We know they can sing, but can they act? With Dolly Parton’s return to the big screen in “Joyful Noise,” NextMovie was inspired to take a look at some of country music’s biggest stars who’ve transferred their talents from the recording studio to the screen.
They may be the toast of the town in Nashville, but do they make the grade in Hollywood? These nine crooner-thespians have had varying degrees of success, from “um, you should probably keep your day job” to starring roles that garner great reviews.
9. Faith Hill
In real life, this country queen is married to Nashville superstar Tim McGraw, and her one turn on the big screen was also as a wife -- one of the Stepford Wives -- in the 2004 film that costarred Nicole Kidman, Glenn Close and Bette Midler.
Hill’s infamous scene as the brainwashed Sarah Sunderson involves her having loud, passionate sex with her husband as neighbors walk in and discover she’s really a robot with inflatable breasts manipulated by a remote control.
With 40 million records sold worldwide, this chart-topper apparently doesn’t feel the acting bug or the need to keep up with her husband, who’s landed a slew of high-profile roles.
8. Toby Keith
It’s not often that a country song (a duet with Willie Nelson, no less) becomes the basis for a feature film, but that was exactly the case with Keith’s “Beer for My Horses,” a 2008 comedy in which he also starred. To call it a huge flop would be charitable. It brought in a grand total of $650,000.
Keith, known for huge No. 1 hits like “How Do You Like Me Now” and “Made in America,” fared slightly better with 2006’s “Broken Bridges.” His role: a washed up country musician who returns to his Kentucky hometown and reunites with his true love, played by Kelly Preston. Though extremely weak at the box office, the movie has brought in more than $8 million on DVD and plays regularly on CMT.
7. Taylor Swift
Kanye West couldn’t even begin to steal the spotlight Taylor will receive as one the leading voices in the upcoming animated film "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax."
It won’t be the pop-country princess's first screen outing. She appeared in the 2010 ensemble rom-com "Valentine's Day," in which she famously kissed that other Taylor, Lautner, and also won the Teen Choice Award for Movie Female Breakout.
In the midst of selling millions of albums, winning America’s heart with her adorability and being named Entertainer of the Year by CMT and Billboard, she had a cameo in "Hannah Montana: The Movie." Swift had also appeared in an episode of “CSI” in March 2009.
Her biggest role is yet to come. She was reportedly offered the role of Eponine in the filmed adaptation of "Les Miserables," in which she would appear opposite Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway.
6. Willie Nelson
The iconic "outlaw" country star known for classics like "Always on My Mind" and "On the Road Again" also has a lengthy list of TV and movie credits going back to 1978. Among the most notable: a leading role in “Honeysuckle Rose” (1980), which won him an Oscar nomination for Best Song, and appearances in "The Dukes of Hazzard" as Uncle Jesse Duke and in the 1998 stoner classic “Half Baked.” That was befitting, as Nelson is known for his multiple marijuana busts and is a co-chair of NORML.
Though pushing 80, Nelson isn’t slowing down, with upcoming roles in the features “When Angels Sing” and "Cottonwood."
5. Carrie Underwood
Underwood has scarcely looked back since winning "American Idol" in 2005 launched her into the country music stratosphere. Yet she’s performed just one movie role, in last year’s "Soul Surfer," the real-life story of a teen surfer Bethany Hamilton whose arm was bitten off by a shark.
Underwood plays a youth pastor who helps the girl after the attack and encourages her to start surfing again. But no surfing for Carrie herself. She says she didn’t take up hanging 10 because she’s not a good swimmer. Still, Underwood, who is married to hockey player Mike Fisher, isn’t ruling out another acting gig.
4. Kris Kristofferson
Included in Kristofferson's trophy cabinet alongside a slew of music awards and Hall of Fame induction plaques is a Golden Globe for "A Star Is Born," in which he famously costarred with Barbra Streisand in a difficult shoot -- and launched a vibrant film career. He also got an Oscar nod for Original Song in the 1984 film “Songwriter.”
Other memorable KK screen credits include three "Blade" films, "Convoy," "Planet of the Apes" and a role in "Joyful Noise." The handsome, bearded country music legend -- who is also a Rhodes scholar -- will be a strong presence at movie theaters in the next year, with four other films in pre- or post-production.
3. Dolly Parton
Does anyone remember 2002’s "Frank McKlusky, C.I."? That’s the last time the beloved Ms. Parton had a starring role on the big screen, but her stirring turn as G.G. Sparrow in "Joyful Noise" should erase any memories of that bomb. Hard to believe it's been more than 30 years since she won the hearts of moviegoers in "Nine to Five"; she also received Oscar and Globe nods for songwriting in that film, as she did for a tune in 2005’s “Transamerica.” And who could forget her in the country-tinged '80s films "The Best Little Whorehouse inTexas," "Rhinestone" or "Steel Magnolias"?
Soon after climbing to fame in the 1970s, Parton hosted a TV weekly variety series, imaginatively called “Dolly.” She’s been a force to be reckoned with ever since.
2. Tim McGraw
Three Grammys and 40 million+ records sold weren’t enough for one of country music’s top-selling artists of the decade. So McGraw decided to try his hand at acting. He’s been prolific, appearing in eight movies since 2004, and pretty much making a career of playing a dad. The most lauded: his role in “Friday Night Lights,” for which he scored an MTV Movie Award nomination. He also played a key part in the 2009 blockbuster “The Blind Side” as Sandra Bullock’s supportive husband. He was Gwyneth Paltrow’s supportive husband and manager in “Country Strong,” (2010) and we can only assume real-life wife Faith Hill supports his acting efforts.
1. Julianne Hough
The 2010 film "Burlesque" pretty much bombed, but it gave ballroom dancer and country singer Hough a showy silver-screen start. “Footloose” cemented her budding stardom -- she was called "sexy" and "charmingly spunky." (Ryan Seacrest, whom she's currently dating, obviously agrees.) Hough has some high-profile film projects in the works, including the upcoming "Rock of Ages," set in 1987 Los Angeles and costarring Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bryan Cranston and Russell Brand. Plus, she's signed on for an as-yet-untitled project with Diablo Cody.
She's already scored two Emmy nominations for her choreography work on “Dancing With the Stars.” Could filmdom awards recognition be part of her future? Don’t bet against this triple threat.