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Five celebrities who are actually smart

By Robert Elsenpeter, Contributing writer
Published On: Jun 15 2011 09:43:59 AM CDT
Updated On: Sep 02 2014 10:05:11 AM CDT
Natalie Portman, Reuters RTXWGK0

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Our parents and teachers drummed it into our heads from a young age: "If you want to make a lot of money, you have to go to school."

While there is truth to that for the general populace, it really seems to be the case for some celebrities.

No, you don't have to have a doctorate to play the Terminator, but for some celebs, they hedged their bets and did the right thing -- they got their education under their belts, and then went on to tackle Hollywood.

Some on our list are no brainers -- you'd expect them to have rich educational histories. But some you barely expect to be able to spell, let alone have advanced degrees.

Keep that in mind before challenging one of the following five celebs to a friendly game of Trivial Pursuit. You'd have a great story to tell, but you'd also likely lose big.

Up first? Bueller .... Bueller ...

Ben Stein speaking with raised finger

No. 5: Ben Stein

Ben Stein is so smart that he can actually spell "Bueller" without having to stop and figure out if the u goes before the e.

Stein is one smart dude. He earned a degree in economics from Columbia University, and then received a law degree from Yale. He was a lawyer, a professor, a historian, and a speech writer for Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford (Time magazine even speculated that he was the infamous Deep Throat).

Stein became a consultant to Hollywood and then came to fame with 1986's "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" as the monotone economics teacher who was trying to take attendance. From there he got his own game show ("Win Ben Stein's Money") and has gone on to become a celebrated media personality.

While we are in awe of Stein's intelligence, he's not perfect. He also predicted that the mortgage crisis would "blow over." Oops.

Next up, a dumb "Friend" who's actually smart ...

Lisa Kudrow

No. 4: Lisa Kudrow

It is a well-known fact that it is easier to act drunk when you are sober than to act sober when you are drunk. The same must hold true for intelligence.

Lisa Kudrow became famous playing dim bulb Phoebe Buffay on "Friends," but the reality is that she's smart.

Kudrow comes from a line of smart people. Her father is a doctor and her brother is a neurologist. Before she even decided to pursue a career in acting, she was training in the family business, and was conducting tons of medical research.

Kudrow earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Vassar and worked for her father for eight years, even being credited for research on cluster headaches.

Later, she went on to join the cast of "Friends" and gave the world another gift: Her rendition of "Smelly Cat."

Up next, he must break you ...

Dolph Lundgren, 2010

No. 3: Dolph Lundgren

Dolph Lundgren. Surely that must be a typo. Dolph "I must break you" Lundgren is smart? The giant, flat-topped, blond guy known for his roles in "Rocky IV" and ... uh ... well ...

Yes. Apparently Dolph is more than just an on-screen Soviet crippling machine.

The gigantic Swede boasts an IQ of 160, putting him in the club with the smartest people in the world.

Wait. Dolph LUNDgren? THE Dolph Lundgren? Yes. And there's more.

Lundgren graduated from Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology, and he also has a master's in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney. It doesn't stop there. Lundgren was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to M.I.T. Unfortunately for science (but fortunately for the entertainment world), Lundgren quit after two weeks to pursuer a career in acting.

Up next, redheaded, pale, funny and smart ...

Conan O'Brien, suit

No. 2: Conan O'Brien

Even if you didn't know better, you'd suspect that Conan O'Brien was an educated gentleman. And it's not just because he had to turn to books because there wasn't much call for lanky, pale redheads in Hollywood.

O'Brien graduated from high school as valedictorian and then parlayed that high school awesomeness into an Ivy League education at Harvard. O'Brien didn't just graduate; he was a magna cum laude graduate with a bachelor's degree in history and literature.

For anyone else, those might sound like wasted degrees (unless the History Store needs a manager), but time has shown differently.

While at Harvard he wrote for the "Harvard Lampoon" for four years, and then went to scribe for "Saturday Night Live" and "The Simpsons" before overtaking late-night television.

Our last smart celebrity is the former child star who has it all ...

natalie-portman-2-RTRQI4Y

No. 1: Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman has it all. She's gorgeous, a great actress and she's very smart.

In fact, she was smart enough to know that even though she found success early in acting, she needed to hedge her bets and get some education. After all, Hollywood is littered with the drugged-out shells of old child stars, and Queen Amidala wasn't about to let that happen.

But Portman didn't settle for just attending part-time classes at Los Angeles Community College. After graduating high school with a 4.0, she headed off to Harvard, where she received a bachelor's degree in psychology. She did graduate studies at Hebrew University and is fluent in Hebrew, French and Japanese.

She even managed to continue working while pursuing all that education.

It's good to know she has something to fall back on if this whole "acting" thing doesn't pan out for her.

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