Non-Actor Vehicle

Starring Carol Heiss, a trained skater, not an actor.

"Apparently back in the 90s, people thought if you could look in the camera and say "Drink Pepsi", you were considered a good actor."

Hiring of a big celebrity in a starring role (not a supporting or minor one), even if it's not the sole major role, in a movie, play, or TV show. Only, this celebrity isn't known for acting. In fact, this may be the celebrity's first acting job. A close cousin of Stunt Casting, only with a bit more risk, since the stunt castee doesn't have much experience (if any), and is practically carrying the project despite that inexperience.

So why is it done with such risks? Well the fact is that this sometimes works (it tends to work better for stand-up comedians, singers and pro wrestlers, being close to what they normally do for a living anyway). Also even if the vehicle is a failure, the new actor may still have a career afterwards.

You are most likely to see I Am Not Leonard Nimoy play throughout the movie. If the work is about the celebrity in Real Life it overlaps with Autobiographical Role. If the celebrity's role is doing what they're famous for, it overlaps with Cast the Expert.

Examples:

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    Models 
  • Cindy Crawford in Fair Game.
  • It was only a TV movie, but Vanna White of Wheel of Fortune fame starred in Goddess of Love on NBC. At that point in her career, the only other TV experience she had was… as a contestant on The Price Is Right in 1980 (two years before she took over the Wheel role she holds to this day).
  • Antonio Sabato Jr. (a former underwear model) in The Big Hit.
  • Galaxina had Dorothy R. Stratten, Playboy Playmate of the Year 1980, prominently cast as the title character, in her only film appearance.

    Musicians 
  • Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which saved him from bankruptcy and launched his blockbuster acting career. The show hung a lampshade on it here and there.
  • Britney Spears in Crossroads.
  • David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth. Although he didn't really act before this, he studied mime and acting in The Sixties as his recording career slowly gained ground and incorporated his new skills into his stage act. He went on to appear in a number of films in both lead and supporting roles, such as Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence and Labyrinth, and performed on Broadway as the title character in The Elephant Man in 1980.
  • Neil Diamond in The Jazz Singer (1980). He won a Worst Actor Razzie for his performance, but this is a good example of a performer who managed to retain their original career after trying their hand at this trope; in fact, three of his biggest hits — "America", "Love on the Rocks", and "Hello Again" — were written for this film.
  • Luciano Pavarotti in Yes, Giorgio.
  • Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan, where she played a pop musician. Led to an almost two-decades-long acting career, in which she generally did well if she was part of an ensemble (as in Dick Tracy, A League of Their Own, and Evita), and usually didn't fare so well if she was appearing in a star vehicle (as in Swept Away).
  • Mariah Carey in Glitter.
  • Mick Jagger in Performance and Ned Kelly
  • Vanilla Ice in Cool as Ice. Since then, he's mostly appeared in cameos and non-major roles.
  • Eminem in 8 Mile. Though considering he was basically playing himself in the film, how much actual acting was involved is open for debate.
  • Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard.
  • Björk in Dancer in the Dark. It was such a bad experience for her that she swore she'll never act again.
  • Olivia Newton-John in Grease.
  • Doris Day, before starring in Romance on the High Seas, was known only as a singer.
  • 50 Cent in Get Rich Or Die Tryin.
  • Cellist Yo-Yo Ma in the Atom Egoyan film Sarabande.
  • Purple Rain, created as a showcase for the singer Prince and based on his album of the same name. It won an award for Best Original Score.
  • The Beatles in: A Hard Days Night, Help!!, Magical Mystery Tour, Yellow Submarine... In fact, it was because of these movies that Ringo Starr got his taste for acting.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day almost did this for Billy Idol. He was originally picked to play the T-1000, but had to turn down the role because of a motorcycle accident. WASP frontman Blackie Lawless was also considered for the role at one point but got turned down for being too tall.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic in UHF, but it was not as much a leap for him as he was already accustomed to delivering comic performances and the movie was basically "what would TV be like if Weird Al did that instead of music parodies?"
  • Bette Midler in The Rose; though she had dabbled in the theatre in her early career, it was her first movie role. She went on to have a long and fairly successful career as an actress, reaching her peak in both fields at about the same time (the late 1980s and early 1990s).
  • John Denver in Oh, God!.
  • The 1956 Broadway musical Mr. Wonderful gave Sammy Davis Jr his first starring role; it incorporated a large portion of his nightclub act wholesale.
  • Several members of AKB48 took part in the anime AKB0048. Quite a few of them had no acting experience up until then.
  • Korean Television Stations are frequently used as places where singing idols try to diversify their entertainment value:
  • The Village People and Bruce Jenner in Can't Stop the Music; the former also overlaps with Autobiographical Role.
  • Dee Snider in the horror movie Strangeland, which he wrote himself.
  • Sting starred in the 1982 adaptation of Brimstone and Treacle (The Police recorded three songs for its soundtrack, and Sting contributed two solo ones) and 1985's The Bride, and had supporting roles or cameos in Quadrophenia, Dune, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels.
  • Two Lane Blacktop, starring a young James Taylor and The Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson.
  • George Strait in Pure Country. The movie didn't do too well, but Strait's soundtrack is the best-selling album of his career.
  • The 1988 Broadway musical flop Legs Diamond was this for singer-songwriter Peter Allen, who wrote the songs and played the title character.
  • David Lynch likes doing this in his movies. Since he's started his singing career, you could arguably call his film direction an example of this.
  • Wild at Heart, though not a straight example of this trope, is sort of a parody of the films of Elvis Presley, with Nicolas Cage as the Elvis equivalent.
  • Lost Highway has cameos by Marilyn Manson and Henry Rollins, in a Show Within a Show porn film.
  • Tom Waits has acted enough that he may not even count as a non-actor anymore.
  • Arlo Guthrie, As Himself in Alices Restaurant.
  • The Oscar gave singer Tony Bennett a significant "introducing/as" credit. He never appeared in another feature film.
  • In France, AB Productions was specialized on this (among other things): Most "actors" in AB-produced sitcoms were new singers trying to get notoriety. It worked at the time, but became a stain on their reputation after AB shows fell out of favor.
  • Kid/Teen salsa group Salserín starred on several of these in the late 1990's: the first one was "La primera vez" (which was more known as "Salserín: La Película"), where the kids and their producer were more or less on Autobiographical Roles; then the soaps "De sol a sol", "Yo sin ti", "Entre tú y yo" and "Dónde está el amor". After several changes in the singers rooster, they got at it again in the late Noughties, first with a radio soap (Envíame Mensajes) and then the soaps "Mi niña amada", "Mi otra mitad del sol" and "Robando Corazones" on tv.
  • When the singers from the first generation of Salserín, the brothers Servando and Florentino Primera, went solo, they starred in a movie, "Muchacho solitario". It was cynically made for two reasons: exploit their Teen Idol popularity, and give Product Placement to Golden brand soda. The guys did had some acting experience from their Salserín era , and Servando was a child actor before joining the band as a singer, but that couldn't be seen on screen, and despite their popularity at the time the film bombed
  • In 2013, singer Carrie Underwood starred in a live TV version of The Sound of Music for NBC.
  • Country Music singer Doug Stone had a starring role in the 1995 film Gordy.
  • Alex Cox (of Repo Man) made Straight To Hell when a musical tour of Nicaragua was canceled and a bunch of 1980s musicians and other oddballs were stuck in the country with nothing to do. He threw together a weird and wacky Spaghetti Western parody starring, among others, Elvis Costello, The Circle Jerks, The Pogues, Amazulu, Jim Jarmusch, Grace Jones and a very young Courtney Love.

    Pro Wrestlers 

    Sports Stars 
  • Sonja Henie in One in a Million. She made quite a few films after that.
  • Swimmer Esther Williams started a similar screen career with a supporting part in Andy Hardy's Double Life. A series of star vehicles followed, starting with Bathing Beauty.
  • Carol Heiss in Snow White and the Three Stooges was an attempt to make her the next Sonja Henie. It unfortunately didn't work out that well; The Three Stooges weren't even brought in until the studio realized Heiss couldn't carry the movie.
  • Two big vehicles for Shaquille O'Neal: Kazaam and Steel. His first film, Blue Chips, had him in a supporting role (along with Penny Hardaway) in his natural element and was better-received.
  • Randy Couture in the straight to DVD sequel to The Scorpion King, subtitled "Rise Of A Warrior".
  • Howie Long in Firestorm.
  • Batista in The Man with the Iron Fists and Guardians of the Galaxy.
  • UFC champion Georges St-Pierre as Batroc in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
  • Michael Jordan in Space Jam.
  • Dennis Rodman in Double Team (second-billed to Jean-Claude Van Damme) and later Simon Sez.
  • Two US Olympic male gymnasts attempted this trope back in the 1980s: Kurt Thomas in Gymkata and Mitch Gaylord in American Anthemnote .
  • Ray Allen in He Got Game.
  • Collegiate American Football star (and high-profile NFL flop) Brian Bosworth in Stone Cold. He's done a fair amount of supporting roles since then.
  • Brazilian soccer star Breno Mello and track & field athlete Adhemar da Silvain in Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus).
  • Olympic Swimming champion and male model Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan: the Ape Man. His performance proved so successful that he was cast in the same role eleven more times.
  • Olympic gymnast Cathy Rigby took a turn playing the title character in the Peter Pan stage musical in 1974 — and did so well that she's still playing the role in The New Tens!
  • Jackie Robinson in The Jackie Robinson Story.
  • Taylor Firth in the 2010 remake of Ice Castles.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger in Hercules In New York.
  • Haywire stars Mixed Martial Arts covergirl Gina Carano.
  • The 2010 The A-Team film cast former UFC champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson as B.A. Baracus, filling the shoes of Mr. T, who was also known for his tough-guy exploits before getting into acting. Jackson had done a few films before, such as a memorable cameo in The Midnight Meat Train.
  • Rudolf Nureyev (ballet dancer) as Rudolph Valentino (silent movie star) in Valentino.
  • Alexander Godunov (ballet dancer) as Daniel Hochleitner (Amish farmer and romantic rival of Harrison Ford's character, John Book) in Witness.
  • Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in Safe at Home!
  • Italian alpine ski racer and former carabiniere Alberto Tomba began, and ended, his film career with "Alex l'ariete" (Alex the Ram), where he played the eponymous "badass" cop. Predictably, his acting was beyond wooden, the film was a total mess and an abysmal failure at the box office. The film would be totally forgotten, if not for its Snark Bait status and the countless poops made out of it by Italian "enthusiasts".
  • This trope is attacked by Gary Oldman in this scene from a Jimmy Kimmel Live episode.
  • Not really "acting", but in 1989, Rolf Benirschke of the San Diego Chargers was picked to host the daytime network version of Wheel of Fortune while Pat Sajak continued to host the nighttime syndicated version (which he does to this day). It remains, to date, Rolf's only TV role.
  • Filipino boxer, Manny Pacquiao, did a string of movies since 2000 and usually played as, well, a boxer. There were movies (Anak ng Kumander and Wapakman )where he didn't played as a boxer (or himself) but these were bombed in the box office and panned by the viewers and critics.

    Other 
  • Harry Houdini in The Master Mystery.
  • Steven Soderbergh likes this trope.
    • His first foray was hiring an entire cast of nonprofessional actors for Film/{[Bubble}}, recruiting from the local town. Notably, the star of the film was discovered working the drive-through window at KFC.
    • The Girlfriend Experience stars porn actress Sasha Grey as a high-class callgirl.
    • Haywire, starring Mixed Martial Arts fighter Gina Carano
    • Sodebergh did this for himself in his surreal 1996 comedy Shizopolis, which stars the man himself in not one but two roles. Underneath all its weird and surreal humor, it's really about Soderbergh examining the crumbling of his marriage (his real life ex-wife appears as his characters wife) as well as his anxieties about the future of his directing career in the wake of a series of flops following his debut sex, lies, and videotape
  • Mickey Spillane in Ring of Fire.
  • John Wayne Bobbitt: Uncut.
  • Disney Channel sitcoms like to do this a lot.
  • Nickelodeon also seems fond of this. Maybe not as fond of it as Disney, since most of the cast of iCarly and Victorious have acted before, one might say they invert it by taking moderately experienced actresses and using that to help launch their singing careers.
  • Minstrel Shows: Many of the acts existed solely to popularize and sell sheet music.
  • Audie Murphy as himself in To Hell And Back.
  • Stage Magician Doug Henning had two Broadway Musicals written around him, despite not being a singer; the first was The Magic Show in 1974, with music by Stephen Schwartz, which was a huge success and ran for four years. It was based around Henning's unusal stage persona; set in a nightclub where a new scruffy magician goes up against a more traditional top-hat magician (played by David Ogden Stiers). The other was Merlin in 1983, based around the character from Arthurian Legend, but young and inexperienced. It also featured Chita Rivera as an evil sorceress and was the Broadway debut of Nathan Lane. It was a critical and commercial flop, notorious for having an exceptionally long preview period without officially opening, and while still charging full ticket prices (much like Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark did, years later).
  • Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse had a short-lived sitcom on NBC. No, really.
  • Sega Pinball attempted to invoke this by having Kelly Packard (of Baywatch fame) as the star of Golden Cue, a billiards-themed pinball game, even though she had no connection to either billiards or pinball. This trope was ultimately averted when Sega Pinball went out of business and Kelly Packard's Golden Cue was redesigned and released as Sharkey's Shootout.
  • The Direct-to-Video film Sophia Grace and Rosie's Royal Adventure is one, where the titular girls are assigned by their mentor Ellen DeGeneres to cover a coronation in a fictional kingdom and help the soon-to-be-coronated princess believe in herself.