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12 Actors Who Started Their Careers Out As Musicians

Showing off their talents much?

Top Left Madonna, Top Right Harry Styles in Dunkirk, Bottom Left Cher in Mamma Mia Here We Go Again! Bottom Right Will Smith. Credit: Shutterstock (TL), Warner Bros. Pictures (TR), Universal Pictures (BL) and Shutterstock (BR)

The crossover between the music and the acting world is not uncommon these days in fact it goes as far back as the 1910s Classic Hollywood film era. In recent years, several stars who have risen to fame in their music careers, have later found themselves on the big screen. With some surprisingly still doing both!

If you’ve got the talent, you might as well go for it, right? Here’s a list of those stars who branched out their talents to the big screen.

Beyoncé

Beyonce Knowles and Michael Caine at the premiere of ‘Austin Powers In Goldmember’ in New York in 2002. Credit: Everett Collection

‘Queen Bey’ was already a big deal in Destiny’s Child by the time she made her first acting debut. At just 19 years old she starred as a parody of a blaxploitation character, Foxxy Cleopatra in Austin Powers in Goldmember.

Her acting career proved to be a success, following this in 2003 she starred in The Fighting Temptations and The Pink Panther in 2006.

2006 saw her second studio album ‘B’Day’ drop just a few months before her starring role in the Academy Award Winning film DreamGirls, was about to hit the big screen.

Her most recent works include voice acting Nala, in the 2019 Lion King reboot.

Harry Styles

Harry Styles in ‘Dunkirk’ Credit: Everett Collection

X-Factor-born musician, Harry Styles branched out his career in 2017 with his big acting debut in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. The Academy Award-winning World War II film gave us Harry Styles as the character Alex, an English soldier. Harry was said to be cast by Nolan due to his “old-fashioned face.”

Whilst balancing his music career, he added to his acting portfolio in 2022 shortly following the release of his third studio album ‘Harry’s House’. He starred in My Policeman, co-starring Emma Corrin from The Crown and David Dawson.

Amongst his most recent work is the pyschological film, Don’t Worry Darling. Co-starring Florence Pugh and directed by Styles’ ex-girlfriend Olivia Wilde.

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga at the “A Star is Born” premiere. Credit: Kathy Hutchins

Remarkably known for her outstanding performance in A Star is Born with Bradley Cooper in 2018, it was not the first time Gaga was seen on the big screen. At the age of 15, she appeared on an episode of The Sopranos as a classmate of A.J Soprano.

Her first official acting debut was in Robert Rodriquez’s Machete Kills in 2013. Her other notable films would be Risk, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and most recently Bullet Train.

Gaga is set to star in the new and upcoming Joker: Folie à Deux, starring as Harley Quinn which has been rumoured to have a musical spin on it.

Will Smith

Will Smith Credit: Andrea Raffin

His highly successful rap career with Jeff Townes under the Monkier DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, gave us the Will Smith we see on our screens today. Following his musical success, NBC developed a sitcom around Will known as the popular The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

It took six seasons before The Fresh Prince started breaking into A-list films such as Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day in 1996 and the iconic Men In Black in 1997.

He remarkably was nominated for Oscars for his performances in Ali in 2001 and 2006’s The Pursuit Of Happyness.

June anticipates the next time Will Smith will be on our cinema screens. He is back in the upcoming fourth film in the Bad Boys franchise.

Rhianna

Oceans 8 movie
Rhianna in Oceans 8 as ‘Nineball’ Credit: Warner Brothers/ Everett Collection

Rhianna made her breakthrough in Hollywood years ago thanks to her role as ‘Nine Ball’ in the all-female reboot of Oceans Eight. However, this isn’t the musician’s first rodeo, as she played herself in Bring It On: All or Nothing in 2006.

She later took on more complex roles and starred as Cora Raikes in Battleships in 2012. Also played a “Moon Goddess” in the 2014 remake of Annie.

Most recently, she starred in the 2019 musical film Guava Island, alongside Donald Glover.

Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg at the ‘Daddy’s Home 2’ premiere in 2017 Credit: Alex Millauer

Mark Wahlberg or shall I say, Marky Mark, soon became famous for his physique and intendancy for showing it off on stage – Oh and his rap career! His first album, featuring hits like ‘Good Vibrations’ and ‘Wildside’, ‘Music For the People’ went platinum.

Wahlberg’s first breakthrough acting role was in 1995 in The Basketball Diaries alongside Leonardo DiCaprio. Later would follow his starring role in Paul Thomas’ 1997 film Boogie Nights.

He would go on to appear in Academy Award-winning films such as the 2006 film, The Departed and The Fighter in 2010.

Notable starring roles would be in, Ted, Daddy’s Home and Transformers: Age of Extinction.

Mark’s rap career made him who he is today and he doesn’t regret it, as he most recently starred in Uncharted with Tom Holland. He is due to star in the upcoming action comedy-thriller The Union, directed by Julian Farino.

Cher

Mamma Mia movie
Cher in ‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!” Credit: Universal Pictures

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again! Cher has been a global megastar since breaking onto the folk-rock scene in the 1960s. With her first acting role in the TV series The Man From the U.N.C.L.E.

Cher made her Broadway debut in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean by Robert Altman. She then reprised her role in the 1982 film version for which she received a Global Globe nomination.

She later starred in the 1983 film Silkwood with co-stars Meryl Streep and Kurt Russell. 1985 saw Cher win the Best Actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival for her role in the 1985 film, Mask. Followed by her first Academy Award in 1998 for the film Moonstruck.

Her recent works include Mermaids, Burlesque, Footloose and 2018s sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again playing Ruby Sheridan, the iconic mother to Meryl Streep’s character, Donna.

Justin Timberlake

Friends With Benefits Movie
Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis in ‘Friends With Benefits’ Credit: Sony Pictures

Justin Timberlake originally began his acting career on the popular children’s television series, The Micky Mouse Club alongside other famous actors such as Ryan Gosling. But his career was not taken seriously or took off until boyband NSYNC began to rise.

Once in the spotlight though, he starred in Bad Teacher in 2011 with actress Cameron Diaz. In the same year, Friends With Benefits with Mila Kunis. Other works to note are Alpha Dog, The Social Network, Trouble With The Curve and Reptile.

He did all of this whilst still maintaining his music career can I just mention! This includes 5 studio albums and 39 singles! Impressive right?

Madonna

Madonna
Madonna at the ‘I Am Because We Are’ premiere at the Palais des Festivals. Credit Denis Makarenko/ Shutterstock

The ‘Queen of Pop’ took to our screens just a year after her groundbreaking record release of Like A Virgin and gave us her iconic role in Desperately Breaking Susan, alongside Rosanna Arquette.

Although this was not her first official role. In the same year, her debut was actually in Harold Becker’s 1985s Vision Quest.

Madonna memorably played ‘Mae Mordabito’ in the 1992 film A League of Their Own. Also in Dangerous Game in 1993. Her performance in Evita won her a Golden Globe for Best Actress in 1997.

2002 saw her cameo in the James Bond film Die Another Day, with Pierce Brosnan starring as James Bond. Where she also wrote and performed the lead song for the film.

Joe Jonas

Credit: Natalie Runnerstrom

Oldest brother Joe Jonas and lead vocalist for the award-winning band The Jonas Brothers, kept his acting career very much on Disney Channel. All three of the Jonas brothers could be in this article as they never do anything without each other, but Joe seemed to have the most lead roles.

The boy’s first EP ‘It’s About Time’ was released in 2006 shortly followed by their debut album called The Jonas Brothers in 2007. Joe’s first acting debut was on an episode of Hannah Montana called ‘Me and Mr.Jonas and Mr.Jonas and Mr.Jonas.’

Disney Channel then brought us the iconic Camp Rock and Camp Rock 2: Final Jam with Joe starring as Shane Gray with co-star Demi Lovato.

Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow Credit: Marvel Studios/Disney

You’re probably thinking, that Scarlett Johansson was always an actress, she never made music. Well, she has released two studio albums. Her debut album ‘Anywhere I Lay My Head’, received mixed reviews saying “Nothing is compelling about Scarlett’s singing.” Her second album released in 2009, was called ‘Break Up’ with musician Pete Yorn.

Although, her breakthrough role came before her music in 2003’s ‘Lost In Translation’ which earned her a nomination for a Golden Globe as Best Actress. She still became successful and scored roles in films such as ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’, ‘Don Jon’ and ‘Under The Skin.’

But she’s mostly known for kicking ass and saving the Marvel Universe as she plays the character Black Widow. ‘Iron Man 2’ is the first time we see Johansson’s character, posing as a new assistant for Iron Man.

Ever since, Johansson has appeared in 10 Marvel movies including ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ and the billion-dollar box office film, Avengers: Endgame’. Most recently she starred alongside Florence Pugh as her sister in 2021s ‘Black Widow, the story of Natasha Romanoff member of the Avengers and former KGB spy who is forced to confront her past as a Russian spy.

Idris Elba

Idris Elba in Hijacked Credit: Apple TV

‘Big Driis’, Idris Elba was a DJ playing in nightclubs in London before his acting career took off. Famously known for his role in ‘Luther’, a 5 series Crime Drama that aired on the BBC.

Even though when his acting did take off, he still kept his music career going. He released two albums, two EPs and 20 singles whilst starring in Luther. Idris has also been in ‘Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw’, ‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’ and ‘The Suicide Squad.’

His most recent performance was in the Apple TV thriller series ‘Hijack’. Leaving viewers on the edge of their seats as they watch the drama of a hijacked flight from Dubai to London unfold.

It’s noted that these are not all of the musicians who are now actors. Do you think this will be the normality for the music industry?

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University of Worcester

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