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
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
16 Frankie Muniz
15 Jada Pinkett Smith
14 Hugh Laurie
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
9 Dennis Quaid
8 Malin Akerman
7 Christopher Mintz-Plasse
6 Toni Collette
5 Zooey Deschanel
4 Maya Rudolph
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?