Meet the Top 10 biggest movie stars from Kansas

When you think of Kansas, it’s natural to envision vast, open prairies stretching as far as the eye can see. And you wouldn’t be wrong, as the Sunflower State boasts a thriving agricultural industry. However, Kansas has also served as a fertile ground for nurturing acting talent. In this article, we’ll introduce you to the ten most prominent movie stars who hail from Kansas. Prepare to be surprised by some unexpected names on this list.

To determine the top 10 movie stars hailing from Kansas, we conducted extensive research using various sources including The Famous People, Visit KC, Kansas Tourism, and the Kansas City Star. Our aim was to select individuals from different eras who have made a significant cultural impact. To gather detailed biographical information, we also referred to reputable websites such as Biography and Britannica.

Paul Rudd

Paul Rudd, a native of New Jersey, became a renowned movie star, with his early years spent in Johnson County, Kansas. He gained recognition for his role in the iconic 90s teen comedy “Clueless.” Following this success, Rudd went on to star in other popular films such as “Wet Hot American Summer,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” and “Knocked Up.”

Paul Rudd is not only known for his successful film career but also for his impressive television acting career. He has appeared in popular TV shows such as “Friends,” “Reno 911!” and “Parks and Recreation.” Over the years, Rudd has been recognized and honored for his outstanding performances, receiving prestigious awards including an American Film Institute Award, a Critics’ Choice Television Award, and a Streamy Award. His talent and versatility have truly made him a force to be reckoned with in both the big and small screens.

Kirstie Alley

Kirstie Alley, a renowned movie star hailing from Kansas, made a mark in the entertainment industry. Starting her journey as Kirstie Louise Alley, she achieved fame with her notable role in the television show “Cheers.” This paved the way for a flourishing film career, where she showcased her talent in movies such as “Look Who’s Talking,” “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” and “Drop Dead Gorgeous.”

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After enjoying a long and successful career in the film industry, Alley found her stride once again in a variety of television roles. Notable among these were her appearances in “Scream Queens,” “Celebrity Big Brother,” “The Masked Singer,” and the aptly titled show “Kirstie.” Alley’s talent and dedication were recognized with multiple accolades, including two Emmy Awards, two People’s Choice Awards, and a Golden Globe Award. Sadly, Alley’s life was cut short by the devastating battle with colon cancer in late 2022.

Annette Bening

Annette Bening, a Hollywood actress, hails from Kansas. Annette, whose birth name is Annette Carol Bening, initially made a name for herself as a stage actor at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Her remarkable performances on Broadway garnered her numerous Tony Award nominations. Eventually, Annette ventured into the world of cinema, showcasing her talent in notable films such as “American Beauty,” “Richard III,” and “Postcards from the Edge.”

In addition to her diverse acting career, Bening holds the position of Vice Chair on the board of trustees for The Actors Fund, a charitable organization that provides support for working actors. Her exceptional performances have garnered her numerous accolades, including 17 awards from various Critics Associations, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and two Golden Globe Awards. Bening has been happily married to fellow actor Warren Beatty since 1992.

Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper, a native of Kansas, is undeniably one of the most prominent movie stars from the state. With the birth name Dennis Lee Hopper, he initially gained recognition for his roles in James Dean’s iconic films, “Giant” and “Rebel Without a Cause.” This paved the way for his appearances in timeless movies such as “True Grit,” “Cool Hand Luke,” and the critically acclaimed “Easy Rider,” which he co-wrote with his co-star Peter Fonda.

In the 1960s counterculture, Hopper emerged as a symbol, but he became increasingly stereotyped as a rebellious outsider. Nonetheless, he managed to secure roles in iconic movies such as “Apocalypse Now,” “Blue Velvet,” and “Waterworld.” Throughout his long and illustrious career, Hopper received numerous accolades, including prestigious awards from the Cannes Film Festival, The National Society of Film Critics Awards, and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Unfortunately, Hopper succumbed to prostate cancer in May 2010.

R. Lee Ermey

R. Lee Ermey, an unexpected yet prominent movie star hailing from Kansas, had an intriguing journey to fame. Originally known as Ronald Lee Ermey, he began his career as a drill instructor and staff sergeant in the Marine Corps. His expertise in this field eventually landed him consulting roles in movies, which eventually led to his memorable portrayal of a drill instructor in the iconic war film, “Full Metal Jacket.”

R. Lee Ermey was not only a talented actor but also a stalwart authority figure in many iconic movies. He showcased his skills in films like “Mississippi Burning,” “Se7en,” and the first three installments of the beloved “Toy Story” franchise. As his career progressed, Ermey ventured into television, hosting two military-focused shows on the History Channel: “Mail Call” and “Lock n’ Load with R. Lee Ermey.” Tragically, he passed away in 2018 due to complications arising from pneumonia.

Buster Keaton

One of the notable movie stars from Kansas is Buster Keaton, a talented actor, director, and comedian. Originally named Joseph Frank Keaton, he gained fame at a young age as a vaudeville child star. This paved the way for his successful career in the film industry, where he starred in and directed comedy short films such as “Cops,” “The Electric House,” and his most iconic work, “The General.”

Despite facing a decline in his career as a result of his battle with alcoholism, Keaton managed to make a comeback by appearing in iconic movies such as “Sunset Boulevard,” “Limelight,” and even a memorable episode of “The Twilight Zone.” Recognized for his exceptional talent in physical comedy, Keaton was honored with an Academy Honorary Award.

Ed Asner

Ed Asner, born Eddie Asner, became one of the most prominent movie stars from Kansas. He gained recognition for his role as Lou Grant on the popular television series “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” This success launched his career in the film industry, where he appeared in various movies such as “El Dorado,” “JFK,” “Elf,” and “Up.”

In addition to his successful acting career, Ed Asner was a well-known activist. He actively participated in the 1980 Screen Actors Guild Strike and served as a member of the Entertainment Board of Directors for The Survivor Mitzvah Project. Asner also contributed his expertise as an advisor for the Rosenburg Fund for Children and was a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. With his remarkable acting achievements, Asner holds the record for the most Emmy Awards won by a male performer, with a total of seven wins throughout his career. Sadly, he passed away at the age of 91 in August 2021.

Eric Stonestreet

Actor Eric Stonestreet, born Eric Allen Stonestreet, gained fame through various television roles. He showcased his talent in shows such as “Malcolm in the Middle,” “ER,” and “The West Wing.” However, it was his portrayal of Cameron Tucker on ABC’s “Modern Family” that truly launched his career.

Stonestreet has successfully transitioned into the world of film since then. He has made notable appearances in movies such as “Bad Teacher,” “Identity Thief,” “The Loft,” and “Confirmation.” Stonestreet’s talent and achievements in acting, especially on “Modern Family,” have earned him two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe nomination.

Louise Brooks

Though not widely recognized today, Louise Brooks, originally named Mary Louise Brooks, emerged as one of the prominent movie stars hailing from Kansas. Initially gaining recognition as a Broadway dancer in productions including “George White’s Sandals” and “Ziegfeld Follies,” she later ventured into the world of cinema, featuring in notable films such as “Beggars of Life.”

Brooks, known for her iconic status as a symbol of the 1920s flapper culture, grew discontented with her film roles in America. Seeking new opportunities, she ventured into European cinema, starring in notable films such as “Pandora’s Box,” “Diary of a Lost Girl,” and “Miss Europe.” Despite fading into obscurity for a time, her career experienced a revival as she delved into writing essays on film and eventually released her memoir, “Lulu in Hollywood.”

Chris Cooper

Chris Cooper, a renowned movie star hailing from Kansas, has made significant contributions to the film industry. Born as Christopher Walton Cooper on the Missouri side of Kansas City, he spent a considerable part of his early years in Leavenworth, Kansas. Cooper gained recognition for his portrayal of Sheriff July Johnson in the popular western miniseries “Lonesome Dove,” which catapulted him to fame.

Afterwards, Cooper has landed roles in iconic movies such as “A Time to Kill,” “American Beauty,” “The Bourne Identity,” “October Sky,” and, most recently, “Little Women.” His acting prowess has earned him accolades including a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award. (These are some of the most notable snubs in Oscars history.)

Kansas has produced some of the biggest movie stars in the industry. These talented individuals have showcased their skills and captivated audiences worldwide. Let’s take a closer look at the 10 biggest movie stars who hail from Kansas.

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