In today’s world, people don’t tend to stick to one profession- athletes and musicians dabble in acting; actors dabble in music. However, while this leads to many many cringe-worthy attempts at crossing the professional boundaries. Some do manage to find success. Today, I am talking about five athletes who found success in acting. Criteria for this is that the athlete must have appeared in at least 3 films or at least ten episodes of a television series and at least one of these must have accrued a Rotten Tomatoes score of at least 60%
- OJ Simpson (NFL): The now infamous Orenthal James Simpson was born and raised in San Francisco. After a rough childhood and teenage years, including time in prison for association for a gang called the Persian Warriors, he found his drive in American Football. Awarded a scholarship to Southern California, joining in his junior year after two years at a community college. As a running back, he scored 13 touchdowns in his first season and was nominated for Heisman Trophy, the highest accolade for a player at the college level. This athletic excellence led him to be No. 1 NFL draft pick of 1969, picked up by the Buffalo Bills. Over the next eight years, OJ made 5 Pro Bowl appearances and is widely considered to have been one of the main reasons behind Buffalo’s moderate success in the 1970s. After he retired from football in 1978, OJ began to star in more and more bit roles in films and television. His big break came in 1988’s The Naked Gun: Files from the Police Squadalongside Leslie Nielsen. That would spawn two sequels, between which OJ would also star in the football drama First & Ten: The Championship. For some unknown reason, OJ’s last major acting role was in a TV movie called Frogmenin 1994, almost as if something would reshape the way people saw OJ the following year…After the Brown-Goldman murder trial, OJ largely retired from the public eye, again appearing in a few bit parts until his arrest and impris0nment for armed robbery and false imprisonment in 2008. Fun fact- OJ was turned down as a candidate for the lead role in The Terminator because he was considered to be “too nice”.
- Terry Crews (NFL): Terry Crews was born in Flint, Michigan and was considered a talented artist. After high school and a stint at the Interlochen Centre for the Arts (as well as working as a court room sketch artist for a Flint based media group), he was given an athletic scholarship to Western Michigan University (WMU). With the WMU Broncos, Crews won a division championship and would go on to be drafted by the LA Rams in the 11th round of the 1991 NFL draft. After playing 6 seasons of football across five different teams, Crews retired and began to pursue acting. His first major role was a ‘T-Money’ in the pilot of the failed Gladiatorsrip-off, Battle Dome. After years of bit roles, including the President of the United States inIdiocracy, Crews’ big break came as Julius, father of the main character on Everybody Hates Chris. This led to a few more TV spots before his next major success as Herbert Love on cult series Arrested Development. He lent his voice to video game Saints Row IV in 2013 as former Third Row Saints leader and current Presidential Chief of Staff Benjamin King before taking on a number of smaller roles once more. He can currently be seen as not-so-tough guy and former football player Sgt. Terry Jeffords on police comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
- Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (NCAA, CFL, WWE): Dwayne ‘The Rock’ ‘Franchise Viagra’ Johnson started his athletic career as a Defensive Tackle for the University of Miami Hurricanes, with whom he won a collegiate national championship with in 1991. After graduating in 1995, he joined CFL team, the Calgary Stampeders, but was cut soon after the start of the season. This led him to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and join the world of wrestling. The Rock has been active as a wrestler in three stints since 1995. He was a popular figure in the wrestling world and garnered a large following. In the acting world, Johnson would follow a number of small roles, including roles in The Mummy Returns, The Scorpion King and Doombefore beginning to garner the title of ‘Franchise Viagra’ for his ability to breathe life into dying franchises. This is seen in GI Joe, the Fast & Furious films. He has a lot on his plate according to IMDB, with two sequels to Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, a sequel to San Andreas, another Fast & Furious movie, and the lead in the Baywatchreboot as well as the lead villain role in DC’s Shazam! Safe to say that we’ll be seeing Johnson for a long time to come.
- Andre the Giant (WWF): Starting out as a French wrestler, Andre is best known for his undefeated wrestling streak between 1973 and 1987 as well as a feud with Hulk Hogan. As an actor, his time was sadly cut short due to his death at the age 0f 46 but it he is well remained for an uncredited role in Conan the Destroyer, his hilarious performance in The Princess Brideas well as a cameo performance in Micki & Maude. His speciality was big lumbering, passive giants. His characters were often portrayed as being misunderstood and actually good people at heart.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger: The Austrian bodybuilder and former Governor of California is probably one of the most famous examples on an athlete finding success in acting. His first role was as Hercules in the 1969 film Hercules in New Yorkand he would continue in bit parts for the next decade, winning serval Mr Olympia titles in the interlude (consecutive wins between 1970 and 1975) before landing his first major lead as Conan in Conan the Barbarian and its sequel, Conan the Destroyer. You might not remember the 1984 sequel, Conan the Destroyer, as a little film starring Arnie called The Terminatorcame out, showcasing his signature wooden acting in a whole 16 lines of dialogue. The late 80s then became Arnie’s golden era with the release of Commando, Predator, The Running Man and Twins. His success followed into the 90s with Total Recall, Kindergarten Cop, Terminator 2 and Last Action Hero before the late 90s gave way to less acclaimed Arnie films such as Jingle all the way, Batman & Robin and End of Days. The 2000s are largely known for Arnie’s surprise political career, where he served as California’s Governor between 2003 and 2011 (the second actor to do so after Ronald Reagan), but it is also known for the two terrible Terminator films and appearances in the first two Expendables movies. The 2010s followed a similar path with a few Arnie roles, the standout performance being his lead in 2015’s independent film Maggie, which Arnie did for free and gives a very good performance in.
What are some of your favourite athletes turned actors? Let me know!