This week sees the release of Madonna’s second directorial effort, W.E. Bringing to life the “20th-century’s greatest royal love story” it explores the affair between King Edward VIII and notorious Manhattanite, Wallis Simpson.
Naturally, the reviews have so far been less than complimentary. The general consensus is that Madonna has failed to deliver as a director once again, with the best of the critical response concluding that this new offering is better than her first… yet in the words of one scathing journalist… “that’s not saying much”. Ouch. It seems no matter how hard she tries, the former material girl just cannot succeed when it comes to the movie market. Never mind the directorial efforts, her acting credentials have previously also come under serious fire too. Most people are still baffled as to how the marginally acceptable ‘Evita’ resulted in a (widely deplored) Golden Globe win.
So what is the problem? Do we simply find it difficult to accept an established success in one area greedily transferring to another? Sorry Madge, but it appears not. Alongside some inevitable flops, there have been examples in the past of people crossing over from music to movies with a mere graceful leap. Here are eight of the biggest success stories…
If Cher could actually turn back time, I doubt she’d refuse many of her earlier movie roles. Despite being cemented in our pop-culture consciousness as a warbling, botoxed hit maker (and half of the optimistic-yet-inevitably-divorced Sonny and Cher), she has garnered reviews in the past that Madonna could only ever dream of. Despite some dodgy decisions in recent times, movies like the absurdly titled Come Back To The Five And Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean; Silkwood, and Moonstruck have resulted in critically acclaimed performances and award nominations aplenty.
I bet you forgot that Will Smith was ever once a baseball-cap wearing, inoffensive-lyrics-spouting rapper didn’t you! Well, before the acting vehicle Fresh Prince of Bel Air, he was just that. Once upon a time he had a number one hit with Summertime (we’ll kindly let Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It slide) and now, he’s an Oscar nominated force to be reckoned with. Alongside box office pleasers like Men In Black and Hitch, surprisingly stellar performances in The Pursuit of Happyness and Seven Pounds are reflective of his acting potential, making him one of the most successful rapper-turned-actors there ever was. Not that Ice Cube ever really gave him a run for his money…
Barbra Streisand is arguably the most successful of all singer-actor hybrids. She managed to kick off her early career subtly merging the two art forms, beginning with the big-screen version of her Broadway role in Funny Girl. The seventies saw her act in a plethora of movies, cementing her presence as the only woman in the Top 10 Box Office Attractions poll an impressive ten times. Despite a hiatus of eight years, Streisand returned to the big screen in the ever-popular Meet the Fockers. 2012 might also see an even bigger comeback, with a number of reported projects in the works like a new version of Gypsy; The Way We Were actress is supposedly set to write, act in and direct the film.
As well as three failed marriages, Jennifer Lopez has undoubtedly suffered some disappointments at the box office too. However, despite this hit or miss performer making some poor decisions, underneath it she actually appears to be a pretty decent actress… Gigli aside. With her movie career aptly kicking off in the music-bio Selena, Lopez impressively followed it up with Out of Sight, a crime thriller calling for some sizzling chemistry with George Clooney. Naturally as a life of celebrity and name fusing unions took over, a number of below-par romcoms followed. Hopefully when she decides to quit being a mediocre popstar, advertisers dream and general all-round heartbreaker, she’ll once again find some meaty acting roles to get her teeth into.
Despite once being known as an afro-haired boyband member (and the man-candy of Britney Spears), Justin Timberlake followed up his surprisingly credible solo music career, with a surprisingly credible acting one… Some roles have skipped by unnoticed, however it says a lot that the majority of reviews for the one-time Trousersnake have been positive. The most glowing of all came in response to his role as Sean Parker in the Facebook juggernaut The Social Network. The recent Friends With Benefits proves that he’s becoming a widely accepted face on the big screen.
American Idol isn’t just a vehicle for absurdly precocious fourteen year-olds or Simon Cowell’s bank balance; it can also produce incredible musical talent, as well as acting apparently. Way back in 2004 a pre-Weight Watchers Jennifer Hudson finished a measly seventh place in the competition, leaving her singing career in jeopardy (a ridiculous notion in itself if you’ve ever heard her voice). Eventually it proved to be a gift as she was cast in Dreamgirls the following year, a role which brought her due recognition for both her singing and acting abilities. In 2007, Hudson won an Academy Award for her role as Best Supporting Actress. Despite going on to gain most plaudits for the musical aspects of her career, it is without doubt that she’s a shining example of a multi-talent.
Mariah Carey has undeniably appeared in a couple of stinkers in her time. However, as well as harbouring ambition to hit notes even undetectable to dogs, it is clear she cannot repress her urge to partake in a bit of acting. Surprisingly, patience paid off and regardless of the exceedingly awful Glitter hampering her reputation for a good while, a turn in the acclaimed Precious eventually proved that – with the right role – even the most sneered at actors are capable of turning it all around. Almost unrecognisable as social worker Miss Weiss, Carey received praise for her un-starry turn in the flick and surprised cinema-goers everywhere in the process.
Alongside the aforementioned Will Smith, the title for most successful rapper-come-actor must surely go to Mark Wahlberg. Originally known as Marky Mark (you forgot about that as well didn’t you…), it isn’t hard to repress the cringe-worthy memory of a guy who appeared in public sans-shirt more than most people do in their own bathroom. Nowadays, once a regular fixture in VH1’s ‘hottest hotties of the 90’s’, he is an Oscar-nominated actor of impressive credentials. He is a respected, in-demand and genuinely admired performer. If Madonna ever bemoans the fact that she cannot be taken seriously due to her past endeavours… Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch prove that anyone can do it. Not only can they do it, they can do it in movies like The Departed and The Fighter.
So, despite her best intentions, I doubt W.E. will garner much enthusiasm. In the face of zero evidence to prove that the crossover can’t be done, does it appear that Madonna’s movie efforts might just be plain awful after all? I’d spout the cliché ‘God loves a trier’… but I’m not even sure that applies when you’ve evidently tried too much already. Perhaps she’s one performer that should definitely stick to what she’s good at.