x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

When musicians make the move to acting

A number of musicians have made the successful transition from stage to screen over the past 50 or so years.

Pete Doherty has adopted France as his new home and is to star in his first film. Joerg Koch / DDP / AFP
Pete Doherty has adopted France as his new home and is to star in his first film. Joerg Koch / DDP / AFP

While the troubled singer- songwriter Pete Doherty has made some dubious life choices in past years, it's good to see the former Libertines guitarist trying to make a clean start. Having recently adopted France as his new home (the French have supposedly developed a love of his poetry), Doherty has just been signed up to star in his first film, based on the life of the 19th-century poet Alfred de Musset.

Confession d'un Enfant du Siècle will begin shooting in Paris at the end of this month, with the actress Charlotte Gainsbourg co-starring. It's quite a leap from shambolic rock star, former partner of the model Kate Moss and sometime jailbird to Paris-dwelling thespian, but then celebrities have long laboured under the notion that they can try their hand at anything.

And his ambitions are not without precedent - a number of musicians have made the successful transition from stage to screen over the past 50 or so years.

Elvis Presley, for example, may have started out as a singer, in the early 1950s, but it wasn't until he signed on to the major label RCA, and starred in his first film in 1956, Love Me Tender, that he really cemented his status as a bona fide superstar.

"The King" would go on to make a further 30 films, including Jailhouse Rock and Viva Las Vegas but his forays into cinema were not always fruitful, with more than a few of his movies failing to make an impact with critics.

While Presley's film career may have been a bit of a bumpy ride, some musicians have gone on to have far more successful careers as actors - rather in the tradition of all-round entertainers from the heyday of the silver screen, such as Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.

Given his Midas touch at the box-office, for example, it's hard to even picture Will Smith humming the tune of a song, let alone remember that he was one half of the successful late 1980s/1990s rap and hip-hop duo, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Take a look at his movie roles - whether an alien-killing soldier in Independence Day or a world-famous boxer in Ali - and it's not hard to see which career Smith is better suited to. Named by Forbes as Hollywood's most bankable star in a 2009 survey, Smith has also picked up several Golden Globe and Oscar nominations along the way.

Equally better suited to a camera than a microphone is Mark "Marky Mark" Wahlberg, who has proved to be one of the most versatile and skilled actors of his generation. First coming to the attention of the public in the unutterably dreadful boy band New Kids on the Block, Wahlberg experienced further success in the 1990s with his next band, the painfully named Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.

But his Oscar-nominated performance in The Departed shows that his move to film was a wise decision. There may have been some questionable script choices (most notably the remake of Planet of the Apes and M Night Shyamalan's The Happening) but these are small blips in an otherwise illustrious acting career, and his new film The Fighter has received six Golden Globe nominations.

The list of musicians-turned-actors goes on: Eminem, Mos Def, Cher (who won the Best Actress Oscar in 1988 for her role in Moonstruck) - though some have still to prove their worth and staying power.

One of the most acclaimed films of 2010, The Social Network, features Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, a ruthless businessman and one of the co-founders of Facebook. After reinventing himself musically over the past decade, Timberlake has also proven himself a solid actor - a far cry from the days of dancing in *N Sync. Before Doherty gets ahead of himself, though, he should take cautious note of those of his peers for whom acting has been a terrible mistake. She may have cut her Hollywood teeth on the same children's programme as Timberlake (The Mickey Mouse Club) but Britney Spears's performance in Crossroads is better left forgotten. The same goes for almost every movie Madonna has been part of. Swept Away? Oh, we were, but only by how breathtakingly awful the Guy Ritchie-directed movie was.

Here's hoping Doherty has been doing his homework.