The flow of talent between the music and film industries is steadier than ever before. As performers gain celebrity status, they look to expand their presence in the entertainment world, with agents and executives only too happy to indulge them. Knowing that their existing fan base will follow them into a new genre, these stars are considered safe investments, at least safer than an unknown.
Elvis Presley was one of the first stars to successfully negotiate a change of genre in the middle of his career. His good looks, fine voice and universal appeal made the transition easy. Early roles demanded little in the way of acting ability, allowing Elvis to ease into the film industry. Eventually, he took on slightly more challenging movies, although the critics were never really convinced of his acting chops. Still, his movies were huge commercial successes and established a precedent for musicians hoping to become actors.
Several years later, Barbra Streisand proved that women could successfully bridge genres as well. After taking the music industry by storm with her 1963 debut, she was an Oscar-winner five years later. Her talent as a performing artist has allowed her to excel in theatre and on television, as well as in the music and film industries.
There are also good examples of actors reinventing themselves as singers. Hilary Duff is one such teen sensation, earning a large following on the big and small screens. Best-known for her role as “Lizzie McGuire” on the Disney Channel, Duff increased her star wattage as Natalie Connors in the 2003 film “Agent Cody Banks”. Because most of her movies were little more than Hilary Duff vehicles, the acting involved was hardly demanding. Still, her appeal was significant enough to net her a record deal, and her singing was good enough to make her album a commercial success. Whether Duff will flame out like Britney Spears or thrive like Barbra Streisand is anyone’s guess, but for now, she has established herself as both an actor and a singer.
Not all crossovers are successful. William Shatner, had an enormous following when he tried his hand in the music industry. However, not even an ocean of “Trekkie” enthusiasm could disguise the fact that his rendition of the Beatles’ “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” was shockingly bad. Even before the novelty wore off of Shatner’s musical endeavor, everyone realized just how abhorrent his singing really was.
Madonna’s dramatic efforts were inconsistent at best. An edgy singing career brought her huge popularity, and studio executives saw an opportunity to cash in on her fame with a series of mediocre movies. Serviceable performances 1990’s “Dick Tracy” and “A League of Their Own” neither hurt nor enhanced her reputation. Her fine acting in “Evita” was no doubt helped by the film’s many musical numbers, though she did perform respectably for the rest of the film.
Needless to say, these experiments meet with varying degrees of success. Attractiveness and charisma can only carry one so far, since a complete lack of talent is hard to disguise. Still, as long as they continue to get offers, performing artists will continue to pursue opportunities in other genres.
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