25 Actors Who Really Sang (And Didn’t) In Movies

I feel so cheated that Jamie Foxx didn’t really sing in Ray, but I love that Heath Ledger did in 10 Things I Hate About You.

We asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell us the tricks and lies their favorite actors pulled on them. Here are the musical dupes you probably fell for, along with some that are actually real.

Not all submissions are from Community users.

1.

Didn’t sing: Even though Jamie Foxx won a Grammy (and has nine total nominations), he wasn’t actually the one singing when he played Ray Charles in the Ray biopic.


ABC / Universal Pictures

Suggested by Jonathan Dennis, Facebook

Jamie Foxx did all of the piano playing himself while shooting the biopic, and he even got to play with Ray Charles one time before making the movie, but the vocals weren’t actually provided by Foxx. Instead, he lip-synched to vintage Ray Charles studio recordings for the movie. Foxx ultimately won the Best Actor Oscar that year for his performance.

2.

Did sing: Renée Zellweger provided the actual (and almost all ~live~!) vocals while playing the iconic Judy Garland in the biopic Judy.


20th Century Fox / youtube.com

Renée Zellweger worked with legendary vocal coach Gary Catona to get her incredible singing voice as strong as possible for the movie: “The trick was not impersonating Judy Garland, but bringing something of her own alchemy to it, which I feel she succeeded in doing, while remaining true to the character and making it come alive.”

Zellweger apparently transformed into Judy Garland so well, and her voice was so mesmerizing, that the extras on set would literally be sobbing during takes because it was so magical. She ultimately won her second Oscar and first Best Actress Oscar for the performance.

3.

Didn’t sing: Zac Efron’s singing voice wasn’t really used in High School Musical. The vocals for Troy Bolton were mostly provided by Drew Seeley.


Disney Channel / Disney / youtube.com

Suggested by mcdoodie

Efron revealed that he was kind of blindsided when he found out that his voice wasn’t fully featured in the movie, but was instead blended and replaced with Drew Seeley’s in post-production: “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.”

Drew Seeley originally auditioned for the role of Troy Bolton and even co-wrote “Get’cha Head in the Game,” one of the movie’s iconic songs, which earned him a Creative Arts Emmy. Seeley even went on tour with the HSM cast as Troy Bolton because Efron was busy shooting Hairspray.

4.

Did sing: Even though Zac Efron’s voice wasn’t really used in the first High School Musical movie, it was used in the sequels.


Disney Channel

Suggested by mcdoodie

While Zac Efron felt blindsided when Disney decided to replace his singing voice with Drew Seeley’s in the first movie, Efron did get to sing as Troy Bolton in its sequels: “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,” Efron said.

5.

Didn’t sing: Even though Jennifer Lopez had to sing in her audition for Selena, they didn’t end up using her real voice in the movie.


CBS / youtube.com

Suggested by sarar4a

They used Selena Quintanilla’s actual singing voice for the movie, and Jennifer Lopez just lip-synched. Lopez was ultimately nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in the movie, and over the next few years she was nominated for two Grammys, both for Best Dance Recording.

6.

Did sing: Reese Witherspoon played the real-life June Carter Cash in her Oscar-winning performance in Walk the Line, and she even sang everything herself.


20th Century Fox / ABC

Witherspoon spent six months training with vocal coaches so she could learn how to sing, play an instrument, and record an album. In 2020, she reminisced on Instagram about the experience, saying, “Joaquin and the guys in the band practiced every day and every night. Despite all the practice, I was so nervous to sing in front of those huge crowds, but once we got started, it was such a thrill. Truly an unforgettable experience I will always cherish.”

7.

Didn’t sing: Even though Hilary Duff played both Lizzie and Isabella in The Lizzie McGuire Movie, her sister, Haylie Duff, was actually the one who sang Isabella’s part for “What Dreams Are Made Of.”


Disney

Suggested by Tayla Leigh Sargent, Facebook

Haylie also guest-starred in a few episodes of Lizzie McGuire on the Disney Channel. She played Amy, Kate Sanders’ equally mean cousin.

8.

Did sing: However, Hilary Duff did, of course, sing the iconic Lizzie McGuire part for the movie. After all, Duff is an international pop star in her own right, releasing five studio albums and selling over 15 million records worldwide.


Disney / youtube.com

Suggested by Tayla Leigh Sargent, Facebook

In the behind-the-scenes commentary for The Lizzie McGuire Movie, Hilary Duff revealed that the musical number was the biggest and most expensive scene to shoot in the entire film. They built the interior of the Colosseum and then added CGI to make it look like Lizzie was really performing there. Iconic!

9.

Didn’t sing: Even though Wendy Makkena (Sister Mary Robert) had to sing during her Sister Act audition, she ended up lip-synching all of her character’s vocals for the movies.


Buena Vista Pictures

Suggested by hannahb48

Makkena did have to sing during her audition for the first Sister Act movie and even hired three background singers to stand behind her during the audition, in hopes that they’d drown her out and make her sound better in front of the producers.

Andrea Robinson provided the singing voice for both Sister Act movies. She also sang “Athena’s Song” in The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning.

10.

Did sing: Kathy Najimy actually provided her character’s operatic singing voice in the Sister Act movies.


ABC

During the 25th anniversary reunion of Sister Act on The View, Kathy Najimy revealed that she auditioned six times for the role of Sister Mary Patrick, and during her final one she met with Marc Shaiman, who provided the musical arrangements for the films.

She sang for him using her normal singing voice, but he asked if she had anything else available. “I have this funny opera voice. I don’t think you’re gonna like it,” she responded. Najimy then belted out a single, high-pitched note, and Shaiman immediately said, “Do that! Don’t do anything else!”

11.

Didn’t sing: Rami Malek won the Best Actor Oscar for Bohemian Rhapsody, but his “singing” in the movie was mostly just old tapes of Freddie Mercury and vocals from Marc Martel.


Live Aid / youtube.com / 20th Century Fox / ABC / youtube.com

Suggested by kaylayandoli

Malek spent countless hours prepping for the role, mimicking Mercury’s moves and speaking with a fake overbite, but according to Rolling Stone magazine, “One thing he couldn’t re-create was Mercury’s singing voice. Most singing scenes in the movie rely on either vocal stems from Queen master tapes or new recordings by Marc Martel, a Canadian Christian rock singer whose voice is practically identical to the late frontman’s.”

Malek even went as far as saying that “no one wants to hear me sing,” so I guess it’s a good thing that his vocals were dubbed.

12.

Did sing: On top of directing, producing, co-writing, and starring in A Star Is Born, Bradley Cooper provided the actual singing voice for Jackson Maine too.


ABC

Bradley Cooper worked with a vocal coach for several months before shooting the movie. He even said that some of the inspiration for his vocals came from knowing that Lady Gaga’s voice was so powerful, and she’d be singing live too: “When I knew I wanted to do this movie and have [Lady Gaga] and sing everything live was that I had to create these guys that are so idiosyncratic and iconic and, you know, they’re like rock stars.”

When Lady Gaga first met Bradley Cooper about the movie and they sang together, she couldn’t get over how impressed she was with his vocal talent, saying, “He opened his mouth to sing. I was blown away by his voice because he sings from his gut, and he sings from his soul. I was overwhelmed by his ability to tell a story with his voice.”

The two famously sang “Shallow” live at the 2019 Oscars, where Lady Gaga won for Best Original Song and Cooper was nominated for three awards himself. The two co-wrote and produced most of the songs from the movie together, and they each won multiple Grammys because of it.

13.

Didn’t sing: Even though Marion Cotillard took singing lessons for her role as Édith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, she lip-synched in the movie.


BBC / youtube.com

Suggested by spenceralthouse

Cotillard said she spent more than six months in this role, and the hardest part was learning how to sing like Piaf because it was so technical. Even though she wasn’t physically singing in the role, she wanted to make sure her tongue and lips were moving just like Piaf’s did. It ultimately won her the Best Actress Oscar in 2008.

14.

Did sing: Tom Hiddleston played Grammy-winner Hank Williams in I Saw the Light and even sang several of his songs for the movie.


CBS

Suggested by noradominick

Portraying the iconic singer wasn’t the easiest feat for Hiddleston — for example, Hiddleston is a baritone, and Williams was a tenor — so he spent a long time training his vocal cords to mimic what Williams could do: “I had listened to ‘Love Sick Blues’ and to ‘Long Gone Lonesome Blues,’ and I didn’t know how to make my vocal cords vibrate to make that specific sound…I thought it was an accident of genetics.”

Hiddleston acted in the movie with fellow Marvel costar Elizabeth Olsen, who also sang everything herself. She played Williams’ wife, Audrey Williams, the iconic singer and songwriter.

15.

Didn’t sing: BD Wong provided Li Shang’s speaking voice in Mulan, but Donny Osmond was the one who sang the iconic “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” number.


Disney / ABC

Suggested by Elise Haverstick, Facebook

Osmond even sang this iconic song during Disney’s Family Singalong special in April of 2020.

16.

Did sing: Heath Ledger really sang that iconic “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” cover while running on the bleachers in 10 Things I Hate About You.


Buena Vista Pictures

Director Gil Junger reminisced about shooting that iconic bleacher scene at the end of the movie, saying how impressed he was with Ledger: “He was running take after take, up and down those steps. I was actually very surprised at Heath’s athleticism while singing because, yes, that was him singing. Like, of course he could freaking sing too, right? He could wear green leather pants and sing!”

17.

Didn’t sing: The producers and directors of O Brother, Where Art Thou? heard George Clooney record one song for the movie and immediately realized they needed to hire someone else to provide the vocals.


TNT / youtube.com

Suggested by noradominick

George Clooney’s aunt is the legendary Rosemary Clooney, so everyone working on O Brother, Where Art Thou? assumed he’d be an incredible singer as well. They even had him record a song for the movie without hearing him sing beforehand.

Clooney knew he wasn’t the best singer, so he decided to have some fun with the producers: “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, but I wanted them to suffer a little more, so I said it was great.” Clooney ultimately told them he was fine with lip-synching, so they hired Dan Tyminski to provide his character’s vocals.

18.

Did sing: Taron Egerton sang every single note while portraying Elton John in the Rocketman biopic.


BBC / Paramount Pictures / Elton John / youtube.com

Taron Egerton was already familiar with singing on screen, having done it for the animated movie Sing in 2016, but his role as the iconic Elton John was an entirely different undertaking. The world was already familiar with John’s voice, so Egerton didn’t feel the need to mimic it: “It’s not intended to be a carbon copy performance of who Elton is. This was an enormous source of anxiety to me — I believed that it would work, but I wasn’t certain of it.”

Egerton’s performance in the movie earned him a Golden Globe win, a BAFTA nomination, and even a Grammy nomination. He said that making Rocketman was “the single greatest experience of my life.”

19.

Didn’t sing: Christopher Plummer only sang tiiiiiiny bits of each song in The Sound of Music, and they dubbed most of his singing with the voice of Bill Lee.


20th Century Fox / youtube.com

Suggested by tessafahey

Plummer went into detail about the whole dubbing process on The Sound of Music, saying, “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.”

Lee was an actor himself, voicing and singing for characters in more than a dozen Disney films, like Cinderella, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and The Jungle Book.

20.

Did sing: Oscar Isaac was in several bands growing up, and that was actually him singing in the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis.


CBS Films / NBC

Oscar Isaac is actually a super-talented musician and even went to Julliard. Before starring in Inside Llewyn Davis, he played a musician in the movie 10 Years. The producers sent him potential songs for his character to play, but Isaac took things a step further by writing the song himself: “I’ve been playing and writing music my whole life and thought that I would love to take on the challenge of creating a song that we can use for the movie. So I wrote a song called ‘Never Had,’ and he loved it, and I ended up performing the song live in the movie.”

While working on Inside Llewyn Davis, Isaac got to play in the studio with Justin Timberlake and Marcus Mumford, both of whom were involved in the movie. Isaac said the experience “was just heaven.”

21.

Didn’t sing: Even though Matthew Broderick recorded two songs as Simba in The Lion King, the vocals were ultimately provided by Joseph Williams, the lead singer of Toto.


CBS / youtube.com

Suggested by juliak41

Williams, who was the lead singer of Toto from 1986 to 1988 and from 2010 to 2019, worked on the soundtracks for dozens of movies, ranging from Pitch Perfect to The Goonies to Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi. Even though Broderick recorded a few vocals for The Lion King, Williams’ voice was used as Simba on “Hakuna Matata” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”

22.

Did sing: Carey Mulligan actually sang live during her beautiful and haunting cover of “New York, New York” in the movie Shame.


Digital Spy / digitalspy.com / Momentum Pictures

Director and cowriter Steve McQueen wanted to shoot Mulligan’s performance of “New York, New York” live and in one take: “He never wanted to touch anything in post-production, so that’s what we did. I think it was 13 or 15 takes, and the last one was sort of roughly there.”

Mulligan also had to sing for her role in Inside Llewyn Davis, and even though she’s still thrilled to have worked on a Coen brothers film, the experience of having to sing in front of everyone involved (including the legendary Patti Smith), was horrifying: “I f*cking have never been more scared in my life. It was terrifying…I was the only person in the film who wasn’t a real-life singer, so all these people are, like, totally at home on that stage. … Way, way scarier than anything I’ve done in acting.”

23.

Didn’t sing: Rebecca Ferguson didn’t actually sing “Never Enough” in The Greatest Showman. Instead, she lip-synched to vocals from Loren Allred.


20th Century Fox / NBC / youtube.com

Suggested by matb2003

Loren Allred, who was actually a contestant on The Voice in the US in 2012, provided the character’s vocals for the film. You might also recognize Allred from that suuuuper-viral YouTube video of Keala Settle singing “This Is Me” to the 20th Century Fox studio heads in hopes of getting the film greenlit. Allred was right behind her, standing in the choir.

24.

Did sing: Eddie Murphy sang every single note as Jimmy Early in his should-be Oscar-winning role in Dreamgirls.


Harpo Productions / DreamWorks Picture

Eddie Murphy provided background vocals on several songs earlier in his career and even had a few hits himself, leading to his only non-comedy-related Grammy nomination in 1983.

Being able to sing and act, especially in a dramatic role, was a complete change for Murphy. While promoting the movie back in 2006, Oprah Winfrey asked him what the best part about working on Dreamgirls was, and he said, “Just doing something I’ve never done before. I’ve been making movies for 25 years, so, you know, this was the first time I got the opportunity to be in something like this…just being in something like this and getting to push myself.”

25.

And didn’t sing: Jonathan Taylor Thomas provided the speaking voice for Young Simba in The Lion King, but Jason Weaver provided the singing voice (and he turned down $2 million so he could negotiate a royalty deal with Disney).


Disney / youtube.com

Suggested by taylorowens

You probably know Weaver best as Marcus Henderson in Smart Guy or as Michael Jackson in The Jacksons: An American Dream, but in the early ’90s he was the uncredited singing voice for Young Simba.

Weaver revealed that Disney originally offered him $2 million to supply Young Simba’s singing voice, but his mother knew the power of Disney and insisted on a royalties deal. They settled on $100,000 plus royalties. Weaver said that over time, he’s made back well more than that initial $2 million, so they definitely made the right decision.

Did your favorite musical performance not make the list? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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