Which American Actors Have Dutch Roots?

December 15, 2020

I am a huge movie buff and have seen countless movies. Because of this, I know a lot of famous actors are from America. Since the Dutch have been traveling and settling around the world for many centuries, I wondered if there are also well-known American actors with Dutch roots. After my research, I was amazed at the results. So read on quickly to find out who are “Dutch American actors”.

Famous Dutch American actors:

  • Robert De Niro
  • Peter Fonda
  • Henry Fonda
  • Jane Fonda
  • Clint Eastwood
  • Marlon Brando
  • Mary Steenburgen
  • Rainn Wilson
  • Steve Buscemi
  • Leighton Meester
  • Rebecca Romijn

Those are just a few of the actors that have made their way to the big screen and have Dutch ancestry. As you can see, some of the names mentioned above are so clearly Dutch.

We will go over a list of popular Dutch American actors as well as actresses and then go into further depth about certain ones that have more information about their Dutch heritage. Keep reading to learn all about the various Dutch American actors that are well known in the United States.

Which Actors are Dutch American?

As it was just mentioned above, there are many extremely well-known actors that come from Dutch backgrounds. The Dutch have had a prominent presence in the United States since at least the 1600s when they began settling in New York. 

Some of the actors and actresses in America have actually come from the Netherlands or have direct connections to family in the country. Other actors happen to just have ancestry that traces back to the Netherlands. 

Here is a list of some Dutch American actors:

  • Marlon Brando: Marlon happened to have close Dutch ancestry on his father’s side of the family.
  • Steve Buscemi: Steve is a widely respected actor and director, and he has Dutch relations through his mother’s side of the family.
  • Robert De Niro: Robert has been in so many famous movies, and it turns out his mom is of partial Dutch descent.
  • Clint Eastwood: Clint is known all over the world, and he has some distant Dutch ancestry through his mother’s side of the family.
  • Zooey Deschanel: Zooey is a very successful actress that has some distant relation to the Netherlands.
  • Henry, Jane, and Peter Fonda: the entire Fonda family is well-known in Hollywood, and Henry is their father and was of Dutch descent.
  • Leighton Meester: Leighton is known for her television series in the United States, and her father is of Dutch descent.
  • Jimmy Smits: Jimmy has been in numerous shows based out of New York, and it just so happens that he is half Dutch.
  • Dick Van Dyke: Dick Van Dyke has been a household name for so many years, and he has a lot of Dutch ancestry. His last name is traditionally very Dutch.
  • Rainn Wilson: Rainn is recognized in some of the most popular shows in the United States, and he has Dutch roots through his mother.
  • Mary Steenburgen: Mary is known for her numerous movie roles, and it is understood that she has strong Dutch ancestry.

These are just some of the many more actors in America that are of descent from the Netherlands. 

These actors are all very well known all throughout the United States. Are there any that you did not expect to have ancestry connected to the Netherlands? 

Some of the names on this list might be obvious from the various last names, such as Van Dyke and Steenburgen, others are a bit more of a surprise I would say. We can go a bit more in-depth about some of these specific individuals to get an even better sense of their ancestry.

Clint Eastwood has Dutch roots through his mothers side of the family:

Marlon Brando:

Marlon Brando is an extremely well-known actor from the United States that also happens to have ancestry linked to the Netherlands. He lived from 1924 to 2004, and he had a very successful career. 

He was in films such as “On the Waterfront” as well as “The Godfather.” He won the Oscar for best actor two times in his career as well. Marlon grew up in midwestern America, but it is understood that his mother was of a strong Dutch heritage.

The Fonda’s:

Henry, Jane, and Peter Fonda are all related and they all had or do have very prosperous careers in acting. Henry Fonda is the father of Jane and Peter, and he passed on a strong legacy. 

Their Dutch American roots can be traced back to Dutch ancestors that came to New York from the Netherlands in the 1600s! The Fonda name has been passed down for a few hundreds of years now. Henry was in films such as “The Grapes of Wrath” as well as “On Golden Pond”.

Peter is known for films like “Easy Rider” and “Ulee’s Gold”. Obviously, Peter and Jane’s Dutch roots come from their father, Henry. His acting career was inspired by his successful father’s, and Peter ended up very successful as well.

Jane Fonda is the only of these three that is still alive, and she has been in countless films and shows, like “The Butler” and “Grace and Frankie”. Aside from the immensely numerous acting prospects, Jane has been involved in, she also has always been super involved in a very wide range of philanthropic and charitable endeavors. 

The Fonda’s have a huge family tree, and many of these family members are involved in Hollywood life in one way or another.

Rainn Wilson:

Rainn Wilson is best known for his role of playing “Dwight” in the American adaptation of the television show “The Office.” In The Office, they often point out and tie Dwight’s Pennsylvania Dutch roots into the show, although that would make him German.

Rainn is known to have strong Dutch ancestry through his maternal grandmother, who was born to Dutch parents in Wisconsin.

Clint Eastwood:

Clint Eastwood is a very prominent actor in the United States. He has been in works such as “Million Dollar Baby”, “Gran Torino”, and “The Rookie”, to name a few.

Clint has won several awards for his works and is very widely accepted as one of the best actors of our time. It is said that he receives his Dutch ancestry from his mother’s side, who had strong Dutch roots.

Mary Steenburgen:

Mary Steenburgen has one of the most Dutch sounding names within this entire article. She has been in numerous films over the years. Mary is best known for her roles in “Melvin and Howard”, “Back to the Future”, “Philadelphia”, and “The Gift”.

It is believed that Mary’s last name “Steenburgen” is a variation of the very Dutch name Steenbergen. The two names are only one letter off, and the latter is one commonly found throughout the Netherlands.

Other well-known figures with Dutch roots:

While there are so many actors that have ancestry linking back to the Netherlands, there are many other popular and historical individuals that have come from Dutch ancestry, as well. 

Some of these people include Walt Whitman, Anderson Cooper, Martin Van Buren, John Van de Kamp, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Lance Armstrong. 

Some of these individuals have more close relation to the Netherlands than others, like Anderson Cooper for example. He is a prominent journalist in America, and his mother is a well-known Dutch American socialite.

As you can see the Dutch use a lot of "van" in their last name, read our article on this topic to find out why this is the case.


We have just taken the time and gone over several prominent Dutch American actors and actresses in the United States. There are more actors than it is even practical to list off, but the ones with very apparent ties to the Dutch ancestry have been included.

People from the Netherlands have been in America for over 400 years now, so it only makes sense that there are so many actors and actresses nowadays that are Dutch American.

Hopefully, you have learned a thing or two about the various “Dutch American actors” throughout the United States. There are likely so many more than are even known about, and so many other popular American figures like artists and scientists that are of Dutch descent as well.

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Written by

Leo van den Berg
As a Dutchman I am extremely proud of the beautiful country in which I live. My goal is to convey my passion and love for the Netherlands to as many people as possible.

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