The athlete to actor pipeline is real. Many popular sports stars go onto star in films and some of them even have genuine acting careers. While the line between actor and musician is and always has been blurry, the line between athletic person and actor is getting more blurry by the day.
More and more athletes move into Hollywood and they're also doing it more successfully. Here are a few of the top examples.
Dave Bautista: Former athlete with genuine acting ability
Dave Bautista is a former WWE star, but pretty soon he'll be known only as an actor. He's taken quite the career turn and proved that he has real talent. The Guardians of the Galaxy star has anchored the comedy of those and other Marvel films since 2014, but he's also got an incredible dramatic side.
Viewers saw a little bit of it in a brief role in Blade Runner 2049, where he gave his role the brevity and depth it demanded. Bautista once shared that he hoped he would one day be remembered for his versatility.
"She said, 'Lee's amazing, Lee [Pace] can do anything.' I can remember the way she said that with such confidence, and I want people to say that about me. I want people to speak to me in those regards: 'Dave can do anything,' and that's what I want to be my legacy. Not even a specific character, I just want to leave behind a legacy that Dave could do anything, he did any genre."
Dave Bautista via TooFab
He would also star in the M. Night Shyamalan thriller Knock at the Cabin. The movie wasn't a hit critically, but Bautista's acting drew praise.
Juancho Hernangomez and Anthony Edwards: Actors to watch?
Netflix hasn't always put out the best movies, but they tried it once more with Adam Sandler and a bunch of basketball players. That's a huge risk in and of itself. Sandler can act, as he's proven a few times, but NBA stars? What made Netflix think they could carry a film?
With Hustle, two NBA stars acted opposite each other as rivals- Juancho Hernangomez and Anthony Edwards. Edwards, the runner-up to Rookie of the Year in 2020, was the antagonist to Hernangomez's undiscovered gem.
Both brought real acting ability to the screen. Hernangomez played a struggling basketball player balancing his real life responsibilities and fears with a dream of playing in the NBA.
Edwards was his bitter rival, and he played the role so well it made audiences wonder if he was this cruel in real life. Neither are probably going to foray into Hollywood full time right now, but either one probably could.
Ray Allen is still Jesus Shuttleworth
Ray Allen is a retired NBA star and he hasn't done much in the film industry. However, in 1998, he starred opposite Denzel Washington in He Got Game. Washington is a titan of industry and many believe him to be one of the best actors of all time.
Allen was up for the challenge and that alone proves his acting mettle. To further cement that, Allen went on to play and be an all-time three-point shooter in the NBA for 17 more seasons after the movie. Nevertheless, he's still known as Jesus Shuttleworth to this day.
It certainly helped that the role was similar to Allen's expertise and it drew on things he had experienced, but acting alongside Washington successfully is a feat nonetheless.
Dwayne Johnson: Athlete to movie star
There are real arguments that Dwayne the Rock Johnson can't really act, but the former WWE star has charisma on screen at the very least. It's true that he often plays very similar characters, but that's not a problem for Ryan Reynolds, so it's not one for Johnson either.
In terms of former athletic stars who went into acting, no one has had as many big movies as Johnson. The former wrestler has starred in:
- Black Adam
- DC League of Super-pets
- Jungle Cruise
- Jumani: Welcome to the Jungle
- Jumanj: The Next Level
- Furious Seven
- Pain & Gain
- Tooth Fairy
- Get Smart
Johnson has been in a lot of major movies and that's not going to change any time soon. He may not be winning any awards, but he's got one of the best careers of a former athlete in this industry.
Tom Brady: Acting future?
Tom Brady is arguably the greatest athlete to ever play football, but could he have a future in acting? He's already made a few forays into the industry and could have more on the way.
He made a cameo in Ted 2 and was the subject of the recent film 80 for Brady. He hasn't really tested his acting chops in anything yet, but the groundwork for a future career in Hollywood is certainly there.
John Cena: The best former wrestler to act?
John Cena is arguably the best actor that used to be a wrestler. The former athlete has established himself as a genuinely good actor with range. The actor come a long way from being the father on the Fred movies.
He's been in major franchises like Dwayne Johnson has, even starring in F9: The Fast Saga in the franchise Johnson joined a few years prior. He's also been in the DCEU like Johnson, with the latter playing Black Adam.
In that universe, Cena was Peacemaker. His turn in The Suicide Squad (2021) showed his comedic timing, but he offered a more dramatic portrayal in the spin-off show.
He also starred in Blockers, Daddy's Home 2, The Wall and Trainwreck. He's got a nice career for himself and has the brightest future in Hollywood.
Several athletes have moved from a sport to the set, and these are so far the best of the best. Which sports stars will join them in the future?