Earlier this year, rumors began swirling that actress Ashley Judd might run for Senate in her home state of Kentucky, where she would challenge Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014. While she has not yet officially announced her candidacy, Judd has begun assessing her chances by hiring a Democratic pollster and conducting opposition research on herself, Politico reported yesterday.
While we savor the possibility of an upcoming Judd-McConnell showdown, here are five thespians who turned their acting skills to politics.
Without a doubt, President Ronald Reagan is the number one celebrity-turned-politician. Reagan dedicated two decades of his post-college career to radio and film, where he honed the rhetorical skills that would serve him well in the political arena. During World War II, Reagan narrated and starred in several military short films, which, as Rachel Maddow writes in Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power “made him a practiced hand at stirring America’s martial moxie.” His most famous movie role was in Knute Rockne, All American (1940), where he played the role of Notre Dame halfback George “the Gipper” Gipp. Starting out as governor of California (1967-1975), Reagan went on to become President in 1980, when he defeated incumbent Jimmy Carter. He was re-elected in 1984, winning a landslide election against Democrat Walter Mondale.
The man whose distinctive Austrian accent spawned countless impersonations first became known as a professional bodybuilder, whose seven Mr. Olympia titles granted him permanent legend status in the trade. The film Pumping Iron (1977) immortalized his bodybuilding exploits and put him on the fast track to Hollywood. Schwarzenegger went on to become an international action film star, starring in blockbusters like Terminator and Terminator 2, likely his most famous roles. In 2003, Arnie announced his candidacy for governor of California as a Republican, and won the election. Thus, The Governator was born. Schwarzenegger won a second term in 2006, signing, among other things, the country’s first bill creating a cap on carbon emissions.
This man hardly needs an introduction. His illustrious film acting career spans 50 years, and contains numerous classics, such as Dirty Harry, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and more recent classics Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River, both of which he directed. His foray into politics is lesser known. In 1986, Eastwood served in the nonpartisan office of Mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, until 1988. More recently, he gave a speech at the 2012 Republican Convention, where he traded barbs with an imaginary Barack Obama sitting in an empty chair.
The junior senator from Minnesota, Al Franken first ran for Senate, and won, as a Democrat in 2008, defeating incumbent Norm Coleman. Franken became initially well known when he joined Saturday Night Live in 1975 as a writer and performer, and one of its founding members.
The former U.S. senator of Tennessee (1994-2003) has an extensive film résumé, but is probably most well known for his role on Law and Order, where he played Manhattan District Attorney Arthur Branch. Thompson has remained active in both acting and politics, and in 2008 ran in the Republican presidential primaries, garnering 11 delegates before dropping out in January 2008. He currently does TV commercials for reverse mortgages.