No one expected much from Frank Sinatra when he started his film career. After all, Elvis managed one without the aid of a well-written script or acting ability. But Sinatra surprised everyone with a nuanced performance as a brainwashed veteran who aims to assassinate a presidential nominee in The Manchurian Candidate. Few musicians, however, really became top-notch thespians, but it sure is nice when they really work at the craft.
We’ve already covered actors who have tried to be musicians ("5 Musical Actors"). We've also covered rock stars who have made random film cameos ("5 Rock Stars Who've Made Surprising Film Cameos"). And next week we'll take a look at musicians who've made surprising TV cameos (8/15), but today we'll take a look at musicians who have fully committed to being actors, and in addition to that, are actually pretty damn good at it. It makes sense, after all, many musicians essentially play a character when they’re on stage anyway.
So, here are 5 musicians who have become surprisingly good actors:
Mos Def got his start in hip-hop, forming the group Black Star with Talib Kweli before moving on to his acclaimed solo albums, Black on Both Sides and The New Danger. He’s also a pretty good actor, having appeared in Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind, The Woodsman, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Cadillac Records, and on Dexter as the character Brother Sam.
Best known for the song “Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.” (YouTube it. It will get stuck in your head. For days.) Yoakam surprised everyone with his portrayal of an abusive alcoholic in 1996’s Sling Blade. Choosing his roles carefully, he’s managed to work with David Fincher in Panic Room and star in Crank 2: High Voltage.
We were surprised that Justin managed a successful solo career, much less winning four Emmys for his acting abilities. While not every role has been great - he was in Mike Meyer’s The Love Guru after all - he’s become the best cast member Saturday Night Live has had in ten years and put in stellar performances in The Social Network and Alpha Dog.
Before starring in Boogie Nights and The Fighter, Mark Wahlberg was once known as Marky Mark, and he employed a Funky Bunch. Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch even managed a few hits, such as “Good Vibrations." Side note: before that he once got high on PCP and beat a middle-aged Vietnamese man unconscious. The more you know…
There will be no “getting jiggy with it” jokes in this one. I just want to make that clear. Will Smith got his start playing such brutal, no-holds barred hip-hop songs like “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and “Summertime” before breaking out with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Since then he’s become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, despite starring in 1999’s Wild Wild West.