Can a Movie Star Earn a Ph.D?

UCLA has produced noted thinkers such as Jim Morrison, Troy Aikman and Kareem but James Franco  may be in a league of his own.   What will he write his Yale Ph.D. thesis on?  Will he join UCLA’s faculty in a few years?   

Now, can a Ph.D. become a movie star?  I’m still waiting to be discovered as the next Tarantino.   Celebrities can be scholars.  Brian May  , of Queen fame,  is a much better physicist than I am.

Author: Matthew E. Kahn

Professor of Economics at UCLA.

15 thoughts on “Can a Movie Star Earn a Ph.D?”

  1. Well, I dont know about a movie star.

    But this question has already been answered with regards to rock stars: Greg Graffin of LA punk band Bad Religion got two degrees from UCLA, a PhD from Cornell, and teaches Life Science 1 at UCLA.

    There’s also Dexter Holland of LA punk band The Offspring, who until recently was pursuing a PhD in molecular biology at USC.

    Then there are the boys of Radiohead: most of them met at Oxford.

  2. Regarding Radiohead, not quite. They all went to boys school together in Oxfordshire, but none of them actually went to Oxford.

  3. Brian May has, to the best of my knowledge, written the only song about relativistic time-dilation to appear on a platinum album. So good on him!

    Ashley Judd very amusingly discussed her MPA from the JFK School of Government during her appearance on Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me last year. I can’t remember which of her films is about human trafficking, but apparently she’s active on that issue, and the MPA was part of that.

  4. Buckeroo Banzai!From the Peter Weller Wikipedia entry:

    “In 2004, Weller completed a Master’s degree in Roman and Renaissance Art at Syracuse University and occasionally teaches courses in ancient history at the university. He was a commentator on the History Channel’s documentary, Rome: Engineering an Empire. In 2007, Weller was finishing a Ph.D. at UCLA, in Italian Renaissance art history.”

    ^ “An interview with Peter Weller”. 2007-10-18. Retrieved 2010-10-07.

  5. At least one TV star has earned a Ph.D.–Mayim Bialik of “Blossom” earned a doctorate in neuroscience from UCLA.

  6. David Duchovny was in the English PhD program at Yale in the early 1980’s (and was TA for my section–he was not exceptional in either ability or appearance back then), but I don’t think he finished.

  7. I remember Dulé Hill, from the television show West Wing and Psych, saying he had an MPP and JD.

  8. Leaving aside my feelings about Ben Stein in particular, I tend to view law school more as professional training than as an academic pursuit – although that is likely just my own bias, my familiarity with academia and unfamiliarity with the law. Indeed, it might count the other way; because it’s less suited to independent study and flexible schedules, law school may be more difficult for a successful actor than is graduate school.

    In any case, according to your own link Stein finished his education the better part of two decades before he got his break in film.

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