Awful Acting Athletes


Written by Jack Sharp
13 Sunday 13th November 2011

The manufactures of a popular brand of supermarket wine, Casillero del Diablo, recently released quite possibly one of the worst, most ridiculous ads ever concieved. The ad appears to take place in some sort of dystopian future-world in which the football players Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Patrice Evra have barricaded themselves in a room overlooking the Old Trafford pitch.

Rooney spends the entire ad staring determinedly through a window, presumably at an autocue, slurring his lines like somebody struggling to remember how to speak like a human. But to Mr. Rooney’s credit, I struggle to imagine even a great actor making a line like, “They say he is a legend,” sound anything less than ridiculous. [Ed - Especially when the "he" is a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon]

Look at that range!

Rooney, Giggs and Evra aren’t the first football players to act, of course; they’re part of a long and often embarrassing tradition of athletes who turn to acting – sometimes in search of a semi-respectable career (Vinnie Jones, Eric Cantona), often to sell crap like crisps and drinks for money (Gary Lineker, every other British athlete). 

Steven Gerrard made his acting debut a few years back, advertising Pringles with other big name players who were struggling for money at the time, such as Roberto Carlos and Djibril Cissé. The ad begins with Gerrard mumbling, “Oi, Roberto, pass the Pringles,” in a completely monotone voice. Then, as if in protest of Gerrard’s horrendous acting abilities, Roberto proceeds to play a quick game of keepie uppies with the tube, destroying the crisps inside.

Gerrard’s ex-teammate Michael Owen clearly had bigger ambitions as an actor, first demonstrating his talents back in 2000 with his rather excellent six-part series, Hero to Zero. To quote the one synopsis I was able to find for the show: “Charlie Brice is a talented soccer player whose parents have split up...and he thinks it's all his fault. But when he confides in his life-size poster of soccer star Michael Owen, magic happens.”

Magic certainly does happen. Harnessing the power of the dark arts, Owen materialises in front of Charlie to unconvincingly provide him with the advice he so desperately seeks.

Unfortunately, Hero to Zero – Michael’s magnum opus -- was not a commercial success and Owen returned to football, dejected.

Professional athletes on the other side of the Atlantic have generally had more luck forging successful acting careers. Wrestler Roddy Piper, for example, stepped out of the ring to chew bubblegum and kick ass in John Carpenter’s prophetic and poignant They Live – a dark comedy about corporate greed and media corruption.

Released in 1988 amidst fears of a declining economy, the film situates around Piper’s character, Nada, who inadvertently discovers that the world is being subliminally controlled by aliens.

Fellow wrestler Hulk Hogan has also ventured onto the big screen. After bit parts in Rocky III and Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Hogan played the leading role in the comedies Mr. Nanny and Santa with Muscles – two films that have helped define the inexplicably popular “large-man-who-can’t-take-care-of-kids” genre.

Basketball player Michael Jordan has also made the transition, starring as himself in the 1996 family sports film Space Jam, in which he single-handedly throttled the Looney Tunes. 

Before OJ Simpson was put on trial for murder, and long before the release of his controversial book If I Did It (his first-person "fictional" account of the murders, if he had indeed committed them), OJ made many appearances on the big and small screen.

Perhaps best remembered (at least as an actor) for his role in The Naked Gun series, OJ was admittedly very talented. After his notorious hearings, however, his career failed to recover.

Actor Jason Lee is perhaps best known for his role as Earl in the TV series My Name Is Earl, but back in the early ‘90s he was a highly regarded professional street skateboarder. Lee’s appearance in the seminal skate video Video Days allegedly led to him being cast in Kevin Smith’s Mallrats. He also had a small role in the music video for Sonic Youth’s 100% shortly after the release of Video Days.

While certainly not the biggest success story of a professional athlete turned actor, American football player William (AKA 'The Fridge') Perry’s achievements in the field of acting, cannot be underestimated. His finest work? This infomercial for a completely necessary piece of equipment called My Rotisserie.

The way he appears from out of the kitchen, an enormous smile on his face, hollering, “Look what’s comin’, boys!” is how it should be done. This is acting, people. This is the video that professional athletes who want to act need to study. No autocue, no boring, monotone delivery, just one man talking about how he doesn’t have to worry about his meat flippin’ and floppin’. Perfection.

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