Actors are artistic individuals, so it doesn’t come as a surprise to find out that most of them dabble in all sorts of arts, not just acting. James Franco, Jim Carrey and Johnny Depp are all painters. Zoe Saldana and Penelope Cruz are ballet dancers, while Christopher Walken and Richard Gere tap dance.
A lot of actors have an underlying passion for music, mainly because film and music are so intertwined and strongly influenced by one another. Movies need music, and music needs movies.
These twenty actors are talented musicians, most even have successful and established musical careers that we weren’t even aware of. We’ve heard some of these Hollywood A-listers on our radios and our television shows without even knowing it was them.
Some treat music as a hobby, while others choose working with their bands over working on films. Some of the actors listed below have been out of the spotlight working on new albums, while others have quit the music scene to return to making movies. The talent level varies from actor to actor, but all twenty listed are worth checking out, if only to hear your favourite actor perform on stage or see what their poorly made YouTube videos look like. See how many of the 20 actors listed below you knew were also musicians.
20 Adrian Grenier
Adrian Grenier is famous for playing a movie star in the HBO series Entourage. The series was a hit and was nominated for 26 Emmy Awards during its 8-season run. Meanwhile, Grenier was also playing music in two bands; The Honey Brothers and Kid-Friendly. However, in 2012 he stopped playing music with both bands and turned towards producing music instead.
Grenier opened up a recording studio in New York City called Wreckroom Records. More than 50 new artists have recorded in Grenier’s studio. The actor is currently filming Entourage: The Movie but continues to play guitar, bass and drums, as well as keeping Wreckroom Records alive, creating an eco-themed iPhone app, and founding a microbrewery in Seattle.
19 Russell Crowe
Russell Crowe is an Academy-Award winning actor, a philanthropist, a supporter of the rugby league, and most surprisingly a musician. Crowe has been making music since the 1980s, back when he used to go under the name “Russ le Roq” and formed a rock band called Roman Antix. The name later changed to 30 Odd Foot of Grunts in 1992. The A-list actor performed lead vocals and guitar for the band until 2005, when Crowe teamed up with the Canadian band Great Big Sea. Members of both 30 Odd Foot of Grunts and Great Big Sea came together to form another band, The Ordinary Fear of God. Crowe is still performing music with The Ordinary Fear of God, and starred in the musical Les Misérables.
18 Adam Brody
Of course Seth Cohen would be in a band. During his time on the hit television series The O.C, Brody was also playing drums in the indie rock band Big In Japan with three of his close friends. The show cleverly referenced Brody’s band a few times throughout its 4-year run, even having a character wear a Big In Japan shirt at one point. The band released their debut album in 2005, but not many records were actually made. Today, the CDs are collector items because of their rarity. Brody is now a member of the alternative rock band The Shortcoats. He’s dedicating his time to his music, and his new wife Leighton Meester, these days, focusing less on his acting career.
17 Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is known for his role in The Office as well as some of today’s best comedies, Pineapple Express, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Hot Tub Time Machine, and This Is The End among them. What he isn’t known for is his extensive music career. For years he was one half of the musical comedy duo L. Robinson and Chucky, with fellow comedian Jerry Minor. They performed on Real Time with Bill Maher and Jimmy Kimmel Live, among other stand-up comedy shows on Comedy Central. Robinson is now in a band with his brother called The Nasty Delicious and lends his musical talents to his characters, as seen on The Office and Hot Tub Time Machine.
16 Frankie Muniz
Frankie Muniz was nominated for an Emmy and two Golden Globes for his role as Malcom on the hit television series Malcom in the Middle. He went on to be the star in some low budget or poorly produced movies and has made a couple cameos on television shows Arrested Development and Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, but has since dropped off the Hollywood radar, quitting acting and instead pursuing a career in race-car driving. In 2012, Muniz joined Kingsfoil, a band based in Pennsylvania, as a drummer. He said of playing music “This is something I have always wanted in my life.” Hopefully Muniz’s venture into music pans out better than his acting and racing careers.
15 Jada Pinkett Smith
Jada Pinkett Smith isn’t just Will Smith’s wife. She has been acting since 1990, starring in The Matrix and Madagascar franchises, among many other films in a multitude of genres. In 2002, she began her career as a singer-songwriter, creating the metal band Wicked Wisdom under he stage name Jada Koren. The band opened up for Britney Spears back in 2004 and played at musical festival Ozzfest in 2005. Sharon Osbourne said this about Pinkett Smith after watching her perform with her band, “I was blown away. When you see and hear Jada with her band it’s apparent that she has nothing but love and respect for this genre of music.”
14 Hugh Laurie
Hugh Laurie won two Golden Globe awards and two Screen Actors Guild awards, and was nominated for six Emmy awards for his role as Dr. Gregory House on the television series House. What he isn’t well known for is his music career. Laurie can play piano, drums, guitar, saxophone and harmonica. He plays keyboard and does the vocals for charity rock group Band From TV. Laurie has released two blues albums, Let Them Talk and Didn’t It Rain, and plays at jazz festivals all over the world. All of this doesn’t seem surprising when you learn that the actor has been taking piano lessons from the age of six.
13 Ricky Gervais
Funnyman Ricky Gervais actually started out in the music industry in the 1980s. He tried to make it as a pop star, creating the British new wave group Seona Dancing alongside his friend Bill Macrae. The synthesizer sound turned off audiences everywhere, and the band broke up 2 years after forming. In 2014 Gervais said of Macrae “I hope he got fat.” Luckily for us, Gervais fell in love with being a performer, and is now one of the most famous comedians of our generation. Not only is he the brains behind The Office, he has won 3 Golden Globe Awards and 2 Emmy awards for the hit British television show that even had its own American version. Gervais now has successful careers in television, film, animation, video-games, and stand-up comedy.
12 Bruce Willis
It’s hard to believe that the Die Hard star has his own band, but Bruce Willis has indeed teamed up with pop-blues band The Accelerators on several occasions to show off his musical talents. Willis sings and plays harmonica with the band. Before this, the A-list actor has released 3 solo albums under the stage name Bruno; The Return of Bruno, If It Don’t Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger, and Classic Bruce Willis: The Universal Masters Collection. The Golden Globe and Emmy award winning actor isn’t winning anything for his singing skills, but people everywhere watch his live shows because he’s a hoot onstage, and usually a little intoxicated.
11 Jason Schwartzman
If you’ve ever seen an episode of the hit television series The O.C, you probably know all the words to the song in the opening credits, "California" by Phantom Planet. What you probably didn’t know was that actor Jason Schwartzman was actually the drummer and songwriter of the band. He left Phantom Planet in 2003, and focused on acting for a few years before coming out with his indie rock solo act Coconut Records in 2007. Schwartzman has also performed the musical score for the Judd Apatow film Funny People and the theme song for the HBO comedy series Bored to Death. Schwartzman is the star of some of Wes Anderson’s critically acclaimed films, such as Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
10 Jackson Rathbone
Jackson Rathbone is famous for playing vampire Jasper Hale in the Twilight saga. The actor’s resume isn’t much longer than that, because he chose to focus on music instead. Rathbone has created a production company, PatchMo Entertainment, and started up a record company, Happy Jack Records. He’s also an honorary board member for a nonprofit called Little Kids Rock, an organization that helps restore music education in underprivileged public schools. Rathbone is currently a member in the indie funk rock band 100 Monkeys. He sings and plays guitar, bass, drums and keyboard among many other instruments.
9 Dennis Quaid
Dennis Quaid is the star of some big budget films, such as The Rookie, The Day After Tomorrow, and Vantage Point. In the 1980s, Quaid struggled with a cocaine addiction that he eventually kicked in the 1990s. To overcome the addiction, Quaid turned to music. He wrote songs for three of his films; The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia, Tough Enough, and The Big Easy. He now plays with his band, Dennis Quaid and The Sharks, performing both classic and original songs. Their high-energy performances are quite different from Quaid’s intense dramatic film roles.
8 Malin Akerman
Malin Akerman is a Canadian model and actress. She’s starred in The Heartbreak Kid alongside Ben Stiller, 27 Dresses alongside Katherine Heigl, and Wanderlust alongside Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston. Akerman is also a singer, and was the lead vocalist for alternative rock band The Petalstones until she decided to focus on her acting instead. She has said that her singing isn’t all that great anyway, and that it’s a “sort of self-made, self-taught, if-you-can’t-hit-the-note-scream-it kind of thing.” She also married The Petalstones’ drummer, Roberto Zincone, in 2007. Unfortunately the pair separated in 2013.
7 Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Christopher Mintz-Plasse is famous for his role as McLovin in the 2007 comedy Superbad. It’s not commonly known that he’s actually very passionate about music and used his paycheck from the film to buy his first drum-set. He performs with the rock band The Young Rapscallions. The band is made up of the actor and his three childhood best friends. They practice three times a week in Mintz-Plasse’s parents’ garage. Even so, he says that he takes his music career very seriously and says, “Right now it is a close second to my acting. I love being on set, but as soon as I can make a living playing music, it’ll be right up there.”
6 Toni Collette
Toni Collette is an Academy Award winning actress for her role in The Sixth Sense. She also starred in critically acclaimed films About a Boy and Little Miss Sunshine; both gained her awards and accolades. Collette is also a musician, her band Toni Collette & The Finish has released an album and has toured around Australia with other notable acts such as Wolfmother, Crowded House, Jack Johnson, and Missy Higgins. Collette sings lead vocals for the band and her husband, Dave Galafassi, plays drums. Collette is not an actress who sings, she is a singer and songwriter that also has a successful acting career.
5 Zooey Deschanel
Zooey Deschanel is well known for her films, including Yes Man and (500) Days of Summer, and her Emmy and Golden Globe nominated role as Jessica Day in the sitcom New Girl. What Deschanel isn’t commonly known for, is her musical career. Not only has she performed in a jazz cabaret, she also sings and plays ukulele, banjo, and keyboards. In 2008, her and fellow artist M. Ward teamed up to create the musical duo She & Him. They have released five albums together, Volume One, Volume Two, Volume Three, A Very She & Him Christmas, and Classics. Deschanel sings in a lot of her films as well, like Elf and Your Highness.
4 Maya Rudolph
Maya Rudolph is one of many comedians that came into fame on the Saturday Night Live stage. She’s also starred in the comedies Grown Ups and Bridesmaids. Rudolph has a surprisingly quirky music career. She was a back up singer for a few years before playing keyboard in the band The Rentals. After leaving the band, she started performing songs with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog from his album Come Poop With Me, the two songs she is featured in are “Together In Pooping” and “Little Roundworm.” Rudolph is now in a Prince cover band called Princess.
3 Michael Cera
Canadian Michael Cera has had a lot on his plate throughout the years, making his mark in Hollywood. He has acted in the television show Arrested Development, and starred in films Juno, Superbad, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Even with a busy schedule, Cera has been able to establish a noteworthy music career. The Weezer song “Hang On” actually has the actor on backup vocals and mandolin. He’s a bass player in the indie rock band Mister Heavenly and a member of the band The Long Goodbye. Cera released his debut album, True That, in 2014.
2 Ed Westwick
While playing Chuck Bass on the teen drama Gossip Girl, Ed Westwick was also the front man for an indie rock band called The Filthy Youth. Some of their songs were even featured on the television show, namely “Orange” and “Come Flash All You Ladies”. The British band dropped off the radar a few years ago, mainly because Westwick wanted to focus on his acting career now that his run on Gossip Girl was over. He’s recently starred in 2013’s Romeo and Juliet and 2014’s Last Flight. The actor has a lot of upcoming projects this year.
1 Ryan Gosling
The actor, beloved for his roles in The Notebook, Half Nelson, Lars and the Real Girl, Blue Valentine, and Crazy, Stupid, Love has been nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award. In 2007, Ryan Gosling created a musical career for himself and made a solo recording, “Put Me in the Car”. He also formed an indie rock band with his friend Zach Shields, called Dead Man’s Bones. The band released a self-titled record in 2009. The actor sings, plays guitar, bass, piano, and cello. In the same year that they released their debut album, Dead Man’s Bones put on a touring musical theatre-type of show all over North America. The show featured a children’s choir and neon skeletons. What can’t Ryan Gosling do?
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