Do you ever wonder about who belongs to the group who identify themselves as Irish American? Are there many celebrites with Irish American roots? Who in Hollywood claims to be Irish?
From Irish heritage festivals to Irish dance, music, and legends, there are so many beautiful methods of exploring our heritage. But all of these things are significantly improved by doing them together! And we can’t celebrate as a group if we don’t know who’s a part of it.
Whether you know it or not, there’s quite a number of famous Irish Americans you already know of. Today I wanted to share some famous Irish Americans that you have definitely heard of, so you can feel more connected to the Irish American community.
Together, let’s celebrate the contributions of Irish people in the United States. You might be surprised that some of the biggest names in American cinema are Irish American!
If you love Disney movies or the Disney parks, this should be a pleasant surprise for you! Walt Disney, the founder of the Disney company, was an Irish American!
Although he passed away in 1966, his legacy lives on all over the world through his movies and parks. Next time you and your children watch a Disney movie, you can share how they are part of our Irish legacy in America.
There are so many amazing movies featuring Drew Barrymore. 50 First Dates, The Wedding Singer, He’s Just Not That Into You, Ever After and E.T. are a few of my favorite examples.
Her great-great grandfather (also an actor), was Irish, and she came from a rich history of Irish and English ancestry filled with famous people.
In case the Irish last name and the red hair didn’t already tip you off, yes, Conan O’Brien is Irish American! If you’d like a good giggle while learning, I’d recommend this funny video clip from his TV show of him visiting the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago and learning Irish step dancing.
This is a fun reminder that everyone starts somewhere in learning about their family’s culture. He makes a lot of jokes you might enjoy about Irish goods. If you’ve ever tried Irish dancing, you will likely find Conan trying it alongside young Irish dancers, then performing a solo performance, hilarious! (By coincidence, another late night star, Jimmy Fallon, also has Irish blood!)
Whether you know her from the Princess Diaries series, Get Smart, Ella Enchanted, Les Miserables, or Alice in Wonderland, Anne Hathaway is a gift to American film.
She is also Irish American! Her mother’s side is the Irish side. Her movie “Becoming Jane” was even filmed in Ireland.
Irish ancestry is not Mel Gibson’s closest link to Irish culture. He actually has dual citizenship in the Emerald Isle and America!
You’ve probably seen some of this Hollywood heartthrob’s movies, as he starred in Braveheart, The Patriot, Mad Max, and more, and he’s won numerous awards for many of them.
Do we have any New Girl, 500 Days of Summer, or Elf fans here? It’s true, Zooey Deschanel has Irish lineage on her mother’s side.
She is one of those television stars who is incredibly multifaceted. She is not only an actress, she is also a songwriter, model, and musician.
Born in Owensboro, Kentucky, Depp was raised in Florida. There are so many blockbuster movies starring Johnny Depp from his long acting career that I don’t even know where to start!
Whether you fell in love with him from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Edward Scissorhands, Nightmare on Elm Street, or Alice in Wonderland, you’re guaranteed to know this actor, who has Irish roots on his mom’s side.
George Clooney is another Irish American actor who was born in Kentucky. George’s paternal great-great-grandfather, Nicholas Clooney, hailed from a village in County Kilkenny called Windgap, where he was born in 1829.
Clooney’s great-great-grandmother was also Irish. Bridget Byron, was born in Limerick in 1835.
Kristen Bell is just adorable! From her endearing personality to her sense of humor, she is a fan favorite that is known for being relatable and kind.
You might know her from Frozen, When in Rome, Veronica Mars, The Good Place, Bad Moms, or You Again. Her father’s side is Irish!
The Jonas Brothers
How could I overlook this boy band? Although they disbanded in 2013 as a band, these musicians have had an unmistakable impact on pop music, and some of the musicians’ songs are topping the charts even now in their separate endeavors.
Way back in 2009, they had this interview where they talked about their Irish descent.
We know Mariah Carey as a global singing superstar, with hits like ‘Hero’ and of course her festive favorite ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’. But did you know that Carey’s mother is an Irish American New Yorker named Patricia Hickey.
Here’s a quotation from Carey talking about her mother, “My mother’s white, she’s so Irish, she loves Ireland, she’s like, yay, Ireland! Waving the flag and singing When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”
Tom Cruise is one of Hollywood’s best paid and leading action stars. His most notable movie appearances include ‘Jerry Maguire,’ ‘Born on the Fourth of July’ and of course the Irish film favorite ‘Far and Away,’
He frequently declares that hs is extremely proud of his Irish roots and has traced his heritage back to Dublin He has appeared on chat shows in Ireland where he has discussed his connections with Ireland. The Irish Government has eiven awarded Cruise with an honorary Certificate of Irishness, as an official recognition of his Irish ancestry.
Meryl Streep has been winning awards in Hollywood for decades. This accomplished actress recently starred in the musical ‘Mama Mia’ but over the years she has been nominated for twenty Oscars, and won the award for three movies including ‘Kramer vs Kramer’, ‘Sophie’s Choice’, and ‘The Iron Lady’.
But did you know that Streep can trace her ancestry back to County Donegal on her maternal side from where her great-great-grandparents emigrated.
When Streep starred in the Donegal based film, ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ she mastered the Donegal accent with ease. Her affinity for the lilting tones can be attributed to her acting skills, but it was also in her genes.
Martin Sheen has won multiple Emmy- and Golden Globe-awards, and is celebrated as on of Ameririca’s most accomplished actors. His stage name Sheen sounds like an Irish name, but his Irish heritage is on his mother’s side.
He was born in Dayton, Ohio and christened Ramón Antonio Gerard Estevez. His mother Mary-Ann Phelan, an Irish immigrant who hailed from Borrisokane in County Tipperary.
Will Ferrell who made his mark as a comedian on Saturday Night Live and has starred in the blockbuster Christmas hit Elf, als has Irish roots in Ireland.
His Irish family emigrated from County Longford. In America the spelling of their last name was changed from Farrell to Ferrell. I wonder if Will knows that the O’Farrells were a noble family of County Longford and were known as the Princes of Annaly. It’s pronounced ann-ally, but Will Ferrell could have a comedic heyday with that Irish place name.
If you aren’t yet familiar with Saoirse Ronan, you are missing out! We think of her as an Irish actress rather than an Irish American, since she grew up in Ireland.
Ronan was born in America, and she has been bursting into popularity in the last several years due to her starring roles in Lady Bird and the new adaptation of Little Women, after being featured in many movies at a young age.
Although she was born in New York City, she is the only actress on this list who still has a distinct Irish accent. I am sure this actress has many big hits for the next generation to come.
Any Suggestions for Our List
I’m sure there are many actors that spring to mind that you think should have been included in this list. However, I excluded anyone who was actually born in Ireland. The list is long and includes Liam Neeson, Colin Farrel, Pierce Brosnan, Cillian Murphy, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Dornan, Ruth Negga, Peter O’Toole, Richard Harris and many more. They belong in their very own dedicated post.
Who on this list surprised you? Are there any you think are missing? Let me know in the comments below and we can grow this list together.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad –Irish American Mom
Pronunciation – slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th
Mairéad – rhymes with parade
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