The Untold Truth Of Sebastian Stan

Sebastian Stan is no stranger to viewers of both the big and small screens, with an extensive roster of American screen credits extending back to 2003. After making his debut on U.S. television in an episode of "Law & Order," Stan continued to land roles in film and television, with TV series such as "Kings," "Political Animals," "Gossip Girl," and "Once Upon a Time," in which he shone in the attention-getting role of the Mad Hatter from "Alice in Wonderland" fame. Meanwhile, he also appeared in a string of films including "The Architect," "The Education of Charlie Banks," "Gone," and "Hot Tub Time Machine."

Impressive as they may have been, all those credits were just a warmup for what was to come when Stan was cast as Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. the Winter Soldier, in Marvel's big-budget  "Captain America" movies. Stan continued to be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe when he was partnered with Anthony Mackie for the 2021 Disney+ series "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier." With subsequent movie roles in the female-led action flick "The 365" and gruesome horror indie "Fresh," Stan also took a starring role the highly anticipated Hulu limited series "Pam & Tommy," playing Mötley Crüe rocker Tommy Lee opposite Lily James as Canadian-born "Baywatch" stars Pamela Anderson. 

There's a lot fans may not know about this talented and in-demand actor, so read on to learn the untold truth of Sebastian Stan.

Sebastian Stan was born in Romania

While Sebastian Stan's acting career has largely taken place within the United States, that is not the home of his birth. As an article about the actor in Romania Insider pointed out, he was born in Constanta, Romania. He and his mother moved to Vienna when he was still a child, and shortly after they relocated, he landed his first film role in 1994's "71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance. And then, they up and moved again. Their next stop? The United States. 

Even though he hasn't lived in Romania since he was a kid, Stan's Romanian language skills have apparently remained solid. He proved that during a 2021 radio interview with Romania's Europa FM, where the interviewer asked questions in Romanian, and he answered fluently in his native tongue.  

Despite maintaining his fluency in Romanian, Stan's relationship with the country of his birth has been a complex one. "For a few years, until I was about 16 or 17, I felt a lot of shame, a lot of fear, to say I was Romanian," said Stan in a 2021 interview with IndieWire. However, he added, that attitude had evolved as he'd grown older. "I'm a proud Romanian," he declared.

The 'magical place' where he fell in love with acting

Acting has been an ambition for Sebastian Stan since he was a youngster, something that he made vividly clear when he shared a vintage video of himself on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," hamming it up and dancing for the camera at age eight. It wasn't until he attended a world-famous theater camp, however, that his childhood love of acting really began to blossom.

"It was a magical, magical place," Stan told GQ of Stagedoor Manor, which served as a launching pad for several other future stars, including Beanie Feldstein, Mandy Moore, Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, and Stan's fellow Marvel hero Robert Downey Jr. Looking back, Stan recalled making "some amazing friendships" from the experience, some of which have endured to this day. "I met my manager there, and we've been together for 17 years," he added. "It's a really special place."

While Stan certainly made a mark onstage — he was cast in Stagedoor productions of "Sweet Charity" and in the lead role of Danny Zuko in "Grease," among others — he also made quite the impression on another aspiring young actor who was attending Stagedoor at the same time. "He was the cutest boy ever," future "Glee" star Lea Michele told Playbill of Stan. However, she was pretty sure her crush was unrequited. "He wouldn't remember me," she confessed. "I was a lot younger. He wouldn't have looked at me."

Success did not come overnight for Sebastian Stan

Looking at Sebastian Stan's success in the rearview mirror, it's easy to overlook how much he struggled during his early years. As he recalled in an interview with Backstage, out of the numerous roles he auditioned for during the three years following his college graduation, he was cast in a grand total of zero. Yet those early years of failure didn't deter him. "Most of the people I admire as actors didn't make it until their mid-30s: the Mark Ruffalos, the John Hawkeses of the world," he said. 

He endured some truly dismal audition experiences during those days, such as the time he read for a casting director who didn't even look up from their computer while he auditioned. "Just brutal," Stan recalled. "Those beginning years, looking back, they could be really tough and painful and hurtful but there was something great about it." All these years later, auditioning can still feel like a hurdle. "Sometimes in an audition room, it's hard to get there," he told MTV News in 2011. "I like making tapes."

According to Stan, there's a lot to be said for simple tenacity. "I always look at auditions as not even getting the job as much as I'm just trying to connect with this casting director so they remember me for next time," he told Backstage. That turned out to be the case when he wound up auditioning several more times for the casting director who ignored him during that "brutal" audition; eventually, it was that same casting director who cast him in his first major role. 

He once appeared in a Hayden Panietierre music video

Once Sebastian Stan started booking roles, he took anything and everything he was offered. This, he explained in an interview with Backstage, was in order to not just bulk up his acting résumé, but also to master the complex nuances of acting for a camera as opposed to a live audience. "I would hear that word 'green' all the time those first few years, or 'not enough experience,' or 'doing too much,'" he explained. Acting for screen, he said, is "it's own entity," and the sooner in one's career "that starts happening the better..."

One of those early roles took place not in a film or television show, but in a music video for actor-singer Hayden Panetierre's 2008 single "Wake Up Call."

Interestingly enough, Stan's casting in the video was probably not random, given that he and Panetierre had worked together a couple years earlier, co-starring in the 2006 movie "The Architect." When taken together as a whole, Stan can be seen displaying an impressive range, playing both Panetierre's older brother in the film and, two years later, her seemingly shady boyfriend in the music video.

Sebastian Stan dated one of his Gossip Girl co-stars

Sebastian Stan only appeared in 11 episodes of "Gossip Girl," playing suave-but-manipulative Carter Baizen, yet his character became something of a fan favorite. The experience not only left him with exposure on a top-rated TV hit, but also a high-profile romance with co-star Leighton Meester.  

As InStyle recalled, Stan and Meester (who played Blair Waldorf) dated from 2008 until 2010, presumably meeting on the "Gossip Girl" set. In 2008, Page Six reported on their clandestine relationship, claiming that they'd announced their engagement on their respective "secret" Facebook pages. While news of their engagement was later determined to be bogus, Stan nevertheless sang Meester's praises in an interview with People. "I'm a really lucky guy," he exclaimed. "She's the most interesting, sophisticated, talented and an extremely funny person that I know. She's really hilarious." Apparently, the relationship burned brightly and quickly; in fall of 2010, reports emerged (this time not incorrectly) that the two had split.

However, Stan appears to bear no ill will to either his ex or the show on which they appeared together. Asked in 2016 if he'd be up for some sort of "Gossip Girl" reunion, he offered a definitive answer. "Sure, I would do it, why not? It was a great experience," Stan told E! News. "It was one of my first jobs in New York, and I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for that show and everybody who was on it."

He still struggled with rent when he joined the MCU

Without negating the importance of high-profile roles on "Gossip Girl" and "Once Upon a Time" in building the career of Sebastian Stan, they simply were not on the same level as being cast as Captain America's sidekick-turned-antagonist in a mega-budget Marvel movie. When Stan was hired to play Bucky Barnes in "Captain America: The First Avenger," it marked his arrival into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was, however, only a bit part (Bucky was assumed to have died in that movie), and didn't hint at the character's expanded role, his character even making it into the title of the sequel, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." 

However, landing his role in that first "Captain America" movie didn't provide Stan with the kind of financial windfall that most people would have assumed. As he told ET, about a month after the first "Captain America" movie came out, he received a phone call from his business manager with some dire news about the state of his finances. "I had a month left to figure out how I was going to pay my rent," Stan recalled. "So, perception is always interesting, isn't it? Nobody ever knows what the f**k is really happening."

Of course, all these years and successful projects later, coming up with rent money is no longer at the top of Stan's list of worries; according to Celebrity Net Worth, his personal fortune is valued at $8 million. 

Sebastian Stan's love-hate relationship with social media

As his fans are well aware, Sebastian Stan maintains an active interest in his Instagram account, regularly posting photos, videos, and assorted messages to his 8.6 million followers. However, Stan wasn't always so enamored of social media. "I was so against social media for such a long time," he said in a 2016 interview with GQ, " but now I can't live without it."

A big part of that shift, Stan mused, had to do with how social media has now become integrated into the promotion and publicizing of film and television projects. "It's part of the world that we're in now, it really is," Stan explained. "I understand the way that it fits into my business, in all of our businesses." Social media, Stan pointed out, had radically changed the game when it came to Hollywood PR. Back in the day ("I'm talking 30, 40 years ago," he said), publicists guarded actors' public images. As Stan explained, the thinking was that "the less people knew about you, the better, the more different roles you could play." Now, however, he feels that "individual connection is important" between stars and their fans. According to Stan, "once you get a great message or see some artwork, it's really humbling. I see it as a plus in that regard."

Speaking of fans, Stan's got quite a few. As BuzzFeed News noted in 2017, the MCU actor "has one of the internet's most passionate fandoms."

The '80s rocker who left Sebastian Stan starstruck

Sebastian Stan made headlines when he was cast as a famous rock star whose biggest musical successes came during the 1980s, portraying Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee in Hulu's "Pam & Tommy." However, it was meeting an entirely different '80s rocker that led him to completely lose his cool. As he tells it, he became totally starstruck when he came face to face with Rick Springfield. 

As he recounted for BuzzFeed, Stan worked with the "Jessie's Girl" singer (and, lest we forget, onetime fake doctor on daytime soap "General Hospital") on the Meryl Streep-starring rock comedy "Rikki and the Flash." While Stan confessed that he and his fellow thespians were in awe watching Streep work her magic in front of the camera, he was personally far more focused on Springfield, "because I love him and 'Jessie's Girl.' So when they were rehearsing I was fixated on him, hoping that he would, like, break into song. Finally on the last day I think he did. So I was kinda taken aback by him."

Another time Stan found himself feeling starstruck was when he shared a scene with screen legend Robert Redford in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." As he told Screen Rant, his reaction shouldn't be all that surprising, given that he "was working with a legend and somebody who's very iconic and you grew up seeing in movies, and it's always a little bit overwhelming at first."

He's appeared on Broadway

It was onstage where Sebastian Stan first discovered his passion for acting, and while he's predominantly known for his work in film and television, he has made the occasional foray into theater. For example, in 2013 he appeared on Broadway in "Picnic." As The New York Times review of the play noted, Stan was not working with rookies, but was part of a cast that included Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn and two-time Emmy winner Mare Winningham. According to the review, Stan's "line readings exude a tortured adolescent innocence," which was apparently a good thing for his role as "handsome hobo" Hal Carter. 

"Picnic" hasn't been Stan's only experience treading the boards on the Great White Way. According to Broadway World, he previously appeared in a 2007 production of "Talk Radio." 

As Stan explained in an interview with GQ, the only thing that's been keeping him from appearing on Broadway more often is that he's so sought after for film and television projects. "I love it," he said of theater. "I wish I could do more of it ... It comes down to availability." He also expressed how much respect he has for that particular art form, describing theater as "the most challenging thing to do, it's just you out there with no rope. You can't call time out, you're on a roller coaster."

He has all the respect for stunt performers

Thanks to his enduring role within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sebastian Stan is no stranger to stunt work. In the course of all those onscreen explosions and car crashes, he's had the opportunity to work with numerous stunt people — and has come to gain enormous respect for what they do. 

Discussing his role in "355" with Cinema Blend, Stan shared his admiration for stunt performers, but felt they were "very undervalued" compared to their contributions. "To some extent, they are always risking something and I just don't think it's easy and the weird part is what people don't see is they'll see a final product, which is an edited version of it but they won't necessarily connect where the stunt man came in to make that look pretty and awesome," he explained. "What you don't see is when you're on set and you see them do that stunt like 10 times in a row."

One reason why Stan has come to appreciate stunt performers so much is that he's actually no stranger to doing his own stunts. "Sebastian and myself did a lot of stunt training to be able to go in and a lot of the stuff you see is us," said Anthony Mackie of his "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" co-star in discussing the action-heavy Marvel series with PA Media (via Yahoo! News). "But we had amazing stuntmen to go in and kick ass for us."

He threw a 106th birthday party for his Marvel character

One of the more fascinating aspects of Sebastian Stan's Marvel character is that Bucky Barnes/the Winter Soldier doesn't age; like Steve "Captain America" Rogers (played by Chris Evans), he too received the super-soldier serum that gifted him with superhuman strength and prevented him from getting older. On the flip side, Stan continues to rack up the birthdays in real life, which may complicate things down the road with regards to this role. As he said on the "Just for Variety" podcast, "As long as they'll keep calling, I'm there. I don't know. I get old, too. Like everyone in the world, I age."

Given the timeline of the first "Captain America," which was set during World War II, Stan's character is far, far older than he looks; in fact, during production of "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" in Prague, Stan and a pal threw Bucky a bash in celebration of the character's 106th birthday. As Stan explained in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, that entailed finding the most authentic, old word Eastern European restaurant they could find in the Czech capital. "We went there, and we had all the waiters sing 'Happy Birthday,' bring out a cake, and 10 minutes later we got a call that we're going home."

Stan's co-star Anthony Mackie, also part of the same interview, quipped that the birthday party was "vintage Sebastian Stan," in that the celebration "entailed not inviting Anthony Mackie."

Fans wanted him to take on an iconic Star Wars role

Sebastian Stan's resemblance to another actor led to a fan-led online campaign to bring him to a galaxy far, far away. In 2021, The Hollywood Reporter reported on online rumblings that Stan was in consideration to play a young Luke Skywalker in a "Star Wars" project, taking on the role originated by Mark Hamill.

Stan was confronted with the rumor during a 2021 appearance on "Good Morning America," where he appeared open to the idea — if somewhat dubious about it actually happening. "If Mark Hamill called me, personally, to tell me he feels inclined to share this role with me, then I will believe it," said Stan. "Until then, I won't believe it." He was also questioned about the rumor during a subsequent interview with MTV Asia, admitting he felt "slightly confused" about reading that he's going to be part of a project that he'd heard nothing about. As he explained, "I'm like if there are these conversations happening, why isn't anybody calling me about it and having a conversation with me about it?"

In a weird way, the source of the rumors may have actually been Hamill himself, thanks to a 2017 tweet in which he posted side-by-side photos of himself and Stan. "Sorry to disappoint you but I refuse to say 'Sebastian Stan-I AM YOUR FATHER!' (even though, in fact, I am)," jokingly wrote Hamill, adding the hashtags #SorryNotSorry, and #MySonSebastian.

I, Tonya changed Sebastian Stan's career

In 2017, Sebastian Stan appeared in one of his most acclaimed projects to date, the Oscar-winning biopic "I, Tonya." In fact, portraying Jeff Gillooly, felonious then-husband of scandal-ridden figure skater Tonya Harding (played by Margot Robbie), led Stan to re-examine some of the choices he was making in his career. 

According to Stan, "I, Tonya" opened his mind to the possibility of ping-ponging between big-budget franchise blockbusters and smaller, independent movies, where the paychecks may not be as lucrative but the level of artistic expression was more rewarding. "It was definitely a transformative year for me, in terms of what I want," Stan said of his "I, Tonya" experience in an interview with IndieWire. "It kind of set the bar for me in what I wanted going forward."

That new mindset fueled his decision to pursue roles in indie films such as "Destroyer," "We Have Always Lived in the Castle," and "Monday" in addition to being a part of the final two "Avengers" movies. It was "I, Tonya," he explained, that pushed him to seek out roles "that scare me, and that are challenging," he said. "I came out of that movie feeling like, 'I don't know how I'm gonna find the situation again.' I was really wanting to find that again, and lo and behold, I actually did."

How Sebastian Stan got into character to play Tommy Lee

In late 2020, Deadline reported that Sebastian Stan had been cast as rocker Tommy Lee in Hulu's "Pam & Tommy," co-starring Lily James as his then-wife Pamela Anderson in a dramatization of the events that led to the couple's infamous sex tape making its way to the internet. Speaking with Cinema Blend, Stan discussed some of the more challenging aspects of the role: "I don't have a tattoo on my body, and I don't play the drums." With just three months preparation, Stan began taking drum lessons so he could convincingly bang the skins on camera.

That was just one small part of Stan's transformation into Lee. As he told ET, he underwent a "crazy process" each day when he showed up on set, courtesy of the production's hair and makeup department. "I think it took two hours for myself and then three hours for Lily almost every morning," he said. "Then you pile that on to a 12-hour day and it just definitely gets interesting by the end."

So convincingly did the actors immerse themselves in their roles, Stan added, it wasn't until production had wrapped that he felt he and his co-star actually got to interact as themselves. "It's really wild, with Lily, because the first time I saw her as herself was actually at the end of the shoot five months later," he said, "and I was like, 'Who are you?' That's when we actually formally met."