There was once a time when only the most talented musicians — people like Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross and Elvis — would dare to make the jump to movies. But with music videos giving birth to a generation of camera-friendly musicians, however, it isn't just Madonna, Eminem and Justin Timberlake playing the actor/singer game, but also everybody from Ashlee Simpson to Diddy to Macy Gray.
The tide has shifted so much, in fact, that it's sometimes more conspicuous these days when a musician chooses not to make movies. With that in mind, we've compiled this list of the top musical acts that have avoided the silver screen so far — and, based on what we know about them, whether their acting debuts would yield a "Godfather" or a "Glitter."
My Chemical Romance: For several years now, these guys have been challenging the Gorillaz for the title of most animated musical group. In the video for "Helena," they transformed a funeral into an overly emotional dance-off reminiscent of Woody Allen's "Everyone Says I Love You." With the "Welcome to the Black Parade" clip, Gerard Way and the boys created a unique hybrid of "Metropolis," "Johnny Got His Gun" and Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas." Then there's the video for "The Ghost of You," in which MCR turn themselves into characters reminiscent of "Saving Private Ryan" — and bassist Mikey Way dies so convincingly that you'd swear he was channeling Giovanni Ribisi. If they ever did make a movie, it would probably be creepy, overly manipulative and melodramatic — but hey, the same formula has worked pretty well for M. Night Shyamalan, right?
R. Kelly: The R&B singer may have written, produced, co-directed and starred in all 22 episodes of his self-described hip-hopera, but we think it's his acting skills that are "Trapped in the Closet." Sure, Kelly's tangled web of cheating lovers, stuttering pimps, well-endowed male strippers and fainting midgets was good for a few laughs, but comedies work best when the audience is laughing with — not at — the leading man. While we doubt that even Sir Ben Kingsley would be brave enough to dub in the voice of a Southern housewife, Kelly's rendition wasn't good enough to make us do anything other than start creeping — straight toward the door. For the foreseeable future, the embattled singer might want to concentrate on a future of CD singles and subpoenas — because if there's one "Trapped" actor that deserves an Oscar, it's Rosie the nosy neighbor, for keeping a straight face while watching Kelly emote.
Feist: "1234," this Canadian singer/songwriter has made us love her more — and she's quickly becoming one of the most difficult recording artists to peel your eyes away from. When you're acting, that's half the battle, so we might be willing to fork over 10 bucks to see Leslie Feist in a movie. The girl insists on working a choreographed routine into most of her music videos even though she clearly cannot dance, recalling the bravery of an actress like Hilary Swank. She's quirky, awkward and a bit off-kilter, which is reminiscent of someone like Helena Bonham Carter or Zooey Deschanel. Finally, in the opening sequence of her video for "Mushaboom," the silk-skinned songstress manages to grab hold of the camera lens and delight the senses with a completely solitary moment — a throwback to the days of the silent actress. If director Michel Gondry would cast her in a movie like "The Science of Sleep," we're sure that Leslie would give a feisty performance.
Kanye West: Producer, artist, activist, designer ... actor? We think not. Although West can always be counted on to throw temper tantrums, his flair for drama ends there. For better or worse, Kanye is too self-absorbed to play anyone but himself — and in a recent "Entourage" episode, the "Stronger" rapper proved that he wasn't even strong in that department. With only a few scenes, West was supposed to round up Vince and the boys and fly them to Cannes, but the improv-heavy, conversational tone of the show simply ate him alive. Frankly, it was painful to watch. Still, we think that with his level of commitment, he could eventually become at least as serviceable an actor as his rival 50 Cent. So if you do decide to get into movies, Kanye, invest some serious time in acting lessons — God knows you've got the money to pay for them.
Nelly Furtado: The Canadian singer/songwriter made a name for herself with sultry dance routines, in music videos like "Promiscuous," and we think she's shown all the right moves to make a jump into film. First of all, she's bilingual — a major asset in today's border-breaking flicks like "Babel" and "Eastern Promises." Secondly, she has already graced the small screen — late last year, she played the daughter of immigrant parents on the Portuguese soap "Floribella." And thirdly, she's got the kind of body that puts plastic surgeons out of business — a sure sign she'd make a credible action star. We'd definitely let out a "Whoa, Nelly!" if the songstress snagged a Lara Croft-like franchise that took her around the world in hip-hugging leather pants, or maybe something like Carrie-Anne Moss' butt-kicking role in "The Matrix." Because honestly, if she can save her dog's life in the "Maneater" video, what's stopping her from doing the same for Keanu?
Gnarls Barkley: Whenever we see Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo, they're always dressed like characters from a great movie like "Star Wars," "A Clockwork Orange" or "Back to the Future." So isn't it about time that these guys break out their own blockbuster? In a perfect world, the "Crazy" duo could find a buddy script like "The Blues Brothers" and let their considerable imaginations run wild.
Christina Aguilera: She's a Grammy winner blessed with what might be the best voice in pop, but when it comes to a movie career, we're not quite sure what sort of note Xtina would hit. In videos like "Candyman" (where she plays a pinup girl) and "Ain't No Other Man" (a nightclub singer), Aguilera shows some serious versatility — and we could easily see her taking those chaps from "Dirrty" into a role like Jessica Alba's "Sin City" sexpot. But on the flipside, Aguilera's closest musical competitor has always been Britney Spears, whose debut flick still has us washing our eyes out with soap. We'd be willing to give the doe-eyed diva a chance if she'd pass over clichéd scripts like "Crossroads" and instead find the next "Moulin Rouge," a film she helped provide the sound for with her "Lady Marmalade" posse.
Will.I.Am: Whether he's goofing around in his trademark street gear, dressed up in Prohibition-era duds or disappearing into an afro and missing teeth (for the "Don't Phunk With My Heart" video), the most powerful Pea is already an actor. Jumping up and down alongside the rest of the Black Eyed bunch, the group's videos have firmly established Will's wild dance moves and appreciation of lovely lady lumps. If he wants to go from Elephunk to Ele-film, we can already imagine him as the skirt-chasing wingman to a star like Will Smith or Adam Sandler. Simply think of the "Swingers" role that made Vince Vaughn a star, insert Will, and you're bound to have a more memorable performance than Fergie's work in "Poseidon."
Robin Thicke: First off, he's Alan Thicke's kid — 'nuff said. Secondly, although the velvet-tongued Robin has made a name with his sultry vocal skills, his videos always seem to fizzle when it comes to onscreen charisma. Take "Can U Believe" and "Lost Without U," two videos that feature him staring longingly into the camera virtually the entire time. What is supposed to be seductive ends up being just plain dull and captivates viewers only because they're itching to see if Thicke is capable of any other facial expression. We can't help but wonder how bad "Cast Away" would have been if Tom Hanks' character kept staring at the camera with bedroom eyes. Robin might have lucked out in the looks and musical-talent departments, but when it comes to acting, Thicke ends up seeming a little thin.
Visit Movies on MTV.com for more from Hollywood, including news, reviews, interviews and more.
For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.com. Want trailers? Visit the Trailer Park for the newest, scariest and funniest coming attractions anywhere.