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VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Catherine Neal
We totally forgot that these actors had music careers. For this list, we'll be looking at the most prominent stars of the big and small screen who once tried their hand at making music. Our countdown includes Penny Badgley, Jeremy Renner, Bruce Willis, and more!

#10: Penn Badgley

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From sinister Joe Goldberg in “You” to the likable love interest in “John Tucker Must Die,” Penn Badgley has proven himself a pretty versatile actor. However, there is one role in his arsenal that you might be surprised by. Badgley is the lead vocalist of indie pop band MOTHXR. The actor formed the group back in 2013, together with producer Jimmy Giannopoulos, bassist Darren Will, and guitarist Simon Oscroft. MOTHXR released their debut studio album “Centerfold” back in 2016, but we’re yet to see a follow up. However, they have toured as the opening act for a number of American indie bands.

#9: Jennifer Love Hewitt

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You might know her best as Maddie from “9-1-1” or Special Agent Kate from “Criminal Minds.” However, Jennifer Love Hewitt made her name back in the nineties as the teen star of “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” Not only did this horror franchise jump-start her acting career, it also gave her a second shot at the music business. Love Hewitt had already released three albums, after becoming a pop star in Japan at the age of twelve. However, her highest ranking hit was a song called “How Do I Deal.” This was featured on the soundtrack of “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer,” and peaked at number 59 on the Billboard Hot 100.

#8: Brie Larson

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Brie Larson has been acting since about the age of nine. However, before she became an Oscar winner and an onscreen superhero, the “Captain Marvel” star had a brief shot at a music career. As a teen in the 2000s, she was signed to the same label as Lindsay Lohan and opened for Jesse McCartney on tour. She also released a pop-rock album, on which she co-wrote tracks with a number of established songwriters. Sadly, a career in the music biz wasn’t all Larson had hoped it would be. In a 2010 MySpace post, she wrote about her differences with the record label executives, saying “I wanted to wear sneakers and play my guitar—they wanted heels and wind blown hair.”

#7: Keanu Reeves

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Thanks to his starring role in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” Keanu Reeves was already a famous face by the early nineties. This didn’t stop him from adding a second string to his bow. Joining forces with Robert Mailhouse and Gregg Miller, Reeves formed the alternative rock band Dogstar. They later enlisted singer and guitarist Bret Domrose. The band performed all over the world and gained an international fanbase. Having a famous actor for their bassist probably helped, but the music also speaks for itself. Dogstar opened for David Bowie and Bon Jovi. They were also supported by the band Weezer, who later went on to multiplatinum success. After a long hiatus, Dogstar reunited in 2023, teasing fans with new music.

#6: Scarlett Johansson

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In 2006, a group of Hollywood actors released a charity album titled “Unexpected Dreams - Songs from the Stars.” Scarlett Johansson contributed a track and seems to have caught the music bug. She went on to release her own debut album two years later. “Anywhere I Lay My Head” was dubbed a “bravely eccentric” collection by the critics. It included one original song, ten Tom Waits covers and also featured David Bowie and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The actress has since popped up on a number of movie soundtracks and even formed a band. The group, now called “Scarlett Johansson and The Friends” includes Holly Miranda, Kendra Morris, Julia Haltigan and Este from HAIM.

#5: Jeremy Renner

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Star of “The Hurt Locker” and “The Avengers” franchise, Jeremy Renner is also a multi-talented musician. He began to think seriously about acting at the age of twenty, but music, he says, was his first love. Renner taught himself to play drums, keyboard and guitar at a young age. He also sings and writes his own songs. The actor has contributed to a number of movie soundtracks and was featured on Sam Feldt’s 2018 single “Heaven (Don't Have a Name).” His first EP, titled “The Medicine” was released in 2020, with another, “Live for Now,” following hard on its heels. Renner’s music career may not be common knowledge, but we reckon he deserves to be discovered.

#4: Ryan Gosling

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You might already know that Ryan Gosling began his showbiz career as a Mouseketeer, alongside pop royalty such as Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera. You’ll probably remember his star turn in the critically acclaimed musical “La La Land.” But have you heard of Dead Man’s Bones? This indie rock band was formed in the 2000s by Gosling and his friend Zach Shields. The band learned to play all their own instruments for their debut album, which was described by one critic as “unique, catchy and lovably weird.” As well as singing, Gosling plays piano, guitar, cello and bass. The album was recorded with the Silverlake Conservatory Children’s choir, which the actor later admitted was “not very rock ‘n’ roll.”

#3: Eddie Murphy

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Whether he’s playing an annoying talking donkey or a sixties soul star, Eddie Murphy’s musical talent is a guaranteed scene stealer. Back in the eighties, he even had a top 10 hit. The story goes that Richard Pryor made a bet with his fellow actor and comedian, staking $100,000 on the fact that Murphy couldn’t sing. In response, the “Trading Places” star made “Party All the Time,” which shot to number two on the Billboard Hot 100, beaten only by Lionel Richie. Murphy’s debut album “How Could It Be” includes collaborations with Stevie Wonder and Rick James, as well as three self-written tracks. On the sleeve notes, he wrote to Pryor “ I didn’t forget.”

#2: Bruce Willis

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Bruce Willis became a world famous actor with the release of “Die Hard” in 1988. However, during this era, he was also moonlighting as his pop star alter ego, Bruno Radolini. In 1987, his debut album “The Return of Bruno” was a certified hit, with the lead single “Respect Yourself” reaching the top 10 in both America and the UK. Although best known as an actor, Willis never left music behind completely. He released two further albums, in 1989 and 2001, and also formed a blues band called The Accelerators. Discussing his musical talent, the actor once said: “Frank Sinatra sings - I holler loudly, in key.” But we’d give him more credit than that. Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions. Juliette Lewis Since the Early 2000s, She Has Fronted the Rock Band “Juliette & the Licks” Leighton Meester The “Gossip Girl” Star Sings, Writes & Plays Guitar Priyanka Chopra Chopra’s Debut Single “In My City” Went Triple Platinum in India Hugh Laurie When He’s Not Busy Acting, Dr. House Plays the Blues Tyra Banks Banks’ Big Single Was 2004’s “Shake Ya Body”

#1: Robert Downey Jr.

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After his highly publicized struggle with substance use disorder in the nineties and early 2000s, Robert Downey Jr. didn’t take long to find his acting feet. However, before “Iron Man” reestablished him as a movie star, he tried his hand at music. “The Futurist,” the actor’s debut studio album, was released by Sony Classical in 2004. We’re not sure what we expected from a Robert Downey Jr. record, but this wasn’t it. Categorized as jazz/folk, with soulful piano melodies and husky vocals, the vibe is Bruce Springsteen meets Billy Joel. The album received mixed reviews but was described by one critic as “unpredictably moving.”

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