There are loads of actors who can sing, so when they strike up a tune it’s no surprise. However, there are still a few of Hollywood’s finest for whom belting out a show tune still counts as a shock – who knew these fine actors could hold a note?
Dwayne Johnson – ‘Moana’
Is there anything he can’t do? He can wrestle. He can act. He’s probably going to be president one day. And yeah, The Rock can sing. Dwayne Johnson is not short on charisma or confidence, which probably helped him get behind the mic for Disney’s animated epic ‘Moana’, in which he knocked out a surprisingly decent tune in ‘You’re Welcome’, a song that’s basically about being awesome (watch a snippet above). Next week: it turns out The Rock is actually an incredibly elegant and beautiful ballet dancer.
Amy Adams – ‘Enchanted’
Adams wasn’t your typical stage-school educated actress wannabe, content with a career in acting/singing/dancing/whatever – in fact, she got her start performing dinner theatre shows and working in Hooters.
Although she sang in her school choir, Adams didn’t have to test her lungs on screen until Princess Gisele felt musical in ‘Enchanted’, but she needn’t have worried – she more than did justice to Alan Menken’s music, particularly the none-chirpier ‘Happy Little Working Song’. Adams described the act of singing the song alone on the Oscars stage in 2008 as one of the most terrifying experiences of her life.
Ryan Gosling – ‘La La Land’
Okay, so he got his start on the same show that gave the world Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, but who knew that former Mouseketeer Ryan Gosling could sing so well? We first got to hear Ryan’s dulcet tones in ‘Blue Valentine’, where he had to fake a weak singing voice for his ukelele song with Michelle Williams, but this year’s Oscar favourite, Damien Chazelle musical ‘La La Land’, sees The Gos going full Gene Kelly: acting, dancing and singing his arse off. By the by, Gosling also fronts a band called Dead Man’s Bones, which he’s been in since before he was famous; he sings under the name ‘Baby Goose’ and their songs are mostly about ghosts and monsters.
Meryl Streep – ‘Mamma Mia!’
I don’t know why anyone ever doubted that there was nothing Meryl Streep couldn’t do on screen, but nonetheless it was a strange experience seeing the actress sing the hits of ABBA in ‘Mamma Mia!’ because she always seemed such a serious sort up until that point. Maybe she was blessed with the opportunity to sing opposite Pierce Brosnan, a man who sings with the misplaced bravado of a drunk uncle at a wedding. Streep has made a few more musical movies since her ABBA adventure: she played a rock star in ‘Ricki And The Flash’ and gave Stephen Sondheim a good going over in ‘Into The Woods’.
Ewan McGregor – ‘Moulin Rouge’
If you saw him smashing out a karaoke version of Bobby Darin’s ‘Beyond The Sea’ in Danny Boyle’s kidnap comedy ‘A Life Less Ordinary’, you might think Mr McGregor resides in your ‘average pub singer’ category when it comes to musical ability. Not so. Baz Luhrmann’s musical extravaganza ‘Moulin Rouge’ kicked Ewan into a higher gear, to the point where he actually gave Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ a pretty satisfactory roll-out. Tune in next year to hear McGregor attempt to do justice to Alan Menken’s classic ‘Beauty & The Beast’ tune ‘Be Our Guest’… in French.
Clint Eastwood – ‘Paint Your Wagon’
Yes, that Clint Eastwood. The man with no name. Real American Hero. Will chew tobacco and spit it in your face. He of the lawn you must never walk on. Clinton Eastwood Jr. Has sung a song. In a film. A cowboy film. And get this: it’s a song called ‘I Talk To The Trees’ and the first line is “I talk to the trees but they don’t listen to me / I talk to the stars, but they never hear me”. Eastwood goes on to warble about being ignored by the wind and how the trees persist in throwing shade his way. It’s quite mesmerising, and compared to Lee Marvin’s singing voice – from the ‘throw a drunk tramp down a flight of stairs and record the aftermath’ school of music – it’s like someone put Sinatra in a ten-gallon hat.
James Corden – ‘Into The Woods’
Not content with occupying every second of air-time on TV, every scene at the movies and every inch of the stage in theatres around the world, James Corden decided to show us that he could hold a tune with the very best of them in Rob Marshall’s adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Disney musical ‘Into The Woods’. Corden, playing The Baker, duets with co-star Emily Blunt and showcases a surprisingly tender singing voice – certainly an improvement from his days as ‘Gavin & Stacey’ star Smithy, singing Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ in the car.
Carey Mulligan – ‘Shame’
An exceptionally talented young actress, Carey Mulligan was already a star by the time she played a key role in Steve McQueen’s sex addiction drama ‘Shame’, but she was yet to sing a note on film. Talk about a trial by fire: for one five-minute sequence, McQueen pushed his camera close on Mulligan’s face like they were in a rush hour Tube crush, as she sings an impossibly sultry, slow and note-perfect version of ‘New York, New York’. Michael Fassbender’s character subtly wipes a tear from his face as the last note rings out. That’s about the size of it.
Colin Farrell – ‘Crazy Heart’
The Irish actor surprised many an audience with his cameo role in 2009’s country music drama ‘Crazy Heart’, opposite Jeff Bridges. In his only scene, Farrell’s singer joins Bridges on stage where they sing to an audience of 12,000 people – and Farrell doesn’t disappoint. Then, like that, he’s gone. “No one had heard him sing,” said the film’s producer Judy Cairo. “His agent didn’t even know he could sing.” Here’s hoping for more random Colin Farrell musical cameos in forthcoming movies. In Bruges: The Musical?
Jack Black – ‘School Of Rock’
How do we put this? Pre-Tenacious D fame Jack Black didn’t exactly look like the kind of guy who could blast out a decent rock tune. Sure, we’d all heard him do his cute little vocal musical bits in movies like ‘Fever Pitch’, but ‘School Of Rock’ blew us away with the revelation that Black was a bona fide ROCK STAR in CAPITAL LETTERS. Then, naturally, we went and discovered ‘The D’ and realised he was actually just a musician who was playing at being an actor instead of the other way around.