11 Actors Who Rock

While Los Angeles whip themselves into a frenzy over the Oscars this weekend, it got us thinking, which actors have dipped their toes in the twin pools of rock and roll?

Ah, Russell Crowe. On film he’s been A Beautiful Mind, a Gladiator and even the grumpy boat enthusiast Noah. He’s not been able to stretch his acting abilities to become a compelling frontman for his terribly-named terrible band, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts. Watching Crowe croon smugly through videos for songs like The Weight of a Man and Sail Those Same Oceans like a drunk dad at karaoke isn’t just embarrassing, it’s downright painful. Sadly, the band called it a day in 2005, which paved the way for a new band – Russell Crowe & The Ordinary Fear of God. Which features Russell Crowe.

There’s never been any dispute about Jared Leto’s acting ability – just last year he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as a transgender woman in Dallas Buyer’s Club. His band, however, are decidedly more polarising. Depending on your perspective, Jared Leto as a rock frontman is either the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll star or a faking, waking nightmare. Rumours of on-the-road diva demands haven’t helped his cause, but 30STM have a fan base that is dedicated, bordering on obsessive, so we’re pretty sure he’s not too worried about the critics.

Will’s missus is currently starring in the Batman TV spin-off Gotham as calculating gangster, Fish Mooney .This is great news because it keeps her too busy to return to her one-dimensional, cliché-ridden nu-metal band, Wicked Wisdom. We don’t doubt that the quintet is a great place for Jada to vent – she really does put her all into her weird, shouty vocals – but with overly simplistic lyrics and a strictly average vocal ability, the sooner this project gets buried like one of Mooney’s enemies, the better.

Wes Anderson muse and puppy-faced indie-darling Jason Schwartzman spent the years between 1994 and 2003 moonlighting as the drummer for Phantom Planet. They’re the band who are responsible for writing and performing California, that ear-worm of a song which became the TV theme for teen melodrama, The O.C.. After leaving Phantom Planet, Schwartzman put out a couple of solo albums under the name Coconut Records, but has been a music-free zone of late.

Dead Man’s Bones’ 2009 self-titled debut album was a creative stroke of genius. Swinging between Monster Mash-inspired horror imagery and genuinely haunting ponderings on death and the meaning of life, Gosling and his bandmate Zach Shields rounded the album out with a children’s choir, some keyboard experiments and a couple of very touching videos. The results were, and still are, breathtaking. If the duo never make a second record, it will be genuinely tragic.

Our first real memory of Zooey Deschanel was as the cool, music-loving big sister in Cameron Crowe’s fantastic tribute to 1970s rock, Almost Famous. Six years later, it became obvious why her heart was so clearly in that role – she formed the super-cute retro duo, She & Him, with hipster favourite, M. Ward. The project was an immediate hit with indie-crowds. Ward and Deschanel are so convincing as a 1970s experiment in easy listening and pop rock, that last year Deschanel even recorded guest vocals for a solo effort by Beach Boy Brian Wilson.

The ponytailed martial artist, silk-shirt aficianado and real-life sheriff (no, really) has found a pretty successful second career as a blues guitarist and vocalist, both solo and with his band, Thunderbox. Remarkably, Seagal’s movie career is actually more comedic than his music, thanks to genuine guitar ability and appealingly smoky vocals. Seagal actually pulls in sizeable crowds around the world, as well as a hefty amount of respect from other musicians. His debut album, Songs From the Crystal Cave, featured a duet with Stevie Wonder.

Jack Black’s love of rock ‘n’ roll first became apparent on the big screen when he starred as an obnoxious, know-it-all, list-making music geek in the brilliant 2000 film High Fidelity. A year later, Black and partner-in-crime, Kyle Gass, released Tenacious D’s hilarious self-titled debut. Sure, they’re a comedy band, but it’s one that’s imbued with a great understanding of, and reverence for, rock ‘n’ roll. The fact that Dave Grohl has played drums on their debut and subsequent releases – as well as appear as the Devil in Tribute and their 2006 full-length film, Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny – only helped matters. Their Grammy win for Best Metal Performance – a cover of Dio’s The Last In Line – ruffled some feathers but they’re likely to give a toss.

Before Maya Rudolph found success and fame, playing the leads in films like Bridesmaids and Away We Go, she was a backing singer and keyboardist for The Rentals – a band started, and fronted, by former Weezer bassist, Matt Sharp. Rudolph has music in her blood, thanks to her legendary singer mum, Minnie Riperton, and a composer dad, but left The Rentals after 1999’s Seven More Minutes album (which Blur’s Damon Albarn also appeared on). She launched a variety show in America last year to showcase her music talents, but is yet to materialise into an actual series.

Long before he became Jack Sparrow, Depp played bass and guitar in the short-lived alt-rock band P, fronted by Butthole Surfers’ Gibby Haynes. They released their self-titled debut album in 1995, which was produced by Rollins Band bassist Andrew Weiss and featured guest contributions from Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones. Two decades later, however, Depp told The Sydney Morning Herald that he found the idea of actors forming bands “sickening”.
“I’ve been very lucky to play on friends’ records and it’s still going,” explains Depp. “Music is still part of my life. You can go out and start a band and capitalise on your work in other areas, but I hate the idea of, ‘come see me play the guitar because you’ve seen me in 12 movies.’ You want the people who are listening to the music to only be interested in the music. You won’t be hearing The Johnny Depp Band – that won’t ever exist.”
Most recently, Depp has made surprise onstage appearances with Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson.

Amazingly, this band remained active for 11 years. Woah, bogus.