Beginning in 2001, the Ocean’s franchise – the series of heist movies originally directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon – went on to be a surprising box office draw.
Now, more than a decade on from the last instalment – Ocean’s Thirteen – Ocean’s 8 is kickstarting the franchise for a new generation.
With an almost all-female cast replacing the heavily testosterone-y pack of the first three films, Ocean’s 8 features some heavy hitters to rival even Clooney and co. And they’ve all, to a woman, got fascinating histories to their name.
Here are 16 things you never knew about the cast of Ocean’s 8.
1. Sandra Bullock was raised in Europe speaking German
Films like Miss Congeniality have lent Sandra Bullock the reputation of ‘America’s sweetheart’, but before she was tagged an all-American star, the Oscar-winning star grew up speaking German throughout Germany and Austria.
Born in Arlington, Virginia, to an American father and German mother, Bullock eventually lived in Europe for 12 years total, and held dual American-German citizenship until she was 18.
2. She also performed in opera
We haven’t heard much of Bullock’s singing voice in her films, but with her father a voice coach and her mother a voice teacher and opera singer, it was inevitable that Bullock would grow up warming up the vocals.
As a child, Bullock would accompany her mother on European tours of opera productions, eventually going on to take minor roles in the shows herself.
3. Cate Blanchett is a one-woman Oscars record breaker
Considering how much attention she’s had at the Academy Awards (two wins, seven nominations), chances were good that Cate Blanchett would have a notable Oscar nod or two to her name. She actually has several, starting with the fact she’s the only person to win an Oscar portraying a real person who themselves won an Oscar (Katherine Hepburn, in The Aviator).
She’s also one of only three actors to have received an Academy Award nomination for playing a member of the opposite sex (Bob Dylan in I’m Not There), and one of six to be nominated twice for playing the same character across two separate films (Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age).
4. She also kept her Lord of the Rings elf ears as a trophy
Blanchett, who played elf queen Galadriel in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, has since claimed that a big reason she took the part was because she had a thing for the pointy prosthetic ears she was required to wear.
When filming on the first trilogy was done, Blanchett was so enamoured with the props that she decided to have them bronzed, before putting them on display at home. She has since given them pride of place on the mantelpiece.
5. Anne Hathaway was named after Shakespeare’s wife
No, it’s not a coincidence – that Anne Hathaway ended up sharing a name with Shakespeare’s wife was a conscious decision by her parents. Born Anne Jacqueline Hathaway, the New York native was born into a family of an artistic bent.
Hathaway’s mother Kate was an actress, until she gave it up to raise Hathaway and her brother, while Hathaway’s maternal grandfather was a Philadelphia radio personality. With that performer background, it makes sense that young Anne would be lent the name of the wife of the Bard.
6. She also considered becoming a nun before she turned to acting
Raised Roman Catholic, Hathaway almost never made her way into acting. Her original plan was to become a nun; if things had worked out, Hathaway would have swapped Hollywood for a convent.
This all drastically changed when Hathaway was 15, the age that her brother Michael came out as gay: Owing to the church’s intolerance of homosexuality, Hathaway and her family left the Catholic faith altogether, while she soon after developed a love for acting that drove her to Tinseltown. If that hadn’t worked out, becoming an English teacher or psychologist was apparently plan B.
7. Mindy Kaling was named after a popular US sitcom (though no one’s ever called her by her actual first name)
Born Vera Mindy Chokalingam, star of The Mindy Project Mindy Kaling has claimed her parents got her middle name from the 70s/80s Robin Williams sitcom Mork and Mindy. An odd namesake – Kaling’s Indian parents apparently just wanted their daughter to have “a cute American name” and went with that – but, still, it’s the only name anyone’s ever known her by.
Kaling’s first name at birth, however – Vera, purportedly taken from a Hindu goddess – is one that, says Kaling, no one has ever called her by.
8. She’s also a 1% owner of Swansea Football Club
In 2016, Swansea FC, a British football club in the Championship league, was bought by an American consortium. At the time, the buyers involved were not disclosed, but just a year later, it was revealed that there were some surprising investors.
Mindy Kaling, it turned out, was one of the names that had bought into the Welsh club. Of the controlling stake that Kaling bought into, worth £75 million total, the actress and comedian was responsible for 1%.
9. Sarah Paulson has a crippling fear of flying
Sarah Paulson has played some resilient characters on screens big and small, but in real life she suffers from a phobia that many of her fans can relate to. Paulson’s aviophobia – a fear of flying – happens to be pretty severe, but then she also happens to be famous enough to do something about it.
Whenever she’s set to fly, Paulson claims, she insists upon meeting the pilot first: “I will not fly unless they let me into the cockpit to have a little word with them before we go”. Says Paulson, one pilot, subsequent to a meeting of theirs, whispered her name over air traffic control just to freak her out.
10. Her idol as a young actress was Ocean’s franchise-mate Julia Roberts
In her formative years as an actress, Paulson wasn’t much interested in being the acclaimed character actress she’s come to be known as today. Her idol was rather someone who was at the time perhaps the biggest movie star alive: Julia Roberts.
Pictures of the “glamorous, glitzy, charming” Roberts adorned Paulson’s high school locker. As her career developed, Paulson grew out of the Roberts fascination, but in a twist of fate Paulson’s own individual talents landed her in Ocean’s 8 – making her a franchise-mate of Ocean’s Eleven and Ocean’s Twelve star Roberts.
11. Rihanna was an army cadet back home in Barbados
Born and raised in Barbados, Robyn Rihanna Fenty never had the easiest upbringing. What with her parents’ strained marriage (pushed to breaking by her father’s crack and alcohol addictions) and some crippling resulting stress headaches, you’d understand that the young Rihanna would seek some order for her life elsewhere.
Her solution was signing up to the Bridgetown cadets. There, curiously, Rihanna’s drill sergeant was her one-time chart rival Shontelle.
12. She was also named ‘Humanitarian of the Year’ by Harvard in 2017
As one of the hardest working artists in pop – she toured virtually nonstop from 2006 and 2016, and released seven albums in the same time period – you’d forgive Rihanna for taking it easy in her time off.
Instead, Rihanna has in her spare time been so dedicated to philanthropy – she’s performed charity concerts, made television specials, been ambassador for various charities and even founded some of her own – that she was named Harvard University’s Humanitarian of the Year in 2017.
13. Helena Bonham Carter’s family tree includes Florence Nightingale and a WWII hero
Helena Bonham Carter may be the star of such major films as Fight Club, Les Miserables and A Room With a View, but she’s far from the only famous member of her family. In fact, she’s arguably not even the most famous member.
None other than Florence Nightingale is a distant relative, while Bonham Carter’s relations also include famed Brit director Anthony Asquith, former Prime Minister HH Asquith and a number of other British politicians. Most fascinating is Eduardo Propper de Callejon, Bonham Carter’s maternal grandfather, who risked his own life to issue “special visas” and save thousands of Jews fleeing the Nazis during WWII.
14. She has continued playing Bellatrix LeStrange after Harry Potter ended
One of Bonham Carter’s most famous roles, that of evil sorcerer Bellatrix LeStrange in the Harry Potter franchise, made her known to a whole generation of children as a ruthless villainess. Bonham Carter apparently had so much fun playing LeStrange, she hasn’t quite brought herself leave the character behind.
Having kept one of Bellatrix’s wands from the Potter set, Bonham Carter later admitted she has wielded it to keep her children and their friends disciplined: if they ever kicked up a fuss, she would again inhabit the character of LeStrange and wave the wand until they behaved.
15. James Corden used to share an apartment with Dominic Cooper
Individually, James Corden and Dominic Cooper have gone on to huge things – Corden is now best known as host of one of the biggest late night shows in America, while Cooper is a member of the Marvel universe and star of AMC’s Preacher – but in their younger days they were just two working actors rooming together.
Having met on a production of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, the two became friends and moved in together, years before Hollywood came calling. Cooper is godfather to the first of Corden’s three children.
16. He also won a Tony award before he got the Late Late Show gig
Years before he became known to American audiences, taking over from Craig Ferguson to win the Late Late Show hosting gig in 2015, Corden had been a popular stage and TV actor in the UK. The sitcom Gavin & Stacey made him a household name in Blighty, but Corden probably reached his peak in terms of critical acclaim for his acting work on Broadway in 2011-12.
For his part in stage comedy One Man, Two Guvnors, Corden won a Tony award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play. He’d become an overnight celebrity in the US three years later.