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Famous People with Croatian Heritage – Part 1

There are an estimated 3 million people living outside of Croatia who claim Croatian heritage. A large majority, around half, are in the United States.

A number of these second, third and fourth generation Croatians have become famous. In the first part of our look at famous people with Croatian heritage, we look at those who reached stardom in film, television and music.

Krist Novoselic

Krist (centre) during his days with Nirvana

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Krist Novoselic was the bassist and co-founder of legendary grunge band Nirvana. Born in California to Croatian parents, Novoselic spent time in school in Zadar on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast in the 1980s.

Hmet Kurt Cobain through his brother and the two discovered they had a similar taste in music and decided to form the band Nirvana. The rest is history.



Ella Yelich-O’Connor, better known as Lorde, burst onto the music scene as a teenager a few years ago thanks to her smash hit ‘Royals’. That hit spent nine weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart and won her two Grammy Awards.

Lorde has Croatian roots on her mother’s side and lives in Auckland, New Zealand.

John Malkovich

John Malkovich

American actor and director John Malkovich has appeared in more than 70 films, recieving a number of Academy Award nominations.

He appeared in films such as Empire of the Sun, The Killing Fields, Con Air, Of Mice and Men, Rounders, Ripley’s Game, Being John Malkovich, RED, Mulholland Falls, Dangerous Liaisons, and Warm Bodies. Malkovich was born in Christopher, Illinois. His paternal grandparents were Croatian, hailing from Ozalj just north of Karlovac.

Eric Bana

Eric Bana

Australian-born actor Eric Bana gained Hollywood’s attention for his roles in Black Hawk Down and Hulk.

His father Ivan Banadinović emigrated to Australia from Croatia after World War II.

Joe Manganiello

Joe Manganiello

American actor Joe Manganiello has starred in a number of films and TV shows. He acted in the Spider-Man trilogy, ER, How I Met Your Mother, One Tree Hill and True Blood. He is set to stat in Ben Affleck’s upcoming 2018 Batman film. He married actress Sofia Vergara in 2015.

Manganiello was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His mother has Croatian roots (Bračanov) whilst his father is of Italian descent.

Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog (photo credit: www.cinematheia.com)

Werner Herzog is one of the greatest figures in German cinema. The screenwriter, film director, author, actor, and opera director was named one of the 100 most influential people on the planet by Time magazine in 2009.

Herzog’s films often feature heroes with impossible dreams, people with unique talents in obscure fields, or individuals who are in conflict with nature. Herzog was born Werner Stipetić in Munich, to Elizabeth Stipetić, an Austrian of Croatian descent, and Dietrich Herzog, who was German.

Jenna Elfman

Jenna Elfman

Jenna Elfman is an American television and film actress, best known for her role as Dharma on the 1997–2002 American hit television sitcom Dharma & Greg.

Born Jennifer Mary Butala, she is of Croatian ancestry on her father’s side. Her grandfather emigrated to America in the middle of the 1900s from around the Karlovac region in central Croatia.

Judah Friedlander

Judah Friedlander (photo credit: Jessia Migllo/NBC)

Judah Friedlander is an American actor and comedian, known for playing the role of writer Frank Rossitano on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock. He is also known for his role as Toby Radloff in the film American Splendor.

Judah’s father was of Russian Jewish descent and his mother, a native of Pittsburgh, is Croatian-American.

Rachel Leskovac

Rachel Leskovac

Rachel is an English actress and singer known for playing serial killer nurse Kelly Yorke in the BBC medical drama Holby City, and hairdresser Natasha Blakeman in the famous UK soap opera Coronation Street. She also starred in Hollyoaks.

She was born in Bradford, England. Her mother is English and her father is of Croatian descent.

Ivana & Tomo Miličević

Ivana & Tomo Miličević

Ivana is an American actress and model and is best known for playing Anastasia Rabitov/Carrie Hopewell on the Cinemax original series Banshee.

Born to Croatian parents, Ivan moved to the United States at the age of 5 and was raised in Detroit, Michigan. Her brother is Tomo, guitarist for rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars, which features Jared Leto.

Patrick Muldoon

Patrick Muldoon

Actor Patrick Muldoon played the role of Austin Reed on Days of Our Lives, and also starred in the popular teen television series Saved by the Bell and Melrose Place.

He is of Irish descent on his father’s side and of Croatian descent on his mother’s side.

Rick Rossovich

Rick Rossovich in Top Gun

Rick Rossovich has appeared in over 30 films and is best known as Ron “Slider” Kerner in the 1986 hit film Top Gun.

He also appeared in The Terminator (as Matt), Roxanne (as Chris McConnell), Navy SEALs (as Leary) as well as in several TV series such as ER and Sons and Daughters. He is of Croatian and Italian descent with Moscenicka Draga the home of his paternal great-great grandfather.

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