Celebs Who Awkwardly Didn't Recognize Other Big Stars

It has to be humbling for a huge celeb to meet someone who just can't place their famous face, and it happens to even the biggest and brightest stars. Plenty of everyday folk have amusing anecdotes about their unwitting celebrity encounters. Take, for example, the audience member on the talk show "Steve" who told an incredulous Steve Harvey that she had no clue who Chadwick Boseman was. After striking up a conversation with the "Black Panther" star on a flight, she decided he should date her daughter and invited the actor to her house. 

With so many different subcategories of celebs — actors, musicians, reality stars, pro athletes, influencers, and nepo babies — it's not that surprising that the glitterati aren't always recognized when they're spotted in the wild. But what might be a bigger blow to their egos is when their peers fail to distinguish them from the unsung masses. This scenario served as the basis of a bit at the 2022 Oscars, where Amy Schumer gently roasted the A-list audience by pretending to mistake Kirsten Dunst for a seat filler. Some viewers were outraged by the ludicrous idea that the comedian didn't recognize the "Bring It On" icon, failing to realize that the moment was staged. "Wouldn't disrespect that queen like that," Schumer later assured everyone in a post on her Instagram Story.

But many other celebs have suffered similar real-life identification fails, resulting in the type of awkwardness that can cause a severe case of secondhand embarrassment.

Why Ashton Kutcher's karaoke compliment was cringeworthy

Ashton Kutcher apparently thought he was getting "Punk'd" when he and his wife, Mila Kunis, attended a karaoke party at a neighbor's house. Kutcher told Esquire that he was left so awestruck by a fellow guest's performance of an ABBA song that he approached the performer and made what was meant to be a flattering accusation. "Mila and I got up to him, and we're like, 'Man, I gotta tell you something. ... You're like a karaoke ringer. You're really good, like, really good,'" he recalled. The singer politely thanked him for the compliment, and Kutcher later sang his praises to the party's host. "They're like, 'It's Harry Styles,'" Kutcher said. "And I was like, 'Who's that?'" 

When he shared the anecdote again on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," Kutcher revealed that the incident took place before One Direction broke their fans' hearts by breaking up. "He was like, in some D-12 band or something," the actor said of Styles. After Kunis tried to explain to him just how famous 1D was, Kutcher told Esquire, "I was like, 'Oh my God, now I feel like a jerk.'"

Kunis had another memorable encounter with Styles. In 2019, they played on opposing teams during a game of celebrity dodgeball on "The Late Late Show," and Styles took Kunis out with a direct hit. We can't help but wonder if Kutcher declined to join his wife because he was too embarrassed to face Styles again.

Oprah used her interview expertise to identify an A-lister

Oprah Winfrey has gotten some of the biggest stars in the world to open up to her, and we doubt she'll ever forget Tom Cruise's face (or feet) after he gave her couch the trampoline treatment. But when she was rubbing elbows with A-listers at Ellen DeGeneres' star-studded 60th birthday party in 2018, she found herself in the uncomfortable position of chatting with a massively successful movie star who she just couldn't place.

On "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," Winfrey regaled DeGeneres with the tale of the familiar-looking party guest who attempted to strike up a conversation with her twice. "He said, 'Hey, how you doing?' I go, 'Hey, how you doing?'" Winfrey recalled. "And then he comes back. He's like, 'Really, what's going on?' I go, 'What's going on with you?'" Luckily, The Weeknd saved her from continuing this awkward interrogative exchange by swooping in to speak to the mystery man about a movie he'd recently filmed. "Who is it? I know it's somebody. Is it Justin Timberlake?" she remembered thinking. When the actor told The Weeknd that the movie they were discussing wasn't a favorite, Winfrey saw this as an opportunity to use her skills as a seasoned interviewer to get a clue as to his identity. "What was your favorite film?" she asked. So when he responded, "'The Aviator,'" she not only deduced that she was talking to Leonardo DiCaprio, but also learned an interesting tidbit of trivia about him.

Ed O'Neill's modern pop star knowledge is basically nil

"Modern Family" actor Ed O'Neill had no idea who he was meeting when he posed for a photo with an excited fan at LAX. But he soon found out when Britney Spears posted the pic on Twitter. "Fancy running into this guy!" she wrote. "Such a sweetheart!!" 

O'Neill was almost grimacing while posing with the beaming, globally famous pop star. "The next day, my manager sent me this and said, 'There's 53,000 likes,'" O'Neill recalled on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." He added that the significance of likes was totally lost on him before sharing his own "Oops! ... I Did It Again" moment. He was at the birthday party of one celebrity he did recognize, his "Modern Family" co-star Sarah Hyland, when a guest approached him and said hello. "And I know she's famous, but I can't place her," O'Neill recalled. After posing for a selfie with the celeb, he covertly sent it to his daughter to see if she could put a name to the face. 

O'Neill's plan was to address his new acquaintance by her name when he left to make it seem as though he knew who she was all along. DeGeneres showed her audience the selfie and O'Neill shared his daughter's response: "I'm having you committed." But when the star learned that O'Neill didn't recognize her, we're certain she was able to "Shake it Off" — yup, she was none other than Taylor Swift.

Tom Felton came clean about mistaking a co-star for a janitor

"Harry Potter" star Tom Felton has an embarrassing memory that might make him wish he could use the obliviate spell on himself. In his memoir, "Beyond the Wand: The Magic and Mayhem of Growing Up a Wizard," Felton admits to making assumptions about a co-star based on his appearance during the filming of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." While Felton didn't go full-on Draco Malfoy by sticking his nose in the air and sneering at "the slightly scruffy older bloke wearing an old pair of jeans and a T-shirt," he did confess, "I'd occasionally seen him around and I thought he was one of the cleaning staff. What can I say? He just had that look." Oof.

Felton was admiring how squeaky-clean the floor was one day when he tried to pay the man he'd mistaken for a janitor a compliment. But after Felton told him, "Top work, mate!" he recalled, "He turned around to see if I was talking to someone behind him, gave me a slightly odd frown, and said nothing." Felton eventually inquired about the identity of the mystery man and was told that he was distinguished thespian Gary Oldman, who played the scruffy-looking fugitive Sirius Black. "I cringed with embarrassment," Felton wrote. He decided not to inform Oldman of his error and tried to argue that it was justifiable, writing, "For such a big star, he was hardly starry at all."

Robert Pattinson's transformation made him unrecognizable to a pal

Before Eddie Redmayne starred in "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," he ran in the same social circle as another star who wielded a wand in the wizarding world of Harry Potter. But according to Robert Pattinson, he became the odd man out after befriending a group of fellow actors yet to get their big breaks. In addition to Redmayne and the "Twilight" star, it included "Fifty Shades of Grey" leading man Jamie Dornan, "The Amazing Spider-Man" star Andrew Garfield, and "Daredevil" actor Charlie Cox. "They were all roommates, and I was the last one invited," Pattinson said in an interview with ET. "There'd be like one slice of pizza left and I'd be like, 'Is there any for me?'" 

But Pattinson was no longer desperate to get his piece of the pie when he ran into Redmayne years later, and he didn't need Batman's cowl to hide his identity from his former pal. On "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," Redmayne recalled how he had a brief reunion with Pattinson at the gym. "I walk in and this guy goes, 'Hi.' And I go, 'Hi,'" Redmayne recalled. He then watched the buff athlete perform some fantastic feats of physical strength, still not realizing he was looking at Pattinson until he was leaving. "This guy goes, 'Bye, Eddie,'" Redmayne recounted. "And I look back, and it was Rob. He was so physically changed and he had a man bun."

Robert De Niro had no clue who two former co-stars were

Most actors Robert De Niro works with probably don't have to ask who they're talking to when they first meet the iconic "Taxi Driver" star, but he doesn't always recognize his co-stars. According to director David O. Russell, De Niro shook hands with Christian Bale without realizing who he was on the set of the 2013 crime drama "American Hustle." Russell described the awkward meeting during a press conference at the Berlin International Film Festival. "[De Niro] said, 'Who's that guy?'" Russell recalled. "I said, 'You just shook his hand. That's Christian Bale.' And he said, 'No, the guy. The fat guy.' I said, 'That's Christian Bale! That guy.' And he said, 'Oh, wow. He looks really different.'"

Not recognizing a castmate you haven't worked with yet is one thing, but according to "The White Lotus" star Aubrey Plaza, De Niro had no clue who she was when they hung out outside of work. They were in the midst of shooting the raunchy 2016 comedy "Dirty Grandpa" when she attended a lunch De Niro was hosting. "I showed up ... and he's like, 'Who are you, sweetheart?'" Plaza recalled during a 2022 BFI Film Festival London Screen Talk. This was after they'd shot kissing scenes and Plaza had been informed by her agent that her method acting was making De Niro uncomfortable. But after De Niro got to know her out of character, Plaza revealed that they became buds.

Amy Schumer accosted an A-lister on a plane and awkwardness ensued

On "The Howard Stern Show," comedian Amy Schumer revealed that she received death threats after she pretended not to recognize Kirsten Dunst and treated her like a common seat filler at the 2022 Academy Awards. Thankfully, when an A-list star encountered Schumer and actually had no idea who she was, the end result of their meeting was movie magic, not an outpouring of murderous rage.

On the "Today" show, Schumer recalled the serendipitous moment that she found herself on the same flight as Goldie Hawn. After they exited their plane, Schumer gathered up the courage to approach Hawn. "I went up and I harassed her. And I was just like, 'I really want you to play my mom in this movie,'" Schumer recalled. But Hawn had no idea who she was and tried to kindly excuse herself from the impromptu pitch by simply responding, 'Okay, honey.'"

Incredibly, Hawn ended up playing the part in the 2017 movie "Snatched," and she revealed that she wasn't thinking ill of Schumer at all when the comedian accosted her. "I thought you were the cutest thing," she told Schumer. Hawn also explained that she didn't know who the funnywoman was because she'd never watched her show, "Inside Amy Schumer." She added, "I feel bad!" Oh, and she paid Schumer the ultimate compliment by telling her that she's surpassed her on-screen mom when it comes to comedic talent.

What's the deal with not hugging Kesha, Jerry Seinfeld?

If "Seinfeld" had been set during the social media era, the semi-fictional version of comedian Jerry Seinfeld would inevitably go viral at some point for engaging in behavior that rubbed people the wrong way. Here in the real world, this happened in 2017 on the red carpet at the "A Night of Laughter and Song" event, which took place at the Kennedy Center. A WTOP News camera captured the moment "TiK ToK" singer Kesha approached Seinfeld while he was giving an interview, told him she loved him, and asked him for a hug. The comedian turned her down not once, but thrice, repeating the words "No thanks." When Kesha begged for "a little one," he even stepped away. As the dejected singer slunk off, Seinfeld said to the interviewer, "I don't know who that was." He was still clueless upon being told the pop star's name.

In an interview with Extra, Seinfeld didn't express any regret over snubbing the singer's attempt to give him a squeeze. "I don't hug a total stranger," he said. "I have to meet someone, say hello." He also joked, "I have a borderline harassment case." As for Kesha's take on getting the cold shoulder from the comedian, she told New 102.7, "I think I just scared the poor man." She also proved that she was, indeed, a hardcore "Seinfeld" fan by summing up the interaction with a Soup Nazi joke: "No hugs for you." 

Brooklyn Beckham's third wheel didn't know why he was famous

Meghan Trainor made the "Mother" of all third wheel mistakes when she didn't do her research on whose Disneyland date she would be chaperoning in 2016. Trainor was there as the guest of her good pal Chloë Grace Moretz, who was dating Brooklyn Beckham at the time. Brooklyn wasn't yet a celebrity chef, and Trainor admitted to The Sun (via Teen Vogue), "I was making fun of him. I was like, 'What are you famous for?'" She was even more bemused when female fans would approach their group and ask Brooklyn to take a photo with them. "I was like, 'Me and Chloë are here, what do you want a pic with him for?!" she said.

Instead of saying that he was a nepo baby, Brooklyn told Trainor that he's done some acting before — he voiced a character in the 2013 animated movie "Underdogs" and appeared in The Vamps' music video for "Wake Up" in 2015. But Trainor eventually learned that his biggest claim to fame was being the son of British soccer star Brooklyn Beckham and Spice Girls member Victoria "Posh" Beckham. "I am so stupid. I had no idea who his parents were!" Trainor said. The singer later told E! that she also went on a bowling date with Moretz and Brooklyn, but instead of being a third wheel again, she was being set up with her future husband, "Spy Kids" star Daryl Sabara.

Olivia Munn was no Aaron Rodgers fan when they first met

Before Olivia Munn made comedian John Mulaney fall so hard for her that he reconsidered his views on fatherhood — which were that he loved spending time with his ex-wife Annamarie Tendler so much that he didn't want kids – the "X-Men: Apocalypse" actor won the heart of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. But Munn was no cheesehead when she first met Shailene Woodley's future ex-fiancé. In a 2015 appearance on "Conan," Munn admitted that she had no clue who Rodgers was and assumed that he was a college athlete when he told her that he played football. "He's like, 'Oh, no. I play professionally,'" she recalled. "I go, 'Cool. What position?' He's like, 'Quarterback.'"

Munn didn't say where she met Rodgers, but did reveal why she wanted to strike up a conversation with him. "All I saw was that he was really attractive. I didn't really care what he did," she admitted. "It was like, 'You are such a big man!'" While Rodgers surely appreciated that compliment, he probably wasn't quite as thrilled when Munn appeared on Whitney Cummings' "Good For You" podcast three years after their 2017 breakup and talked about her love life. "I have this one boyfriend, in particular, that was just the worst, the worst, at just having sex," Munn said. She didn't reveal the identity of the ex, leaving everyone to wonder who the fumbler might be.

Victoria Beckham mistook Thandiwe Newton for another actor

A number of celebrities have famous doppelgangers, and while it can be fun to marvel over the uncanny physical similarities of these stars, getting them mixed up in person would be unbearably embarrassing. Victoria Beckham discovered this the hard way. In a 2018 appearance on "The Graham Norton Show," Thandiwe Newton shared the embarrassing story of how the Spice Girl got her confused with another actor when they ran into each other at a Soul Cycle class. She recalled Beckham saying, "It's so great that you're coming to Soul Cycle even though you're pregnant," to which Newton replied, "Oh no, I had the baby just a few months ago." The "Westworld" star then deduced that Beckham didn't know whom she was talking to. "I said, 'Vic, do you think I am Zoë Saldaña?'" she continued. "And she was absolutely mortified." 

Newton pointed out that the case of mistaken identity was especially egregious on Beckham's part because she and the singer are both British, while Saldaña is American. But when it comes to people thinking that she and the "Avatar" actor look like twins, this doesn't bother Newton, who said, "Obviously, Zoë Saldaña is an absolute rare beauty." And if it makes Posh Spice feel any better, in an interview on "The Late Late Show," Saldaña revealed that one of her parents can't tell her and Newton apart. "My mom still thinks that I'm in 'Westworld,'" she said.

Jesse Eisenberg told his date that Claire Danes was his soulmate

Claire Danes played one half of every diehard romantic's favorite fictional star-crossed lovers in "Romeo + Juliet," and when a starry-eyed Jesse Eisenberg met the actor for the first time, it was apparently like he was seeing her through the dreamy blue light of that famous fish tank. But the experience was enhanced by drugs, not instant infatuation.

In a 2022 appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," Eisenberg said that he had agreed to attend a benefit with his girlfriend circa 2007 and decided to get high beforehand because he worried that he would be bored otherwise. "I wound up talking to this woman. We had gone to the same high school, and she said she was an actress, and she went to Yale," he recalled. "And I was just thinking, 'My god, this is like the coolest person I've ever met in my life.'" He shared this thought with Danes and then told his girlfriend, "Honey, I think I just met my soulmate. I met this amazing woman." After he pointed her out, his girlfriend replied, "That's Claire Danes, you idiot. Good luck." 

Shockingly, Eisenberg ended up marrying his date, Anna Strout, and he worked with Danes years later when they played exes in the 2022 miniseries "Fleishman Is in Trouble." But he said of that fateful moment when he first met her, "She had no recollection of the greatest day of my life."

Billie Eilish's encounter with an eminent elf actor

Billie Eilish clearly knows exactly who Justin Bieber is. On the "Seasons" docuseries, she said of her level of Bieber obsession, "I don't care if he pooped and put it on a plate and put that in a store, I'm excited." But the Belieber didn't recognize one of the most famous foes of Bieber lore when she saw him in the flesh. 

In 2014, "Lord of the Rings" star Orlando Bloom reportedly took a swing at Bieber inside a restaurant in Ibiza, with eyewitnesses saying that the singer had made a comment about Bloom's ex, Miranda Kerr, that angered the actor. Fast forward to 2021, and Bloom had moved on with Katy Perry. Eilish didn't realize who Bloom was when Perry introduced her to him at Coachella, and based on how she reacted to later learning his identity, we're guessing that she wasn't aware of the battle of the Biebs and the hero of Helm's Deep. The moment was immortalized in the documentary "Billie Eilish: The World's a Little Blurry." Eilish's brother, Finneas, was filmed informing her that Bloom had starred in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies. "That was him? No way! Bring him back! I wanna meet him again. He kissed me on the cheek," the incredulous singer said. "I thought that was just some dude Katy Perry met." But for the record, Perry did introduce Bloom to Eilish as her fiancé. 

Lady Gaga needs to look at those paparazzi pictures more closely

You can't read her poker face, and she can't recognize your face if you're the red-haired star of "Confessions of a Shopaholic." In a 2017 appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," Isla Fisher recounted the exciting moment when she believed that Lady Gaga wanted to meet her at Vanity Fair's Oscars afterparty. "The crowds parted, and there was Lady Gaga, and she's headed right towards me," she recalled. "And she says, "Thank you. Your performance in 'American Hustle,' Amy, was — " Here, Fisher decided that her best play was to assume the role of the actor Gaga had mistaken her for, and she didn't drop the ruse when Amy Adams herself strolled into the party. Instead, she said to Gaga, "There's Isla Fisher ... She's not even nominated for anything. What's she doing here?" 

Fisher and her doppelganger appeared together in the 2016 thriller "Nocturnal Animals," and Adams joked to On Demand Entertainment, "I guess it proves that we are two different people." The actors don't mind being mistaken for each other at all, and Fisher even had a little festive fun with her striking likeness to the "Enchanted" star one holiday season. On the "Today" show, she described how she pasted Adams' face over her own on her family's holiday card. "No one noticed," she said. "Everyone was like, 'Oh, your card was so cute.'" We can't help but wonder if Gaga was one of the recipients.

Prince Harry was not amused by Margot Robbie's mix-up

"Barbie" actor Margot Robbie has one of those famous faces that fans immediately recognize. But in an interview with BBC Radio 1, she revealed that they don't always associate her face with its rightful owner. She recounted how she was chowing down on a burger at a restaurant when some fans mistook her for fellow actor Emma Mackey. "They were like, 'I loved you in 'Sex Education.' That show is so cool, we just started watching it.' And I was like, 'I'm so sorry, it's not me,'" she recalled.

Robbie is also guilty of seeing a face that looks vaguely familiar and putting the wrong name to it. On "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," she shared the story of the night she met a prince, and it wasn't exactly a fairytale. Model Suki Waterhouse had invited Robbie and Prince Harry to a house-warming party, where they posed for a group pic in a photo booth. Harry had on a pair of glasses with green frames and was not wearing a crown, which is why Robbie said that she didn't recognize him as royalty. The "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" star did, however, think that Tinseltown's most royal resident was someone famous. "Actually, when I saw him in those glasses, I was like, 'Oh my God, I didn't know Ed Sheeran was at the party,'" she recalled. "And he was really offended. He was like, 'Shut up!'"