10 Musicians and the Actors Who Were Born to Play Them


Whoever cast Al Pacino as record producer/songwriter/murderer Phil Spector in HBO’s upcoming biopic is a genius. Even though the pair aren’t exactly body doubles (they are both relatively small men), it’s an exciting choice. Pacino has made a career out of playing dark, bizarre, and morally complex characters, from Sonny Wortzik in Dog Day Afternoon and Bobby in The Panic in Needle Park to Angels in America‘s Roy Cohn and Jack Kevorkian. We can’t wait to see what he’ll do with the role of one of pop culture’s greatest contradictions — a man who had the capacity to both make beautiful music and kill. The news of Pacino’s casting got us thinking about other musicians and the actors who were born to play them. Ten of our picks are after the jump.

Wayne Coyne and Sam Trammell

Are we the only ones who have noticed how much True Blood co-star Sam Trammell resembles Wayne Coyne? There’s the face shape, the cheekbones, the shaggy-yet-dignified salt-and-pepper hair. But that isn’t all they have in common: Coyne grew up in Oklahoma and, despite his adventures in psychedelic oddness, has always had the air of a Southern gentleman. Trammell grew up in New Orleans and West Virginia and is putting his knowledge of the South to good use playing Bon Temps’s sweetest (and most troubled) barkeep. We think it would be a good fit.

Patti Smith and Charlotte Gainsbourg

Smith and Gainsbourg certainly look something alike, with their long, thin faces, well-defined eyebrows, and pale skin. But what really makes Charlotte a great pick to play Patti is that she’s a serious musician as well as an actress, with the intelligence and bohemian caché to pull off one of counterculture’s greatest heroes. As we mentioned in this post, Smith — a notorious Francophile — would probably enjoy being portrayed by Serge Gainsbourg’s daughter.

Serge Gainsbourg and Javier Bardem

Speaking of the late Serge Gainsbourg, although he is synonymous with Paris and Javier Bardem is among the world’s most famous Spanish actors, we think the pair have a lot in common. Physically, they both have a certain swarthy, jowly mystery about them. And Bardem has made a name for himself by portraying characters that are often dark and psychologically complex — which may come in handy in portraying a genius who nonetheless nursed a lifelong drinking problem and had a sense of humor so lewd and twisted that he famously released a duet with Charlotte titled “Lemon Incest.”

Mick Jagger and Peter Gallagher

It’s tough to cast anyone in the role of a rock icon who has been cool for about 50 years now. But our pick to play Mick Jagger is Peter Gallagher, who definitely has the pouty lips, heavy eyebrows, and carefully touseled hair for the role. We also think that the man who played Sandy Cohen has the enduring je ne sais quoi — yes, part of it is sex appeal, but there’s some more undefinable star quality in there, too — to pull off Jagger.

Kim Gordon and Michelle Pfeiffer

We’ll admit that this one sounds odd at first blush. The queen of indie rock played by Catwoman? Just hear us out for a moment. While Pfeiffer’s look might be a bit more purposely polished, she and Gordon do share a certain Teutonic beauty. Over the years, what has made Gordon so cool is her icy, seemingly distanced vocal delivery. In her best roles, Pfeiffer shares this mysterious coldness.

Win Butler and Devon Sawa

You probably haven’t hear too much about teen heartthrob Devon Sawa in recent years, but it seems like he’s been trying to make a comeback in recent years, turning up for guest and recurring roles on Nikita and NCIS. We think the perfect part to revive his career would that of Win Butler — mostly because, the first time we saw the Arcade Fire, we were like, “Wait, is that Devon Sawa?” Hey, they’re both Canadian! Maybe they share a great-great-great-grandparent.

Aretha Franklin and Jennifer Hudson

As you may have read, three actresses are currently vying for the role of Aretha Franklin in an upcoming biopic: Halle Berry, Fantasia, and Jennifer Hudson. As far as we’re concerned, the choice is obvious. Although Franklin has expressed a preference for Berry, we just can’t see her as the Queen of Soul. For one thing, she looks nothing like Aretha. She also isn’t a singer. Fantasia, meanwhile, may have a great voice, but she’s also kind of a mess and doesn’t really resemble Franklin, either. The clear pick is her fellow American Idol alum, Jennifer Hudson — a fantastic singer who won a slew of awards for her part in Dreamgirls and could definitely be styled to look something like Franklin in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

Robert Smith and Johnny Depp

If you were to compare the two of them today, it would be hard to find a resemblance. (Of course, Sean Penn, who usually looks nothing like Smith, either, appears eerily similar to the Cure frontman in his newest movie, This Must Be the Place.) The important thing to note is that Depp has pretty much been in training to portray Smith for the past two decades, since he appeared in Edward Scissorhands and became Tim Burton’s gothy muse. And if he’d have to undergo a bit of a physical transformation to be believable as Smith ca. 2011, well, he is a method actor.

Neko Case and Amy Adams

The most obvious attribute Neko Case and Amy Adams have in common is their long, wavy, glossy, red hair. But their porcelain skin tones and somewhat round face shapes deepen the resemblance. The singer and the actress also share an immediate likability — they both seem like down-to-earth ladies you could have a beer with. Bonus: Adams also has some respectable singing chops, which she showed off in 2007’s Enchanted.

Tommy Chong and Willie Nelson

Tommy Chong and Willie Nelson are clearly kindred spirits — long-haired counterculture icons with a fondness for bandannas. Of course, they are also both well known for their love of (and advocacy for, and the time they’ve served in connection to) marijuana. Come on, Hollywood: There is not a single stoner in the world who wouldn’t go see this movie at midnight the day it opened. Make it happen.