America at work
Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, and 6 Other Oscar-Nominated Entrepreneurs
J.D. Harrison | February 25, 2016

Matt Damon, Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Winslet have a lot in common. They’re each among the most sought-after stars in Hollywood, they have each won (at least) one Oscar, and they’ll each be in attendance and hoping to hear their names called once again at the Academy Awards on Sunday.

One more thing they share? They’re all entrepreneurs.

In fact, nearly half of this year’s Oscar-nominated actors and actresses moonlight as business owners, startup investors or nonprofit leaders. And some of the names just might surprise you:

 

Leonardo DiCaprio (Best Actor nomination for “The Revenant”)

Many expect this year to mark the end of DiCaprio’s well-known Oscar drought, as the actor has come up short in five previous Academy Award nominations. Less well known, perhaps, is that DiCaprio has an entrepreneurial side off screen, most notably as founder and owner of production firm Appian Way Productions, which he started in 2004. DiCaprio has starred in several of the company’s films, including “Aviator,” “Shutter Island,” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” In addition, DiCaprio founded and runs a foundation focused on wildlife protection and climate change, and last year, the actor helped finance a Silicon Valley startup that’s attempting to “grow” diamonds in lab settings.

 

Matt Damon (Best Actor nomination for “The Martian”)

This is Matt Damon’s fourth Academy Award nomination, with three for acting performances (“The Martian,” “Invictus” and “Good Will Hunting”) and another for screenplay writing (“Good Will Hunting”). Damon’s entrepreneurial success is similarly multidimensional. For starters, he founded Water.org, a foundation committed to providing aid and access to clean water to many developing countries. Damon has also co-founded and helped run several production companies, including Emmy Award-winning LivePlanet and Pearl Street Films (both co-founded with Ben Affleck).

 

Michael Fassbender (Best Actor nomination for “Steve Jobs”)

The Irish-German actor was nominated, coincidentally, for portraying one of the world’s most celebrated entrepreneurs. Albeit not with quite as much notoriety as Steve Jobs, Fassbender is a business owner himself, having co-founded British production firm Finn McCool Films with an Irish screenwriter. They’re currently working on a movie about a mythical hero from (surprise) Ireland.

 

Jennifer Lawrence (Best Actress nomination for “Joy”)

Like Fassbender, Lawrence was nominated for her on-screen portrayal of an entrepreneur (inventor and self-made business magnate Joy Mangano), and like Fassbender, Lawrence plays one off-screen, too. Several years ago, she started a nonprofit (the Jennifer Lawrence Foundation) that earlier this month provided $2 million to help fund a new cardiac intensive care unit at Kosair Children’s Hospital in her hometown of Louisville. Her foundation supports other charities including the Special Olympics and the Screen Actors Guild Foundation.

 

Saoirse Ronan (Best Actress nomination for “Brooklyn”)

Ronan’s career is quickly taking off in front of the camera and behind it. On screen, this is the Irish-American actress’ second Oscar nomination (previously for her supporting role in Atonement in 2007). Off screen, Ronan has already started her own production company, Slaney Productions Limited, which reportedly turned a profit in its first year in business. It’s worth noting that there are no co-founders here; Ronan is the sole owner of the company. Also worth noting—she’s only 21 years old.

 

Cate Blanchett (Best Actress nomination for “Carol”)

The two-time Academy Award winner isn’t an entrepreneur herself, but that doesn’t mean she lacks experience in Silicon Valley. In 2008, Blanchett became the primary investor in a California solar startup called Sungevity, which helps homeowners select and install solar panels on their roofs. The firm, started by Australian activist Danny Kennedy, was a natural fit for the Australian actress, who has long been a staunch and vocal supporter of environmental issues.

 

Kate Winslet (Best Supporting Actress nomination for “Steve Jobs”)

Another frequenter of the Oscars red carpet, this is the seventh nomination for Winslet, dating back to her first nod in 1996 (“Sense and Sensibility”). Off screen, the British actress helps manage a nonprofit organization – The Golden Hat Foundation – that she co-founded in 2010 to raise awareness for autism. The group’s mission is to help “change the way people on the autism spectrum are perceived, by shining a light on their abilities and emphasizing their great potential.”

 

Sylvester Stallone (Best Supporting Actor nomination for “Creed”)

When we think Stallone, many of us think of Rocky throwing his weight around the boxing ring. But 25 years ago, it was the actor who was throwing his weight behind a new restaurant venture called Planet Hollywood. In the early years, the movie-themed dining upstart gave part-ownership in the company to action stars like Stallone, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore and Arnold Schwarzenegger in exchange for their endorsements and appearances at glitzy, premiere-like openings. Planet Hollywood peaked at about 100 locations before downsizing considerably in recent years.