We have a sort of love affair with the legendary actors who we recognize for creating the icon roles in film. We expect them to be the consummate actors which we know and respect. We are surprised, however, when we discover that their talents far exceed their acting skills. After all, when their portrayals are so very good, we can have trouble distinguishing the actor from the character. Learning that our favorites have taken on directorial roles is another surprise, and another step away from our expectations.
It turns out that there are fine actors who have become exceptional directors. What’s quite head turning, however, is that some are also fine musicians in their own right….we just never knew. The vast capabilities of some of our best loved actors are incredible. Here are five with more than remarkable musical skills.
1. Anthony Hopkins
When Hopkins was interviewed in 2012, he noted that he has composed music his entire lifetime, and would have enjoyed attending music college. But, he thought he wasn’t clever enough in school, so he settled for becoming an actor instead. He composed Distant Star in 1986, and the piece reached the Number 75 position in the UK Singles Chart. He also composed The Masque of Time, which was performed by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in 2008. In 1990, Anthony Hopkins made his directorial debut with the film Dylan Thomas: Return Journey.
In 1996, He played the role of Ieuan Davies in the film August, which he also directed. The film is an adaptation of Uncle Vanya by Chekhov, but set in Wales. While Hopkins is primarily an actor we had to include him because of his musical gifts.
Here is the official trailer for August:
In 2007 he played the role of Felix Bonhoeffer in Slipstream, which he also wrote the screenplay (his first), directed and scored. The film is an experimental drama, which premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. When he was 27 years old, he composed a waltz titled And the Waltz Goes On. The year was 1964, and he didn’t hear it until André Rieu released an album named for Hopkins’ composition. It was subsequently premiered in Vienna by Rieu’s orchestra.
Here is And the Waltz Goes On:
Hopkins released an album including nine of his film scores and original works in 2012. The city of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra performed his pieces on the album, which is titled Composer. Hopkins named one of the pieces Margam in honor of his hometown in Wales. The town is a suburb located close to Port Talbot, Glamorgan.
Here is the classic album titled Composer:
It is amazing to think that the distinguished actor whose extensive filmography is filled with awards and praise should find the time to exercise his creative passions. But, he has, and the multi-faceted talents he possesses are indeed impressive.
2. Robert Rodriquez
Robert Rodriquez is an American filmmaker, musician and screenwriter from San Antonio, Texas. He is of Mexican-American heritage and traces his love for films to the time when his father bought a VCR with a camera. It was one of the first, and it caught his interest. He started out filming his school’s football games, but his artistic style wasn’t appreciated, and his career was discouraged for a while. His first success was his action film El Mariachi, which cost only $7,000 to make, and which won the Audience Award at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival. He’d studied guitar and piano since he was young, and he scored El Mariachi with equipment from Radio Shack in his garage. He like the idea of having a musical character, and exploring the various facets of traditional Mexican musical artistry.
Here’s the official trailer for El Mariachi:
Rodriquez’s talent for writing, directing and producing his own films extends to the additional functions of:
- Camera operator
- Steadicam operator,
- Director of photography
- Visual effects supervisor
- Production designer
- Sound editor
For this reason, his nickname is “the one-man film crew”. He often abbreviates his credits to read simply “shot, chopped and scored by Robert Rodriquez”. That is how he was credited for Once Upon a Time in Mexico. He views creativity as the solution to problems, rather than money. Though his filmography includes hits such as Sin City, Predators, Desperado, and Spy Kids, and he has won numerous prestigious awards for his work, he still views experience and his work with colleagues such as George Lucas and Quentin Tarantino as particularly valuable.
Here is the main theme for Sin City:
3. John Carpenter
John Carpenter has made a distinguished career as the director of horror films. Though many of his films failed initially, they went on to become cult classics in the science fiction, action and horror genres. His work has gone on to become an integral part of popular culture, and his influence as both a filmmaker and composer of film scores is considered notable. He has undeniably earned his titles of The Horror Master and The Master of Horror for his well-known films. He is proficient on guitar, bass, piano and synthesizer and has an extensive discography of studio and remix albums. He toured for the first time as a musician due to his Lost Themes and Death Waltz reissues and albums. His work with apocalyptic themes is renowned. Halloween has been acknowledged by the Library of Congress of the United States and become part of the National Film Registry.
Here is Lost Themes:
Here is Halloween performed by Carpenter himself:
4. Clint Eastwood
Over 7 decades, from the 1950s to the current 2010s, Clint Eastwood has been active in the film industry. He has had starring roles in 43 films, and his work as director, producer, actor, and composer is legendary, with many awards and nominations to his credit. He has performed in films, written and composed songs, created the original scores for many. Here are most:
- Paint Your Wagon
- The Gauntlet
- Bronco Billy
- Any Which Way You Can
- Honkytonk Man
- City Heat
- Heartbreak Ridge
- A Perfect World
- The Bridges of Madison County
- Absolute Power
- True Crime
- Mystic River (film score)
- Million Dollar Baby (film score)
- Flags of Our Fathers (film score)
- Grace is Gone (film score)
- Changeling (film score)
- Gran Torino (film score, wrote and performed credits song)
- Hereafter (film score)
- J. Edgar (film score)
Eastwood enjoys bebop, jazz, country and western, blues, classic, and classic rhythm and blues. He plays piano and produced an album titled Cowboy Favorites in 1959. He holds an honorary Doctor of Music degree awarded by the Berklee College of Music. Emperor Akihito of Japan bestowed him with the Order of the Rising Sun based on his participation in enhancing Japan-United States relations. He also holds an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters bestowed by U.S.C.
Here he is singing and playing the piano on Rawhide:
Here is the Mystic River theme he composed:
5. Charlie Chaplin
Though Charlie Chaplin because famous as the Tramp during the silent film era, his career spanned over 75 years. He was known as an actor, director, screenwriter, producer, editor, and composer. Because he had a passion for music, he taught himself how to play the cello, violin, and piano. He carried the violin and cello with him everywhere, and practiced often. When films adopted sound technology, he composed the synchronized orchestral soundtrack for City Lights in 1931. From that point onward, he composed the film scores for all of his films, including silent features and short films. He wasn’t musically trained, couldn’t read music, and depended upon professional musicians to help him create his own scores. He would improvise his ideas for his film scores, singing or playing the piano to demonstrate to his collaborative composers his wishes. His popular tunes emerged from his scores. Included were Smile, which became a Nat King Cole hit in 1954, This is My Song, which Petula Clark performed, and Terry’s Theme, which was made popular by singer Jimmy Young in 1952 as “Eternally”. Chaplin won the 1973 Academy Award for Limelight. It received Best Original Score when it was re-released.
Here’s Smile with Nat King Cole:
Here’s the Limelight theme from the film: