Authored by Michael Vosseller
Natalie Portman has what many will covet this Sunday – an Oscar. The 29 year-old actress won her Academy Award for best actress in Black Swan. Although largely known for her movie career, Portman is also an accomplished student of the sciences. As a high-schooler, Portman made it to the semifinal round of the ultra-elite Intel Science Talent Search and, after playing Queen Amidala in the Star Wars prequel, Portman studied neuroscience at Harvard University. Although far from ordinary, Portman is not the only movie star with a knack for science and invention. Below are five big names of the silver screen who also have a passion for innovation.
James Cameron’s science fiction imagination is well-known. His directing and producing resume includes Avatar, Aliens, Titanic, and The Abyss, which won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in 1990. While filming The Abyss, Cameron patented an “apparatus for propelling a user in an underwater environment.”Using propellers, the patent was designed to help cameramen capture underwater scenes.
If James Cameron makes a list, then George Lucas’s name must appear as well. Practically everyone has witnessed Lucas’s creativity on the big screen, and a majority of those enthralled with the Star Wars franchise have also played with its action figure toys. Lucas holds patents on figures of the characters and creations from a galaxy far, far away, including the likes of Boba Fett and AT-AT Walkers.
Francis Ford Coppola
President Barack Obama called The Godfather I and II his favorite movies, and the series has won a combined 9 Oscars. The movie’s director, Francis Ford Coppola, is arguably responsible for an entire genre of mafia movies and TV shows. But what imitators cannot touch is Coppola’s patent for a t-shirt. The patented shirt has a turtle on the backside. The turtle is divided into numbered regions, so that the wearer can tell someone exactly where to scratch should an itch arise in an unreachable spot. 
Speaking of The Godfather, Marlon Brando, the actor who played Don Corleone, has two Oscars for Best Actor. The precursor to acting greats James Dean and Paul Newman, Brando also had an interest in music. In 2002, Brando received a patent for a “drumhead tensioning device and method.”
Muscle cars, a shotgun, and a fire-ball explosion are ingredients for an epic car chase scene. Steve McQueen, the Oscar-nominated actor, pulled off such a chase scene in the movie Bullitt. McQueen was actually an accomplished race car driver having raced against Mario Andretti in 12 Hours of Sebring. McQueen’s driving chops inspired his patent for improved bucket car seats.
It’s easy to characterize actors and inventors as having very distinct thought processes, but we've seen that is not necessarily the case. As Oscar Sunday approaches, let’s remember that creativity and inventiveness go hand-in-hand.
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