It seems like at some point, every musician decides that he or she should also be a movie star, usually with hilarious(ly stupid) results. Therefore, a list like this could probably be 100 names long. So don’t take this as a comprehensive list or anything. Instead, look at it sort of like Congress. The people on this list are representatives of a larger group, they are often hilariously inept, and for every success story there are dozens of failures. Plus, Barney Frank once played Dirk Diggler in an off Broadway performance of Boogie Nights. The similarities are endless. With all that said, let’s just get on with it. Here are 11 pop stars who tried to act.
Over the last 40 years, David Bowie has actually racked up 30 different acting credits, ranging from his starring role in 1976’s The Man Who Fell to Earth to his role as the Goblin King in Labyrinth. Along the way, he’s lent an air of cool to almost everything he’s touched and has managed to mostly avoid embarrassing himself – unusual for this sort of thing. That probably speaks more to the fact that he’s David friggin’ Bowie than anything else because if you look at his list of credits, there is some hilarious shit in there. I mean, come on, I already wrote that he played something called the Goblin King and somehow he escaped that without mockery so clearly he’s kind of bulletproof.
Most Ridiculous Role: Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ. You know, this is the reason why everyone thinks the whole world was on cocaine in the 1980’s. I mean, you should probably never be watching a movie about Jesus and think “Wait, is that David Bowie?” Or hell, maybe you should now that I think about it.
Sting, like Bowie, has actually chalked up a fairly decent list of credits over the years. His most famous performance (or infamous, depending on your point of view) was probably as Feyd Rautha in Dune, which was notable because, well, it was Sting starring in Dune. That would be like casting Adam Levine or the dude from Coldplay in one of the Lord of the Rings movies. Still, the weirdness of that aside, Sting has managed to turn in a few decent performances, most notably as the bar-owning father of the main character in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, which he somehow managed to pull off without people pointing at the screen and saying “Hey, there’s Sting,” which might sound simple enough, but that’s a tough trick for any rock star turned would-be actor.
Most Ridiculous Performance: It has to be his role in Dune. That shit’s just weird, right?
At various points in her career, Madonna has tried to reinvent herself as an actress, usually with disastrous results. The one exception was probably her role as Eva Peron in Evita, which actually earned her some critical acclaim. But since that was a musical, it doesn’t really count. Any time she’s actually tried to act without singing, it, uh, it hasn’t gone so well. Whether it was hamming it up as Breathless Mahoney in Dick Tracy (cast presumably because Warren Beatty wanted to bang her) or her role as a femme fatale in the Basic Instinct rip-off Body of Evidence (cast presumably because the director wanted to bang her) or as a castaway in the hideous Swept Away (cast because the director, Guy Richie, was banging her), Madonna has mostly just been met with eye-rolls and hoots of derision. No wonder she hasn’t bothered to try again for almost a decade.
Most Ridiculous Performance: Probably her role in Swept Away, if only because the entire movie was a complete debacle that almost ruined the career of her husband, Guy Richie, but let’s not forget how embarrassing Body of Evidence was, in which she spent the whole movie humping dudes and pretending she was Sharon Stone.
Roger Daltrey, frontman for The Who, has no less than 55 acting credits on his resume, which, considering you’d be hard pressed to name even one of them, is either impressive or kind of sad. Mostly, Daltrey has popped up in various terrible television shows, playing a variety of mostly forgettable characters, most of whom seem to exist for the sole purpose of people pointing and saying “Hey, there’s Roger Daltrey, let’s watch this show for five minutes before we get bored and changed the channel.” To Daltrey’s credit it seems like, for the most part, this whole acting thing is just something he’s done to pass the time and have a little fun in between bouts of resurrecting the corpse of The Who and sniping with Pete Townshend.
Most Ridiculous Performance: Like I said, they’ve been mostly forgettable, but if I had to pick one, it’d probably be his performance as the 800 year old immortal pipe-smoking, hapless womanizer Hugh Fitzcairn in the television series version of Highlander. Why is it ridiculous? Just read that description again.
Diana Ross’ acting appearances have been few and far between over the years, but every so often she’ll pop up and remind people that she exists – and that she should probably stop trying to act. Her most memorable appearances were probably as Billie Holliday in 1972’s Lady Sings the Blues and as Dorothy in the ridiculous movie The Wiz, made in 1978. In more recent years, she’s done a handful of TV movies which is probably about as far as she should push herself although you just know that deep in her diva heart she thinks she should be playing the lead in Twilight or something.
Most Ridiculous Performance: The aforementioned The Wiz. Have you see this shit? It’s ridiculous. Not only does this Wizard of Oz remake star a 34 year old Ross as Dorothy, it also stars Michael Jackson (yeah, really) as the Scarecrow, Nipsy Russell as the Tin Man and Richard Pryor as the Wiz. Do I really need to say anything else?
Believe it or not, there was actually a moment, following her performance as Althea Flynt, Larry’s wife, in The People vs. Larry Flynt, when Courtney Love actually seemed like she could become a respectable actress. That was probably the height of her entire career, and in retrospect the fact that she could pull off the role of a fucked up stripper junkie turned porn star who dies of AIDS probably, uh, shouldn’t have been that surprising. Since then, Courtney’s career has been derailed by the fact that she’s, well, that she’s Courtney Love.
Most Ridiculous Performance: Sure, there’s her role as Althea, but did you know that she also had a minor role, back before she was famous, as Gretchen, Nancy’s friend, in Sid and Nancy? Which is ridiculous only when you consider that she basically used the movie as the template for her real life relationship with Kurt Cobain. Actually, ridiculous probably isn’t the right word. What’s that word that I’m looking for? Oh right, creepy. Creepy. Yes, that’s it.
Vanilla Ice is on this list simply because, as a people, we cannot afford to forget the atrocities of his film, Cool as Ice. No, he’s never really done anything else of note in his acting career, but that doesn’t matter. He is the Osama bin Laden of this list. His actions endangered us all as a species and entire countries should have been invaded in order to stop Cool as Ice from being made. Never forget.
Most Ridiculous Performance: His entire life.
Tina Turner is kind of the opposite of actor John Cazale, famous for appearing in only five movies, all of which were nominated for an Oscar, and all of which are considered classic 1970’s movies. Like Cazale, Tina Turner only appeared in a handful of movies, and like Cazale all are noteworthy. Unlike Cazale, all of them are noteworthy for being completely ridiculous. She is basically the John Cazale of ridiculous movies. Here are her three film roles, presented without comment: as the Acid Queen in Tommy, as Aunty Entity in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, and as The Mayor in The Last Action Hero.
Most Ridiculous Performance: Uh, all of them? If I had to pick, and I guess I do, I’d probably pick her role in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, if only for the outfit.
Jon Bon Jovi has had a surprisingly eclectic career, popping up largely without fanfare in everything from his role as a naval lieutenant in the World War II submarine action flick U-571 to his most recent appearance in the craptacular New Year’s Eve. And for the most part – and to his credit – he’s managed to pull it off without people doing that whole pointing “Hey, there’s Bon Jovi!” thing. That at least hints at real talent. He’s also appeared in Ally McBeal, in Sex and the City, and as a male slut in Moonlight in Valentino. That’s at least 48% better than whatever the hell Bret Michaels or Vince Neil have pulled off, right? Then again, they do have the market cornered on “rock stars who tried to be porn stars and made sex tapes” market, so hey, maybe that’s something for Bon Jovi to shoot for. Just a thought.
Most Embarrassing Performance: Honestly, Bon Jovi has managed to have a nice little acting career without any ridiculous or embarrassing moments. Then again, if you need to laugh at him, there are always his band’s videos.
Mariah Carey tried to become a movie star and the result was so horrible that it made her lose her mind. I mean, here are the facts – prior to Glitter, she was probably the most successful pop singer in the world, she was married to a respected music producer and people generally envied her. Today, she has no career, she’s married to Nick Cannon and she spends most of her time appearing in weight loss ads aimed at Hoveround-bound housewives. Now, I’m not saying there’s a direct correlation, but...
Most Embarrassing Performance: Her role in Glitter is in the Embarrassing Performances by a Musician Trying to Act Hall of Fame. To her credit, she wasn’t the most ridiculous thing about Precious though, so there is that. Then again, that’s like saying that Herpes isn’t as bad an STD as the rest.
Hey, remember when this dude was Marky Mark? I have no idea how he pulled it off, but somehow that ridiculous dude went from that to being an Oscar nominated actor. That would be like Kim Kardashian being nominated for a Nobel in physics or like me being nominated for a Pulitzer. (Hey, wait a minute...) But starting with his iconic role as Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights and continuing through the present, Mark Wahlberg has actually pulled it off. Today, when people see him they don’t think “Hey, there’s Marky Mark.” They think “Hey, there’s Mark Wahlberg, the famous movie star.” That’s damn near a magic trick. Maybe he’s a wizard. I don’t know. What I do know is that perhaps no one in history has ever made the transition from ridiculous pop star to big time movie star as seamlessly as Wahlberg. Does the Marky Mark thing still pop up every now and then to a chorus of laughter? Yeah, but it doesn’t dominate anymore and that’s kind of amazing given that once upon a time this dude was just this shy of being Vanilla Ice.
Most Embarrassing Performance: Somehow, in a movie – Boogie Nights - in which he plays a karate kicking moron porn star and flashes a giant stunt cock, Mark Wahlberg isn’t a completely ridiculous joke. Seriously, is this dude actually the devil or something? How did he pull that off? If I had to pick one embarrassing performance, it would probably be his role in M. Night Shyamalan’s ridiculous The Happening, but even then that one wasn’t really his fault. He was just caught up in a nightmare of suck.
Originally published on January 13, 2012.