"A Star is Born" is heading back to the big screen. This time, Bradley Cooper plays Jackson, a famous country singer with a drinking problem, and Lady Gaga is playing Ally, an aspiring musician he takes under his wing. In honor of the acclaimed drama, which hits theaters on Oct. 5, 2018, Wonderwall.com is taking a look at some of the actors and actresses who've played musicians and singers over the years. Keep reading for more…
One of the most famous films about singers? "Dreamgirls," starring, well, just a little-known singer named Beyonce. Fellow real-life vocalist Jennifer Hudson and Broadway singer-actress Anika Noni Rose round out the film's girl group loosely based on the Motown group The Supremes. Beyonce's character, Deena Jones, was inspired by Diana Ross while Jennifer's Effie was loosely based on Florence Ballard and Anika's Lorrell Robinson was inspired by Mary Wilson. J-Hud won an Academy Award for best supporting actress for her performance while three of the film's numbers — "Listen," "Love You I Do" and "Patience" — were nominated for best original song.
Mark Wahlberg took on the role of, well, a rock star in 2001's "Rock Star." The flick tells the tale of fictional rocker Chris "Izzy" Cole, a singer who gets the chance of a lifetime — to become the lead singer of one of his favorite bands in the '80s, Steel Dragon. A transition to rock-star status shortly follows, with the film chronicling what happens when a man goes from regular Joe to superstar. Unfortunately for Marky Mark fans, Mark didn't really sing in the film, but it was still fun to see him turn into a glam '80s rocker.
In 1987, it was Lou Diamond Phillips' turn to try his hand playing a musician. He starred as Ritchie Valens in "La Bamba," a film about the Mexican-American pop star who rose to fame in the '50s. It depicted the effect his fame had on his loved ones and the tragic events of his death in a plane crash.
OK, so Bette Midler playing a famous singer isn't a huge stretch, but she still showed off her acting chops in 1979's "The Rose." The flick, which tells the tale of a struggling '60s rock star, is loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin — though Janis' family refused to give her story to producers so it couldn't openly be about the late legend. This marked Bette's first film role and she picked up a best actress Academy Award nomination for her work. She also performed on the soundtrack, including title track "The Rose," which became one of her biggest hits to date.
Charlie "Bird" Parker's life story played out on the big screen in 1988's "Bird." Clint Eastwood produced and directed the film about the jazz saxophonist's life, with Forest Whitaker taking on the role of the talented musician. Aside from his illustrious career, the movie focuses on Bird's interpersonal relationships, including with his wife, Chan Parker (played by Diane Venora), and his band leader, Dizzy Gillespie (played by Samuel E. Writer).
"Coal Miner's Daughter" is the story of country singer Loretta Lynn. Sissy Spacek played the iconic singer, who was hand-picked by Loretta herself for the role. The 1980 film followed her birth to her meteoric rise to country music fame. The part nabbed Sissy a best actress Academy Award and Golden Globe while the film won the best motion picture musical Golden Globe.
Paul Dano played iconic Beach Boys member Brian Wilson in 2014's "Love & Mercy." Paul was the younger version of the star, and John Cusack played Brian as an older man in the film about the star's struggles with mental illness and the creation of one of the group's best albums, 1966's "Pet Sounds." The film netted two Golden Globe nominations and even received a rave review from Brian himself, who reportedly called it "very factual."
How could we not include "The Bodyguard"? Though it wasn't a stretch for Whitney Houston to play a world-famous singer, the star's acting debut was a huge success. This 1992 film saw Whitney's pop star character being stalked and a bodyguard in the form of Kevin Costner coming to her aide. It also is responsible for the best selling soundtrack of all time, which included legendary tunes like Whitney's covers of "I Will Always Love You" and "I'm Every Woman," as well as original tunes "I Have Nothing" and "Run To You."
"Almost Famous" is loosely based on writer-director Cameron Crowe's teenage years as a journalist touring with bands like Led Zeppelin and the Eagles. That means the fictional rock stars' stories of groupies and exploits aren't so off-base. Billy Crudup brought to life Stillwater lead guitarist Russell Hammond, giving a glimpse into life on the road for a '70s rocker. Equally captivating? The life of the '70s groupies like Penny Lane, who was portrayed by Kate Hudson. The film received three Academy Award nominations and won for best original screenplay.
French singer Edith Piaf's story came to life in 2007 when Marion Cotillard stepped into her shoes on the big screen. The film "La Vie en Rose" — named after one of her most famous songs — was a non-linear account of major moments in Edith's life. Marion won the Academy Award for best actress for her performance as well as a BAFTA and a Golden Globe for best actress in a musical or comedy.
Piper Perabo's first big role came in the 2000 rom-com "Coyote Ugly," which saw her playing aspiring songwriter Violet Sanford. Violet is trying to get her music noticed in New York City when she ends up making friends with some ladies who work at a place called Coyote Ugly. After nabbing a job at the bar where women dance and sing on the counters, the ladies help her perform at an open mic night and land a record deal. The flick culminates in LeAnn Rimes singing her song on the bar at Coyote Ugly — full circle! Though it's not really the most realistic portrayal of life as a songwriter, the fun film was a box-office success in its era.
Gary Busey took on the role of musician Buddy Holly in the aptly titled "The Buddy Holly Story" in 1978. The biographical drama followed the real-life rock 'n' roller's story from his original group to his solo days, with Gary playing a very convincing Buddy. The film's score earned an Academy Award and Gary picked up a nomination for his work in the flick.
In 2010, Kristen Stewart took a break from playing Bella Swan in the "Twilight" film franchise to star as rocker Joan Jett in "The Runaways." The indie flick about the '70s rock band of the same name also starred Dakota Fanning as singer Cherie Currie. Aside from showing their rise to fame, it also focused on the relationship between Cherie and Joan and its eventual demise.
Ray Charles nearly lived to see the completed version of this biopic. Sadly, he died a few months before the premiere of 2004's "Ray." Jamie Foxx was tapped to star as the icon in the film chronicling the musician's life. The tale caught the eye of critics, with Jamie earning an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA Award, a Critics' Choice Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award for best actor for his amazing performance. This marked only the second time an actor had won all five major awards for the same performance.
Another star who took on the role of a real-life music star? Jessica Lange in "Sweet Dreams" back in 1985. The role had the actress stepping into the shoes of country singer Patsy Cline in a film about the star's life. Jessica lip-synced to the real Patsy's recordings in the film while delivering a stellar performance that earned her an Academy Award nomination for best actress.
Jennifer Lopez embodied slain Tejano singer Selena in the 1997 biographical drama "Selena," which depicted the short life of the Mexican-American singer ahead of her murder at age 23. It was Jennifer's breakout role, though the film utilized Selena's real singing voice (J.Lo would launch her own singing career two years later). Jennifer's portrayal earned her a Golden Globe nomination for best actress in a musical or comedy.
"Inside Llewyn Davis" is a 2014 film from the Coen brothers. It starred Oscar Isaac and really launched his career as he stepped into the role of the titular character, a musician trying to succeed in the industry. The flick, loosely based on the story of real-life folk singer Dave Van Ronk, was a critical darling that earned two Academy Award and three Golden Globe nominations.
Adapted from Tina Turner's book "I, Tina," 1993's "What's Love Got To Do With It" saw Angela Bassett playing the legendary singer. Laurence Fishburne took on the role of her husband, Ike Turner, in the flick, which chronicled the musicians' tumultuous relationship and professional partnership. Both actors earned Academy Award nominations for their work in the movie, with Angela taking home the Golden Globe for best actress in a musical or comedy.
This one was pretty meta! In 2015, O'Shea Jackson Jr. portrayed his father, rapper Ice Cube, in "Straight Outta Compton." The biographical drama depicted the rise and fall of Ice Cube's group N.W.A., which also included Eazy-E (played by Jason Mitchell) and Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins). The film received an Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay and even inspired Dr. Dre himself to put out his album "Compton" shortly after.
Jim Morrison is a legendary rocker, so it was only a matter of time before his life was commemorated on the big screen. Stepping in to play the lead singer of The Doors in a 1991 film of the same name? Val Kilmer. The film chronicled the singer's drug use, alcoholism and dark side in the '60s but since it didn't depict Jim in the best light, his real-life family, friends and bandmates didn't love it.
2007 delivered the musical drama "Once" starring real-life musicians Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. The film centered around a struggling musician who meets another aspiring musician in Dublin, Ireland. Though they're only dubbed Guy and Girl in the film, the captivating love story spawned an incredible soundtrack. The song "Falling Slowly" won the Academy Award for best original song in 2008 and also nabbed a Grammy nomination.
Jeff Bridges took on the role of failing country singer Otis "Bad" Blake in 2009's "Crazy Heart." He starts up a relationship with journalist Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who helps him turn his life around. The movie earned Jeff, who sang in the film, an Academy Award for best actor.
"Country Strong" was filled with actors tackling roles as country music stars — and a real-life country music star trying his hand at acting. The 2010 drama centered around Kelly (played by Gwyneth Paltrow), a country singer trying to revive her career. She teams up with up-and-comer Beau (played by Garrett Hedlund) and eventually has an affair with the younger star despite being married to James (played by Tim McGraw). Since the film features the world of country music, it also spurned a pretty great soundtrack. The song "Coming Home," which was sung by Gwyneth herself, picked up a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination for best original song. It also included a duet by Gwyneth and Tim and songs by other actors including Garrett and Leighton Meester.
Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix both played country music legends in 2005's "Walk the Line." Reese was June Carter while Joaquin embodied Johnny Cash in the flick, which earned five Academy Award nominations the following year. Reese won a best actress Oscar for her gripping performance.
"Born to Be Blue," the 2015 drama based on the life of jazz star Chet Baker, saw Ethan Hawke playing the famous musician. Though it received a limited release in the States, the film was a hit with critics. Ethan's portrayal of the jazz legend received stellar reviews. He even lent his singing voice to two tracks on the soundtrack.
Keira Knightley's turn as an up-and-coming musician? That happened in 2013's "Begin Again." The film centers around Keira's character, Gretta, as she's discovered by struggling record label executive Dan (played by Mark Ruffalo). Real-life singer Adam Levine also had a role in this music-filled flick as Gretta's ex, Dave. Both Keira and Adam lent their voices to the soundtrack, which produced best original song Oscar contender "Lost Stars."
Ever wonder what happens to one-hit wonders? Hollywood took on this question with 1996's "That Thing You Do!" The film followed fictional pop group The Oneders as they rise to fame with their hit tune "That Thing You Do" and then quickly self-implode and fall from grace. Johnathon Schaech played the lead singer of the group opposite actors including Tom Hanks, who also directed the film, Liv Tyler, Tom Everett Scott, Ethan Embry and Steve Zahn.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw played a famous pop star in the 2014 romantic drama "Beyond the Lights." Up-and-coming fictional artist Noni Jean is rescued from a suicide attempt by a young cop, Kaz, played by Nate Parker in the film. The upsides and downsides of fame ensue, including a down involving real-life rapper Machine Gun Kelly who plays — what else? — a rapper named Kid Culprit. The film's tune "Grateful," written by legendary songwriter Diane Warren, earned an Academy Award nomination for best original song.
2014's "Get On Up" saw Chadwick Boseman starring as James Brown. The biographical drama gave an account of James' life through his eyes and jumped around throughout his history. Chadwick's performance received rave reviews from critics.
The "Pitch Perfect" franchise delves into the world of a capella singing. Following the female singers in a group called the Barden Bellas, the movies show the cutthroat world of collegiate a cappella competitions while simultaneously delivering lots of laughs. One of our favorite onscreen Bellas? Rebel Wilson, who became a breakout star after the first installment was released in 2012.