When musicians go to Hollywood

Starting this Friday, Paul Walker and Vin Diesel will be appearing once again in the high-octane, testosterone-fueled fifth installment of the “Fast and the Furious” franchise, “Fast Five.”

Looking through the rest of the film’s cast, names such as Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Tyrese Gibson seem better fit for a Billboard music chart than an early summer blockbuster.

The history of musicians-turned-actors is a long and sometimes bleak one, which includes names such as Madonna, Will Smith and even the legendary Frank Sinatra.

With the release of “Fast Five,” Lionsgate Home Entertainment’s “Blood Out” starring Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson on Tuesday, and Prince’s “Purple Rain” making its debut on Netflix Instant Play this week, Scene & Heard takes a look at the recent crop of musicians-turned-actors, for better and for worse.


Jennifer Hudson

While popular songstress Beyonce Knowles earned top billing in director Bill Condon’s 2006 film “Dreamgirls,” it was former American Idol finalist Jennifer Hudson who left the biggest impression in the minds of audiences.

Hudson played Effie White, one of three women poised for chart-topping success as the fictional Dreamettes. Hudson gave a confident and engaging performance, especially for her first film, and eventually walked away with an Oscar for best supporting actress.

While she has only appeared in small supporting roles in “Sex and the City” and “The Secret Life of Bees” since “Dreamgirls,” Hudson is set to play the lead in 2011’s “Winnie,” alongside Terrence Howard.

Tom Waits

Tom Waits’ acting career has played out much like his career as a musician; those that appreciate his acting prowess are mostly likely to be found browsing the cult section of any DVD stores still around.

That isn’t to say that Waits hasn’t earned his keep as an actor. With roles in 2010’s “The Book of Eli” and 2009’s “Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” Waits has proved he can turn his rough voice and grisly appearance to work as an actor.

Waits is better known for his roles in cult hits such as “Down by Law” and Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts,” but his recent appearances in high profile films prove he’s certainly a multitalented artist.


Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake proved he was a respectable acting talent in the Academy Award-winning 2010 film “The Social Network,” but he also has a checkered past when it comes to film roles.

In recent years, Timberlake has starred in the tragically unfunny children’s comedy “Yogi Bear,” and was a part of the enigmatic disaster that was director Richard Kelly’s “Southland Tales.”

While Timberlake has some promising films on the horizon – such as “Now” with Amanda Seyfried and “Lay the Favorite” by “The Queen” director Stephen Frears – he’s also a part of the generic summer comedy “Bad Teacher.” Timberlake has shown he has acting skills, now he just has to choose the right roles.

Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson

Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson appeared to be following in the footsteps of his hip-hop mentor Eminem with his acting debut, the semi-autobiographical film “Get Rich or Die Tryin.'” But “Get Rich” wasn’t afforded the critical or commercial success of Eminem’s “8 Mile.”

Jackson next took roles in the promising Robert Deniro and Al Pacino match-up “Righteous Kill,” as well as “Phantom of the Opera” director Joel Schumacher’s “Twelve.” Unfortunately for Jackson, both films met fates worse than “Get Rich.”

With a few direct-to-DVD releases already under his belt and an unintentionally humorous trailer for his upcoming dream project, the uplifting sports drama “Things Fall Apart,” Jackson’s future acting prospects don’t appear to offer much promise.


Chris “Ludacris” Bridges

While Bridges may have been fortunate enough to be a part of the Academy Award-winning 2004 drama “Crash,” the rest of his acting resume is more of a crash and burn.

With roles in the critically scorned video game adaptation “Max Payne,” and a profanity-laden performance in Guy Ritchie’s “RocknRolla” earning him little praise, Bridges is better suited as a hip-hop megastar.

His latest album, “Battle of the Sexes,” entered the Billboard music charts at the No. 1 spot for sales, and singles like “How Low” continue to be staples on hip-hop stations nationwide. Perhaps after “Fast Five,” Bridges should go back to work on his upcoming album “Ludaversal” before he spends any more time in front of the camera.

Tim McGraw

Much like Bridges, country superstar Tim McGraw has been lucky enough to be a part of a few critically and commercially successful films such as 2009’s “The Blind Side,” but hasn’t brought much to the table on his own.

His character in the 2010 drama “Country Strong” brought him back to his country music roots as the controlling husband of a rising music superstar, but McGraw appeared unable to find his own space in a film crammed with Hollywood talent.

McGraw doesn’t appear to have any film projects in the works at the moment, so perhaps it’s time to return to his life as a recording artist, especially since his last record release was the album “Southern Voice” almost two years ago.