With Obsessed opening in theaters April 24th, Beyoncé is just one of many in a long line of fickle-brained musicians who think an adequate singing voice is all the talent needed to launch an acting career. But while the Bowies and Sinatras of the world really could straddle the line between radio and the silver screen, these days, some singer-slash-actors just aren’t that multi-talented—no matter how hard they try to prove otherwise. Here, then, are two lists of current musicians trying to make it in the movie biz: The first comprised of those who should consider putting down the script and picking up the microphone again; the second five names who may just be the next Streisand (and to clarify, we mean that in the best way possible).
1. Beyoncé Knowles
Beyoncé has done the smart thing by surrounding herself with top talent in some highly acclaimed movies (Dreamgirls, Cadillac Records). But no matter how many times she attends the Oscars, it’s never as a nominee. She may have taken the leading role in Dreamgirls, but her thunder was stolen by Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy. And when your thunder’s been stolen by an “American Idol” reject and the man responsible for unleashing “Party All the Time” into the world, you know you’ve got problems. Worse yet, her second highbrow biopic about the Motown era, Cadillac Records, got shunned by awards and moviegoers alike. To top it off, Etta James publicly panned Beyoncé for trying to imitate the legendary songstress. Rumor has it Baz Luhrmann wants to make a musical with her, though if their combined theatrical failures don’t scream “train wreck”, I don’t know what does.
2. Justin Timberlake
He’s basically an honorary member of “Saturday Night Live,” but good sketch comedy hardly translates into big-screen success. On paper, Timberlake seems to have done the clever thing by bypassing starring roles in favor of supporting parts in smaller movies, but some of those movies have just been too small. Edison Force? The Open Road? Two movies you’ve never heard of because they either went straight to DVD or got shelved. And out of all the comedies he could’ve chosen to be a part of, he went with The Love Guru, one of the biggest flops of the year. Justin may think he’s bringing sexy back, but his movie career has hit him with the ugly stick. For being one of the biggest stars on the planet, he’s racked up way too many movie disappointments.
3. 50 Cent
Rappers-turned-actors have a pretty good track record of turning their rhyming into bona fide acting chops. But while Will Smith, Mark Wahlberg, Mos Def and even Eminem have successfully made that leap, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson has proven that maybe the movie world can do with one less hip-hop star. His “breakthrough” movie was 2005’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’, which had him acting out the role of the gangster he’d glamorized so thoroughly in his albums. His subsequent movie choices, including Righteous Kill and the upcoming Streets of Blood, are more of the same. But even though 50’s managed to line up more than five roles for the next year, you still don’t hear much about the budding thespian—and that’s more embarrassing than bad buzz.
4. Hilary Duff
Though Duff technically found her musical calling after becoming an actress, she lands a spot on our worst list because it’s hard to argue with Faye Dunaway. The legendary actress was quoted as asking, “Couldn’t they at least cast a real actress?” when it was announced that nowhere-near-legendary Duff was set to take on the Dunaway-originated role of Bonnie in the upcoming indie remake The Story of Bonnie and Clyde. But Duff’s been riddling movie fans with bullets long before this news broke, with tepid retellings of Disney classics (A Cinderella Story) and Madonna songs (Material Girls). Most recently, the Disney product’s been pursuing more grown-up fare, like her turn in 2008’s War Inc., where she stands out mostly for dancing with a scorpion in her pants, and the upcoming What Goes Up, as a student who’s had an affair with her teacher. But so far Duff’s desperate attempts to grow up have fallen on apathetic moviegoers.
5. Jessica Simpson
Jane-of-all-trades Jessica Simpson has had a pop and country music career, launched a shoe, handbag and hair extension line, starred in her own reality show and shilled zit cream on infomercials. But acting, apparently, is her Achilles’ heel. Her most famous role, as Daisy Duke in 2005’s The Dukes of Hazzard, left only the legacy of a bad fashion trend. And Blonde Ambition, a movie released in one theater in Simpson’s home state of Texas, is known as one of the worst performing movies on record, bringing in only $6,422 for a total domestic gross. Also, her acting’s pretty bad.
Check out the five best singers-turned-actors on the next page!
1. Alicia Keys
It’s easy enough for veteran actors to get lost in a big cast, but Keys shined amidst the ensemble cast of Smokin’ Aces, in her debut film role, and her turn as the icy, progressive June Boatwright in the The Secret Life of Bees had her holding her own alongside two other musicians-turned-actresses on this best list. Her acting is subtle, natural and convincing. Plus, being in a movie with Dakota Fanning never hurt anyone’s career. That’s gotta count for something.
2. Mandy Moore
Hailed as “quietly convincing” by Roger Ebert for her performance in A Walk to Remember, Moore shines on the screen with just the kind of gumption you’d expect from the implausibly sweet pop singer. Her earlier movie career started off strong with splendidly bitchy roles in The Princess Diaries and the religious satire Saved!, but her subsequent roles haven’t made a huge dent in the movie world. It’s too bad she doesn’t know how to pick roles, as she’s often cited by critics as the best thing about awful movies. But, her participation in recent quirky indies like Dedication (hopefully) promise a brighter acting future.
3. Jennifer Hudson
You’d expect most of the losers on “American Idol” to never exceed a limited-run stint on a ’50s-themed Broadway show (or a ’50s-themed diner, for that matter). But Hudson is the only person to shake off her humble reality TV beginnings to go on to win an Oscar, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe and a SAG award. Proving that her star-making turn in Dreamgirls wasn’t a fluke, Hudson also landed a role in the smash Sex and the City and The Secret Life of Bees. Her upcoming Winged Creatures finds her acting alongside fellow Oscar chums Jackie Earle Haley and Forest Whitaker.
4. Jason Schwartzman
Schwartzman may be primarily known for his acting work, but before breaking out as an indie fave in Rushmore he spent four years as the drummer for Phantom Planet, the rock band he helped found in the mid-1990s. He left the band to better focus on his acting career, which included memorable roles in I Heart Huckabees, Steve Martin’s Shopgirl, cousin Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette and The Darljeeling Limited, which he also co-wrote. But Schwartzman’s still a musician, having recently put out two albums as Coconut Records, all while managing to wedge his way into the Apatow comedy troupe in the upcoming Funny People, for which he is also penning the score. The actor-writer-musician is a triple hyphenate of the best kind.
5. Queen Latifah
The Queen has had one of the most varied careers in the entertainment biz with roots in hip-hop, starring roles in sitcoms, an Oscar nomination and a resurgent career as a jazz singer. She combined her singing and acting talents in Hairspray and Chicago, the latter earning her an Oscar nomination—adding her to the very short list of rappers to get a nod. Of all the singer-actresses she is one of the most respected.