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Actors Who Went Into Politics

Some claim Donald Trump is a great actor, others call him a reality star. Either way, the President is hardly the first person to go from the screen to politics.

By Glenn BushinskiPublished 6 years ago 8 min read

Celebrity actors have been dabbling in politics since the beginning of Hollywood. Besides serving the movie industry, they served our country as mayors, ambassadors, governors, and presidentsjust a few of the leading government roles played by Hollywood’s finest.

Some used their celebrity looks and charm to further the political process while others displayed a previously hidden civic prowess. One can question if they were actually interested in helping America and its citizens or merely looking for a different platform for their fame; either way, these celebrities are among the best known actors who went into politics.

Shirley Temple

Before the adorable darling Hollywood star came on the scene, film studios like Fox were feeling the trickledown effect the Great Depression was having on all industries—including the movie business. The studio was about to close its doors when the film Bright Eyes came out in 1934 and turned the film studio from red to black. Impoverished people suffering during the Great Depression flocked to the theaters and spent what little money they had to see the young movie starlet. When the light from her stardom began to fade as she got older, she segued into politics. Temple served as the 27th United Ambassador to Czechoslovakia, as the 18th Chief Protocol of the United States, and as an ambassador to Ghana. She passed away at age eighty-five in 2014.

Jerry Springer

Born in England but raised in Queens, New York, Jerry Springer has a degree in political science from Tulane University and a law degree from Northwestern University. He was elected to the Cincinnati city council in 1971 but resigned in 1974 after admitting to hiring a prostitute. After a failed run for Congress in 1970, Springer went on to find fame as a host of his namesake TV show, as well as as an actor on shows like MarriedWith Children, The Simpsons, and Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!

Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin may impersonate President Trump on Saturday Night Live, but the famously vocal actor has always had a real yen for politics.

In a July 2015 interview with radio host Howard Stern—showing he was ahead of his time—Baldwin said that Donald Trump was the president we deserved. He continued his rant by saying that our entire political system was broken and ran purely on money. He’s been an outspoken political advocate and Democrat since the Clinton presidency. The most famous Baldwin brother serves on the board of People for the American Way and is a strong supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. He has mentioned plans to run for Governor of New York, despite many critics saying he was not qualified for the gig. The last mention of him possibly running for New York Governor was in 2013, though he ended up declining to run. Either way, it's unlikely America has seen the last of this actor/political activist.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Before Arnold Swarzenegger was Governor of California he starred in a little movie called The Terminator directed by Titanic and Avatar director James Cameron. His catchphrase from the 1984 film, “I’ll be back,” is one of the most iconic movie sayings of all time.

His role as the Terminator, along with lead roles in hits such as Predator and True Lies, cemented his global fame. A lifelong fan of President Nixon, the most famous immigrant in Hollywood history began his political career by marrying Maria Shriver, President John F. Kennedy's niece. In 2003, the staunch Republican was elected Governor of California and went on to serve from 2004-2011, after which he returned to acting.

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan was a popular and handsome Republican, who’s famous for many things. He was once an actor. A famous one. So famous, in fact, that he is considered to be one of the most successful actors in history. When describing his acting career, many say he simply catapulted into stardom when only a contract player for Warner Bros. That same charisma that won him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame also played a role in his winning the White House way back in 1980. He played in so many movies in Hollywood’s early years that there are simply too many to list. He played alongside Bette Davis, Ginger Rogers, and Doris Day to name a few. The real question isn’t if Ronald Reagan was an amazing orator that utilized this talent in both Hollywood and the White House, but if he used his star qualities to work the media and convince the populace to vote for him thus gaining the White House. And if so, did Donald Trump use the same technique?

Justin Trudeau

Very few people in America had ever heard of Justin Trudeau before the good looking Canadian became Prime Minister of Canada in 2015. With stellar cheekbones and a smile to match, the country's women swooned when he took office in the Northern Provinces in November of 2015. So handsome, in fact, one would think he walked straight out of the movies and into politics. Which he did. Trudeau's father was the Prime Minister of Canada in the 1980s, and his son decided to pursue acting. He starred in the 2007 miniseries The Great War, which aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Company. Apparently his venture into the arts wasn't satisfying enough for the man with politics in his blood, as he decided to use his brains, charm, lineage and leading man looks to help move Canada into the future.

Ben Stein

The homeroom teacher from the mega-hit film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was actually into politics long before he began making movies. He served as a speechwriter for President Richard Nixon and later for President Gerald Ford, and his father was an economist who worked for President Nixon. Best known for his nasal voice and deadpan delivery, Stein—unlike most people on this list—started in politics and ended up in movies.

George Clooney

With music legend Rosemary Clooney of White Christmas fame as his aunt, George Clooney was virtually destined to be a celebrity. After appearing on everything from Roseanne to Facts of Life, Clooney hit it big as studly Dr. Doug Ross on the medical soap opera E.R. Clooney became a movie star in such films as Out of Sight and Batman and Robin, butbecame just as well known for his political activism. A stout liberal and big supporter of Hillary Clinton, he's served as one of the United Nations Messengers of Peace since 2008 and is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Clooney's name has been floated for many political positions over the years but so far he's resisted the urge to run.

Donald Trump

The President didn’t become famous then rich; he became super rich in real estate then used that to launch a successful television career as the lead in the reality show The Apprentice and The Celebrity Apprentice. Without ever running for any political office or holding a single elected position, Trump made history and shocked the world when he upset presumed front-runner and former First Lady Hillary Clinton to become leader of the free world. Only time will tell if he ends up forsaking politics and returning to either his entrepreneurial or television roots.

Al Franken

After cutting his acting teeth on the iconic comedy sketch show SaturdayNight Live when it premiered in the 1970s, Franken went on to star in movies such as Stuart Saves His Family and the TV show 3rd Rock From the Sun. When his acting career started to wane, the prominent liberal with a degree from Harvard decided to run for office in his home state of Minnesota. Despite admitting to using cocaine while on SNL, Franken was elected United States Senator in 2009 and has held the office ever since.

Russell Means

With prominent roles in everything from the hit movie The Last of the Mohicans to the classic comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm, Russel Means was once considered the most famous Native American in the world. Means spent a good portion of his life fighting for Native American rights before becoming an actor. In 1969, he participated in the famous Alcatraz occupation and in 1970, along with other activists, commandeered a replica of the Mayflower ship in protest to the mistreatment of Native Americans. In 1987, he ran for the nomination of President of the United States under the Libertarian Party. He passed away in 2012 in South Dakota, not far from where the battle over the pipeline at Standing Rock ensued.

Clint Eastwood

The Oscar winner and Hollywood heavyweight has always shown an interest in politics. While in the middle of a hugely successful career as an actor in such hits as Rawhide, The Outlaw Josey Wales, and Dirty Harry, Eastwood swapped the sets for elected office, spending two non-consecutive terms as Mayor of Carmel, California in 1986 and 2001. After his mayoral stint, the prominent Republican turned to directing, and helmed such classics as Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. Eastwood is the rare legend in Hollywood revered as much for his acting as for his political acumen.

Jesse Ventura

Once a part of the reform party, the 38th Governor of Minnesota used to wear spandex in the ring as a professional wrestler. Now a member of the Independent Party, there’s no word on what connection he might have to Linda McMahon—the current pick for running the Small Business Administration under President Trump and the former chief of World Wrestling Entertainment. Virtually no one would argue that there is a lot of acting involved in being a professional wrestler, and that’s why he's included on this list of actors turned politicians.

Sonny Bono

Before serving as a Congressman and Mayor in California, Sonny Bono was the other half of the famous singing duo Sonny & Cher. He also acted in shows such as Fantasy Island, Hairspray, and Men In Black. Bono is the only member of Congress to have scored a number one pop single on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. After he died in a skiing accident in 1998, his widow Mary Bono was elected to fill the remainder of his congressional term, and went on to be elected in her own right seven more times.

celebritiespop culturepoliticians

About the Creator

Glenn Bushinski

Poli Sci professor, closet protestor, and news addict. Definitely House Stark.

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