Actors who are shy often report taking up the craft as a way of coping with shyness or learning to better express themselves. It is therefore no wonder that many well-known Hollywood actors are shy. Although few of these actors suffer with extreme social anxiety, many of them feel nervous or anxious about the social demands of the acting profession.
1. Alexis Bledel
Alexis Bledel is an American actress who began her career in modelling, attended New York University for film. She later went on to debut on the television series Gilmore Girls. Bledel’s parents enrolled her in community theater programs at age 8 in an effort to help her overcome childhood shyness. She admits to still being shy, but is able to rise to the occasion when necessary for her career.
Swedish-born Ann-Margret Olsson moved to the United States at the age of 5. She was discovered by George Burns in Las Vegas and later landed an RCA record deal and film contract with 20th Century Fox. Ann-Margret has since become a cultural icon, appearing in such films as Bye Bye Birdie, Viva Las Vegas and Grumpy Old Men. She describes herself as a shy and different person than you see on screen. She also reports not watching her own movies because it makes her nervous and uncomfortable.
3. Annie Oakley
Annie Oakley was a star and exhibition sharpshooter in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, a traveling roadshow in the late 1800’s. Though Oakley was bold in public and when performing, she was shy and retiring in her private life. Oakley was known for looking at the top of people’s heads when talking to them because she did not want to look them in the eye.
4. Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand is an American actress and singer who appeared in such films as Hello Dolly!, Yentl and Meet the Fockers. Streisand forgot the words to a song during a 1967 performance in New York’s Central Park and did not perform in public afterward for nearly three decades. She has talked publicly about her problems with stage fright and performance anxiety, and how she received both medication and therapy as part of her recovery.
5. Blake Lively
Blake Lively is an American actress known for her roles in the film Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and the television series Gossip Girl. Born into a family of actors, Lively credits the acting craft with building her confidence and helping her overcome shyness. She reports sometimes feeling shy even during situations that require outward confidence, such as at red carpet appearances.
6. Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt is one of the richest actors and film producer in the world, known for his roles in such films as Thelma & Louise, Legends of the Fall, 12 Monkeys and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Pitt was married to actress Jennifer Aniston for five years before starting a relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Smith co-star Angelina Jolie. He has been described as a man of few words and someone who likes to play outgoing characters to break away from his natural shyness.
7. Carol Burnett
Carol Burnett is an American comedian and actress best known for her variety show that featured music, dance and comedy sketches from 1967 to 1978. A shy person in her private life, Burnett reports only being able to perform when in character. She gets nervous around people she holds in high regard.
8. Cathy Rigby
Cathy Rigby is an Olympic gymnast, entertainer and motivational speaker and was the first American female medal-winner at the World Gymnastics Competition. Rigby retired from gymnastics at the age of 20 and went on to a career in theater and television despite being shy. She and her husband formed a touring-theater company best known for its production of Peter Pan. “I was still very shy until I made a life change and met my current husband,” Rigby said.
9. Cher Bono
Cher Bono is an American actress and singer. Cher and husband Sonny Bono became famous for their music and variety show The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. Cher starred in films such as Mask and Moonstruck and is one of only two women to have won an Academy Award for best actress and also have a No. 1 hit song on the Billboard charts (Barbra Streisand is the other). Cher described herself as shy and ugly during childhood; she also suffered with undiagnosed dyslexia, which may have contributed to feelings of inadequacy.
10. Courtney Cox Arquette
Courteney Cox is an American actress best known for her role as Monica Geller in the television sitcom Friends. Cox started her career as a model with the Ford Modelling Agency and had her first big break with a part in the Bruce Springsteen video Dancing in the Dark. She later went on to play Michael J. Fox’s girlfriend on Family Ties. Cox feels that her shyness has stopped her from pursuing more of a career on the big screen, as she does not have the confidence to audition.
11. Donny Osmond
Donny Osmond is an American singer, musician and actor. Donny grew up performing with his family and experienced stage fright for the first time at age 6. Later during a stage production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Osmond experienced a panic attack while onstage. His anxiety soon seeped into his everyday life, making him afraid to go out in public. Osmond has been open about his program of treatment, which included medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
12. Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy is an American actor who started his career doing stand-up comedy and Saturday Night Live sketches. His most well-known films include 48 Hours, Coming to America, Beverly Hills Cop III and The Nutty Professor. Murphy is a skilled comedic actor who describes himself as more introverted than shy; he does not feel uncomfortable around people but prefers to observe in new situations.
13. Evan Rachel Wood
Evan Rachel Wood is an American actress who has appeared in films such as Practical Magic, Simone and Thirteen. Wood describes herself as shy and private and someone who does not enjoy show business mingling. She recalls being so shy at one point in her life that she could not even order a pizza.
14. Gene Hackman
Gene Hackman is an American actor who began his career after the age of 30. Hackman started doing off Broadway plays in New York and eventually began doing feature films such as The French Connection and Unforgiven (both of which landed him an Academy Award). Hackman has been described by others as shy and introverted and an actor who sees a bit of himself in every role that he plays.
15. Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford is an American actor with famous roles in such films as Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost ArkWitness and The Fugitive. Ford has been described as shy and guarded in person.
16. Henry Fonda
Henry Fonda is an American actor whose career has spanned from Broadway theater to Hollywood films. His most noted roles were in The Grapes of Wrath and On Golden Pond; he won an Academy Award for Best Actor for the latter. This Hollywood legend has been described as quiet and shy in his personal life.
17. Ingrid Bergman
Ingrid Bergman is a Swedish actress who became a Hollywood star. Her most famous films include Casablanca, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Gaslight and Murder on the Orient Express. Bergman was married three times and is mother to actress Isabella Rossellini. Bergman has been described as a shy and lonely as a child, after the loss of her mother at age 2 and father at age 12.
18. Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp is an American actor best known for his roles in films such as Edward Scissorhands, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Depp dropped out of school at age 15 and was working as a pen salesman when he met Nicolas Cage in Los Angeles and was advised to try acting. Depp is drawn to unusual film characters and refers to himself as shy and someone who dislikes fame.
19. Jim Carrey
Jim Carrey is a Canadian comedian and actor who started his career at the Yuk Yuk’s comedy club in Toronto. Carrey is best known for his roles in such films as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb and Dumber and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Carrey describes himself as painfully shy during childhood; he used his comedic skills to win friends and cope with his insecurities.
20. Kim Basinger
Kim Basinger is an American actress who has appeared in such films as 9 1/2 weeks and Batman. When she took the podium during the 1997 Oscars to accept the award for Best Supporting Actress for L.A. Confidential she could not find the words to speak. Kim has publicly discussed her struggles with panic disorder, agoraphobia and social anxiety. Although she has been treated with psychological therapy she still remains shy and anxious in public.
21. Kristin Davis
Kristin Davis is an American actress best known for her appearances on the television series Sex and the City and subsequent movie adaptations as the character Charlotte York. Davis has talked publicly about using alcohol to cope with shyness. She discusses how alcohol freed her to come out of her shell and express herself in a way that did not come naturally.
22. Kristin Stewart
Kristen Stewart is an American actress best known for her role in the saga Twilight opposite actor Robert Pattinson. Prior to this role she also appeared in such films as Panic Room and Cold Creek Manor. Stewart has been described as cold and distant in interviews, but the actress argues that she is actually shy and nervous. She reports having difficulty talking about herself and worrying too much about other people’s perceptions of her.
23. Lucille Ball
Lucille Ball is an American actress best known for her role as Lucy Ricardo in the television sitcom I Love Lucy. In the show she played the scatter-brained wife of her real-life husband Desi Arnaz. Lucille was told during drama school in New York that she was too shy. She also reports being shy early in her career but that she eventually overcame those feelings.
24. Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe was an American actress best known for films such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Seven Year Itch. Monroe was married to baseball great Joe Dimaggio and playwright Arthur Miller. Despite her sexpot image, she was described as a nervous and shy actress.
25. Melanie Lynskey
Melanie Lynskey is a New Zealand native who caught the acting bug at a young age. Since moving to Los Angeles she has been in numerous television and film productions. She is best known for her role as Rose on Two and a Half Men. Lynskey describes herself as awkward and shy in real life. Although she enjoys acting as a way to escape, she is also uncomfortable with some of the social aspects of celebrity, such as attending parties and selling herself as an actress.
26. Michelle Pfeiffer
Michelle Pfeiffer is an American actress best known for her roles in the films The Fabulous Baker Boys, Scarface, Batman Returns and Dangerous Liaisons. Michelle has talked publicly about being shy and fearful of small talk and how she has grown: “I was the kind of person who entered a room, found the nearest corner and hoped no one noticed me before it was time to go home. Now I’m better at socializing.”
27. Michelle Williams
Michelle Williams is an American actress who began her career on the television series Dawson’s Creek. She later went on to appear in such films as Brokeback Mountain, Blue Valentine and My Week With Marilyn, for which she received academy-award nominations. Michelle has been described as guarded in interviews, but reports feeling less shy, nervous and self-conscious since turning 30. She reports that she is more confident and is not afraid to express her ideas.
28. Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman is an Australian actress who is best known for her roles in the films Dead Calm, To Die For and two films with former husband Tom Cruise: Days of Thunder and Eyes Wide Shut. Kidman has described herself as very shy with a stutter during childhood. She reports regressing into shyness at times and feeling afraid of things, such as walking alone into a crowded restaurant or attending a party alone.
29. Rene Russo
Rene Russo is an American actress and model. Russo was discovered at a Rolling Stones concert and later signed with Ford Modeling. She took up acting after age 30 and has appeared in such films as Lethal Weapon 3, Tin Cup and Ransom. Rene was a tall teenager with scoliosis and teased by other kids. She went to high school with director Ron Howard, who said that she was shy and walked around with her head down.
30. Richard Gere
Richard Gere is an American actor best known for his roles in American Gigolo, An Officer and a Gentleman and Pretty Woman. Gere is also a humanitarian, pianist and music composer. He describes being painfully shy as a child, to the point that his parents were unsure if he could speak at all. He credits acting with helping him learn to express himself better.
31. Robert DeNiro
Robert De Niro is an American actor, director and producer best known for his roles in such film as The Godfather, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. Although touted as one of the greatest actors of his time, DeNiro is known for being shy, awkward and a man of few words.
32. Robin Williams
Robin Williams is an American actor and comedian who got his start on the television series Mork and Mindy. Williams has starred in numerous features films and won an Academy Award for best supporting actor for Goodwill Hunting in 1997. The actor admits to shyness during childhood and says that he used his own imagination to entertain himself.
33. Robert Pattinson
Robert Pattinson is an English actor best known for his role as Edward Cullen in the Twilight vampire films. He describes his teenage years as difficult due to his shyness and lack of self-esteem. Pattinson says that he is particularly shy around women.
34. Roy Rogers
Roy Rogers was an American musician and actor who made almost 100 films. He was also known for his television series The Roy Rogers Show, which aired between 1951 and 1957. Rogers was married to actress Dale Evans, who described him as quite shy in his personal life.
35. Rupert Grint
Rupert Grint is an English actor best known for his character Ronald Weasley in the Harry Potter films. Grint is described as understated, quiet, shy and vulnerable in his personal life.
36. Sally Field
Sally Field is an American actress known for her roles in films such as Steel Magnolias, Mrs. Doubtfire and Forrest Gump. Field started her career on television with the series Gidget and later The Flying Nun. She describes herself as once suffering from a crippling shyness that acting helped her overcome.
37. Sigourney Weaver
Sigourney Weaver is an American actress best known for her roles in the films Alien, Gorillas in the Mist and Working Girl. Tall as a teenager and from a family that moved around a lot, Weaver was teased by other children and grew up very shy. She describes still being shy in her personal life.
38. Sir Alec Guinness
Sir Alec Guinness was a British actor best known for his roles in the films Great Expectations, Star Wars (in which he played Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi) and The Bridge Over the River Kwai. Guinness was described by others as very retiring and shy.
39. Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise is one of the highest-paid and most sought after actors in Hollywood. He has starred in a never-ending series of hit movies, including Top Gun, The Color of Money, Rain Man, War of the Worlds and Jerry Maguire. Cruise’s family moved a lot when he was young and the actor also suffered with dyslexia. He has been described as shy but compassionate, and is well-liked in the acting community.
40. Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks is an American actor and producer with a huge list of acting credits to his name, including Sleepless in Seattle, Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan, You’ve Got Mail, The Green Mile and Castaway. Tom grew up in a fractured family that moved around a lot. He described himself as painfully and terribly shy as a child but also the class clown at times.
41. Vanessa Anne Hudgens
Vanessa Anne Hudgens is an American singer and actress best known for her role in the Disney Channel television movie High School Musical. Hudgens began her career in musical theater; although she loves acting, she does not like the other social aspects of her career. Hudgens reported being very shy as a child and still feels anxious before attending social events.