Singers in line for bigscreen roles

McGraw lands pic role as bully dad

Many of the rappers and singers at Sunday’s Grammy Awards will be flashing a new accessory to go along with the bling-bling and low-cut outfits: a big feature film role.

Country star Tim McGraw just scored his first big movie job. He’ll play a bullying father in “Friday Night Lights,” the Imagine Entertainment/Universal adaptation of the H.G. Bissinger book about a Texas town’s devotion to its high school football team.

Peter Berg is directing, Brian Grazer is producing and Billy Bob Thornton stars as the head football coach. McGraw will play Charlie Billingsley, father of a Permian High School Panthers player and a former football hero himself. Trying to vicariously relive his glory days through his son, the father puts his kid under relentless pressure to perform to his standards.

McGraw becomes the second in his household to plan a splashy movie debut — his wife, songstress Faith Hill, has a featured role in Paramount’s upcoming “Stepford Wives” remake that stars Nicole Kidman.

McGraw is the latest among a growing number of singers who headed for bigscreen roles. It’s a field where the successful transitions made by Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Will Smith or Mandy Moore are offset by high profile failures such as Mariah Carey in “Glitter” or the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton in “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Those stars smartly were persuaded by their experience not to quit their day jobs.

Still, in just the last month, several movie deals were made by singers. Outkast singer Andre 3000 and Aerosmith rocker Steven Tyler joined the cast of the “Get Shorty” sequel “Be Cool;” Britney Spears signed on to play the woman who works the door at L.A.’s hottest club in “Door to Door,” an adaptation of the edgy Tobi Tobin novel; Jessica Simpson will leave her “Newlywed” costar Nick Lachey behind to play the girlfriend of a phenom baseball pitcher in the indie drama “Walk On.”

This comes after Jack White of the White Stripes made a serviceable debut in “Cold Mountain,” as Gwen Stefani just wrapped a role as Jean Harlow in the Martin Scorsese-directed “The Aviator,” and Janet Jackson prepares to play Lena Horne in an ABC biopic, having burned bridges at CBS during her Super Bowl disrobing.

Despite the flurry of roles for singers, dealmakers say there are several reasons why so few who carry a tune end up able to carry a movie. A natural like Beyonce Knowles surfaces every now and then, but most singers are one-film wonders. One major impediment is that dealmakers behind singing stars don’t let movie shoots interfere with recording and touring schedules, which generate much more cash.

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