The Daily Herald
5 music stars who became movie stars
January 15, 2012
LOS ANGELES â€” Everyone wants to be a multi-hyphenate. No one wants to be pigeonholed. And so basketball players try to be rappers and rappers try to be basketball players. Jessica Simpson sells shoes and Jennifer Lopez sells perfume.
But while actors often try to be singers â€” Eddie Murphyâ€™s â€œParty All the Time,â€ anyone? â€” singers also frequently venture into acting. Sometimes they carve out impressive second careers for themselves; sometimes, theyâ€™re Britney Spears in â€œCrossroads.â€
This week, we see several musicians whoâ€™ve made the transition from the recording studio to the big screen. Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton co-star in the gospel comedy â€œJoyful Noise,â€ while Mark Wahlberg plays a master smuggler in â€œContraband.â€ So hereâ€™s a look at five great music stars who became great actors. For sake of argument, performers like Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli and even the aforementioned J.Lo, who had their roots in both art forms simultaneously, donâ€™t count. Weâ€™re talking about people who were primarily known as singers (or rappers, etc.) and made the leap:
âˆ« Frank Sinatra: The Chairman of the Board was, of course, a major pop star who caused a frenzy among screaming bobbysoxers in the 1940s before crafting a major movie career for himself. Sinatra won an Academy Award for best supporting actor in 1953â€™s â€œFrom Here to Eternityâ€ and earned a best-actor nomination for 1955â€™s â€œThe Man With the Golden Arm.â€ Early film roles naturally were in musicals, including â€œAnchors Aweighâ€ (1945) and â€œOn the Townâ€ (1949) with Gene Kelly. The original â€œOceanâ€™s Elevenâ€ (1960) allowed him to play it smooth as master thief Danny Ocean, while the political thriller â€œThe Manchurian Candidateâ€ (1962) probably provided him with his greatest performance.
âˆ« Will Smith: The former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air transformed himself into a two-time Oscar nominee, going from catchy rap tunes and sitcom laughs to heavyweight roles in â€œAliâ€ and â€œThe Pursuit of Happyness.â€ Smith is the epitome of a movie star, with talent and charm for days. Heâ€™s proven he can do it all, from comedy (the â€œMen in Blackâ€ movies) to action (the â€œBad Boysâ€ movies) to romance (â€œHitchâ€) to sci-fi (â€I Am Legendâ€) to serious dramas (â€œSeven Poundsâ€). But his first major role, in 1993â€™s â€œSix Degrees of Separation,â€ showed he was confident enough to juggle multiple genres within the same film. At this point, I would say heâ€™s crossed over so completely, heâ€™s known more for his acting than for his music.
âˆ« Bette Midler: The Divine Miss M forged her career belting out tunes on Broadway, at nightclubs and in bathhouses (with a then-unknown Barry Manilow as her accompanist) â€” a petite woman with a larger-than-life stage presence. But she wowed the world with her acting abilities in her first major film role in 1979â€™s â€œThe Rose,â€ playing a self-destructive, drug-addicted rock star inspired by Janis Joplin. The performance earned her an Oscar nomination for best actress; a second nomination would come for 1991â€™s â€œFor the Boys.â€ Standout comic roles include â€œDown and Out in Beverly Hills,â€ â€œOutrageous Fortuneâ€ and â€œThe First Wives Club.â€ And just try to watch â€œBeachesâ€ without crying.
âˆ« Cher: Sheâ€™s a diva whoâ€™s had highs and lows and been around forever. But Cher was a singer and variety television star (with then-husband Sonny Bono) known for her big, flamboyant personality before putting together a string of strong, eclectic film performances in the â€™80s and â€™90s, including â€œMask,â€ â€œThe Witches of Eastwickâ€ and â€œTea With Mussolini.â€ She won a best-actress Oscar as the hard-headed Loretta in 1987â€™s â€œMoonstruckâ€ (and before that was nominated for best supporting actress for 1983â€™s â€œSilkwoodâ€). Her last film role was … well, it was providing the voice of a lioness under Kevin Jamesâ€™s care in 2011â€™s â€œZookeeper.â€ But Cher is always full of surprises, so â€” as her â€œBurlesqueâ€ ballad goes â€” we havenâ€™t seen the last of her.
âˆ« Justin Timberlake: I was very tempted to put Dwight Yoakam in this spot. Or Mos Def, or even Ice Cube. But JT is just too powerful. He has long since transcended his â€œMickey Mouse Clubâ€ and boy-band origins to become not just a formidable solo performer but also an actor of surprising range. Following dramatic supporting roles in â€œAlpha Dogâ€ and â€œBlack Snake Moan,â€ he was charismatic as hell as the ambitious Sean Parker in â€œThe Social Network.â€ This year, he proved he can be both a romantic lead (â€œFriends With Benefitsâ€) and an action star (â€œIn Timeâ€), while reinforcing his strengths as a comedian (â€œBad Teacherâ€). And then there are his â€œSaturday Night Liveâ€ appearances, which â€” granted â€” spoof his pop-star youth, but they also allow him to show off that sharp comic timing.