For every Cher, who took home an Oscar for 'Moonstruck,' there's a Madonna in 'Swept Away,' or a Mariah Carey in 'Glitter,' or a Jessica Simpson in 'Major Movie Star' or 'Employee of the Month' or 'Blonde Ambition' ... You get the idea.
If it seems like the odds are stacked against the 'Born This Way' singer, it's because they are. Pop stars have lined up decades of junkie vanity vehicles, and film-going audiences are far from forgetful. So, before Gaga signs on the dotted line, we've rounded up a few case studies of pop stars who have attempted to make the leap to the silver screen for her to check out and take notes from. You're welcome, Mother Monster.
When it comes to pop stars and acting, Cher is the gold standard. Twice nominated for the Oscar, she took home the prize for 'Moonstruck.' (Ed note: We should be saying she is a three-time nominee. Cher was famously snubbed by the Academy for her turn in 1985's 'Mask,' which earned her Best Actress honors at the Cannes Film Festival.) Her list of credits is shorter than you'd think, but it includes box office hits ('The Witches of Eastwick,' 'Mermaids'), critical favorites ('Silkwood,' 'Moonstruck') and art house fair ('Tea With Mussolini').
Lesson: Learn From the Best
When Cher won her Oscar, real-life friend Meryl Streep, who was nominated against her, leapt to her feet to cheer the diva on. During her acceptance speech, Cher said, "I also would like to thank Mary Louise Streep, who I feel so unbelievable that I did my first movie with her, and now I was nominated with her and I just feel really thankful." Cher has spoken often about learning how to act from watching Streep and has singled out the lessons she'd learned from co-stars like Susan Sarandon, Olympia Dukakis and Sam Elliott as the reason she is so good on screen. Pop stars sometimes have inflated egos, but as Cher exemplifies, to be the best at a craft that isn't necessarily your own, you need to set that ego aside and pay attention to the pros around you. Some day you might be rewarded with an Oscar.
The Queen of Pop is probably the most notorious offender when it comes to big-name singers making some seriously bad movies, from 'Body of Evidence' and 'The Next Best Thing' to 'Four Rooms' and, most notoriously, 'Swept Away.' Her Madgesty has "won" nine Razzie Awards, including Worst Actress of the Century (seriously).
She's so famously bad that people often forget that she used to be kind of good. Yes, there was a brief period in the late-80s and early-90s when Madonna turned in a series of pretty good performances in some decent films. She was a scene stealer in 'Desperately Seeking Susan' and 'Dick Tracy,' which played to her strengths as a club kid and singer, respectively, and held her own admirably alongside Oscar winners Geena Davis and Tom Hanks in Penny Marshall's hit baseball flick 'A League of Their Own.' She even won a Golden Globe for 'Evita.'
Lesson: Lose Yourself in the Role
One complaint that surfaces again and again when film critics take a good, hard look at a Madonna performance is that they are unable to get past the fact that she's Madonna. Whether it's the enormity of her fame or her limited abilities as an actress (or both), people have a hard time forgetting that they are watching arguably the world's biggest pop star, even when she's trying her hardest to be someone else. It goes without saying that this is a fatal flaw when it comes to establishing a career in film.
3. Justin Timberlake
Timberlake's rep as a thespian got a major boost from his acclaimed work in 'The Social Network.' Señor 'Sexyback' was the embodiment of Napster founder Sean Parker and earned some Oscar buzz (the film landed eight nominations and three wins) for his efforts. He now has four different films in various states of production, including two hotly anticipated comedies hitting theaters this summer, 'Bad Teacher' and 'Friends With Benefits,' and fall's action flick 'Now' with Amanda Seyfried.
While there's no question Timberlake has made a lot of headway in the acting world, he hasn't really ventured too far outside of his comfort zone. He's at his best playing swoon-worthy charmers be it in comedy ('Teacher') or drama ('Network'), and he seems to know it.
Lesson: Play to Your Strengths
Most pop stars have rather outsized personalities and that's not a bad thing. Since not every actor can be Meryl Streep, it seems a smart move to stick to roles that remind audiences why they liked you in the first place. If you are a good-looking and charismatic person (like Timberlake and Gaga), you might want to start your acting career by playing good-looking and charismatic characters.
4. Mariah Carey
Carey's first attempt at a lead role famously went down in flames. 'Glitter' was, well, one of the worst movies ever. But hey, it happens. Just about every major actor has had a film misfire, from Hollywood legend Warren Beatty ('Ishtar') to 'American Idol's' foremost diva Jennifer Lopez ('Gigli'). Looking to rewrite how she'd be perceived as an actress, Carey took a small role in the Oscar-nominated film 'Precious.' She was virtually unrecognizable as a social worker with a big heart and a little mustache, and won the breakthrough performance prize at the Palm Springs Film Festival and earned a Screen Actors Guild nomination with her 'Precious' castmates for Best Performance by the Cast of a Motion Picture.
Lesson: Crawl Before You Walk
Carey did herself no favors by jumping straight into a lead role. There's a reason people go to acting school, and if you are going to skip the classroom, it might be wise to align yourself with a talented director (as Carey found in 'Precious''s Lee Daniels) who can teach you a thing or two about the craft of acting before you take on bigger (and meatier) parts.
5. Britney Spears
Guest appearances on 'Glee,' 'Will & Grace' and 'How I Met Your Mother' aside, Spears has exactly one film credit, 2002's 'Crossroads.' The film was a critical and commercial disappointment, and marked the beginning and, for now, the end of Spears' film career.
Lesson: If You Don't Have It, Walk Away Before Things Get Embarrassing
Spears' talents are oft debated, but one thing about the star is not in contention: She and her team may be among the smartest business minds in entertainment. 'Crossroads' was billed as Spears' big film debut, and at the time it seemed like it would be the first of many films starring the pop diva. But when it flopped, her team smartly backed off. Let that be a lesson, Gaga. If things don't pan out on your first try, you might want to seriously consider whether you should be in the game in the first place.