The top 10 athletes turned actors

The top 10 athletes turned actors. By Simon Miraudo.

In Magic Mike, you might recognise the hirsute male stripper Tarzan not from other flicks, but in fact from his career as a professional wrestler. Yes, Kevin Nash has made the transition from sports to the silver screen, like so many other male and female beefcakes before him. To celebrate this Hollywood rite of passage – as well as the beginning of the 2012 Olympic Games! – we’re sharing our picks for the top 10 athletes turned actors. Apologies to O.J. Simpson, who we left off for obvious reasons. Yikes.

10. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Legendary basketballer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tried his hand at acting whilst still playing ball. He memorably fought Bruce Lee in Game of Death, and later co-piloted the doomed plane in the hilarious comedy Flying High. And let’s not forget his cameo appearance in Fletch!

9. Lou Ferrigno

Former Mr. Universe, Lou Ferrigno, was cast as the title character in the 1977 TV series The Incredible Hulk, and has provided the voice of the great green beast in the subsequent Marvel movies. However, he’s at his self-deprecating best in I Love You, Man, squeezing those massive thighs into a tuxedo. Better than cut-off denim shorts, we suppose.

8. Terry Crews

NFL defensive end Terry Crews retired from football in 1997, and then predictably took on a series of threatening roles as a beefed up maniac. However, he proved to be an adept comic actor in Everybody Hates Chris as the henpecked family patriarch, and immortalised himself in the cult canon as President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho in Idiocracy. Funny guy.

7. Gina Carano

Steven Soderbergh built Haywire around professional mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano on account of her punching prowess (and less so because of her talent as a thespian). Who needs to act when you can convincingly kick co-stars Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, and Ewan McGregor in the face repeatedly?

6. Jason Lee

Before he was Earl, Jason Lee was a professional skateboarder alongside the likes of Tony Hawk. He called it quits at the age of 21, was cast in Kevin Smith‘s Mallrats, and developed a career based on his smart-alec sense of humour. You can play as him on Tony Hawk’s Project 8.

5. Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham

Vinnie Jones helped Wimbledon win the FA Club Final back in 1988, and later went on to play soccer for Leeds United, Sheffield United, and Chelsea. He’s better known today as one of Guy Ritchie‘s go-to heavies, having appeared in both Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. He even starred opposite his buddy Jason Statham, a former professional diver. Look at these cockney villains, all fit and what!

4. Dwayne Johnson

His greatest role will likely always be as the endlessly entertaining WWF wrestler The Rock. Regardless, Dwayne Johnson has built a legitimate career in the pictures, thanks to performances in Welcome to the Jungle, Get Smart, The Other Guys, Fast Five, Journey 2, and our personal favourite, Southland TalesHe also starred in Tooth Fairywhich is why he’s in fourth position and not first.

3. André René Roussimoff

At 7ft 4, André René Roussimoff was destined to become a wrestling superstar. But Andre the Giant also worked his way into the hearts of people everywhere thanks to his turn in The Princess Bride. An inconceivable charmer, who sadly passed at the age of 46.

2. Carl Weathers

Apollo Creed in Rocky. Major George Dillon in Predator. Action Jackson in Action Jackson. Chubbs Peterson in Happy Gilmore. Carl “You Got a Stew Going” Weathers in Arrested Development. Need we say more of this former pro ball player?

1. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Former bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger is not just an acting icon; he’s also an astute film scholar, as evidenced by this commentary on the Total Recall DVD.


He was also the Governor of California. Remember that? Weird.

Discuss: OK, sports fans. Who did we miss?

5 Responses to “The top 10 athletes turned actors”

  1. That Arnold commentary track was simply brilliant!

  2. didn’t you forget swimmer Johnny Weissmuller as the best ever Tarzan?

  3. Hey what? You do realise that films have been made since before 1980? What about ice-skating musical star Sonja Henie, who outdoes everyone on that whole list as an athlete, and everyone except Arnie as a bona fide movie star? Or swim star Buster Crabbe, the original Flash Gordon? Or swimming star turned movie great Esther Williams? (OK, she invented synchronised swimming, but we can forgive her for that.) Or… well, someone already mentioned Johnny Weissmuller, one of the greatest swimmers in history. Forget drama school – our future stars are at the Athletes Village as I write this!

  4. Mark Hamil, Burt Reynolds, Lee Majors——–College studs

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: