Sunday, 7 December 2014

Movie stars who sing for their supper

It's so reassuring to know someone as talented and beautiful as Jennifer Lawrence, who has her choice of Hollywood roles and Hollywood men and picks up award nominations like I pick up milk, suffers self doubt like the rest of us mere mortals.

JLaw was in the news recently as director of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Francis Lawrence (no relation) revealed the actress was so stressed and upset about having to sing, she cried before the recording of Katniss' song, The Hanging Tree - even with training sessions from a vocal coach beforehand.

She needn't have worried: it turns out fans love her husky voice and the bluesy tone of the song and the self proclaimed "Tone-Deaf Amy Winehouse' has a hit single on her hands. This week The Hanging Tree is No. 12 and No. 14 on the Australian (ARIA) and U.K. singles charts respectively, and it looks set to also make its Top 40 debut on the Billboard Hot 100. Sales figures estimate 150,000 downloads in its first week.

All of this got me thinking about other actors who have belted out a tune or two in their roles, with varying levels of success - both audibly and chart-wise. So I strapped on my judgy pants and went scouring the internet.

Kate Winslet secretly recorded the single What If for the animated remake of the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol back in 2001.  The Titanic actress' voice is plaintive and aching and I reckon perfect for this ballad of longing and regret. Europe thought so too; it made it to #6 on the UK charts and #1 in Ireland, Belguim and Austria.

We're used to Jason Segel making us laugh (and cringe) in films like Knocked Up and The Five Year Engagement and of course the telly show How I Met Your Mother. But the funnyman blew everyone away with his soulful voice and big note belting in The Muppets' movie song Man or Muppet, written by our own Bret McKenzie. It earned a stack of nominations for best original song in the movies' award season but failed to make any impact chart-wise, "peaking" (if you can call it that) at #121 on the UK singles chart.

You could not go anywhere in the summer of 2000 without hearing Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis' remake of the Smokey Robinson classic Cruisin'. In fact we loved it so much in New Zealand it went to #1 here (as well as Australia) but didn't even crack the Billboard Top 40 in the US. The movie it was from Duets might be completely forgettable but it didn't stop the former Mrs Martin trying the singing thing again in her 2010 movie Country Strong.

So his voice probably isn't going to make you fall down in rapturous abandon, but Ewen McGregor did a not-too-shabby job in his all singing and all dancing role of Christian in Moulin Rouge! While I personally find his duet of Come What May with co-star Nicole Kidman ear-bleedingly painful, his cover of Elton John's beloved Your Song is much better suited to his voice, especially in its quieter moments. However the soundtrack clearly struck the right note (bad pun intended) with fans making it to #1 here and Australia, and #3 in the US.

And last but not least...long before he was IronMan,* Robert Downey Jr broke Ally McBeal's heart (and mine too) in series four of that show.  He showed off his considerable piano skills and beautiful smokey voice throughout the season, perhaps no where better than when he enlisted the help of Sting to woo Ally on her birthday with a duet of Every Step You Take. It's a great version, even if the lyrics are a little on the scary stalker side.

*Also, it's just occurred to me how much the suave, dryly witted Tony Stark resembles RDJ's Ally McBeal character Larry. Anyone else see the similarities?

Honourable mentions: Amy Adams, the face of a thousand internet memes aka Ryan Gosling, the entire Les Miserables crew, Scarlet Johanson, Emma Stone, Nicole Kidman several times over and the cast of Chicago.


Aside from giving myself multiple earworms for the rest of the day, the upshot of the  hour or so I spent interwebing for this post was that I realised a) the early 2000s were all about the musical and b) I reckon it's a film genre we totes need to bring back *looks at Baz Luhrmann*

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