With the release of ‘‘The Dukes of Hazzard’’ — last weekend’s No. 1 movie — pop singer and reality-television star Jessica Simpson added another line to her résumé: Movie actress.
Simpson’s big-screen debut comes just three weeks before her younger sister, Ashlee, also a successful pop singer, sees her new movie, ‘‘Undiscovered,’’ hit theaters. Later this fall, rapper 50 Cent gets into the act, making his feature film debut in "Get Rich or Die Tryin’.’’
But while big-name music stars are flocking to Hollywood, movie stars are migrating the other direction: Kevin Bacon, Dennis Quaid, Juliette Lewis, Jada Pinkett Smith and Jared Leto are just a few of the actors who are trying to carve out careers in music.
Even Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie — who gained fame with their reality TV show ‘‘The Simple Life’’ — are double-dipping this fall. Both will appear in new movies, and both will release their first music CDs.
"I think it’s a lot like the old adage that all screenwriters want to direct,’’ says Mike Bracken, a 32-year-old film critic for CultureDose.net and Film Fanaddict magazine. "All actors want to play music. All rock stars want to be athletes and a lot of professional athletes want to rap.
‘‘You always want what you don’t have. And despite having great success — or at least moderate success — in their chosen field, they’re always tempted to try and succeed in that other arena.
‘‘Unfortunately for them, it rarely works out as well the second time around.’’
Bracken cites actress-turnedsinger Jennifer Lopez as a prime example.
"(She) has had her commercial success, but really, can we call her a musician,’’ he says. "Her music has been processed more than the average can of Spam.’’
A SOUR NOTE?
Before seeing ‘‘Dukes of Hazzard,’’ Bracken’s expectations were low: "I totally expect that Jessica Simpson will be awful — maybe not Mariah Carey in ‘Glitter’ awful, but probably well within the Britney Spears in ‘Crossroads’ range.’’
However, after seeing the film, he gives it three out of five stars.
"Jessica Simpson did about as well as one could expect,’’ he says. "After all, playing Daisy Duke isn’t the same as tackling Shakespeare. Looking sexy in front of a camera is an art Simpson has pretty much mastered. . . . I don’t know that I’d really call that acting, though.’’
While pop stars such as Spears and Carey haven’t had big-screen success, Bracken says hip-hop artists have made the transition easier.
"Ice-T, Ice Cube, Tupac (Shakur) and, most obviously, Will Smith, who rapped as The Fresh Prince for years before he got the TV show and became a movie star, have all become bona fide stars,’’ he says. ‘‘DMX has done some decent work as well.’’
Still, these stars have gotten a cold reception from some veteran actors. Samuel L. Jackson turned down a role in ‘‘Get Rich or Die Tryin’,’’ citing his dislike for rap stars in feature films.
At last month’s 50 Cent/ Eminem concert at Phoenix’s Cricket Pavilion, fans had mixed thoughts.
Ronnie Hubbard, a 21-yearold Mesa resident, said he was looking forward to seeing 50 Cent’s movie.
"I caught a trailer online,’’ said Hubbard. "It looks badass. . . . I think it’s cool to see rappers in movies. You get to see a whole new side of them.’’
But Meredith Morgan, who counts "8 Mile" as one of her favorite films, said musicians should avoid acting.
"Not many musicians can actually act,’’ said the 24-yearold Gilbert woman. "When I see people like Britney Spears and Mariah Carey getting movies, it sickens me. Why can’t they just be happy with one or the other? Why do they have to do both?’’
Over the past year, actors Kevin Bacon and Jared Leto have brought their bands — The Bacon Brothers and 30 Seconds to Mars, respectively — to the Valley.
Clubhouse Music Venue owner Eugenia says approximately 250 women came to her Tempe club in June see Leto’s band perform.
"I felt kinda bad for him,’’ she says. "The music is good and the band is very talented, but people were there to see a famous person onstage.’’
Chris LaMont, executive director of the Phoenix Film Festival, says 1,000 people came out to see Kevin Bacon and his brother perform at the festival in early April.
"They were actually a lot better than we expected because we don’t usually expect actors to be good musicians,’’ he says. "The crowd loved it.’’
LaMont says Bacon’s band was an experiment for the film festival.
"We wanted to see how it would work,’’ he says. "Now we know that we would definitely try it again — maybe next time with Bruce Willis or Dennis Quaid or someone like that.’’
LaMont, who is also a film professor at ASU, says musicians venturing into acting usually have more success than actors trying to become musicians.
"I think that musicians are born with talent and ability, and acting is something that is generally learned,’’ he says. "You can come across very fake in film and television if you don’t know what you’re doing. I think musicians have a better grasp because this is what they do. They’re used to performing.’’