The gorgeous Gretchen Mol has joined the cast of ABC’s Life On Mars, playing the lead female role of feminist cop Annie Norris. Mol, who wowed critics with her performance in The Notorious Life of Bettie Page, first made waves as a fashion model in the mid-1990s, but it was her goal to be an actress. In fact, Mol moved to New York after high school to study acting. (It’s hardly her fault a modeling scout took notice along the way, right?)
Mol is not alone — some of Hollywood’s most popular actresses were first noticed for their beauty, landing in the pages of fashion magazines before they made it to the silver screen. When you consider that Hollywood legends like Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Monroe modeled before they acted, you realize the model-turned-actress is practically a Tinsel Town tradition.
Of course, not all models belong on the silver screen. Mol and a handful of others, including Academy Award winners Charlize Theron and Halle Berry, always had acting as their goal; but take, for example, women like Cindy Crawford and Christie Brinkley. They’ve made it clear that acting requires much more than a pretty face. (To Brinkley’s credit, she never ventured beyond her esteemed work in the role of Red Ferarri Girl in the National Lampoon’s Vacation movies.)
With all this in mind, here are lists of the five best and worst MTAs (model-turned-actresses).
Top Five Best MTAs
1. Angelina Jolie, winner of the Academy Award (Girl Interrupted) Golden Globe award (George Wallace) and Screen Actors Guild Award (Gia).
2. Charlize Theron, winner of the Academy Award, Sag Award and Golden Globe award for Monster.
3. Halle Berry, winner of the Academy Award for Monster Ball and the Emmy and Golden Globe awards for Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.
4. Vanessa Williams, nominated for the Tony Award for her role in Into The Woods and multiple Emmys for Ugly Betty.
5. Uma Thurman, nominated for the Academy Award for Pulp Fiction and the Golden Globe award for both Kill Bill movies.
Runners up: Golden Globe winner Cybil Shepherd, Golden Globe nominee Brooke Shields and the beautiful Amber Valetta, because she was my dream girl in the 1990s and I have a soft spot for her.
Top Five Worst MTAs
1. Paris Hilton, who won a Razzie in 2005 for Worst Supporting Actress for her performance in House of Wax.
2. Cindy Crawford, universally panned by critics for her breakout role in Fair Game.
3. Elizabeth Hurley, always on the critics’ hit list. One meanie called Hurley’s acting “a notch above pornography.”
4. Andie McDowell, whose acting (and Southern accent) was so bad in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan Lord of the Apes, she had to be dubbed over by Glenn Close.
5. Jenny Shimizu, in Itty Bitty Titty Committee. Was that method acting she was doing? Was she playing herself? I loves me some Jenny, but maybe the next time she and Angelina get together, she can ask for acting tips.
There are plenty more models-turned-actresses out there: Shalom Harlow, Milla Jovovich, Rene Russo spring to mind. Who’s got real acting chops? Who should step away from the screen and return to the magazines? Give me your votes.