Everyone loves when a musician comes out the gate to deliver a great performance in a film. Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Hudson and Will Smith are all among the most successful artists to transition into successful acting careers. But what about artists whose cinematic aspirations didn’t quite make the cut? Here are 15 musicians who, for better or worse, have had their acting careers largely forgotten by mainstream audiences.
50 Cent hasn’t been in a film to hit theaters since his debut feature Get Rich or Die Trying. Though he continues to star in and finance a string of direct-to-video films, 50 Cent can’t seem to convince audiences his acting career is as lucrative as his musical one.
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The legendary glam-rocker has taken several stabs at acting over the years to varying degrees off success. He’s known to many Gen-Xers as the star of the cult Jim Henson film Labyrinth, while fans of Christopher Nolan’s might remember his memorable turn as Nikolas Tesla in The Prestige. Despite these achievements, Bowie continues to be known to audiences a musician first and hasn’t acted since the largely forgotten 2008 film August.
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Snoop Dogg, who has recently re-dubbed himself Snoop Lion, was at one time a regular fixture of movies like Starsky and Hutch, Training Day, Bones and The Old School. Sadly, Snoop has been out of theaters since 2004’s Soul Plane. His last starring role, Mac & Dean Go To High School, went straight-to-video. Perhaps he laid the groundwork for 50 Cent’s filmography when it comes to engaging audiences.
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Ringo Starr’s movie career started off well—he and the rest of The Beatles conquered movie theaters worldwide in A Hard Day’s Night. Their follow-up, Help!, would not capture the minds and hearts of fans in quite the same way. His solo career as an actor would fare pretty much the same way. Though he’s renown among Frank Zappa fans as the lead of 200 Motels, Ringo’s performance in the 80s flop Cave Man perhaps dissuaded the drummer from further onscreen acting.
The Rolling Stones frontman has worked with some surprisingly esteemed directors—Nicolas Roeg (Performance), Julien Temple (Running Out of Luck), George Hickenlooper (The Man From Elysian Fields)—but has never been taken seriously as an actor over the course of his forty-some-odd years running. His last role was a cameo in 2008’s The Bank Job.
The “Far From Over” singer has never quite achieved the star power status of his brother, Sylvester Stallone. Though his IMDB filmography is larger than anyone else on this list, Frank’s acting achievements have never gotten much farther than bit parts in Tombstone and the Bruce Willis bomb Hudson Hawk. If you can’t remember that last film, it makes this entry pretty much speak for itself.
Okay, Carey turned in a solid supporting performance in Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire. Unfortunately the awfulness of Glitter may have erased Carey’s potential for a legitimate career as an actress. A small role in Lee Daniel’s upcoming The Butler could redeem her. However, one can’t help but feel Glitter will hang like a storm cloud over the remainder of her career, preventing her from further starring roles.
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The KISS bassist famously relinquished control of the band to co-founder Paul Stanley during the early ’80s to pursue a career as a Hollywood actor. Films like KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park, Runaway and Wanted: Dead or Alive failed to establish Simmons as a legitimate onscreen presence, causing “The Demon” to wisely retreat back to rock n’ roll.
Rapper, singer Drake is most well known for his celebrated recording career. However, before he got his hip-hop claim-to-fame he was best known to audiences as “wheelchair” Jimmy on Degrassi: The Next Generation. Yes, Drake began his career as, essentially, a Canadian soap opera star. He stayed on the show for 139 episodes but eventually, he reinvented himself as the current Drake we all know. Having recently voiced a character in Ice Age 4, Drake may be contemplating re-establishing his acting career with less Canadian melodrama.
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The Icelandic singer-songwriter had a huge success with her musical Dancer In The Dark and was even nominated an Academy Award for Best Original Song for the film. However, her famous onset feuds with volatile director Lars Von Trier may have deterred her from ever filming a follow-up. Bjork has since maintained she never intended on pursuing an acting career and, ironically, made the project simply to work with Von Trier.
Crooner Chris Isaak has acted sporadically throughout his career, making minor appearances in films like Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Silence of the Lambs. He would eventually get his own TV series on Showtime, a sitcom aptly titled The Chris Isaak Show, but it would be short-lived. His last major role was in the John Waters bomb A Dirty Shame and he’s remained AWOL from acting ever since.
Sting grabbed the lead villain part in the sprawling David Lynch adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. The film would tank, as would Sting’s follow-up, The Bride. In the wake of these disappointments, Sting has since deviated from major roles in films, appearing as fictionalized versions of himself on The Simpsons and Life’s Too Short but sticking mostly to his musical ambitions.
The U2 lead singer made a major appearance in the Julie Taymor musical Across The Universe, singing The Beatles’ “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and “I Am The Walrus.” Though he earned fairly solid reviews, the front man hasn’t dared a return to acting since and Across the Universe has faded into cult obscurity.
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When Master P ruled the hip-hop roost in the ’90s, his film I Got the Hook Up made its way into theaters. Though the film made a small profit, it was also largely panned (though the soundtrack made it to No. 3 on the Billboard 200). The rapper would later nab supporting roles in such films as Dark Blue and Hollywood Homicide, but both bombs would relegate his acting to bargain bin direct-to-video features that remain largely unnoticed by mainstream audiences.
Dr. Dre offered solid support in his debut, Set It Off, and also fared well opposite such big name stars as Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke in Training Day. Unfortunately, his comedy collaboration with Snoop Dogg, The Wash, failed to garner similar success. As such, Dre has predominately remained a music producer, businessman and entrepreneur since 2001.