New Jersey stands out for different reasons: The Garden State is the United States’ leading producer of blueberries, cranberries, and tomatoes; was the site of many battles during the American Revolution; and is considered the diner capital of the world, with more than 600 diners. The state also has produced iconic singers such as Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen, and was the residence of Thomas Edison when he invented the phonograph and hundreds of other products.
In addition to these distinctions, New Jersey is the home state of some of Hollywood’s most accomplished entertainers. Below are five notable film stars born or raised in the Garden State.
Born in Summit, New Jersey, Meryl Streep is widely recognized as one of the best dramatic actresses of her generation, with awards and nominations to back up that claim. She surpassed Katharine Hepburn in 2003 with her record 13th Academy Award nomination and, as of 2021, has received 21 Oscar nominations. She’s also a three-time Oscar winner, having won Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for The Iron Lady (2011), Best Actress in a Leading Role for Sophie’s Choice (1982), and Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). Streep also received Oscar nominations for performances in The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981), The Bridges of Madison County (1995), and The Post (2017), among many others.
The 71-year-old actress has also won eight Golden Globes and was recognized with the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2017 ceremony. She is regarded for her subtly expressive face and ability to perfect various dialects. This has led her to portray a diverse range of fictional and historical characters including Danish author Isak Dinesen, American chef Julia Child, and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
In contrast to Streep’s dramatic acting expertise, Bruce Willis is more regarded for his ability to portray tough, wisecracking characters in action films. He made several uncredited appearances in films during the early 1980s and has since garnered in excess of 130 acting credits, including starring roles in Die Hard (1988), Pulp Fiction (1994), and The Sixth Sense (1999). He’s a one-time Golden Globe winner and two-time Primetime Emmy Award winner. He also has been nominated four times for Best Actor by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films.
Willis was actually born on an American military base in Germany, but his family moved to New Jersey when he was 2 years old. He studied at Montclair State University and got his big break as a comedic detective on the TV series Moonlighting, for which he won a Primetime Emmy.
A native of Passaic, New Jersey, Zoe Saldana is a 42-year-old actress primarily known for her work in science fiction and action films. She had lead roles in both Star Trek (2009) and Avatar (2009), and portrayed Gamora in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), appearing in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: Endgame (2019). She’s slated to appear in four more Avatar films and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023).
A three-time Oscar nominee and three-time Golden Globe winner, Tom Cruise was among Hollywood’s most sought after leading men from the late 1980s to the early 2000s. He gained critical acclaim and widespread recognition for his role in Risky Business (1983) and further cemented his star status as a Navy jet pilot in Top Gun (1986). From there, Cruise played a diverse selection of characters including a Navy lawyer, vampire, sports agent, self-help guru, and secret agent. He portrayed the latter in Mission: Impossible (1996) and has since reprised this role in five sequels. Cruise will again play secret agent Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible 7 (2022) and Mission: Impossible 8 (2023).
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Cruise made $745 million in salary and bonuses from film appearances between 1983 and 2019. He received $100 million each from Mission: Impossible 2 (2000) and War of the Worlds (2005).
Raised in Millburn, New Jersey, Anne Hathaway is an Academy Award-winning actress who has starred in films such as The Princess Diaries (2001), Rachel Getting Married (2008), Interstellar (2014), and Ocean’s Eight (2018). She won the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for Les Misérables (2012). Ironically, Hathaway first became interested in pursuing a career as an actress while touring with her mother during a stage production of Les Misérables.
Hathaway has also appeared in films including Havoc (2005) and Brokeback Mountain (2005). She even starred alongside fellow New Jerseyite Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada (2006). She has won 69 acting awards and received 114 nominations.