Michael Cera put out his surprise debut solo album ‘True That’ in 2014. The indie movie hero isn’t the only actor to make the leap from the big screen to the record player. Here are some of the best and worst thesps turned musos.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has got quite a set of lungs on him, notably proving his torch singing chops at a Serge Gainsbourg tribute concert a few years back at LA’s Hollywood Bowl and duetting with Lady Gaga on ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ during her 2013 Muppets Christmas special.
Cult movie goddess Deschanel earned more indie points when she formed band She and Him with singer-songwriter M Ward in 2008. Moviegoers also got a dose of Deschanel’s singing voice in films like Elf and (500) Days of Summer. She was previously married to Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard.
Joaquin Phoenix shocked the world (or at least David Letterman) in 2010 when he announced his retirement from acting and his new career as a (shockingly bad) hip hop star. The mockumentary I’m Still Here saw the man – previously better known for his depiction of Johnny Cash – assume a dischevelled tramp-like aesthetic and indulge in some raps that would make Tyler, The Creator cringe.
Four decades on and it’s still hard to tell if William Shatner’s taking the piss out of us or not. He’s survived endless derision and released his fourth solo album proper in 2011. Its cover looks like this, and features collaborations from people as diverse as Sheryl Crow, The Strokes’ Nick Valensi, and Deep Purple’s Ian Paice.
Lindsay Lohan took a break from teen movies and DUI-collecting in the mid noughties to release the critically panned album ‘Speak’, followed by the critically even more panned ‘A Little More Personal (Raw)’. Then she went back to teen movies and drunk driving.
Eddie Murphy released five albums between ’82 and ’93, none of which received anywhere near the success or acclaim of Beverley Hills Cop or, ahem, The Nutty Professor – aside from a Rick James-produced Top Ten single, ‘Party All The Time. Hear it here.
It’s not often that famous actors turn their hands to singing without disastruous results but Scarlett Johanson surprised us all when she released an album of Tom Waits covers entitled ‘Anywhere I Lay My Head’. Woody Allen’s latest muse earned an 8/10 for the LP and bagged herself an NME cover in the process.
Even before he was driving out-of-control buses in Speed or dodging bullets in The Matrix films, Reeves was playing bass for his jam-band-turned-actual-band Dogstar. Formed in 1991, Dogstar has opened for Bon Jovi and played the Glastonbury festival in 1999, releasing four albums before calling it quits in 2002.
Former WWF wrestler and A-Team strongman Mr T proved himself a gentle giant with the release of educational rap albums ‘Mr T’s Commandments’ and ‘Be Somebody… or Be Somebody’s Fool!’ in 1984. The albums taught kids about saying “no” to drugs and staying in school. T also made an appearance in the considerably more adult music video for Busta Rhyme’s ‘Pass the Courvoisier’.
Juliette Lewis always kind of looked like she belonged in a rock band and after being a Hollywood mainstay for almost 20 years, she lived up to her image by debuting her band Juliette and the Licks. The Licks released three albums and song ‘Inside The Cage’ featured on the Grand Theft Auto IV soundtrack before they split in 2009. Lewis then went solo.
Johnny Depp’s made almost as many musical appearances as he has film ones. He appeared on the Oasis songs ‘Fade In-Out’ and ‘Fade Away (Warchild Version)’ – playing guitar – and joined friends Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones in the band, P. He also fancies himself as a singer too, as his role in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street proved.
Aside from appearing in Die Hard and other bonehead action flicks, Bruce Willis can often be see murdering tunes by The Rolling Stones, and his debut album destroyed tracks by everyone from Booker T Jones to The Temptations.
Jennifer Love Hewitt’s music career began early with her first album, ‘Love Songs’, which she recorded at the age of 12 (it was really popular in Japan, for some reason). The I Know What You Did Last Summer actress later released two albums in 1995 and 1996 that both failed before she finally charted with single ‘How Do I Deal’ in 1999. Her 2002 single “BareNaked” was her biggest to date.
Actor. Martial artist. Guitarist. When Steven Seagal wasn’t playing action hero, he was producing music, releasing first album ‘Songs from the Crystal Cave’ in 2005. The eclectic LP featured duets with the likes of Stevie Wonder and Jamaican musicians Tony Rebel and Lady Saw. After releasing second album ‘Mojo Priest’ in 2006, Seagal toured the US and Europe with band Thunderbox.
Actress-turned-country-music afficionado Gwyneth Paltrow has released numerous singles, duetted with Cee-Lo (and the Muppets) and appeared on Glee. Thank goodness her and former partner Chris Martin of Coldplay didn’t get around to releasing an album before they split.
Russell Crowe’s band was called 30 Odd Foot Of Grunts. We’ll leave it at that.
Iron Man and Hustle And Flow actor Terence Howard’s not actually bad as a singer, and his 2008 debut ‘Shine Through It’ was a fusion of folk jazz joy. Sadly, it’s all he’s turned out to date.
Jada Pinkett Smith tried to follow in the footsteps of her husband Will by sidestepping acting for music for a while. Sadly, her metal band Wicked Wisdom won a few less hearts and minds than the Fresh Prince, so she had to go back to voicing the likes of Madagascar 2 while daughter Willow took up the role of the musical one in the family.
Hugh Laurie’s had a lifelong Midas touch when it comes to film and TV, from Blackadder through to his role as the highest paid actor in the most watched show ever, House. His latest blues album, ‘Let Them Talk’, meanwhile, suggests his luck may stretch to music too.
Kate Winslet: great in Hamlet, brilliant in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, funny in Extras. Singing ‘What If’ for the Christmas Carol: The Movie soundtrack? Not so much.
Jeff Bridges sticks to what he knows and it works for him. The Dude’s performance as Bad Blake in Crazy Heart saw him play another scruffy slacker character and his excursions into music haven’t varied far beyond country and western. T Bone Burnett produced his eponymous second album in 2011.
Think Jenny Lewis and you probably only think singer now, thanks to her solo work as well as her turns in Rilo Kiley and Jenny and Johnny, but she appeared in a string of (mostly kids) movies in the late eighties and early nineties.
Although he’s never released any albums, Jeff Goldblum can play a mean jazz piano. Watch him in action on YouTube.
Who even knew? Perhaps best known for her role as stripper Jade in The Hangover, Graham has apparently tried her hand at singing as well. The actress lent her voice to the tune ‘The Hanging Tree’ as part of her role as a drug-addicted rocker in the 2007 film ‘Broken’. So, can Graham officially add “singer” to her CV? Judging by this performance, probably not.
The American Psycho actor has led dual lives acting and playing music for a while, forming band 30 Seconds to Mars with older brother Shannon in 1998. Despite Leto’s busy filming schedule, the band achieved mainstream success with second album ‘A Beautiful Lie’ in 2005 as well as 2013’s ‘Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams’.