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10 Great (And Some Not So Great) Musicians Turned Actors

by Kevin Marshall   April 17, 2013 at 12:00AM  |  Views: 3,364
10 Great (And Some Not So Great) Musicians Turned Actors
Source: Columbia Pictures

This week on All Access Weekly, we got none other than Rob Zombie in the studio to talk about his new film "The Lords of Salem."

For someone who grew up with his music, it can be a bit disarming (and perhaps midlife-crisis-inducing) to note that a significant portion of our viewing audience knows Zombie almost exclusively as a director. Although it should be noted that Mr. Zombie also has a new album, "Venomous Rag Regeneration Vendor" (what a title!), dropping on the 22nd.

It's rare to see a guy start out in music and transition to film with great success, but then Zombie is a rare bird. Yet musicians have been dabbling in film with varying degrees of success for decades.

Let's take a look at some of the more notable ones.


Will Smith

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Here's another guy that younger people may not realize was hitting #1 on Billboard before he was #1 at the box office. Smith started his career as a rapper alongside DJ Jazzy Jeff with hits like "Parents Just Don't Understand" and "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble." His invaluable advice made him one of rap's most prominent faces in the mainstream, leading to his own sitcom with NBC. This led to him starring in feature films and becoming one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, even though he would still be occasionally "Getting Jiggy With It."


As controversial a public figure as they come, Madonna also made waves in movies like "Desperately Seeking Susan," "A League of Their Own," and the musical "Evita." In all her performances she's been more than serviceable and her presence hasn't been a distraction despite her being one of the biggest stars in the world. Really there's only been one performance you could single out as cringe-worthy, which was her turn in the remake of "Swept Away" directed by her then-husband Guy Ritchie. But not much of that was her fault, as the film was largely tone deaf and borderline misogynistic.

Mark Wahlberg

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From that same era, Wahlberg was less prolific in his musical career (he only had one hit with "Good Vibrations") but also became a star in his own right when he made the transition to film.

Tom Waits

Everyone's favorite faux hobo is still turning out great material, but he's also been seen in alternately quirky and low-key roles in "Ironweed," "Mystery Men," "Dracula," and "Seven Psychopaths."

Nick Cave

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Cave has worn a lot of hats throughout his career. Although primarily gaining fame as a musician, he's also a critically successful artist and author. Yet he's also dabbled in film, acting in minor roles and also writing the screenplays for "The Proposition" and "Lawless."

Queen Latifah

Over the last twenty years, Latifah has become a familiar face on the small and big screens, but she first started out as a pioneering female MC.

Dwight Yoakam

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Yoakam is probably one of the consensus best singer-songwriters in modern country, but he's also mesmerizing as the abusive Doyle Hargraves in "Sling Blade" and as the uncaring, savage home invader in "Panic Room."

David Bowie

Bowie's theatrics and showmanship seemed like a natural fit for acting, and he didn't disappoint as The Goblin King in "Labyrinth" or Pontius Pilate in "The Last Temptation of Christ." And who can forget his riveting performance alongside Mick Jagger as two men who are about to make love at any moment in the music video for "Dancing in the Streets"?

Ice Cube

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It's hard to believe that the guy who was seen as one of the hardest of the hard during the initial wave of gangsta rap in the early 90s would later dedicate his film career to family-friendly comedies, but here we are. His real breakthrough as an actor, though, came in the classic 1992 John Singleton drama "Boyz N the Hood."

Ice T

Then there's Ice T, who took a similar route towards acting and became a fixture on television through his portrayal of a homicide detective on "Law & Order."


Mariah Carey

At its conception, I'm sure "Glitter" was a fantastic idea and had everyone seeing dollar signs and a bright future in film for the legendary songstress. Then the film itself actually happened and it was one of the most laughably bad things ever caught on camera.

Snoop Dogg

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"Soul Plane." Yeah.

Bob Dylan

At one point the greatest living singer-songwriter got it in his head that he was an actor, and the result was a really confounding turn in "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid," an otherwise great film marred by Dylan's confused mumbling. If you haven't seen the film, just do your best Bob Dylan impression and imagine doing that and directing all your dialogue to the ground while interacting with Kris Kristofferson. There was also the more recent "Masked & Anonymous." The less said about that the better.


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Not for want of trying, but Beyonce's turn as "Foxxy Cleopatra" in the third "Austin Powers" film was less than inspired, even if she wasn't as distractingly bad as the rest of that film was. She'd go on to far more adequate turns in movies like "Dreamgirls," but her greatness in the studio just doesn't translate to acting.

All Access Weekly airs Tuesdays at midnight/11c on Spike. More info and videos can be found at AllAccessWeekly.spike.com.

Check out an Extended Interview with Rob Zombie below:

Rob Zombie Extended Interview
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