In the new movie 'Country Strong,' which hits theaters nationwide on Jan. 7, our old pal Gwyneth Paltrow once again shows off some serious pipes -- something she last did on the big screen ten years ago in 'Duets,' which helped 'Crusin',' her vocal team-up with Huey Lewis spend a week at number one on the Adult Contemporary music chart.
Playing a troubled country star, Paltrow belts out the film's title song with gusto. But she's not the only movie star to have vocal chops -- or a hit single, for that matter. Here are some other actors who also have given their fans the gift of song, for better or worse.
When a cover of 'Bette Davis Eyes' recorded by 'Gossip Girl' actress Meester surfaced in 2008, fans were shocked that the petite brunette could actually croon. A year later, Paltrow's 'Country Strong' co-star released her first single, 'Somebody to Love,' featuring musician Robin Thicke; this followed her guest appearance on 'Good Girls Go Bad,' a 2009 summer hit by Cobra Starship. On the 'Country Strong' soundtrack, she covers Rascal Flatts' 'Words I Couldn't Say.' Though most people know Meester's 'Gossip Girl' co-star Taylor Momsen for her band the Pretty Reckless, Meester is the one showing off her vocal range on the big screen.
In the late 1980s, 'Die Hard' actor Bruce Willis had some success as a pop-blues singer with his debut album, 'The Return of Bruno.' (Burning question: Where had Bruno gone in the first place?) The lead single, 'Respect Yourself,' was a modest hit, but subsequent stabs at musical glory didn't fare as well. Still, Willis hasn't exactly been resting his voice, as the actor still gets on stage when he can -- such as in the video below.
Ethan Hawke had four songs on the soundtrack for the 1994 movie 'Reality Bites,' in which he played Troy, Winona Rider's sexy musician love interest. On top of a cover of the Violent Femmes' track 'Add It Up,' the 'Before Sunset' actor also lended his throaty vocals to 'I'm Nothin'.' As if his character wasn't hot enough, Hawke's voice is actually pretty great.
Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. is known recently for his charming portrayal of Tony Stark in the 'Iron Man' franchise and for overcoming his troubled Hollywood past. But did you know the man can sing? Okay, so he never put out an album or had a hit single, but let's just add "singer" to the list of reasons Downey is super sexy.
The 'Gladiator' actor released 'Other Ways of Speaking' in 2003 with his band Russell Crowe and 30 Odd Foot of Grunts. The album didn't produce any hits but it did include this nice cover of Johnny Cash's 'Folsom Prison Blues.'
Dennis Quaid and his band -- the aptly-named Dennis Quaid and the Sharks -- describe themselves as "rock and roll with country soul." Quaid, brother of beleaguered actor Randy Quaid, is known for 'The Big Easy' and 'The Parent Trap' remake. The Sharks have never put out an album but the band does perform regularly.
Minnie Driver is best known as an actress for her roles in film's like 'Good Will Hunting,' but early in her career, she was signed to Island Records as the frontwoman of a band called Puff, Rocks and Brown. In 2000, she went back to singing, with the release of an album titled 'Everything I've Got in My Pocket,' and she performed at SXSW. In 2007, she released her second album, 'Seastories.'
In 2008, actress Scarlett Johansson released an album with one original song and ten cover versions of Tom Waits songs entitled 'Anywhere I Lay My Head'; it recieved mixed reviews but sold well. In 2009, Johansson covered Jeff Buckley's "Last Goodbye" for the soundtrack of her film 'He's Just Not That Into You,' and she and musician Pete Yorn also released the duets album 'Break Up' in 2009. Johannsson has said she hopes to someday release a full album of original songs.
Juliette Lewis, known for her roles in 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape?' and 'Natural Born Killers' started her band The Licks in 2004 as an outlet for grungy hard rock -- and Lewis is a frontwoman who can certainly rock out. The band split, however, in 2009, after touring festivals internationally and releasing the album 'You're Speaking My Language.' Lewis's new band, the New Romantiques, released the album 'Terra Incognita' this year.
The whimsical hipster-chic actress Zooey Deschanel is known for roles in 'Almost Famous' and '(500) Days of Summer,' but she can also sing with the best of them. A few years ago, Deschanel teamed up with indie singer/songwriter M. Ward to form the duo She & Him, and they have released two albums to date. Ward approached her to record songs after hearing her sing in the film 'Elf.'
As a solo artist, Murphy had a hit single in 1985 with 'Party All the Time' (which was produced by Rick James), from his debut album, 'How Could It Be.' In 2004, VH-1 and Blender voted 'Party All the Time' number seven on their joint list of the "50 Worst Songs of All-Time." Murphy released a second album, 'Love's Alright,' in the early 1990s, and performed several songs in the 'Shrek' film franchise.
Steven Seagal's songs have been featured in several of his movies (such as 'Fire Down Below' and 'Ticker') but, in 2005, he released his first album, 'Songs from The Crystal Cave.' The soundtrack to Seagal's 2005 film 'Into the Sun' features several songs from the album. One of his album tracks, "Girl, It's Alright", was also released as a single. Seagal's second album, titled 'Mojo Priest,' was released in April 2006.
Kevin Costner as a country star? It wasn't a movie role. It was real life. In 2008, Costner and his band Modern West released a country album, 'Untold Truths.' Three singles ('Superman 14,' 'Long Hot Night' and 'Backyard') were released to radio, although none charted. A second album, entitled 'Turn It On,' was released in February 2009.