Jared Leto is all but certain to join a very exclusive Oscar club. How exclusive? He would be just the fourth member. When the Academy Awards are presented on March 2, look for Leto to become the fourth actor or actress who rose to fame as a singer to win an Oscar for a non-singing role. The first three: Frank Sinatra, Shirley Jones and Cher.
Leto, who fronts the band Thirty Seconds To Mars, has won nearly every award leading up to the Oscars for his touching portrayal of the transgender character, Rayon. This is Leto's 23rd film role. He made his film debut in 1995's "How To Make An American Quilt."
Leto, 42, is also doing well in his music career. Thirty Seconds To Mars landed its first top 10 album, "Love, Lust, Faith And Dreams," last spring. The band has yet to land a breakthrough top 40 single, but has cracked the Hot 100 with such songs as "The Kill (Bury Me) and "This Is War."
Frank Sinatra was the first singer to win an Oscar for a non-singing role. Sinatra, whose hits date back to 1940's "I'll Never Smile Again" (when he was the featured singer with Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra) won Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance as Pvt. Angelo Maggio in 1953's "From Here To Eternity." Sinatra was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role two years later for his role as the recovering heroin addict Frankie in "The Man With The Golden Arm."
Shirley Jones, who is best known as the mom on TV's "The Partridge Family," won Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her role as prostitute Lulu Bains in 1960's "Elmer Gantry." She first became known in the 1950s as the wholesome star of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals "Oklahoma!" and "Carousel" and as Pat Boone's co-star in "April Love." Jones never had a chart hit of her own, but the Partridge Family reached #1 in 1970 with "I Think I Love You."
Cher took Best Actress in a Leading Role for her role as Loretta Castorini in 1987's "Moonstruck." Four years earlier, she had been nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her role as Dolly Pelliker in "Silkwood." Cher first hit the Hot 100 in July 1965 with Bob Dylan's "All I Really Want To Do." Sonny & Cher charted the very next week with "I Got You Babe," which reached #1.
Eight other performers who first became famous for their music have been nominated for (but didn't win) Oscars for non-singing roles.
- Judy Garland, whose hits date back to 1939's immortal "Over The Rainbow," was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance as Irene Hoffman in 1961's courtroom drama "Judgment At Nuremberg."
- Lotte Lenya, who won a Tony in 1956 for a revival of "The Threepenny Opera," was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance as Countess Magda Terribili-Gonzales in 1961's "The Roman Spring Of Mrs. Stone."
- Bobby Darin, whose first hit was 1958's "Splish Splash," was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance as battle-scarred Corp. Jim Tompkins in 1963's "Captain Newman, M.D."
- Liza Minnelli, who won her first Tony for the 1965 musical "Flora, The Red Menace," was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance as the unstable Pookie Adams in 1969's "The Sterile Cuckoo."
- Ann-Margret, who had a top 20 hit in 1961 with "I Just Don't Understand," was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance as the love-hungry Bobbie in 1971's "Carnal Knowledge."
- Barbra Streisand, whose 1963 debut release kicked off a long string of top 10 albums, was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role her performance as activist Katie Morosky in 1973's "The Way We Were." (Streisand's version of the classic title song played over the credits.)
- Diahann Carroll, who won a Tony for the 1962 musical "No Strings," was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance as the title character in 1974's comedy-drama "Claudine."
- Will Smith, who landed his first hit with D.J. Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince in 1988, was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his role as boxing legend Muhammad Ali in 2001's "Ali," and again five years later for his role as homeless stockbroker Chris Gardner in "The Pursuit Of Happyness."
The Fine Print: How about Bing Crosby in the 1954 drama "The Country Girl" and Doris Day in the 1959 rom-com blockbuster "Pillow Talk"? Those stars sang a few songs in those movies, though, to be sure, the singing was incidental. How about Jamie Foxx in the 2004 action picture "Collateral"? Foxx became known as an actor before he became known as a singer.
Several other actors who have sung on occasion, but are best known as actors, have been nominated for (or won) Oscars for non-singing roles. They include Sal Mineo ("Exodus"), Patty Duke ("The Miracle Worker") and John Travolta ("Pulp Fiction").