Hollywood may be an American institution but its reach is far and wide. American media is consumed all over the world, from Canada to Asia and just about everywhere in between. It makes sense, really. The United States releases a ridiculous amount of television and films every year and while many other countries have their own media networks, very few of them are as large and imposing as Hollywood. It is only natural that aspiring creators from all over the world make their way to the United States looking for their big break. Many of the most iconic actors and actresses of all time have been from somewhere outside of America. Cary Grant, Bruce Lee, Salma Hayek, were it not for actors like these, many of our favorite films would be severely lacking or even completely nonexistent. In the past 10 years or so, Hollywood has been slowly integrating more and more foreign actors onto American television and movie screens. A lot of these actors are great, but like many American actors their stardom may be short-lived. For anyone, making it big in Hollywood is one amazing feat, but these 15 foreign stars have managed to enrapture us, capture out hearts, and become wildly successful all at the same time.
15. Naomie Harris
A Londoner by way of Jamaica, actress Naomie Harris has definitely had a long career. It wasn’t until her role as Eve Moneypenny in Skyfall in 2012 that she became a household name. The seasoned actress has studied at some of the best schools in the U.K., even going as far as to get a degree in Social and Political Sciences before she began her acting career. Since Skyfall, Harris has gone on to appear in plenty of amazing films like Southpaw. More recently, she even had a crucial role in the Academy Award Winning Moonlight in 2016. Naomie Harris is a classically trained actress with tons of talent and the skill to back it up, while she has been on the scene for a while, we can’t wait to see where her newfound stardom takes her.
14. Kumail Nanjiani
Actor, comedian, writer, Kumail Nanjiani is talented in a multitude of ways. Born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, Kumail moved to the United States at 18 to attend college in Iowa. Always the comedian, after graduating he started a comedy podcast with a friend that ultimately lead to roles in films like The Kings of Summer and on television shows like Portlandia and Veep. Kumail has a laundry list of amazing credits that range from comedy game shows, to improv, to video game voice overs. Early this year he released a film called The Big Sick that he starred in and wrote alongside his wife. In addition to all of these things, he also has a regular role on the HBO hit Silicon Valley.
13. Emilia Clarke
Even if you’re only a casual watcher of Game of Thrones, you will recognize Emilia Clarke. While she’s usually donning a white blonde wig in her role as the queen of dragons, that face, especially those eyebrows are always recognizable. The English actress grew up in boarding schools and started starring in plays, commercials, and short films after her graduation from university in 2009. Of course, her level of fame rose alongside her role as Daenerys Targaryen in HBO’s Game of Thrones. The role has earned her nominations for Emmy Awards, Screen Actor’s Guild Awards, and Critic’s Choice Awards. She even became one of television’s highest paid actresses. While filming for Game of Thrones takes up much of her time, she has scored roles in a few prominent Hollywood films including the highly anticipated Han Solo film to be released in 2018.
12. Diego Luna
Diego Luna (born Diego Luna Alexander) is a very busy man. In addition to being an international star, he is also a pretty prominent producer and directer. His career began in the place he was born, Mexico City, Mexico. At the beginning of his career he worked on telenovelas and soap operas. In the early ’00s he starred in the critically acclaimed Y Tu Mamá También alongside Gael Garcia Bernal. With his move to American productions Diego had the opportunity to star in a number of well-received films across a wide range of genres. He has starred in films like Milk with Sean Penn and even played a leading role in the incredibly popular independent Star Wars film Rogue One.
11. Alicia Vikander
Alicia Vikander is one of only three actors on this list to have received an Academy Award. Born and mostly raised in Gothenburg, Sweden, Alicia started her career in the arts as a ballet dancer while also starring in Swedish television shows and short films. She made her film debut in the 2010 Swedish film Pure, a role for which she won a Guldbagge Award for best actress. In 2012, she starred in the Academy Award nominated Anna Karenina then followed that role with other critically acclaimed parts until she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Danish Girl. Alicia’s career has only continued to flourish, providing her with starring roles in major Hollywood films.
10. Henry Cavill
Another British actor, Henry Cavill, began his acting career in United Kingdom based films, television shows, and productions. In 2007, after a string of lesser-known roles, he joined the cast of Showtime show, The Tudors as a leading character. It was with this role that he rose to fame with American audiences. In 2011, after the show ended, Henry was snatched up to play the role of Superman in Man of Steel, a role that would quickly make him a household name. He has since gone on to star as the famous superhero twice, with at least one more on the way. Cavill has recently signed onto multiple projects, including a role in the newest Mission Impossible film alongside Tom Cruise.
9. Lupita Nyong’o
Born to Kenyan parents in Mexico City, Mexico and raised primarily in Kenya, Lupita Nyong’o is one of the biggest stars on this list. As a teenager, she performed with a Nairobi- based theater company, playing in productions like Romeo and Juliet and The Color Purple. After attending college in the United States, she worked as a member of the production crew on multiple films before she decided to pursue a professional career in acting. After appearing in a few American-made short films and attending drama school at Yale University, Lupita garnered her first real acting role in 12 Years a Slave. The film helped her earn an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and subsequently opened the door for tons of other fantastic parts.
8. Chris Hemsworth
Getting to play a famous superhero in a major movie franchise is pretty much guaranteed stardom at this point. Before Chris Hemsworth was the great and powerful Thor, he was an Australian actor climbing up the ladder in local television shows and films. After a small role in the Star Trek remake in 2009, Chris was casted as Thor in the first Avengers movie. While he has reprised the role many times, he has also worked on films like The Cabin in the Woods, Snow White and the Huntsman, and the Ghostbusters remake. He is certainly one of the hardest working actors on this list and in Hollywood. Even in his relatively short amount of years as an actor, Chris has amassed a filmography that contains over 20 films.
7. Gal Gadot
Born in Petah Tikva, Israel, Gal Gadot has only been seriously acting since 2009. Long before her career as an actress began, she was an international model, a Miss Universe contestant, and a soldier. In 2009 Gal made one of her first on-screen appearances as Gisele in Fast & Furious, a role that easily allowed her to break into the American mainstream when it came to film. Gal appeared in two other films in The Fast and the Furious franchise. Her Hollywood star power tripled, however, when she was cast to play Wonder Woman; first making an appearance as the famous Diana Prince in Batman vs Superman, then in an extremely popular Wonder Woman standalone film released in 2017 by the same name.
6. Alexander Skarsgard
Alexander Skarsgard was pretty much born to be a star. Born in Stocklom, Sweden, Alexander is the oldest son of famous actor Stellan Skarsgard and wife My Agnes. Through a few of his father’s connections, he was able to land roles in a couple Swedish films and television shows as a young boy before he quit acting as a teenager to pursue other interests. After a few years spent in the Swedish military and in university, Alexander began his acting career again. His most notable roles include starring as a vampire and main character in HBO’s famous True Blood television series and in films like War on Everyone and The Legend of Tarzan then in another HBO favorite Big Little Lies in 2017.
5. Freida Pinto
Freida Pinto may be secure in her spot as one of the best actresses in Hollywood now, but she started her career off in a very competitive market. Frieda was born and raised in Mumbai, India and though she realized at a young age that acting was her passion, she declined all of the acting roles offered to her until her graduation from university in 2005. After college she started her career as a model in Mumbai, getting work in tons of fantastic print campaigns for large companies which lead to a becoming the host of an international travel show. In 2007, Freida landed the role of the female lead in the Academy Award winning film, Slumdog Millionaire. Currently, she co-stars in the Showtime miniseries Guerrilla.
4. Christoph Waltz
Long before Christoph Waltz became a prominent actor in American media, he was a prolific Austrian and German television actor. He bagan his career in Vienna, Austria where he was born, first studying at a well-known drama university there, then acting in German and British television shows. In 2009, Christoph starred as the main “villain” in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds; a part that he subsequently earned an Academy Award for. After starring in a few more popular American films, he was again cast as the main “villain” in another Quentin Tarantino film, Django Unchained, which lead him to win another Academy Award. Christoph has since gone on to star in other great films like Big Eyes and Spectre, and had even hosted Saturday Night Live. His big break in Hollywood may have only been recent but he certainly seems to be making up for lost time.
3. Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah’s life did not start out easy. Born to a black mother and a white father in Johannesburg during the tail end of Apartheid, his parents’ relationship and his birth were technically illegal. So much so that his mother was fined and jailed for a time after his birth. Humor provided an excellent coping mechanism, one that ultimately scored him a job in a South African soap opera at only 18 years old. Soon after, Trevor started his own radio show, showcasing his talents and those of other South African comedians. After his move to the United States in 2011, he began working on the Late Show with David Letterman before becoming a regular contributor to The Daily Show, and then officially taking over the helm as host from Jon Stewart in 2015.
2. Priyanka Chopra
Unlike most of the stars on this list, Priyanka Chopra has been famous for a while. Long before she made the leap to American media, Priyanka was a prominent model, singer, and Bollywood actress. Competing as Miss India, she won the Miss World competition in 2000 and began working in film shortly after that, quickly becoming one of the most popular and highest paid celebrities in India. In 2015, Priyanka was cast in a starring role in the ABC show Quantico. After receiving positive reviews from both critics and viewers, she won a People’s Choice Award for her role in the show, followed by a second one the following year. More recently, she played alongside Zac Efron and Dwayne Johnson in Baywatch and seems to have multiple projects on the horizon. Welcome to Hollywood Priyanka!
1. Ryan Gosling
Actor, musician, heartthrob, Canadian actor Ryan Gosling is not stranger to Hollywood. Surprisingly enough, he started his career out alongside talented stars like Brittany Spears and Justin Timberlake in the Mickey Mouse Club. During his time with Disney Channel, he sang and acted, leading him to land a few roles as a child. His role in The Notebook garnered him a large audience and allowed him to show off his acting abilities. Even after a relatively short acting hiatus in 2007, Ryan returned to Hollywood to a bevvy of great roles. Films like Drive, The Big Short, and Blue Valentine are only a few of his most popular roles. With two Oscar nominations and plenty of clout, Ryan Gosling definitely isn’t moving from the spotlight anytime soon.