TheWest Wing creator Aaron Sorkin earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Musical Theatre in 1983 from Syracuse University in New York, where "the students work as actors the moment they arrive on campus," according to new chancellor/president Kent Syverud.
After studying drama at Manchester University, British actor Benedict Cumberbatch trained as an actor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, which saw a record number of applications from Americans in 2014 due to famous alumni such as the Sherlock star.
Bradley Cooper studied at the Actors Studio at Pace University in New York where he received a MFA in Acting, while also working at the Morgans Hotel as a doorman.
Ally McBeal star Calista Flockhart studied at Rutgers in New Brunswick, N.J., where drama students are given a shot at an Equity card at the George Street Playhouse, directed by chair David Esbjornson.
Denzel Washington attended drama school at ACT in San Francisco, which as part of a top regional theater currently attracts undergrads for its new 15-week San Francisco semester.
Don Cheadle attended the CalArts' Center for New Performance in Valencia, Calif., which gives currently students the chance to work with the likes of Ron Cephas Jones in September's production of Prometheus Bound at Getty Villa.
After first attending Cal Poly Pomona on a football scholarship, Forest Whitaker went on to study opera as a tenor at the University of Southern California in downtown Los Angeles, before being accepted into the University's Drama Conservatory. USC's drama school recently had its first New York showcase for BFAs and MFAs, and it is in talks for a program with the Shanghai Theater Academy.
If you want to get noticed, the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television in Los Angeles is a good place to be. "When I saw Jack Black just walking across a stage at an agency showcase," says one agent, "I knew he was a star."
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actor James Avery attended UC San Diego, where all 60 MFA students are guaranteed to work in at least one show at the Tony-winning, all-pro La Jolla Playhouse.
John Krasinski studied at Brown in Providence, R.I., which is celebrating its 250th birthday. The university offers bachelor's degrees in drama and (in partnership with the Trinity Repertory company) MFAs.
Groundlings alums Kathy Griffin and Lisa Kudrow cried the night SNL hired JuliaSweeney, not them. Then Griffin got Suddenly Susan and Kudrow got Friends. Alums of the L.A. improv troupe have earned more than 15 Emmy nominations.
In The Winter's Tale at Yale, Lupita Nyong'o played lost princess Perdita before being cast as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave. "Booking a movie before graduation that leads to an Academy Award is obviously anomalous," says Yale School of Drama dean James Bundy, "but every acting graduate in the past 10 years has acquired an agent within a month." Nyong'o had YSD company at the Oscars (designer Adam Stockhausen and 18-time nominee Meryl Streep). "There's absolutely no way I could've done Patsey without my training at Yale," says Nyong'o.
What does Maggie Gyllenhaal have in common with Anthony Hopkins?Both attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
Mary-Louise Parker attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, which also boasts Dane DeHaan as an alum.
Timothy Olyphant and William Esper
"Our program is a unique and affordable alternative to the university system," says William Esper of his New York acting studio. "Inspiring and invaluable," says alum Timothy Olyphant.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Phillip Seymour Hoffman is among the many notable alums of New York's Tisch School of the Arts. Tisch's undergrad programs are good, but Tisch's grad school, which accepts 16 out of 800, is the crown jewel. A dozen alums from the cutting-edge school are now on Broadway. According to Tisch dean Allyson Green, chair Mark Wing-Davey is innovating actor training in cooperation with NYU's famed neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux.
"UCB taught me all the rules," says Rob Corddry of improv group Upright Citizens Brigade, which has outposts in New York, Chicago and L.A.
David Schwimmer, Stephen Colbert
Can you spot two famous Northwestern University alums in this picture? "It's a very Chicago mentality, not about trying to grow stars," says David Schwimmer, top row, second from the right. Alums Stephen Colbert (bottom row, second from left,) Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Anna Gunn won Emmys in 2013. Also pictured: Rob Helms, Alan Goldwasser, Ayun Halliday (top), Jessica Hughes, Joy Gregory, Steve Conley, Trey Nichols (bottom).
SUNY Purchase inPurchase, New York is where Stanley Tucci gave Ving Rhames his nickname (cooler than his real name, Irving). The school is high-quality and low-cost.
Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh celebrated its 100th birthday May 8 in L.A., where alum Stephen Schwartz played his hits from Pippin and Wicked. Alums have won six Oscars, 31 Tonys and 99 Emmys. Says Emmy-nominated actor-director Charles Haid: "Carnegie's got 'em all beat."
Tarell Alvin McCraney
DePaul alum Tarell Alvin McCraney is adding to the Chicago university's rising reputation. The drama grad won a $625,000 MacArthur grant in 2013.
Tina Fey studied at Second City in Chicago. The storied improv troupe has 13,000 students in Chicago, L.A. and Toronto, a live audience of 1 million a year and a new deal with L.A.'s Thruline/Tagline to steer careers to Hollywood.
Oscar nominee Viola Davis is a '93 Juilliard grad and was recently awarded an honorary doctorate from the school. She compared her training there to "great medicine that works. It tastes lousy going down, but ultimately helps and heals you."
Will Ferrell is an alum ofThe Groundlings in Los Angeles, along with Melissa McCarthy.