Movie Stars In Music Videos

by Carl Wiser

When Saoirse Ronan played Ed Sheeran's Galway Girl, she joined the list of movie stars moonlighting in music videos. Ronan got an Oscar nomination for her role in the 2015 film Brooklyn, which about 7 million people saw in theaters. The "Galway Girl" video has well over 200 million views on YouTube.

Top talent is easier to attract now that videos can rack up millions of views in a matter of hours, but in the lean years before YouTube and after MTV stopped playing them, getting a big star to act in one was more challenging.
Fans And Famous Friends

Michael Jackson could get the big names and often did. In 1991, Eddie Murphy starred in "Remember The Time" along with basketball star Magic Johnson and David Bowie's future wife, Iman. The same year, Jackson danced and dunked with Michael Jordan in "Jam." The car that he beat up is the real star of the "Black Or White" video, but Macaulay Culkin, George Wendt and Tyra Banks have supporting roles.

Showing up in a Tom Petty video is also a mark of honor. Johnny Depp, then a rising star, plays Eddie in "Into The Great Wide Open," with screen legend Faye Dunaway and an unknown Matt LeBlanc in supporting roles. Kim Basinger even agreed to play a corpse for Petty in "Mary Jane's Last Dance." But even Petty couldn't get Sharon Stone, his first choice for the part.

Scarlett Johansson added "starred in Bob Dylan video" to her resumé in 2006 for "When the Deal Goes Down," which is shot like a '50s home movie. She also starred alongside Justin Timberlake in his fiery video for "What Goes Around... Comes Around." Sarah Michelle Gellar played the Sour Girl in the 1999 Stone Temple Pilots video because she was a huge fan of the band (Scott Weiland wrote that one about his first wife, who was in the process of divorcing him). Annie Lennox coaxed John Malkovich and Hugh Laurie into her "Walking On Broken Glass" by making it an homage to their film Dangerous Liaisons. Broken Bells took a long shot asking Mad Men star Christina Hendricks to play a space traveller in "The Ghost Inside," but she went for it - turns out she's a fan.

Being associated with the hepcat Lenny Kravitz comes with a high cool factor, so he had no trouble getting Gina Gershon to play his girlfriend in the "Again" video, even though Kravitz spends the entire clip trying to ditch her for a waitress played by the model Teresa Lourenco.

Some stars will act in videos as favors for friends. Helena Bonham Carter helped out her pal Rufus Wainwright by playing a sexy librarian in "Out Of The Game." Sting got his pal and co-worker Melanie Griffith (they were both in the 1988 movie Stormy Monday) to play a French Maid in "All This Time."

Before They Were Stars

Some famous folks weren't so famous when they made music videos. Paula Abdul landed a pre-Matrix Keanu Reeves for "Rush, Rush," and eight-year-old Elijah Wood for "Forever Your Girl" (directed by David Fincher). Angelina Jolie, then 22, plays a burlesque dancer stalked by Mick Jagger in the Rolling Stones video for "Anybody Seen My Baby?" Aerosmith is less predatory toward Mila Kunis, then a teenager, who stars in "Jaded." Aerosmith had already launched another aspiring actress, Alicia Silverstone, to stardom by casting her in three of their videos.

In 1984, a young Courteney Cox danced with Bruce Springsteen in "Dancing In The Dark." Twelve years later, she was starring in Friends and dating Adam Duritz of Counting Crows when she starred in "A Long December."


Music videos are a great medium for models, since they can be seen but not heard. These days, hundreds of beautiful people teeming with Instagram followers make a good part of their living doing music videos, but it's always been harder to land a supermodel, who can earn far more on the runway or doing fashion shoots.

Fountains of Wayne convinced Rachel Hunter to play Stacy's Mom in their 2003 hit, where she's definitely got it goin' on. George Michael had a troupe of supermodels at his bidding. Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Tatjana Patitz sang his parts in "Freedom '90." Evangelista returned, along with Nadia Auermann, Estelle Lefébure and Tyra Banks, for "Too Funky" in 1992.

Another very supermodel-friendly act is Duran Duran, which got Campbell, Crawford, Eva Herzigova and Helena Christensen to appear in their 2010 video for "Girl Panic!" Back before MTV, they released a song about fashion models: "Girls On Film."

Few in the fashion industry would turn down Beyoncé, who used the trio of Chanel Iman, Joan Smalls and Jourdan Dunn in her video for "Yoncé/Partition." Taylor Swift has similar pull; her video for "Bad Blood" features Lily Aldridge, Gigi Hadid, Karlie Kloss, Martha Hunt, Cara Delevingne and... Cindy Crawford.

Kanye West, a friend of fashion, is also in good standing. His video for "Wolves" includes Dunn, Maria Borges, Kylie Jenner and... Cindy Crawford.

It also helps if the lead singer is dating the model. That's how Stephanie Seymour ended up in Guns N' Roses' "November Rain," and why Tawny Kitaen appeared in Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again," "Is This Love?," "Still Of The Night," and "The Deeper The Love."

Role Of A Lifetime

Another tactic is to offer a unique role. Christopher Walken spends the entire "Weapon Of Choice" video dazzling with his dance moves; Chevy Chase got to lip-synch "You Can Call Me Al" while Paul Simon backs him on penny whistle. This introduced a genre of videos where someone else sings the part. Elton John has done it twice: with Robert Downey Jr. in "I Want Love," and with Justin Timberlake as '70s Elton in "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore."

Bruce Willis got to play a bounty hunter with a big car and big gun tailing Gorillaz in "Stylo," his best role since Butch in Pulp Fiction. Matthew McConaughey got to revisit one of his favorite characters, Wooderson in Dazed and Confused, in the video for "Synthesizers" by Butch Walker and the Black Widows. Alright alright alright!

Before she played with cups, Anna Kendrick got superpowers in the LCD Soundsystem video for "Pow Pow." Charlize Theron kicks it Atomic Blonde in Brandon Flowers' "Crossfire," battling ninjas to save him.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays a stone-cold killer in The Shoes video for "Time to Dance" (where he's Nightcrawler creepy) and a hapless tennis player in Vampire Weekend's "Giving Up the Gun." He's also in the all-star cast of the Jamie Foxx video for "Blame It" along with Forest Whitaker, Ron Howard and Samuel L. Jackson. Counting Foxx, that's four Oscar winners plus Gyllenhaal, who was merely nominated. Blame that one on the The Notorious B.I.G. video for "One More Chance," where Mary J. Blige, Heavy D, Spike Lee and Queen Latifah all join the fun at a house party. Both videos were directed by Hype Williams.

Here's our full list of famous people in music videos.
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