15 actors you didn’t know could sing

20 September 2018, 18:00

Emma Stone
Emma Stone. Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Did you know Kate Winslet can sing? Aware that Emma Watson could hold a tune? Here are some famous faces you didn’t know had pipes (plus just one who had to fake it)…

From Meryl Streep to Eddie Redmayne, some of Hollywood’s most sought-after actors can also hold a really strong tune. Here are all the actors you didn’t know could sing...

  1. Emma Stone

    Emma Stone first made her vocal talents known to the world in La La Land when she played Mia, an aspiring actress who falls in love with struggling jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling). And the reason she got the part? The directors saw her singing as Sally Bowles in a 12-week run of Cabaret on Broadway. And she smashed it, obviously.

  2. Kate Winslet

    Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet once recorded a song called ‘What If’ for the animated film Christmas Carol: The Movie in 2001. She also released it as a music video, and the song reached No. 1 in Austria, Belgium and Ireland, as well as winning the 2002 OGAE Song Contest. G’wan Kate.

  3. Meryl Streep

    Meryl Streep studied opera as a teenager, but, by her own admission, she found it ‘boring’, preferring ‘cheerleading and boys’. So, she quit and started smoking.

    Meryl’s singing voice crept up on her again much later in her career, when she landed parts in Mamma Mia!, Into the Woods and the tale of a confident but less-than-talented opera singer, Florence Foster Jenkins. Her rendition of the 'Queen of the Night' aria is quite something…

  4. Patrick Swayze

    Sure, the man’s got moves – but did you know Patrick Swayze also sang ‘She’s Like the Wind’ on the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing? The actor co-wrote the ballad with Stacy Widelitz in 1984 and was the main singer on the track. It then became a worldwide hit and it’s still played on several radio stations today.

  5. Gwyneth Paltrow

    Gwyneth Paltrow’s performance as a country singer in Country Strong is pretty stellar. Her voice is vulnerable to suit the fragility of her character, and her musical storytelling abilities are spot-on.

    Gwyneth also appeared in a few episodes of Glee, singing ‘Forget You’ by Cee Lo Green and Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide’.

  6. Renée Zellwegger

    Renée Zellwegger did her own singing in Chicago – but apparently, she didn’t actually realise she’d have to. Even the crew didn’t know she could sing until she got up on stage as Roxie Hart. “It was fantastically liberating, I can’t even tell you,” she said in an interview.

    Here's Renée in her younger years, singing ‘This Land is Your Land’ by Bob Dylan for the 2010 road movie, My Own Love Song.

  7. Tom Hiddleston

    In 2015, Hollywood heartthrob Tom Hiddleston learned to sing for I Saw the Light, a biopic about country music legend Hank Williams. Despite having zero previous training in the singing department – aside from a few hymns at school – the actor yodels and croons his way through the movie.

    He said in the film’s production notes: “Rodney [my vocal coach]… would say, ‘Tommy boy, I can hear your English choirboy comin’ out now. You been singin’ too many hymns at those English schools. You’re right on top of the beat. You gotta hang back off it. Just glide behind it.’ It was an education in the blues.”

  8. Reese Witherspoon

    Reese Witherspoon grew up around country music in Nashville, where she spent her childhood – so when it came to playing country singer June Carter Cash in Walk the Line (2005), she got the voice spot-on.

    It was pop singing, however, that Reese struggled with. For the role of Rosita the pig in Sing!, she had to sing Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it Off’, which she found ‘really hard’ in comparison.

  9. James Corden

    The world has heard his voice alongside the stars of the pop world in a series of viral Carpool Karaoke videos – and his confidence harmonising with Christina Aguilera and Adele's huge voices is pretty admirable.

    But it’s in this Into the Woods interview in which James sings ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ that his vocals really shine:

  10. Emily Blunt

    Emily Blunt is a REALLY good singer, despite the fact that she hasn’t appeared in many blockbuster musicals. When she sang in Into the Woods, her husband told Vanity Fair: “The air changes in the room when she starts doing what she does. It’s so honest and so pure and so powerful. It’s like a superpower that she can just unlock and do so specifically with not many attempts.”

    Emily will be playing her first major musical part in Hollywood at the end of the year, in Mary Poppins Returns.

  11. Eddie Redmayne

    Eddie Redmayne has been singing since he was a child – as revealed by an old clip shown on James Corden’s Late Late Show. But it was his sob-singing in ‘Empty Chairs and Empty Tables’ from the film adaptation of Les Misérables that really proved his worth as a singer.

  12. Catherine Zeta-Jones

    Any actress cast as Velma Kelly in Chicago needs both the charisma to pull off ‘All That Jazz’ and the vocal power to sing ‘I Can’t Do It Alone’ – and Catherine Zeta-Jones manages to absolutely nail both.

    Of her performance, her co-star Renée Zellwegger said: “Sitting there in the room and watching Catherine do ‘I Can’t Do It Alone’. [It was] the magic of it, the literal magic of it.”

  13. Ewan McGregor

    Before he belted out "My gift is my song!" in Moulin Rouge!, Ewan McGregor showed off his tenor vocals in the 1996 film adaptation of Emma, in which he duetted (with a questionable English accent) with Gwyneth Paltrow on ‘Did You Not Hear My Lady?’

    Since then, McGregor has sung the role of Lumiére with what the actor himself described as a curiously ‘Mexican’ twist, in the live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast.

  14. Anne Hathaway

    We’re going to go out there and say it. Anne Hathaway is one of the best actor-singers out there. Her sing-crying in ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ was a solid performance – but have you seen her belting out ‘She’s Me Pal’ to Meryl Streep at the Fourth Annual Kennedy Centre Honors WHILE DOING THE ACTUAL SPLITS?

  15. Tom Cruise

    Didn’t know TC had pipes? The director of Rock of Ages, Adam Shankman, heard the actor in his first singing lesson for the film and said Cruise ‘actually has a fantastic voice’. He sang five hours a day to prepare, and pulled off the role of Stacee Jaxx with a healthy dose of cheese, a lot of shirtlessness – and a really decent rock voice.

Audrey Hepburn

OK… Audrey’s the exception in this list. Before Hollywood started hiring actors who could also sing, they used to choose ‘safe’ bets – in other words, actresses who were already famous and guaranteed to bring in the money. This meant most of Audrey Hepburn’s singing in My Fair Lady had to be dubbed by a ‘ghost singer’ called Marni Nixon, who also did the singing for Natalie Wood in West Side Story and Deborah Kerr in The King and I.