Hollywood is teeming with hyper-successful musicians who still can’t shake the dream of seeing their name on a movie poster that isn’t for a concert film. Most fail to achieve the equivalent creative peak, because for most of them it’s an ego trip rather than an outlet for unrealized passion. But it’s the abundance of fiascos that make the successes that much more notable, and we’re celebrating our favourites here. One caveat: this list does not contain Mark Wahlberg. Because let’s face it, at this point, this whole thing practically never happened.
Mick Jagger as Turner in Performance
He was at his creative peak, but somehow Jagger nailed the blaise aloofness of a washed-up rockstar in this gritty, art-house classic.
Nick Cave as a prisoner in Ghosts of the Civil Dead
The Australian rocker’s fruitful creative relationship with director John Hillcoat began with this indie, featuring Cave as one of many savage inmates in a prison drama that makes Oz look like the one with the yellow-brick road. Also, did you know Cave wrote a sequel to Gladiator? It’s crazy.
Frank Sinatra as Major Bennett Marco in The Manchurian Candidate
I don’t know how they landed Frank for this feverishly paranoid breakthrough in the thriller genre, but cinema is better for it. Definitely one of the first times that a pop star delivered an on-screen performance worthy of being called art.
Sting as Feyd-Rautha in Dune
Yeah, Sting’s murderous performance is a mite campy, but so’s the entire film. In the David Lynch’s ludicrous space melodrama, Sting fits in perfectly, but also brings in some A Clockwork Orange style flair to his role as the Baron Harkkonen’s evil nephew/ninja.
Bjork as Selma Ježková in Dancer In The Dark
Even if you despise this movie for it’s sentimentality as some do, you probably understand why Bjork’s performance is here. Absolutely, unequivocally shattering is her role as a desperate, callow mother who escapes to a world of musicals between desperately trying to raise money to prevent her son form going blind.
Mos Def as Vivien Thomas in Something The Lord Made
Probably the most popular rapper-turned-actor (unless we’re counting Justin Timberlake as a rapper), Mos Def surprised everyone with this HBO flick playing Vivien Thomas, the black man who helped pioneer heart surgery during segregation.
Dwight Yoakem as Doyle Hargraves in Sling Blade
Country star Yoakem gives more than just an incredible performance as the abusive shitbird Doyle in Billy Bob Thornton’s great film, he also gives you a potent character to imagine when you hear country songs about abusive shitbirds. If you were lucky enough not to already have one.
All the blues musicians in The Blues Brothers
Can you imagine The Blues Brothers without Cab Calloway’s scene-stealing charisma? Or Ray Charles’ appearance as a music store owner with deadly aim? What would such a classic comedy look like without scene after scene of genius cameos paired with reckless hilarity? The answer is Blues Brothers 2000, the film’s atrocious sequel.