Sports today are more and more perceived as a show. No wonder that so many charismatic athletes decide to switch playing on the field (or on the ring) for playing on the screen. Some of them pursued a professional acting career after they had got serious injuries. Others just seemed to discover their true passion in their older age and used sports as a ladder to success on a big screen. Still, all of them got their names forever embedded on walls of fame as well as movie credits. Here’s our list of the most amazing athlete-actor transformations.
Jim Brow: football
“The greatest professional football player ever” (according to Sporting News, 2002), Jim Brown has been playing for Cleveland Browns for nine years. He has set numerous records and deserved the honor to be listed in the Hall of Fame on Cleveland Browns’ sports team website even though he decided to trade his gridiron career for Hollywood fame back in the 1960s. After debuting in Rio Conchos in 1964, his most remarkable acting works were in The Dirty Dozen, The Running Man, and Mars Attacks. He starred in over 40 movies in total.
Dwayne Johnson: football, wrestling
Today we know Johnson for being the “Sexiest Man Alive” (2016) and the world’s highest-paid actor who appeared in various TV shows – from HBO’s Ballers to Disney’s Moana to Jumanji. However, only a few of us know he is a former WWE champ, also known as “The Rock.” Again, even fewer of us know that before wrestling, he professionally played football for the Miami Hurricanes. Because of injury, he didn’t get drafted into the NFL and even had to play in the Canadian Football League for some time. Nonetheless, he successfully piggybacked this priceless experience in the HBO series Ballers by Stephen Levinson, where he portrayed the NFL player.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: bodybuilding
Before conquering Hollywood and the whole world with his roles in Conan the Barbarian, The Terminator, Predator, and Total Recall, Schwarzenegger was a professional bodybuilder. The “Austrian Oak” has got numerous titles in his collection, including Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia (which he won six times in a row during 1970-1975 plus the final seventh title in 1980). He retired from sports in 1980 to throw himself into the world of the cinematograph, but he never quitted fitness and bodybuilding, as we can see from his jaw-dropping frame showcased in his every acting work.
Kurt Russell: baseball
Russell’s acting career started when he was 12. His appearance in western series The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters even brought him a ten-year contract with the Walt Disney Company. However, Russell wasn’t 100% sure acting was his way and plunged into baseball. His performance in the minor league baseball team was quite successful, but the cuff injury closed the door on his sports career. Russell returned to his childish acting ambitions and was right. His acting talent was later awarded Emmy (for the television film Elvis, 1979) and Golden Globe (for Silkwood, 1983) nominations.
Wyatt Russell: hockey
Interestingly, Kurt Russell’s son, Wyatt Russell, followed in his father’s footsteps. He also decided to try himself in professional sports (played hockey for independent teams in the US, Canada, and the Netherlands) before appearing on the screen. He is famous for his roles in Netflix’s Black Mirror, Cowboys and Aliens, and 22 Jump Street. In 2020, we are going to see him starring in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which is a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Dave Bautista: wrestling
We know him for his smashing roles in The Man with the Iron Fists, Riddick, Spectre, Blade Runner 2049, Avengers, and The Guardian of the Galaxy, but only a few of us suspect that he has a sports background. Before the Marvel Studios saw in him the future Drax the Destroyer, Dave Bautista was a six-time world champion in wrestling (such a long reign is a record itself). He retired from professional wrestling less than a year ago, in April 2019, so we are eager to see more of Bautista on a big screen shortly.
Dean Cain: football
Did you know that the man who played Superman in the Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman back in the 90s was a professional football player? Dean Cain started out as a college football player at Princeton. Then he played for the Buffalo Bills in the 1980s, but a knee injury derailed his sports career for good. If that hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t have seen him in over 90 films and over 50 TV shows. What amazing productivity!
Ed O’Neil: football
Did you ever know that Ed O’Neil who played Al Bundy in Married… with Children had a much more prominent football career than his character did? Before he was cut from professional football, O’Neil played at two universities (Youngstown State University and Ohio University) and was even invited by Pittsburgh Steelers to their camp training back in 1969. The actor is famous for his roles in the sitcom Modern Family, Wayne’s World series, Little Giants, Sun Dogs, and voice-work for Finding Dory and Wreck-It Ralph.