Australian Singers Turned Actors

July 14, 2019
From Farnsy to Millsy, we go through a bunch of local singers who have given acting a crack, to varying degrees of success.

Angry Anderson

Australia’s cuddliest bald rocker had actually appeared in surprisingly few acting roles for someone with such renown as a presenter, but one of those roles was in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1983). Another was in At Last… Bullamakanka: The Motion Picture (1983), a film whose existence continues to boggle the mind. Watch out for him in a small cameo in upcoming local thriller Locusts.

The Bee Gees

This legendary trio threatened to star in movies from the moment they became famous in the 1960s and various projects were announced over the years, including Lord Kitchener and The Little Drummer Boy. Maurice and Barry Gibb appeared in TV musical Cucumber Castle (1970) when Robin wasn’t in the band. They finally all had a crack at acting with Robert Stigwood’s Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978), one of the most notorious flops of the ‘70s (which is saying something) and soon gave it up. However, they have been responsible for some of the greatest soundtrack songs of all time.

Barry Crocker

Plucked from TV and the club circuit by Bruce Beresford to star as Barry McKenzie in two hugely popular films in the early ‘70s. Crocker never kicked on with the acting in a way he might have… (apparently back problems stopped him from playing the role of Don in the 1976 Don’s Party) but he still turns up from time to time. One truly iconic performance is more than most actors get in their entire careers.

Judith Durham

From the mid ‘60s onwards, pop acts seemed to make less movies, so we never got a Seekers musical, despite their huge sales. However, Judith did appear in an episode of Cash and Company, a show co created by her brother in law. She suited period stories and it’s a shame she didn’t act more.

Jon English

The scraggy haired singer came to national fame as a pop star, then branched out into musicals and guest spots on TV shows, where he normally played drug dealing villains for Crawfords. The company rewarded him by giving him the lead in the hugely successful series Against the Wind (1978). He continued to act for the rest of his life.

John Farnham

Farnsie’s acting career consists more than just his legendary cameo on Home and Away… he had his own sitcom back in the day, Bobby Dazzler (1977-78). He also guest starred in Division 4 and was on a TV movie, Me and Mr Thorne (1976). He wasn’t half bad, very personable – Farnham should do more acting.

Delta Goodrem

Neighbours has a very strong track record of producing actors who became pop stars (Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Natalie Imbruglia, Natalie Bassingthwaite). With Delta they took a singer and turned her into an actor, and did pretty well at it. They’ve tried again a few times (Dean Geyer, Bonnie Anderson) but no one’s quite matched Delta, whose credits include Hating Alison Ashley (2005) and Olivia (2018).

Rolf Harris

Harris made a number of film appearances early in his career in films like Crash Drive (1959), and starred in The Littlest Convict (1979) for Yoram Gross. But, um, let’s pretend he’s not around anymore.

Colin Hay

Lead singer of supergroup Men at Work has carved out a decent side career as a character actor in films like Cosi (1996) and Jack Irish (2012).

Frankie J. Holden

Lead singer of Ol’ 55 who developed a very respectable career as an actor, usually playing knockabout blokes. Recently won a Logie for A Place to Call Home. Of all the singers on this list, he’s the one who’s gone more “full actor”.

Mark Holden

Before he annoyed the Australian public as a judge on Australian Idol, Holden was a pop star turned actor, parlaying his singing fame into gigs on The Young Doctors (1976-77), the Tony Ginnane produced family film Blue Fire Lady (1978) and even classic Newsfront (1978).

Michael Hutchence

Hutch had a decent crack at an acting career back in the day, appearing most notably in Dogs in Space (1987) and Frankenstein Unbound (1991).

Frank Ifield

The success of Tommy Steele and Cliff Richard prompted a number of British musicals starring local popstars. Ifield had some massive hits in the mid ‘60s and was given his own starring vehicle Up Jumped a Swagman (1965) – a fairly ordinary film but it does include most of Ifield’s hits.

Ben Lee

Tony McNamara cast the singer as the lead in Rage in Placid Lake (2003) off the back of an appearance on The Panel. Lee did a good job too and it’s surprising he hasn’t done more acting, especially considering he’s gone out with so many actors.

Jessica Mauboy

An Australian Idol sensation who has been the most successful acting transfer in recent years in films such as The Sapphires (2009) and Bran Nue Dae (2012) and the TV show The Secret Daughter (2016-17). Australia should be turning out Mauboy vehicles every two years at least.

Rob Mills

A seeming 15-minutes-of-famer from Australian Idol who extended it to 30 minutes by hooking up with Paris Hilton, then has carved out a career of nearly two decades, in part due to earning a reputation in musical theatre. But he’s done plenty of acting too and is currently smashing it on Neighbours.

Sophie Monk

Like Millsy, most of us assumed the Monk-ster would be a flash in a pan when she burst on to the scene in Popstars in 2000, but she’s stuck around and has proved very durable… and a decent actor too as roles in Entourage and Click (2006) have proven

Olivia Newton John

She came to fame in the Australian pop scene of the 1960s, appearing in a musical film Funny Things Happen Down Under (1966). She looks lovely and sings a few tunes, outshining her co-star, pop star Ian Turpie. Both Livvy and Turps would go on to bigger and better things but Funny Things is worth seeing, even if only for the campest dancing shearers in cinematic history.

Trisha Noble

Pop star of the ‘60s under the name Patsy Ann who segued into a decent acting career as well, including long stints on British and US television.

Helen Reddy

Reddy’s singing success saw her get a variety show and acting offers. She was a singing nun in Airport 75 (1975) and had the lead in Pete’s Dragon (1977), as well as guest stints on The Love Boat and Fantasy Island.

Rick Springfield

A member of the ‘60s Aussie rock band Zoot, he turned to acting and had a very decent career alongside his musical success, including a stint on General Hospital, playing Adam’s son in the pilot for Battlestar Galactica, and his own vehicle, Hard to Hold (1984). Why no Australian films?


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