“It sounded like a cat being run over by a semi.”
Not everyone can be a triple threat in Hollywood! Sometimes an actor is a perfect fit for a part in a film but it involves a little bit more musical talent than they can provide. Instead of casting an entirely different actor or an actual singer, some movie studios choose to simply find a musician who can provide the vocal chops they need — exclusively behind the scenes.
While that means the on-screen actor will have to master the art of lip syncing, it often proves to be the best option to leave it to the pros. It not only takes a lot of pressure off of actors with less than stellar voices but it makes an overall more enjoyable viewing experience for the audience.
Find out which actors left the singing to the professionals.
1. Jennifer Lopez – “Selena”
Jennifer Lopez may be known as a singer now but when she was cast in “Selena” she was better known for her dancing skills. Although she sang during her audition for the film, they ended up using Selena Quintanilla’s actual singing voice for the movie while Jennifer lip synced.
“I’m not a singer, I haven’t performed as a singer. I’m a dancer. I’d be singing and the mic would be over here and I’d be like, ‘Yeah…oh! The mic!’ It’s not really my voice,” Jennifer told ET while filming the movie.
2. George Clooney – “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
When George Clooney signed on for “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” the films’ writers assumed that he could sing because his aunt was the legendary Rosemary Clooney. He unfortunately didn’t get her singing chops but decided to give it a shot in the studio, where things didn’t go so well. Eventually, George told them he was fine with lip syncing and they hired a musician named Dan Tyminski.
“I did try to sing in ‘O Brother’ … Quite honestly, I assumed I could sing … We went down to the recording studio in Memphis and everybody’s there. I went in the glass booth and wailed away and thought I was great. I finished and looked up through the glass and no one would look me in the eyes. They didn’t want to tell me it sucked because I’m the lead in the movie. They played it back and were hoping that if I heard it, I’d know it was terrible. It sounded like a cat being run over by a semi,” George told TNT.
3. Rami Malek – “Bohemian Rhapsody“
Rami Malek may have been able to master a lot of Freddie Mercury’s mannerisms and speaking voice for “Bohemian Rhapsody” but he couldn’t quite nail his singing. Instead, the film chose to use vocal stems from Queen master tapes mixed with a musician named Marc Martel who has a very similar voice to Freddie.
“Literally, you could close your eyes and it’s Freddie. And that’s a very tough thing to do,” producer Graham King told Rolling Stone.
Jamie Foxx did all the piano playing in his Ray Charles biopic “Ray” but didn’t actually sing in the film. He instead choose to focus on nailing “every nuance” of Ray’s performance. It was ultimately decided that vintage studio sessions and concert recordings would be used for the movie.
“Well, I had to have Ray Charles singing. These are masterpieces,” director Taylor Hackford told Voa News.
5. Rebecca Ferguson – “The Greatest Showman”
Rebecca Ferguson has a background in music, having attended Adolf Fredrik’s Music School in Stockholm, but didn’t actually sing in her role as opera star Jenny Lind in “The Greatest Showman.” Instead, her vocals were provided by Loren Allred, who appeared on season three of “The Voice.”
“I was hired … to sing the female demos for ‘The Greatest Showman.’ Usually in a situation like this, the actress would use my vocal as a reference, but for ‘Never Enough’, the producers decided that they wanted to use my vocal for the movie itself. This was such an unexpected and exciting turn of events!” Loren told CinemaBlend.
6. Rachel McAdams – “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”
Rachel McAdams appeared in “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” as an aspiring Icelandic singer but it wasn’t actually her voice in the movie. While she initially sang while she was filming scenes, it was ultimately decided that her voice would be merged with a Swedish singer named Molly Sandén.
“I was singing all the songs and then [they] would lift bits of my performance. The bulk of the music was done by a Swedish singer, Molly Sandén. Our voices were quite similar so they kind of did some fancy stuff in the studio and pulled it together that way. But I do sing that song my character is composing,” Rachel told The A.V. Club.
7. Hilary Duff – “The Lizzie McGuire Movie”
While Hilary Duff did sing in “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” while performing as her character Lizzie, it wasn’t actually her when she was portraying Lizzie’s look alike Isabella. Instead, Hilary’s real life sister Haylie was the one singing Isabella’s part in the film’s most memorable performance of “What Dreams Are Made Of.”
8. Zac Efron – “High School Musical”
Zac Efron may have gotten to use his singing chops in the second and third “High School Musical” films but it wasn’t him singing in the first flick. While Zac did record vocals for the movie, he says he was blindsided when Disney decided to use the voice of another actor named Drew Seeley instead. After he found out about the switch up, he says he had to fight to use his real voice in the following films.
“In the first movie, after everything was recorded, my voice was not on them. I was not really given an explanation. It just kind of happened that way. Unfortunately, it put me in an awkward position. It’s not something I expected to be addressed. Then ‘High School Musical’ blew up. I’m very fortunate that Drew has gotten proper credit and also that I’ve gotten the opportunity to come back and try it again with my own voice. He’s very talented. I consider myself a regular kid that can carry a tune,” Zac told the Orlando Sentinel.
9. Matthew Broderick – “The Lion King”
Matthew Broderick has starred on Broadway but his singing voice still wasn’t used in the original “Lion King” film. He says he recorded the music as Simba but the studio decided against it, instead opting to use vocals provided by Toto singer Joseph Williams.
“I recorded it twice, but then they elected not to use my recordings. But it’s very, like, pop kind of singing that I didn’t quite pull off, I guess,” Matthew told ET at the time.
10. Marion Cotillard – “La Vie en Rose”
Marion Cotillard went into her role as Édith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose” knowing that she wouldn’t be singing in the film but decided to take singing lessons anyway. She says she wanted to learn to sing so she could emulate the way that Édith’s mouth moved in real life.
“I wanted to take singing lessons, even though I wouldn’t sing. I needed to learn her technique and I wanted to learn how to position my tongue, how to position myself, the breathing, everything. It had to be realistic. If you don’t believe I’m singing, then you can throw the movie in the garbage,” Marion said on “The Graham Norton Show.”
11. Christopher Plummer – “The Sound of Music”
Christopher Plummer only sang small portions of his parts in “The Sound of Music” but it was decided that the rest would be dubbed with the voice of singer Bill Lee.
“They did [dub] the long passages. It was very well done. The entrances and exits from the songs were my voice, and then they filled in — in those days, they were very fussy about matching voices in musicals. And Julie [Andrews], of course, had been — you know, trained since day one as a — I mean, she was…tone perfect since she was in her cradle, which is an exasperating thing to admit. And it was awfully hard to match her and her sustained, long notes. So yeah, I was – they did it very well ’cause it sounded very much like me,” Christopher told NPR.