Celebs You'd Never Guess Knew Each Other In College

We're used to Hollywood's celebs being friends with each other, supporting one another, and congregating pretty much only with other famous people. It makes sense that you'd want to hang out with someone who understands what it's like to be famous, someone who can relate. We're also used to stars keeping their pre-fame friends close as they skyrocket to superstardom; it's probably nice to have someone around who "knew you when." HBO made a whole show about that, after all.

Less common are celebs who knew each other before they were both famous, stars who knew each other when they were students and then both happened to make it big. College is a time to figure out who you are, to stretch your wings after leaving the nest and learn what it is you want to do with your life, and it's also a time to find your people. For aspiring actors, that can mean befriending other aspiring actors. Sometimes the stars stay close, and fans are surprised to learn their relationship goes back to the days of all-night study sessions and weekend frat parties. Other times, they get famous in two totally different industries, and it's wild to consider that they've ever been in the same room, let alone knew each other when they were younger. Read on to learn about celebs you'd never guess knew each other in college.

Kristen Bell and Matthew Morrison dated at NYU

It's no secret that "Frozen" star Kristen Bell loves musical theater. Years before she was a teen detective in "Veronica Mars," Bell played the spunky Becky Thatcher on Broadway in a production of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," and she's been singing ever since. In the early 2010s, there was no bigger musical theater story in pop culture than the dominance of "Glee," so it's only natural that Bell would have been a massive Gleek. She once told Ross Mathews at a Sundance event that she likes to play "Glee" songs during photoshoots. "It's the only thing to jam to," she said. "And everyone laughed at me, and I'm like, 'Really? Really? Put the songs on, try not to shake your hips.'"

However, it was more than her love of theater that drew her to the show. "I actually went to college with Matty Morrison," she told Us Weekly, meaning "Glee's" Mr. Schu. "We actually dated very briefly, so I'll have to say maybe Matt Morrison is my favorite part of 'Glee' for various reasons." The two met at NYU's Tisch School for the Arts; Bell left school to be on Broadway, and Morrison was still a student when he joined a parody boy band called Fresh Step, "like the kitty litter," started by David Letterman. "You've actually saved me a lot of money!" he told Letterman. "And then I dropped out!"

Camila Mendes saw Cole Sprouse at NYU parties

As "Riverdale" fans know, Jughead romances Betty, while her best friend Veronica gets with Jughead's BFF Archie. Despite all the spooky relationship drama on the show, Jughead and Veronica haven't spent much time together, just the two of them, as Fansided notes. Turns out the actors have a past behind-the-scenes connection, though — even if it's more distant than Camila Mendes, who plays Veronica, would have liked. 

Mendes went to NYU at the same time as Cole Sprouse and his twin brother Dylan. The two were already uber-famous from their years spent at the Tipton Hotel on "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody," and a pre-fame Mendes kept an eye out for the stars around campus. "I saw [Cole] around, and there was a time when we had class in the same building, so I would always see him outside. He was a weirdo!" she told Office magazine. She explained that she occasionally talked to Dylan at parties, but that Cole was the shy twin, so they never really spoke much. "Cole always laughs when I tell him that," Mendes said, "because I remember meeting him on certain occasions and he doesn't. I'm always like, 'Fine! Whatever! Sorry I'm not a child star!'"

They've been close ever since their "Riverdale" audition, about which Mendes told Nylon, "We bonded over the fact that we both sweat a lot before auditions." Sounds like this friendship was destined to be!

Natalie Portman called former Harvard friend Jared Kushner 'a supervillain'

It's normal for friends from college to drift apart after graduation. Somewhat less common, though, is having your college friend marry into the family of one of the most controversial presidents in American history and become a crucial part of crafting the policies that made said president so divisive. That's what happened to Natalie Portman, though, and boy, would we love to get a peek at the Famous Harvard Alum group chats that must have been going around during the Trump administration.

"We were friendly," Natalie Portman told Stephen Colbert about her old pal Jared Kushner, husband of Ivanka Trump. They were close enough college pals that Natalie attended Jared and Ivanka's wedding in 2009, and per the Daily Mail, the Kushners went to Natalie Portman's own 2012 wedding to Benjamin Millepied. 

Nowadays, though, they aren't exactly best friends. After hesitantly agreeing with what Stephen Colbert heard — that Kushner "wasn't that great of a student" — Portman continued, "What can I say on TV ... I don't know. Unfortunately...  there's not a lot funny to say about someone you were friends with becoming a supervillain. So, you know, it's not funny." The star didn't hold back, telling Colbert that Kushner "said in some interview that the friends he's lost because of politics, it's like exfoliating." Colbert joked that Portman is now just "a dead skin cell" to Kushner, and she emphatically confirmed, "Proudly."

Nick Kroll directed John Mulaney at Georgetown

A recording of John Mulaney and Nick Kroll's Broadway show, "Oh, Hello on Broadway" was released on Netflix in 2017, but the quirky play was far from the first time the pair have worked together. In fact, they met long before Mulaney appeared on "The Nick Kroll Show" or "Big Mouth." They were both students at Georgetown University. 

"I was doing improv comedy in an improv group called The Georgetown Players Improv Group," Mulaney told CBS News. He recalled the name of the director of the group: Nick Kroll. Kroll was a senior who cast Mulaney after seeing his audition. "I just immediately was like, 'Wow, this kid is funny,'" Kroll told NPR. The encounter meant a lot to John Mulaney, even years later. "Had I not met Nick that day," he mused to CBS News, "[my life] really would have been a different path."

Both comedians view that day as an influential one in their later career paths. "We just clicked and immediately enjoyed working together," Kroll said. They have gone on to collaborate many times, and their friendship is so well-known that the Bronx Zoo named two of its "hissing cockroaches" after the pair, they revealed to Conan O'Brien

At SUNY Purchase, Stanley Tucci nicknamed Ving Rhames

When Stanley Tucci won a Golden Globe for "best actor in a mini series or a motion picture made for television," recognizing his role in the HBO film "Winchell," the award was presented by legendary actor Alfre Woodard and "Pulp Fiction" star Ving Rhames. Rhames, who was presenting because he had won the previous year, broke out into a grin when the winning name was announced. After hugging his friend, he told the audience, "We went to college together, and he gave me the name Ving. My real name is Irving."

The two were roommates in college, having lived together while they studied drama at the State University of New York's Conservatory of Theater Arts in Purchase, according to the Daily Beast. They asked Tucci if he gets royalties any time someone uses the nickname "Ving," and he joked, "I should. It's an outrage!"

Their alma mater seems proud of these former students; in 2021, the college tweeted a link to an article about their relationship, which they called "iconic."

Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers were fellow Barbs at NYU

Longtime fans of "SNL" breakout star Bowen Yang know of his years-long creative partnership with "Las Culturistas" co-host Matt Rogers, best known on screen as the host of HBO Max series "Haute Dog." Yang appeared on Rogers' ill-fated Quibi series Gayme Show (quickly-departed Quibi's fault it was ill-fated, not the show's). The two were tapped to star in the Hulu film "Fire Island." Fans may not realize that their friendship stretches back even farther than their time in musical sketch comedy group Pop Roulette; the two actually met at NYU!

When Yang and Rogers appeared on NPR's "Ask Me Another," they revealed the origin story of their friendship. Initially, Rogers explained, they lived on the same floor but didn't like one another because of girl drama. "This is when we were both closeted," Rogers groaned. "Our whole freshman year, we were kind of very wary of each other." Once they did come out and were openly gay by their sophomore year, Yang said, their friends wanted them to link up. They resisted, not wanting to play into stereotypes that gay people must be friends only because they're gay.

Then, at a Halloween party: "We discovered from across the party that we both knew all the words to Nicki Minaj's 'Super Bass,'" Rogers said. Yang clarified that, at that time, the song was still "just a bonus track." The rest, as they say, is Barb history.

Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve were friends for life

In 2017, Glenn Close delivered a tearful speech to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation (via ET), describing her memories on the set of "The World According to Garp." She spoke about the friendship between late actors Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve, who would fly in to set on Friday nights, "scoop Robin up," and take him away for the weekend. "Their friendship, their connection, is the stuff of legend," she said. "It not only endured, but became a life-giving force sustaining them both. I am convinced that if Chris were still with us, Robin would be, too."

The "Superman" and "Mrs. Doubtfire" actors initially met when they were roommates at Juilliard, both studying acting. In his memoir "Still Me," Reeve wrote that Williams was the first person he met at school. "I'd never seen so much energy contained in one person," he remembered. "He was like an untied balloon that had been inflated and immediately released. ... There was never a moment when he wasn't doing voices, imitating teachers, and making our faces ache from laughing at his antics." 

Williams shared his own favorite memory of Reeve at school during a Reddit AMA, a recollection of Reeve "literally feeding me because I don't think I literally had money for food or my student loan hadn't come in yet, and he would share his food with me." He also remembered, after Reeve's accident, "seeing him beaming and just, seeing what he meant to so many people."

Tommy Lee Jones and Al Gore were Trekkies at Harvard

"Al Gore has been one of my closest friends since the day we met on the first day of college 35 years ago," Tommy Lee Jones said at the Democratic National Convention in 2000 (via C-SPAN), giving the speech that served as Gore's official nomination for the presidency. "He is a good, caring, loving man." 

The two met at Harvard and quickly became inseparable. They initially lived across the hall and then moved in together, according to the Harvard Crimson. "There was this funny little dynamic going, as if Tommy Lee was the occasion for Al to assert his [Southern] roots," a friend recalled to The Washington Post

At the DNC, Jones regaled the crowd with tales of what Gore was like to live with. "We shot pool, and we watched 'Star Trek' when maybe we should have been studying for exams." He said that one year they had Thanksgiving in their dorm, just the two of them, roasting a turkey in the fireplace in their room. "I know from Tipper that that has been some of the most ambitious cooking that Albert has done since then," he joked.

For his part, Gore told the Harvard Crimson in a statement that Jones is "a great guy and a wonderful, lifelong friend." Gore would ultimately lose the presidency to George W. Bush, never (to date) moving into the Oval Office; he has that in common with his actor friend, who has never played a president on screen.

Angela Bassett met Courtney B. Vance at Yale, but they didn't date then

"9-1-1" star Angela Bassett and "This Is Us" actor Courtney B. Vance have one of the strongest relationships in Hollywood, having been married since 1997. They have two kids together and even starred opposite one another in Melvin Van Peebles' 1995 film "Panther." While their romantic relationship dates back decades, the two have known each other even longer, though they didn't actually get together for a while. Vance told Wendy Williams that the duo first met at the Yale School of Drama, but that they weren't romantic... yet. "She was leaving as I was coming in," he said. "She was helping me, showing me around. She was with somebody at the time, and I was with somebody at the time. We were friends for 13 years."

It wasn't until years later that they tried a romantic relationship, but even that got off to a rocky start. "We went on a date, and it wasn't good," Vance said. Williams pressed him for details, and he explained, "We were friends, and the transition to lovers is...tricky. The first date was tricky."

Bassett, on the other hand, seems to have had her eye on Vance for a bit longer. On "The Oprah Winfrey Show," she described her first memories of the man who would later become her husband. "I do, most definitely, remember him," she grinned. "He was tallish, dark, skinny, and just alluring."

Mike Pence mentored Woody Harrelson at Hanover College

Actor Woody Harrelson has lived a life of "extreme hedonism," he joked with Jimmy Kimmel, which the actor said required him to put religion "on hold." In his younger days, however, Harrelson attended Hanover College in Indiana on a Presbyterian scholarship, and he thought he might someday like to be a minister. Future Vice President Mike Pence attended Hanover at the same time, and the two knew one another. "I actually quite liked him," Harrelson told Kimmel. "I thought he was a pretty good guy. He's very religious, very committed."

Harrelson expanded on their relationship when he appeared on WTF with Marc Maron. "I did a [sermon] when I was at Hanover College," he said, "and in fact, this is kind of bizarre, but Mike Pence was two years older at the same school...  He was the guy who kind of led me through it ... mentored me through it." Surprised, Maron asked if Pence was as "frightening" at the time as the host viewed him years later. "No, not at all. We weren't buddies or anything, but he was very religious." He explained that Pence was head of the student club for those who might be interested in the ministry.

"Seeing as how I'm not quite in that ballpark now," Harrelson said on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," "I don't know how we'd get along, 'cause I think he's still quite religious."

Wes Anderson did Owen Wilson's homework

Owen Wilson has starred in a number of films directed by Wes Anderson, including "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and "The Royal Tenenbaums." However, their relationship stretches back even longer than "Bottle Rocket," their first film; the twosome met while they were students at the University of Texas at Austin. They took playwriting classes together and ultimately became roommates because they got along so well. Texas Monthly asked them about their early collaborations in those days, and Anderson joked, "I wrote a term paper for Owen, although that wasn't exactly a collaborative effort." They wound up writing "Bottle Rocket" together, in part inspired by a feud they were having with their landlord.

Looking back at those early nuggets of friendship, Wilson can't believe how far they've come. In 2021, he told IndieWire, "I'll probably see Wes here in Cannes, and to think about us being roommates in Austin, Texas, at University of Texas, you know, meeting in playwriting class. It just seems wild that now we're attending the Cannes Film Festival together."

Lupita Nyong'o was Winston Duke's Yale tour guide

Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance weren't the only future celebs who met because one showed the other around Yale; future "Us" co-stars Lupita Nyong'o and Winston Duke were first introduced to each other the same exact way. On Showtime's "Desus & Mero," Nyong'o explained that she encountered Duke when he was still a prospective student, in New Haven, Connecticut, for his callback audition for the School of Drama. "I was assigned to Winston to show him around campus," she said.

"She and I became really close because we shared that immigrant experience," Duke told Esquire. "We shared the idea of having really big dreams knowing that we'd left our own country."

Their friendship was one of destiny on several levels; in addition to leading the Jordan Peele horror movie as spouses, Nyong'o and Duke also co-starred in Marvel's "Black Panther" (alongside fellow Yale alum Angela Bassett!). The young friends even went and saw the original "The Avengers" team-up together while in New Haven, Nyong'o revealed on "Desus & Mero." "We were dreaming together about, 'Oh, wouldn't it be nice to be in one of those,'" she said.

"We would always tell ourselves that they're going to [put a Black Marvel superhero on screen] someday, but we could never tell who," Duke said to Esquire. Turns out the missing ingredient they couldn't visualize was each other.

Dan Stevens acted with Rebecca Hall at Cambridge

While at Cambridge University, young acting student Dan Stevens met a fellow thespian named Rebecca Hall when they were cast opposite one another in a production of Macbeth. Rebecca's father is Peter Hall, legendary theater director and founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company; he was so impressed by Dan Stevens' performance that he cast him as Orlando in "As You Like It" alongside his daughter as Rosalind. The production received rave reviews, and the rest of their friendship is history. After Cambridge, "Rebecca and I lived together — but never romantically," Stevens explained to the Daily Mail

The two have remained close friends as both of their careers have taken off. "I'm godmother to his kid, and he used to live down the road from us in Brooklyn," Hall told Film Inquiry. Stevens went on to star in "Downton Abbey," while Hall worked steadily as an actor and moved into directing in 2021 with the release of her first film, "Passing." When they starred in the film "Permission" together, Stevens told Collider that knowing one another for so long helped them have "an instant shorthand" on set. "I got a kick out of working with Rebecca," he said. The star added, "Feeling that creative electricity was really lovely."

Hall agreed, commenting, "I don't have anything salacious to say about it because it's fun. We [are] so lucky to get to work with our friends, and to be so lucky as to have friends that are really talented."

Brooke Shields dated Princeton football star Dean Cain

Brooke Shields' memoir "There Was A Little Girl" is a touching account of her lifelong relationship with her controversial mother, Teri, who was roundly criticized in the press for allowing her daughter to model and act at a young age. In the book, Shields includes a section about her college boyfriend, a Princeton football star by the name of Dean Cain. "...we were instantly crazy about each other," she writes. "We were a golden couple and everybody loved us together." She says they shared the same sense of humor and that Cain — who would grow up to be Superman in "Lois & Clark" — was not intimidated by the fact that she was already famous.

She also describes the night she lost her virginity to Cain, writing that the experience was "beautiful" and "what you would wish for your daughter." Unfortunately, she was wracked with guilt and shame afterwards, signifying "the beginning of the end" for their relationship.

Cain confirmed to Meredith Viera that Shields asked him for permission to write about the experience in her book. "We're still great friends," he said. "What I said to her was, 'I trust you implicitly, and anything you're gonna write, I'm sure is gonna be honest and straightforward.'" He said they were in love and they were college sweethearts and that he isn't ashamed of anything that happened, so, "Write away."

Colin Hanks was Busy Phillips' college boyfriend

When Busy Phillips filled in for Ryan Seacrest as co-host of "Live with Kelly and Ryan," the guest for the show was Colin Hanks. Before Hanks came out on set, Philipps revealed that he was her college boyfriend, and that they dated when they were both students at Loyola Marymount University. "We dated for a long time, actually," she said. They even attended the red carpet premieres of Hanks' father's movies "Toy Story 2" and "The Green Mile" together. Deflating any awkward tension, Philipps explained to an awestruck Kelly Ripa that it was totally cool they happened to be scheduled on the same show, because they're on great terms and their families go on vacations together. 

Hanks noted on the talk show that he's grateful for the long-lasting friendship, revealing that they were cast on their first TV shows the same exact week. "We were able to go through all of these really special moments in young actors' lives together, and now we also get to do, you know, morning school drop-off together."

The following year, though, Busy Philipps joked about having second thoughts about the friendship on twitter. She tweeted a link to an article titled "If Your Ex Wants To Stay Friends, He Might Be A Psychopath," tagging Hanks in the tweet and captioning it with three simple shrugging emojis.