With great showmanship on stage, it is not surprising to see musicians having the ability to act. Managing to become both a musician and an actor takes an impressive set of skills. Though not every musician has succeeded as a great actor, let’s have a look at the following 15 best musicians turned actors:
15. Justin Timberlake
Hailed as one of the most commercially successful artists of the decade as his first two albums sold more than 10 million copies, a chance to star in movies proved to be too much for him as Timberlake took a hiatus from his movie career and starred in The Social Network, Friends with Benefits, In Time and Bad Teacher.
14. Courtney Love
13. Meat Loaf
Born Marvin Lee Aday and better known by his stage name Meat Loaf, the musician has released 13 albums while his second album Bat Out of Hell sold more than 43 million copies worldwide. Even almost 40 years after its release, the album continues to sell 200,000 copies annually and established itself as one of the best-selling albums of all time.
Once he made a cameo appearance as Eddie in the cult movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show, there was no going back as Meat Loaf made his way to several television shows such as Monk, Glee, and House, M.D., and movies such as The 51st State and Fight Club.
12. Ice Cube
A lot of rappers have transitioned from music to the big screen such as Eminem and 50 Cent but none of them even come close to the intensity that Ice Cube has to offer in the movies he stars in.
Starting his career as a member of hip-hop groups CIA and NWA, Ice Cube always stood as a showman and it was just a matter of time before he became an actor with Anaconda, XXX: State of the Union, and Ride Along as his most prominent movies.
11. David Bowie
David Bowie was second to none when it came to combining art and music. With a career spanning more than five decades, the late musician was always able to reinvent himself to adapt to the changing trends in music and sold more than 140 million albums worldwide.
With unprecedented charisma, Bowie was one of the most wanted musicians even in the eyes of prominent directors who wanted him to be a part of their movies. Starring in Labyrinth, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and The Last Temptation of Christ, Bowie’s most recent great role as an actor was as Nikola Tesla in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige.
10. Queen Latifah
Breaking gender barriers in a male-dominated industry, Queen Latifah stands out as one of the greatest rappers of all time. Releasing seven albums and selling more than two million records, the rapper has also made a name for herself as a model, talk show host, and actress.
With her first movie appearance as a waitress in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever, Latifah steadily began her second career as an actress and when she struck an Academy Award nomination for her role in Chicago, a star was born.
9. Elvis Presley
Despite being a cultural phenomenon due to his epic music career and being regarded as the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley wanted to follow in the footsteps of Marlon Brando and James Dean as he desired to be an actor.
Commercially successful in many genres such as pop, rock, blues, and gospel, having one sold-out concert after another and with more than 600 million albums sold worldwide to become the best-selling solo artist of all time, it was never enough for Presley as he longed for a movie career and had his wish granted.
Though there was doubt whether Presley could pull off as a convincing actor, the singer made his debut in Love Me Tender but his acting career spanned only 13 years after a couple of commercial disappointments.
8. Jennifer Hudson
Heartbroken after being eliminated from the third season of American Idol, Jennifer Hudson thought that her life was over. Little did she know that the elimination was a blessing in disguise as several new doors of opportunities opened for her. The girl was filled with enthusiasm and talent; leading her to be cast as Effie White for the musical drama film Dreamgirls.
The part was no easy pickle for Hudson as she beat seasoned singers and actresses such as Raven-Symoné and Fantasia Barrino for her debut role. Sharing the spotlight with A-list names Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, and Beyoncé Knowles, Dreamgirls was nominated for six Academy Awards; winning two including one for Best Supporting Actress for the excited Hudson.
7. Frank Sinatra
A name that made his competition tremble, Frank Sinatra sold more than 150 million records worldwide and the gigantic success has not only been attributed to his gifted voice but also to alleged connections to the mafia. Nonetheless, Sinatra stands out as one of the most influential musicians of all time.
With his popularity sky-high, it made little sense not to include the acclaimed singer in a movie. Starring as himself in a few movies and eventually in the lead role, Sinatra soon won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in From Here to Eternity and that was just the beginning of a successful Hollywood career.
6. Mark Wahlberg
As surprising as it may sound, it is a little-known fact that Mark Wahlberg kicked off his fame as a rapper in the hip-hop group Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Running their stint for four years and even releasing two albums, the band was not meant to be as they called it a day.
A music career was not over for Wahlberg as he subsequently collaborated with Prince Ital Joe before beginning a highly successful movie career the musician-turned-actor has one Academy Award nomination and The Italian Job, The Departed, Shooter, Max Payne, The Fighter, and even Transformer movies to his name.
5. Fawad Afzal Khan
As the most successful music-to-movies story in Pakistan, Fawad Afzal Khan could sing and play the guitar, bass, and drums by the age of 20. Before becoming one of the highest-paid actors in his country, Fawad was the lead vocalist of the rock band Entity Paradigm and soon realized that acting was his true calling.
Starring in several high-profile television shows such as Humsafar, Zindagi Gulzar Hai, and Daastan, Fawad’s acting career soared to new heights as he began starring in Bollywood movies. Even though he briefly returned for a partially reunited line-up of Entity Paradigm, it seems that it is acting where Fawad’s heart truly lies.
Aged 70 and having no plans of retirement in mind, Cher is not known as the goddess of pop for nothing. As one of the most versatile musicians of all time, she has actively produced pop, disco, folk, and rock songs with few signs of decline in her music career.
Speaking of decline, Cher sought to reclaim her popularity by launching a movie career. What started as a one-time thing became her second career as Cher has two Academy Award nominations under her belt and one win for her role in the 1987 romantic comedy movie Moonstruck.
3. Will Smith
Beginning his living as a rapper with the stage name The Fresh Prince, Will Smith achieved little to modest success but it soon paid off when he was given his very own television series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Running for six seasons, Smith transitioned from television to movies making him one of the A-listers he is known as today.
Apart from blockbuster films such as Independence Day, I Am Legend, and Men in Black, Smith holds the distinction of being the only actor to have eight consecutive movies earn more than $100 million at the domestic box office and eleven consecutive movies earn more than $150 million.
2. Joe Pesci
Best known for his performances in Home Alone, Raging Bull, and My Cousin Vinny, it is surprising to know that Joe Pesci originally started his career as a musician which seemed to take him nowhere.
A frequent collaborator of critically acclaimed director Martin Scorsese, Pesci won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Good Fellas but it seemed evident from his short Oscar speech (“It’s my privilege. Thank you.”) that he was not at all content with his unwanted yet successful movie career.
With music being his true calling, Pesci announced his premature retirement from acting in 1999 to revitalize his music career and to enjoy life by being away from the camera.
1. Johnny Depp
Despite being one of the most revered actors of his generation, acting was not at all of Johnny Depp’s goal. Leaving school at the age of 15 to pursue a music career, Depp soon found out that he could perform better in acting.
With three Academy Award nominations to his name, the actor has found a fair amount of success in Hollywood and used his fame to fulfill his dream of being a musician by occasionally collaborating with several musicians now and then including Marilyn Manson and the rock band Oasis.
Hope you enjoyed reading our list of best musicians turned actors. Feel free to share your views in the comments below!