Thanks to the likes of William Shatner and Russell Crowe, movie stars trying to sing is not something generally well regarded. Yet sometimes, when it’s not a vanity project, and it’s actually part of a film’s plot, an actor unleashing their dulcet tones can be a highly enjoyable experience. Take for instance SOUL MEN, out on DVD and Blu-Ray this month, in which Samuel L Jackson and the late Bernie Mac play a Motown style R&B ground and manage to do more than just pull off a simple tune. But watch out, there are also some stinkers out there. With this in mind, we look down some of the best, worst and weirdest actors singing on-screen.
Nicole Kidman – Moulin Rouge
The stars of Baz Lurhmann’s Parisian-set assault on the senses could have probably got away with iffy singing voices, as there’s enough going on on-screen at any one time to take your attention away from any bum notes. Yet Kidman’s turn as high class escort Santine showed she had real talent.
Did it lead to chart success? Yes actually. Nicole went on to top the UK charts dueting with Robbie Williams with a cover of the Frank and Nancy Sinatra classic “Somethin’ Stupid”.
Joaquin Phoenix – Walk The Line
Phoenix was rightly nominated for an Oscar for his stirring performance as Johnny Cash. He never tries to directly mimic Cash, instead performing his songs with as much power and soul as the Man In Black did originally and producing some much more powerful than a simple tribute act.
Did it lead to chart success? Well, let’s hope Casey Affleck pseudo-documentary I’m Still Here has finally put an end to Phoenix’s rap career!
Adam Sandler – The Wedding Singer
Sandler played the titular wedding singer in this 80s set romantic comedy. He did a good enough job to play an unsuccessful jobbing singer. But it’s his goofy charm, and not his singing voice that carries the movie and wins Drew Barrymore’s heart. And he gets upstaged by a rapping granny.
Did it lead to chart success? Sandler has actually had several gold and platinum albums in the US, but they’re mix of stand-up routines and comedy songs, so they don’t really count.
Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Sasha Baron Cohen – Sweeny Todd
Tim Burton’s adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical tale of the cannibalistic barber caused controversy when it was first released – the trailers hid the fact that it was a musical, and cinema goers started demanding their money back when they realised it was all singing!
Did it lead to chart success? Depp has since appeared on a charity record alongside Nick Cave and Shane McGowan, and Sasha Baron Cohen has been cast in a biopic of Freddie Mercury, which might very well lead to a hit soundtrack album or two.
Jeff Bridges – Crazy Heart
After being nominated four times previously, Jeff Bridges finally won an Oscar for his role as down and out country singer Bad Blake, who is given one last shot at redemption. Bridges performs the original songs, written by country legend T-Bone Burnett, with such soul and passion it’s hard to believe he was never a recording artist himself.
Did it lead to chart success? Bridges performed live on a few US talk shows to promote the film, but sadly he’s not put anything on record apart from the film’s soundtrack. Maybe he could hook up with Daft Punk after Tron: Legacy?
Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin – Paint Your Wagon
Two of Hollywood’s toughest guys team up for... A musical? Yes, it’s as odd as it sounds, and flopped at the box office, disappointing many bloody thirsty Western fans, including Bart and Homer in a classic Simpsons episode.
Did it lead to chart success? Bizarrely it did! Marvin’s version of ‘Wand’rin’ Star reached number one in the UK charts in 1970 and stayed there for three weeks, even keeping the Beatles’ Let It Be off the top spot!
Samuel L Jackson and Bernie Mac – Soul Men
In this hilarious comedy Samuel L Jackson and the late, great Bernie Mac play an estranged R&B backing duo who agree to reform at a tribute show when their original front man dies suddenly. As expected Jackson and Mac bring the laughs, but they also manage to pull off the original Motown-style songs with style and panache.
Did it lead to chart success? Sadly Bernie Mac is no longer with us, but based on this and his performance in indie drama Black Snake Moan, it would be great to see Sam Jackson lay down something on record.
SOUL MEN is out on DVD and Blu-Ray is out on 17th January 2011.