They might be two separate artforms, but the music and film worlds frequently collide. After all, who could forget R. Kelly’s foray into film—with Trapped in the Closet—or Madonna’a Grammy-winning performance in Evita? Still, just as musicians often take the leap to the silver screen, plenty of established Hollywood actors have under-the-radar bands, too. Here are a few of our favourites, including a garage band with Neo from the Matrix, an indie-pop band with Boy Meets World alumnus, and an alt-rock gem featuring a Trailer Park Boy. As for the image up top? That’s Macaulay Culkin’s band. And speaking of… Let’s get started.
Macaulay Culkin in Pizza Underground
We’re betting that Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin’s first love isn’t acting. After all, he disappeared for nearly a decade after 1994’s Richie Rich, and seemingly has only a peppering of film and TV roles since. Turns out, he may love music more—Culkin was, after all, rumoured to be living with the Libertines’ Pete Doherty—a pursuit he’s continuing with his pizza-themed Velvet Underground tribute band. (Named, fittingly, the Pizza Underground.)
When we saw Culkin playing Toronto’s NXNE festival, though, he said the band may be moving past their pizza obsession. Their new schtick, according to Culkin himself? Pooping.
Jada Pinkett Smith in Wicked Wisdom
Will and Jada Pinkett Smith might be the highest-profile actor-musician duo on this list. Of course, everyone knows about Will’s musical bona fides—”Get Jiggy With It” is, perhaps, the jiggiest song ever written, while the beat in “Switch” hits harder than most Florida death metal acts. But even if she has less hits, Jada has the more interesting career: She fronted Wicked Wisdom, a nu-metal band that landed a slot on Ozzfest. Who knew?
Ryan Gosling in Dead Man’s Bones
One-time Breaker High star Ryan Gosling—whose Drive had one of the best soundtracks in recent memory—also played in a duo named Dead Man’s Bones. Playing stark, percussive, soul-haunted rock, Gosling proved to be a damn decent singer—so good, in fact, that they earned a wholly respectable 7.1 review from Pitchfork. We’re just surprised he didn’t apply that unplaceable tough-guy accent to his vocals.
Blake Sennett in Rilo Kiley
This one’s for the trivia dorks. Mid-’00s indie rock institution Rilo Kiley are best known for launching the career of Jenny Lewis—who went onto a fantastic solo career and a stint with the Postal Service—but hidden among their ranks? A beloved child actor. Blake Sennett is Rilo Kiley’s lead guitarist, and if you stare closely enough, Boy Meets World fans, you’ll realize that he’s also JOEY THE RAT.
Jena Malone in The Shoe
At 29, Jena Malone’s already been a force in Hollywood—beyond her decorated career as a child actor, she deserves plenty of props for her roles in films like Donnie Darko and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. If those accolades weren’t enough, she also releases improvisational folk under the moniker The Shoe, named for a shoebox she carries around filled with pedals and other music-makers. Her LP, I’m Okay, is a wonderful accomplishment—and we’re even more impressed to hear that she has her own label, builds her own instruments, and occasionally busks.
Jamie Foxx as… Jamie Foxx
While Jamie Foxx isn’t a full-time musician—he’s way to busy being an incredible actor—he’s racked up a shocking amount of hip-hop bona fides. He won a Grammy with Kanye West for 2006’s “Gold Digger,” and has four solo albums under his belt, the latest being 2010’s Best Night of My Life, which had everyone from Drake to Ludacris on its verses. Now, if we could only get him to stop collaborating with Pitbull…
FUBAR’s Paul Spence in CPC Gangbangs
As Can-centric actors go, few are as adored as Montreal-via-Calgary’s Paul Spence, best known as hesher hero Deaner from Fubar (and Fubar II, natch). Spence’s bands, however, dispense of his long-haired image: Firmly entrenched in the weirder side of garage rock, the band cut one LP, Mutilation Nation, before breaking up in 2008.
Jack Black in Tenacious D
While laugh-bringer Jack Black can do serious roles well enough—see: his role in the Richard Linklater-directed Bernie—he built his name on lighthearted comedy. Movies like School of Rock are still among his most revered, and Tenacious D, his band with Kyle Gass and occasionally Dave Grohl, are still the standard for modern-day funnyrock. Rize of the Fenix was the last thing we heard of ’em, and Jack—another album is due.
Juliette Lewis in the Licks
While Juliette Lewis is a wonderfully chameleonic actress, we’ll be honest: We remember her best with ratty, dyed-black hair, thanks to her badass roles in movies like Natural Born Killers, Kalifornia, and From Dusk ‘Til Dawn. It’s a persona that she evidently dug, too—her band, the Licks, were a booty-shaking RNR outfit, all led by Lewis’s raspy vocals. Her band, too, assembled a list of punk notables: H20’s Todd Morse, Upset / Hole’s Patty Schemel, and +44’s Craig Fairbaugh all did time with the band. Also, uh, Juliette, what’s with the headband?
Maya Rudolph in the Rentals
After her rise to fame via Saturday Night Live (and Bridesmaids, duh) Maya Rudolph solidified herself as a force in comedy. But she’s also been a force in music: Her godmother is R&B singer Teena Marie, and she’s played vocalists like Beyonce, Barbara Streisand, and Patti LaBelle on SNL. If that wasn’t impressive enough, Rudolph also spent time playing keyboards in the Rentals. Who, for the record, were the band that Matt Sharp started after recording all the falsetto on Weezer’s Blue Album and Pinkerton.
Jason Schwartzman in Coconut Records
Jason Schwartzman’s always had the swoopy ‘do of an indie-pop frontman, but he also has the band for it, too. Along with working in film—he composed the soundtrack to HBO’s Bored to Death, for instance—he also basked in the glow of the post-Garden State era, releasing two decent (if somewhat forgettable) albums, Nighttime and Davey.
Michael Cera in Mister Heavenly
It’s commonly acknowledged that Michael Cera can get away with anything—I mean, do we really need to bring up This is the End? His attempt at music, too, was passable, if short-lived: He was the touring bassist for Mister Heavenly, a supergroup featuring Islands’ comedian-musician Nick Thorburn, Man Man’s Honus Honus, and Modest Mouse’s Joe Plummer. We weren’t kidding when we called them a supergroup.
Johnny Depp in P
We always thought that Johnny Depp’s swagger would be perfect for an arena-rock band—he had Steven Tyler’s squirrelly moves in Pirates of the Carribbean and the Cure’s hairstyle in Sweeney Todd. Well, turns out, Depp did spend a short stint in a band called P, who are best remembered for being Butthole Surfers singer Gibby Haynes’s side project. With Johnny Depp on guitar, of course.
Trailer Park Boys’ Mike Smith in Sandbox
Any Trailer Park Boys fan would know that Mike Smith, a.k.a. Bubbles, is a musical man: He always seemed to have a guitar, whether he was playing with Rush or crooning the adorable “Kitties Are So Nice.” But in a previous life, Smith was also an accomplished guitarist—and charted a hit with his Nova Scotia-based alt-rock act, Sandbox.
Jared Leto in 30 Seconds to Mars
Wait, how in the heck is Jared Leto 42? The forever-young actor’s arguably one of the most famed actor-musician hybrids on this list, and since 1998, Leto’s been gracing the stage—often in the Jesus Christ pose—to 30 Seconds to Mars’s U2-flavoured, mid-tempo rock. And heck, with 2010’s “Queen and Kings,” Leto pioneered Hollywood’s obsession with fixed-gear bicycles. So, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, you had Leto to thank for Premium Rush.
Zooey Deschanel in She and Him
Speaking of the Garden State class, Zooey Deschanel was a critical favourite among the cardigan-toting indie-pop set long before New Girl, largely thanks to the credibility she built on the independent film circuit. But she’s always been involved in music: She was formerly married to chipmunk-esque Death Cab For Cutie singer Ben Gibbard, and along with M. Ward, performs in the summer-festival-ready She and Him. Still, our favourite musical Zooey moment? “It’s Cold Outside,” from Elf. Our second fave? That thing she did with Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Keanu Reeves in Dogstar
Pop quiz, hotshot: Did Keanu Reeves ever open for Bon Jovi? If you answered yes, then you’re bang on. Before he was defusing bombs from moving buses (or boats), the Speed 2: Cruise Control star put out two albums and an EP, mostly of shapeless, late-’90s indie rock. Their Wiki page claims that the band still jams—even if Keanu rightfully chose to concentrate on his acting career—though we’re not banking on, or hoping for, a reunion.
Bruce Willis in… Well, just Bruce Willis
Bruce Willis has gotten to the point where, in his action movies, he can pull out the Danny-Glover-in-Lethal-Weapon card—he’s too old for this shit. In other words, he’s essentially built for dad roles (as evidenced by the fact that Bruce McLane shares screentime on A Good Day to Die Hard with his son), and accordingly, the music he creates is firmly in the blues-dad camp. We’re not kidding: Our dads would love “Devil Woman.”
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