College, where he graduated in 1982 with a 2.1 bachelor’s degree. Grant wanted to continue education later; however, he wasn’t able to secure a grant to study for a PhD in the History of Art, and decided to pursue acting instead.


Paul Simon is an American singer-songwriter and actor, and former member of the famous duo Simon & Garfunkel. He has won 16 Grammy awards for his solo and collaborative work; Rolling Stone named him one of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time in 2015, and that’s still not the full list of his accomplishments and awards. Simon is definitely very talented; however, he is also well-educated. He earned a degree in English literature at Queens College, where he graduated in 1963.


Emma Watson is an English actress, model, and one of the rare celebrities who decided to undergo academic education after becoming famous. Her busy acting schedule didn’t stop her from gaining a bachelor’s degree in English literature. Watson had to take two full semesters off because of her work, which extended her course from four years to five. However, in May 2014 she successfully graduated from Brown University. Furthermore, Watson also was a visiting student at Worcester College, which is part of Oxford University.


Steven Spielberg is much more than just an American filmmaker. He is one of the most popular producers and directors in the entire history of film. His movie Jaws is considered the first summer blockbuster, and Spielberg himself is considered one of the founding pioneers of the New Hollywood era. Spielberg was an English major at California State University, Long Beach. While we cannot say for sure that it was his education that made him such a successful cinematic storyteller, we can safely assume that it definitely helped.


Having an English degree doesn’t necessarily mean you end up working in the creative industry. Take a look at Mitt Romney, an American politician, 2012 US Presidential Candidate, junior United States senator from Utah, and businessman. In 1971, Romney graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in English with the highest honours. He continued his education at Harvard University, gaining a joint Juris Doctor and MBA degree.


Sigourney Weaver is an American actress, well-known for her role as Ellen Ripley in the Aliens franchise. That role didn’t just get her an Oscar nomination in 1986—it is still considered one of the most inspiring and important female protagonists in cinema, just as Weaver herself is considered a pioneer of action heroines in Sci-Fi movies. Weaver studied English at Stanford University, where she graduated in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree.


Jodie Foster is an American actress, producer, and director. She is also one of the rare actresses who pursued an education after becoming famous. After starring in Martin Scorsese’s drama Taxi Driver, Foster decided to attend Yale University to study English literature. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1984.
Sigourney Weaver studied English at Stanford University.


Speaking of Martin Scorsese, the esteemed director also holds a degree in English. In fact, this American filmmaker and historian made his first short film while studying at New York University’s film school. Scorsese graduated in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in English and continued to study to gain a master’s degree in film.


David Duchovny has an impressive list of careers he has pursued during his life: he is an actor, producer, director, novelist, and singer-songwriter on top of that. Of course, his talents are also backed up by his educational background. In 1982, Duchovny graduated from Princeton with a bachelor’s degree with the highest honours in English literature. He then continued his education at Yale University, earning a master’s degree in English literature there. Furthermore, Duchovny has been working on his PhD, which, at present, remains unfinished. His doctoral thesis is titled “Magic and Technology in Contemporary Fiction and Poetry”.


Sting is an English musician, singer, and actor. He is also an award-winning songwriter, inductee into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for recording. From 1971 to 1974, Sting studied English at Northern Counties College of Education (later in 1992, the college was inaugurated as Northumbria University).


Jon Hamm is an American actor, primarily known for his role as Don Draper in the television drama series “Mad Men”. He studied English at the University of Missouri and graduated in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree.


Renée Zellweger is an American actress and film producer best known for playing the titular role in the Bridget Jones’s Diary film series. Winner of the Academy Award, BAFTA Award, and Golden Globe Award, Zellweger started showing interest in acting during her university years, when she was studying English at the University of Texas at Austin. She graduated in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree and decided to pursue an acting career.


This doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. Stephen King is an American bestselling author of horror, science fiction, supernatural fiction, fantasy, and suspense books. An award-winning writer, who, as it seems, doesn’t have any writer’s block at all, King wrote his first short stories and columns before attending university. However, he later went to study English at the University of Maine, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1970.


Joan Cusack is an award-winning American actress, comedian, and an English major as well. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1984.
Diane Sawyer graduated from Wellesley College with a bachelor’s degree in English.


Diane Sawyer is an American television journalist and former anchor of “ABC World News”. Her skills are backed up by a college degree: Sawyer graduated from Wellesley College with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1967.


Conan O’Brien is an American comedian, television host, producer, and writer. He wrote and produced “The Simpsons” for two seasons, worked as a part of the writing staff for “Saturday Night Live”, and now hosts his own talk show “Conan”. Naturally, Conan has a way with words; he studied History & Literature at Harvard University and graduated with great honours in 1985.


James Franco is an American actor, filmmaker, and college instructor. He has taught film classes at Studio 4, Playhouse West, Palo Alto High School, the University of Southern California, and New York University. But before sharing his knowledge and wisdom with students, Franco was a student himself. Just like Emma Watson, he was working hard to gain his university degree while continuing to act at the same time. The hard work paid off: he graduated from the University of Southern California (UCLA) in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in English and achieved a GPA of 3.5/4.0 for it.


Christopher Nolan is an English film director, producer, and screenwriter. Filmmaking was Nolan’s passion since childhood and he did pick his college (University College London) specifically because of its filmmaking facilities. However, his major was still English literature.


Just like in Stephen King’s case, it isn’t surprising at all that Stephen Fry is an English major too. This English comedian, actor, and writer went to Queen’s College, Cambridge, where he studied English literature and graduated with a 2.1 bachelor’s degree. What is surprising, however, is that Fry actually had a chance of not making it to college: he was a troubled teenager who got expelled from two schools and even went to prison for three months. Luckily for him and all of his fans, he managed to turn things around and went to college.


Tommy Lee Jones is an award-winning American actor and filmmaker. Known for his roles in films like No Country for Old Men, he went to Harvard College to study English and graduated with a bachelor’s degree with honours in 1969.
Politicians, filmmakers, actors, writers, entrepreneurs—as you see, English majors pursue the most varied careers and succeed no matter what. We hope this article will inspire you to study hard and pursue your dreams, no matter if they are related to your major or not.