Actors who surprised us with their singing voice
From Natalie Portman to Emma Stone, these talented stars hit all the right notes.
Natalie Portman is already getting Oscar buzz for her role as a pop star in "Vox Lux," which hits theaters this December. After her award-winning 2016 role as Jackie Kennedy, it seems there's no part she can't tackle.
And she's not the only one. These incredibly gifted performers are not only capable of pulling off complex characters, but also, when the occasion calls for it, giving them further life through song and dance. Below are just a few of the actors on both the small and silver screen that have surprised us with their ability to carry a tune and effortlessly twirl through a scene.
Natalie Portman in 'Vox Lux'
We already knew that Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman could dance. After all, she did win an Oscar for her balletic moves in 2010's "Black Swan." But who knew the Harvard-grad could also belt out with the best of them? In 2018's "Vox Lux," Portman plays a pop star with a troubled past. The 37-year-old Jerusalem native didn't use a stand-in and decided to sing all the music herself. She's already receiving rave reviews with The Telegraph calling her performance "outrageously enjoyable" and Variety declaring that the movie is “brilliant."
All of the songs in the film were written by pop phenom Sia. “It was incredible when I received the script to have the Sia songs with it," Portman recalled. "I remember getting the email with these attachments of the songs, and she sings them on the demos herself, so of course they’re just gorgeous, beautiful songs and really great pop songs. So I knew that it was realistic, because if you read a script and it says, ‘And then she writes the next pop song’ and you don’t see the song, you’re like, ‘Okay, good luck getting that.’ But it was clear from the beginning that it had this incredible music. And getting to record it was really fun.”
Emma Watson in 'Beauty and the Beast'
Best known for her portrayal of the book smart wizard Hermione Granger in the "Harry Potter" film franchise, British actress Emma Watson will soon be known to millions more as simply "Belle." The 28-year-old says the role of the singing/dancing iconic character in Disney's upcoming "Beauty and the Beast" was not something she approached lightly.
"I sing, so that’s really unexpected," she told the Telegraph. "I’ve never had to do that for a film role before, and I think people will be interested to see me do something very different like that. It gives me a different challenge, really. That’s terrifying in and of itself!"
In addition to voice lessons to better bring the musical's songs to life, Watson was also adamant about updating Belle's character. “We tried to tweak things to make her more proactive, and a bit less carried along by the story,” Watson told Entertainment Weekly, “and a bit more in charge of – and in control of – her own destiny.”
We're pretty sure the world – and a certain Wonder Woman – will approve.
Alona Tal in 'Leverage'
Israeli actress Alona Tal, best known for her roles on "Veronica Mars" and "Supernatural," surprised everyone with a guest star musical performance on the crime thriller series "Leverage."
According to American actor Christian Kane, who wrote the song "Thinking of You" that Tal duets on, finding an actress that could both sing and act is a massive challenge.
"She was amazing," Kane said in an interview. "It was going to be tough finding someone who can sing and act at the same time; it's one of the toughest things; I don't know a lot of people who can do it ... We all know her as a great actress, but the singing part was just a blessing in disguise."
Tal, who counts Israeli "Game of Thrones" actress Ania Bukstein as one of her closest friends, recently named two notable actresses she would love to co-star with one day.
"There are two women I truly love and admire in this industry – Meryl Streep and Natalie Portman," she shared. "Meryl can just do no wrong in my book and to work with her would be a dream. And Natalie, I haven’t had the chance to work with or meet, but I’m hoping that since we are both Israeli that maybe that would change sometime."
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in 'La La Land'
"La La Land," one of the most critically beloved films of 2016, as well a serious Oscar contender, danced and sang its way into the hearts of audiences largely on the talents of Canadian actor Ryan Gosling and American actress Emma Stone.
"Singing and dancing at the same time is a real situation," Stone, who previously starred in a Broadway revival of "Cabaret," told E! Online. "It was definitely nerve-wracking ... but it was galvanizing, you know? You get up there and you just really go for it. If you fail, you fall flat on your face and you learn."
As for Gosling, his start in Hollywood actually came as a teenager belting out tunes in a revival series of "The All-New Mickey Mouse Club" on The Disney Channel. With "La La Land," he found a way to recapture some of the magic of his youth and surprise audiences at the same time.
“My father put on talent shows," he told the Chicago Tribune. "So I’ve been around it, a lot of my life. But the stakes were much higher on this, partly because of the way [director] Damien [Chazelle] shot it, with the dance sequences done in long takes, or I should say many takes, but one shot.”
Hayden Panettiere on 'Nashville'
"Nashville," a musical drama television series currently entering its fifth season, features American actress Hayden Panettiere as a rising young country music sensation.
"I love singing and I love country music," she said in an interview. "I was a little nervous about some of the songs, as it's a very specific genre of country music, but over time I really got in to it."
While Panettiere's singing voice was a surprise to many, the actress has actually been engaged for quite some time in developing that side of her career. In addition to being nominated for a Grammy Award for her performance in the Pixar animated hit "A Bug's Life," she also recorded several songs for Disney films and released a 2008 single called "Wake Up Call." Not surprisingly, Panettiere's songs have been a big part of "Nashville's" success on the soundtrack charts.
"I always said that if I was going to do music again that I was going to do country music and this was before ['Nashville'] was even written or even a pipe dream," Panettiere told OTRC.com. "It's incredible. I love being able to do it. It is definitely getting to a level that I've not experienced before. I've tried my hand in it but the whole stage presence of it and the audience aspect of it. It's different. It is new."
Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman in 'Moulin Rouge'
Australian director Baz Luhrman's 2001 musical spectacle "Moulin Rouge" not only dazzled the eyes, but also rewarded the ears. Scottish actor Ewan McGregor and Australian star Nicole Kidman wowed audiences with vocal performances that sounded straight out of Broadway.
"I took one look at him and I heard him sing Elton John’s 'Your Song' and I just thought, oh my gosh, you’re going to be amazing in this film," Kidman recalled. "I must have heard him sing that to me well over 500 times and I still get tingles. That’s how powerful the song is. But it’s also how powerful Ewan is singing it."
After flexing her vocal chops in "Moulin," Kidman went on to record a duet with British pop star Robbie Williams, as well as sing in two more musical films, "Happy Feet" and "Nine." As for McGregor, in addition to starring in the singing/dancing throwback "Down with Love," the actor also spent two years in London's West End theater district as the lead in the classic musical "Guys and Dolls." The world will next hear his voice as the French candlestick Lumière in the highly anticipated live action remake of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast."
Richard Gere in 'Chicago'
After winning the hearts of audiences in such films as "Pretty Woman" and "First Knight," American actor Richard Gere surprised everyone by pulling off the singing/dancing/wise-cracking role of Billy Flynn in the 2002 musical "Chicago."
"I've done musicals when I was a kid," he told CBS. "It was kind of in my blood that I had done that. In terms of singing, we all kind of dove in and just did it."
While belting out "Chicago's" iconic musical numbers came naturally, dancing was an altogether different challenge.
"It was the tap dancing. That I didn't know," Gere added. "I mean, I was learning from scratch to do something that is – for anyone – is very difficult. And something I had to get together in a few months. So that was daunting. It was deeply humbling."
Amy Adams in 'Enchanted'
"I love singing, but I was always more of a chorus singer, I was not a soloist by any means, I was a dancer by trade," she told Cinema.com. "I worked in musical theater before I moved to Los Angeles, so I was very comfortable with the idea of singing, but [composers] Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz just raised the level so much in my mind, that I immediately got into the musical aspect of the film."
Since proving she's a triple-threat, Adams has gone on to sing in everything from duets with the Muppets to a starring role in a New York outdoor production of the musical "Into the Woods."
“I’ve had no formal training, and I can’t read music,” she told The New York Times of her turn in the Stephen Sondheim classic. “This is a huge challenge for me, and it’s very humbling to see how talented everyone is and how hard they work."
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