But the actor who transitions from film to album is often greeted with indifference or disdain, and with good reason; Rhino Records has made a small fortune off its Golden Throats series, featuring the likes of Lorne Greene, Mae West, Bill Shatner and other croakers butchering pop mainstays. And the discount bins are replete with Don Johnson and Bruce Willis cutouts, which languish like stale smoke in a windowless bar. "As an actor who tries to become a singer, you're compared to, like, Mr. French or something," Thornton told the Observer. "It's ridiculous." Thornton was especially chagrined because musicians who move to the screen aren't so ridiculed. "Movies kinda look like rock videos to start with, and they can make the transition to big, fluffy commercial movies, because they're an easy place to fit in." But there is another reason why it's more readily accepted: There is a far longer list of success among musicians who become actors, chief among them Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Barbra Streisand, David Bowie, Cher, even Elvis Presley, whose cinematic career amounts to dashed promise.
And as IFC's new documentary, Crossover, attests, the list continues to grow: Filmmaker Steven Cantor has rounded up suspects usual (among them, Courtney Love, John Doe, Ice-T, Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakam), unusual (B-Real, Jewel, Mos Def, Gene Simmons) and usually ridiculed (Lance Bass) to discuss the move from behind the mike to in front of the camera. "An entertainer's an entertainer," says 'N Sync's Bass, star and producer of the forthcoming On the Line. (His prodigious inclusion here is bound to get creamy teens away from TRL, if for a moment.) Duran Duran's John Taylor insists an acting career is "part of the plan"; KISS' Simmons explains that movies are a way of extending the musician's often brief top-of-the-pops existence. Crossover is a bit of fun--its insights are occasionally eloquent, if obvious--as IFC kicks off its weeklong "Indierocks" screenings of movies starring (Heavy, Stranger Than Paradise) or about musicians (Sid & Nancy). And it's worth it for the honest remarks of Ice-T, whose filmography is spottier than a baby's diaper. "I've been in some really cool films," he says, his voice shifting from swagger to shame. "I've been in some real fuckin' dog, wack movies, but so has everybody else. The thing of it is, the trick of it all is, I don't give a fuck." Ladies and gentlemen, the artist at work.