There are few entertainers on this earth who have multiple talents. Some superstars can both sing and act, while others are amazing writers and directors. The majority of celebrities on the planet have one talent. That is, they excel at doing one thing. Of all the celebrities with multiple talents, the rarest of all is the athlete that can also act. There are only a handful of athletes that have transitioned from sports to the world of television and movies. There are even fewer athletes that have become excellent actors. There are so many athletes that have tried to be actors, yet failed miserably. The majority of sports stars that have hosted Saturday Night Live have turned out to be duds, and that’s really all the proof you need that most athletes just don’t have what it takes to entertain beyond the field, court, oval or ring. When an athlete does become a successful actor though, it is truly a site to behold. Some have become so good that many people might have forgotten they started out as athletes. Here’s a look at 10 of the best athletes turned actors. Are there any that you would have added to the list?
10. Terry Crews
Terry Crews has proven to be an incredibly versatile actor. Crews has shown that he is a certifiable action star by starring in the Expendables franchise, and he has made audiences laugh as well, by starring in the cult hit Idiocracy, and being a series regular on the sitcom Brooklyn Nine Nine. Before his foray into acting, Crews was an up and coming football star. Crews broke into Hollywood by being the face of Old Spice in commercials and starring in Chris Rock’s semi-autobiographical sitcom Everybody Hates Chris. Before that, he was playing in the NFL. His NFL career lasted six years and he played for the Los Angeles Rams, San Diego Chargers, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles.
9. Kurt Russell
Kurt Russell went from child actor to star athlete and then back to acting. Baseball runs in his family, just like acting does. Kurt Russell’s father, Bing Russell, was not only an actor, but he was also a minor league baseball player, too. The same can be said about Kurt Russell. Russell could have potentially become a pro ball player instead of starring in films like Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York. Scouts were fairly interested in Russell when he was playing minor league ball, but because he was also acting, many were reluctant to sign him for fears his acting career would get in the way of playing baseball.
8. Vinnie Jones
Vinnie Jones’ tough guy image followed him to his acting career from his days as a soccer star. Jones was a midfielder and played on Wimbledon, Leeds United, Sheffield United and Chelsea. His pro sports career lasted nearly 15 years, and he became a movie star almost immediately after retiring from soccer, when Guy Ritchie cast him in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. He would then go on to appear in films like X-men: The Last Stand, Swordfish and Gone in 60 Seconds. Jones is set to star in next year’s The Magnificent Seven remake being directed by Antoine Fuqua.
7. Jason Statham
Just like Vinnie Jones, Jason Statham is also a cinematic tough guy and former athlete. The two actually grew up together and Jones introduced Statham to soccer. However, Statham’s true athletic calling was not in soccer, but rather it was in diving. Statham was a member of the British National Diving Squad for 12 years, and even competed in the 1990 Commonwealth Games. During a diving competition he was discovered by a sports modeling agency. This led him to modeling, and eventually to acting. He got his big break in the same way Jones did. Statham was chosen by Guy Ritchie to star in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
6. Jason Lee
Before starring in Mallrats and numerous other Kevin Smith films, such as Dogma, Clerks II and Chasing Amy, Jason Lee was one of the best professional street skateboarders around. The My Name is Earl star eventually transitioned to acting, but he never fully left skateboarding behind. He even founded a skateboard company called Stereo Skateboard. The company went defunct, but he revamped it in 2003. When Lee transitioned to acting he starred in movies like Dreamcatcher, Stealing Harvard, The Incredibles, the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies, and Almost Famous. He has even done charity work with fellow pro skater Tony Hawk.
5. Jackie Chan
Of course Jackie Chan would have to be an incredible athlete, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to pull off the amazing stunts and fight scenes that have made him famous in movies like Rush Hour, Armor of God, Operation Condor and Rumble in the Bronx. He developed his athletic ability alongside his dramatic skills at a very young age. It was at the China Drama Academy when he was just a child where he honed his skills in acrobatics and martial arts. Early on in his acting career, he trained in the Korean martial art known as Hapkido. He earned a black belt in the discipline and also trained in Karate, Judo, TaeKwonDo and Jeet Kune Do.
4. Arnold Schwarzenegger
One of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s earliest and most famous starring roles didn’t even showcase his acting ability. The documentary Pumping Iron showcased his career as a bodybuilder, and some thought this was the last time we would see the Austrian strongman on the big screen. Of course, he went on to become one of the biggest action stars on the 80s and 90s, with The Terminator films, True Lies, Predator and Total Recall. Schwarzenegger even showed he could handle comedy quite well, with roles in movies such as Kindergarten Cop, The Last Action Hero, Junior, Jingle All the Way and Twins.
3. John Wayne
Before his five decade long career in show business, John Wayne was a promising young athlete who excelled at football. He was so skilled on the field that he earned himself a football scholarship at the University of Southern California. Unfortunately, Wayne was injured in a body surfing accident, which dashed his hopes of going pro. However, it turns out this was a blessing in disguise, because he took up acting to pay his tuition fees and the rest was history. Soon after he made his debut in a leading role in the 1930 western film The Big Trail. He quickly paid off his tuition and rose to stardom in the world of film.
2. Sean Connery
Before he became the legendary James Bond, Sean Connery was competing as a bodybuilder. It’s surprising considering he was never incredibly muscular like Lou Ferrigno or Arnold Schwarzenegger. It turns out that’s exactly the reason he left the sport and ended up becoming an actor. He was frequently beaten by American opponents who he said refused to compete in athletic activity which would make them lose muscle mass. Connery could have also had a career as a soccer player when a Manchester United manager scouted him. Connery declined the contract offer, saying that at 23 he was already too old to have a promising career in the sport.
1. Dwayne Johnson
Dwayne Johnson is undoubtedly one of the biggest movie stars on the planet at the moment, and he’s one of the few remaining bankable stars in Hollywood. Still, Johnson hasn’t forgotten where it all started for him. Professional wrestlers tend to be some of the athletes that can most easily transition into movies and TV because of the spectacle required to put on a show in the ring. No one proved that better than Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson. Johnson has shown he can do more than just action in big budget tent poles like San Andreas and Furious 7. He has shown his skill at comedy in small roles in movies like Reno 911: Miami and The Other Guys.