Six Actors You Didn’t Know Were From Wisconsin

Beer, brats, and Hollywood stars? You betcha! Wisconsin has spawned great stage and screen talents over the years. Here are six celebrated actors who grew up in Wisconsin.



6 Joel Hodgson

Joel Hodgson created Mystery Science Theater 3000 and starred in the T.V. cult comedy classic alongside his wisecracking robot companions until leaving the show in 1993. Hodgson was born in Stevens Point and graduated from Ashwaubenon High School.


5 Gene Wilder


Born Jerome Silberman in 1933, Gene Wilder grew up in Milwaukee and graduated from Washington High School on the city’s north side in 1951. Gene Wilder has appeared in numerous comedies such as Mel Brooks’s Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. Wilder was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 1968 film The Producers. Other credits include Silver Streak and Stir Crazy alongside comedian Richard Pryor. Many will remember him as Willy Wonka in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Wilder was married to Saturday Night Live star Gilda Radner from 1984 until her death from ovarian cancer in 1989. Gene Wilder has since been active in cancer awareness co-founding Gilda’s Club and The Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center.


4 Charlotte Rae


Born Charlotte Rae Lubotski in Milwaukee on April 22, 1926, Charlotte Rae is best known for her role as Edna Garrett on the NBC sitcoms Diff’rent Strokes and it’s spin off The Facts Of Life. Rae spent her childhood in Milwaukee before her family moved to Shorewood where she graduated high school in 1944. Charlotte Rae was also a member of the Wauwatosa Children’s Theater. Working as a stage actress in the 1950’s, Rae appeared in several productions such as The Three Penny Opera and L’il Abner. Charlotte Rae received two Tony nominations for her roles in the 1966 Broadway play Pickwick and 1969’s Morning, Noon and Night. She is also well known for her role as Sylvia, the wife of Officer Leo Schnauzer in the 1960’s sitcom Car 54, Where Are You?.


3 William “Willem” Defoe


Hailing from Appleton, William “Willem” Defoe is a two time Oscar nominated actor who studied drama at the University Of Wisconsin Milwaukee before leaving to join the Milwaukee experimental theater group Theater X. Defoe’s big screen appearances include Mississippi Burning, The Last Temptation Of Christ, The English Patient, Platoon, and Shadow Of The Vampire. The latter two earning him Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor in 1986 and 2000 respectively.


2 Spencer Tracy 


Nominated no less than nine times for Best actor and winning two Oscars in the category, Spencer Tracy is easily one of the most beloved actors from what is known as the “Golden Age Of Hollywood.” Born in Milwaukee in 1900, Tracy attended Marquette University High School with fellow actor Pat O’Brien. Tracy later attended Ripon College to major in medicine. It was at Ripon College where he made his stage debut in February 1921 playing the male lead in the Clyde Fitch play The Truth to favorable reviews. Tracy went on to having a successful Hollywood career often starring alongside Katherine Hepburn whom he also had a longtime romantic relationship with despite being married. Spencer Tracy died of  heart attack in 1967.


1 Mark Ruffalo


Born in Kenosha in 1967, Mark Ruffalo spent his youth there until moving to Virginia where he attended high school. Ruffalo’s screen credits include 2007’s David Fincher film Zodiac and Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island. Many will recognize him as The Incredible Hulk’s true identity, Dr. Bruce Banner in the Marvel Comics films The Avengers  and Avengers: Age Of Ultron.



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