30 Actors Everyone Thinks Are American But Aren't

Celebs February 5, 2019 By Hugo

In recent years, Hollywood has experienced an invasion of foreign stars, and if you were asked to name a handful of leading actors and actresses, some would no doubt hail from overseas.


The British are a notable presence and have gained a reputation for taking acting roles from the Americans. Then there's the Australians, the Irish, the Canadians, and the Spanish. The list is endless, but most viewers are oblivious to their actual nationalities. And with many films and TV shows set in America, an American accent is usually expected, leaving audiences none the wiser.

Here are some surprising examples.

1. Christian Bale

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It may come as a shock to know that Christian Bale is British because even in his press interviews he sounds American.

But we promise you he's British. After all, he's an insane method actor, who can shout at people in a variety of accents.

2. Hugh Laurie


Everyone's favorite grumpy doctor wasn't always in the American medical profession. If you go back to Laurie's earlier days, you'll discover he was a pretty accomplished actor in his native Britain, having starred in the much-loved BBC comedy, Blackadder. 

Laurie, who is also a talented musician and read social anthropology at Cambridge University, met fellow actors Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson when he joined the University's famed drama society, Footlights. With that in mind, maybe it was his Cambridge education, combined with his natural acting abilities- that managed to convince House co-producer Bryan Singer to be fooled into thinking the British actor was an America. "See," he is reported to have said after watching Laurie's audition, "This is what I want: A genuine American guy."

3. Chris Hemsworth

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Thor is an all-American god, with arms that could send the entire female population into a state of blissful euphoria. But he's not American.

He's actually a cool, laid-back Aussie, who, like many of his fellow countrymen and women, started out in the Australian soap, Neighbours.

4. Alexander Skarsgard

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The True Blood actor is a now a global star after portraying the smoulderingly dangerous vampire, Eric Northman in the tv series.

However, Skarsgard hails from Swedish acting royalty (his father is Stellan Skarsgard), and was born and raised in his native country and even undertook military service at the age of 18 before attending university in the English city of Leeds.

5. Idris Elba

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Stringer Bell from The Wire was as Baltimore as they came, and we can't imagine the corrupt cop being anything other than a Yank. But here's the thing: He's British!

Yes, Elba is just one of many leading actors leading the Brit invasion, hailing from London, England. Sadly for his female admirers, he recently proposed to his 29-year-lold girlfriend in his local London cinema.

6. Robert Pattinson

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When Stephanie Meyer's books got the Hollywood makeover, Twilight became one of the biggest movie franchises in history and spawned the screams of millions of girls worldwide. One man responsible for most of that delirium was the British actor, Robert Pattinson.

Indeed, Pattinson's accent was so good we could only sit back and be 'dazzled' as he wooed Bella with a wide range of saccharine language.

7. Nina Dobrev

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CW's hit vampire show, 'The Vampire Diaries', isn't short of steamy scenes and hot characters, and Nina Dobrev's character is no exception. But like many actors in Hollywood, Dobrev moved to Los Angeles from Canada, having relocated there from her native Bulgaria when she was only 2-years-old.

Still, her accent would have you think otherwise, which may be down to gaining an array of American roles shortly after she moved to L.A. after being discovered on the Canadian teenybopper series, Degrassi. 

8. Rachel McAdams

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She has the all-Amerian girl looks, blonde hair, blue eyes, and a butter wouldn't melt in her mouth voice that even Allie from the Notebook would be proud of. But McAdams is from Canada and studied theatre at Toronto's York University before starring in a string of Canadian TV shows. 

In fact, the blonde beauty only moved to Hollywood 2002 after landing her first significant American role in the Tom Brady comedy, The Hot Chick.

9. Charlie Hunnam

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The 'British' hunk plays Jax Teller on AMC's hit biker show, 'Sons of Anarchy.' It's hard to believe, right? We can't imagine Hunnam being anything other than a badass American biker searching for justice and revenge. Though like many before him, Hunnam was just another British actor making his way in Hollywood, and after managing to successfully audition for bit-part roles in big-budget flicks like Cold Mountain, the Englishman caught the attention of SOA creator, Kurt Sutter.

Incidentally,  E.L. James is also a fan of his work and was responsible for casting in the movie adaptation of her blockbuster novel, 50 Shades of Grey. However, the actor turned down the role, citing a string of personal issues.

10. Jamie Dornan


Jamie Dornan shot to international fame when he took the place of Charlie Hunnam in the BDSM trilogy, 50 Shades of Grey. It came after the former male model put in an array of powerful performances as the serial killer, Paul Spectre in the psychological BBC crime thriller, The Fall. 

Surprisingly, Dornan's only American role before Christian Grey came on ABC's mythical series, 'Once Upon a Time' when he portrayed The Huntsman.

11. Kirsten Dunst

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The star of such films as  Spider-Man, Melancholia, and Marie Antoinette, was born in New Jersey, USA but has held German citizenship since 2011, something she did to make shooting in Europe easier for her to save on getting Visas and work permits. The fact that she could get German citizenship comes from her father who is from Hamburg.

Still perfecting her speaking skills of the language, Dunst apparently loves to spend time in Berlin.

12. Michael Fassbender

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So adept is Michael Fassbender at his work, and so well traveled and eclectic that his upbringing that many Americans and Brits claim his as their own but the actor, who speaks with an Irish burr, is actually half German and was born in Heidelberg to a German father. His mother was from Northern Ireland but the family moved to Eire when Michael was 2-years-old.

Fluent in German, he showed off his linguistic ability in the film  Inglorious Basterds where he played a German-speaking, British army officer.

13. Sandra Bullock

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The Oscar-winning actor of The Blind Side and star of Miss Congeniality was actually born in Virginia to a German mother. Having spent 12 years living in Nuremberg in her youth, the actress can speak fluent German and has publicly accepted awards in German although many people still don't realize she can speak the language.

Her parents met when her father was stationed in Germany as a member of the US army.

14. Bruce Willis

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The all-American action hero actually has a German side to him having being born in West Germany to a German mother who, like Sandra Bullock's parents, met whilst his father was stationed in the country with the US military. Born in Idar-Oberstein his Mother is from Kassel and Bruce spent the first two years of his life in Germany.

It is suspected the actor can speak a handful of German words although he has never exhibited this skill in public.

15. Dominic Monaghan

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The man who played Charlie in the hit TV series Lost and Merry in The Lord of The Rings trilogy of films was actually born in West Germany in the 1970s. Both his parents are British but they were living and working in West Berlin at the time of his birth and the family moved to  Düsseldorf, Stuttgart, and Munster before returning to Britain when Dominic was 11 years old.

The actor can still speak conversational German and has been known to in interviews.

16. Leonardo DiCaprio

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Despite his name signifying an Italian Origin, his half Italian father is also half German whilst his mother is also from Germany meaning that Leonard Wilhelm DiCaprio, yes that's his real name, is fluent in German but he also has two grandparents from Russia and considers himself half Russian so his heritage is greatly mixed.

With the ability to speak fluent German, the actor often does so in German interviews.

17. Grace Kelly

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Starring in several iconic Hollywood movies including High NoonMogambo, and To Catch a Thief, Grace Kelly also became well known as Princess Grace after she married the Prince of Monaco and emigrating to the country in 1956. This Oscar-winning legend was born in Pennsylvania but actually had German roots.

Kelly's grandparents were German immigrants who arrived in America at the turn of the century.

18. Amanda Seyfried

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The blond hair, blue eyes, and last name might give it away but Amanda Seyfried's heritage is mostly Germanic. Although not very close to her Germanic heritage, and it seems unlikely that she can speak any German, the actress often complains about the mispronunciation of her second name.

Just as a heads up it sounds like "Sigh-Frid."

19. Diane Kruger

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Perhaps a little more obvious than the others on this list, people often get confused as to whether Kruger is German or not due to her excellent American accent, fluency in English and French as well as German  and spent time in London and Paris growing up and now lives in Paris, alongside Vancouver and Los Angeles.

Despite this, she is considered a permanent resident of the United States.

20. Christopher Walken

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Born Ronald Walken, the veteran actor was born in Astoria, Queens, New York to a Scottish Mother from Glasgow and German father from Essen who came to the United States in 1928 and opened up a bakery. Despite this Walken says he speaks little German saying, "I can understand German more than speak it."

The Oscar-winning actor only changed his name because someone in the stage show he was working with at the time wanted him to and so he did but now wishes he'd chosen something shorter.

21. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Shutterstock/Frederic Legrand - COMEO

Described by LA Weekly as America's most famous immigrant, Arnold Schwarzenegger was born in a small town in Austria called, Thal, Styria.

He stayed there until he moved to America aged just 19 where he would quickly make a name for himself in the world of competitive bodybuilding.

22. Colin Farrell

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The surname is pretty Irish-sounding, isn't it? Born in the Irish capital Dublin, most of Farrel's childhood occurred in the Dublin suburb of Castleknock.

Now regarded as one of the hottest Irish actors of all time, Farrell has certainly down the people of Castleknock proud.

23. Harry Styles

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The boyband member and solo artist was born in England and has been one of many British artists over the years to achieve extraordinary success across the pond.

Styles.... Has there ever been a more apt surname for an artist?

24. Justin Bieber

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Justin Bieber is everywhere you go in America and is very much a staple part of modern-day America's contemporary culture, but he only moved to America when he was 13.

He is originally from a small town in Ontario, Canada.

25. Mila Kunis
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While A-list superstar Mila Kunis is an American citizen; she had no existing ties to the country until her parents moved her there from Ukraine.

This was during the outbreak of the Cold War when she was just 7-years-old and the move paid off as it allowed Mila's talents as an actress to flourish.

26. Gene Simmons

Shuttertstock/ Fabio Diena

While most people know that Kiss frontman Gene Simmons has one epic tongue, few know his true nationality. 

Indeed, the lead vocalist of Kiss was actually born in Israel, as his mother, Flóra Klein was a Hungarian immigrant and Holocaust survivor who settled there after the war.

27. Seth Rogen

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Seth Rogen is an American stoner's dream, but he wasn't born there. Contrary to popular belief, Rogen is not a full-blooded American... He's Canadian, dude!

Despite his father being American, Seth Rogan was raised in Vancouver until a successful audition at the age of 16  for the Judd Apatow show Freaks And Geeks took him to Los Angeles. 

28. Chris Hemsworth

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This cool stud, who also has a famous brother called Liam, is as Aussie as they come.

He even moved back there with his wife and kids despite their home being the target of various creepy crawlies that he has since documented on his Instagram page.

29. Joaquin Phoenix

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The critically acclaimed actor was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, though is an American citizen having moved to America when he was 4-years-old.

So it's kind of cheating having in on our list, but anything Phoenix-related is hard to resist! 

30. Charlize Theron


Born and raised in South Africa, Theron was famously raised on her parent's farm, where they mostly spoke Afrikaans as opposed to English.

When she moved to America, she had originally intended to study ballet, only to injure herself and put an end to that dream altogether. But it was this initial misfortune that opened up the door to acting.

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