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Home Blog Features Watch: Six movie actors who can play the piano (and Chris O'Dowd)
Watch: Six movie actors who can play the piano (and Chris O'Dowd) Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Thursday, 08 November 2012 07:31

Chris O'Dowd playing piano in The Sapphires

I haven't done a listy-type article on here in a while, but I ended up falling down an internet black hole the other day while thinking about pianos. I started playing piano when I was around 10. I never stopped. So I always get excited when I spy a keyboard on the big screen (Ray was like a two hour musical orgasm). But with piano coaches for hire in Hollywood, ready to teach actors to pretend to tickle the ivories for a couple of bars, it’s sometimes hard to tell the real players from the fake pianists.

The truth is often given away in the editing. Scarlett Johansson in The Man Who Wasn’t There? We never see her fingers and face at the same time. Or it’s revealed by The New York Times. Adrien Brody in The Pianist? F. Murray Abraham in Amadeus? Geoffrey Rush as Shiney McShine in Shine? They all had a crash-course in piano pretending.


Not so for Chris O’Dowd. He taught himself the fingering for three soul songs while hopping between other jobs. On an iPad. Because he can imitate the whole number, that’s partly what makes The Sapphires so appealing; the sense of actual music unfolding live (see Once).


Ok, so O’Dowd may not know his scales and arpeggios, but those are his fingers tinkling the ivories in front of the camera. And that got me thinking. What other actors can play the piano? Like, really play the piano?


Here are six that I found…

Jamie Foxx



We've all seen Jamie Foxx rock the keyboard as Ray - a brilliant bit of musicianship as well as acting. But Foxx wheels out the old upright during his standup work as well. And it turns out he does a really good Prince impression.

YouTube Says:

"Jamie Foxx - Better than 98% of musicians out there today. And he's not even a musician for his living."

Mathematically speaking, I'm not sure that's accurate.



Jeff Goldblum



Now, er, see, Jeff Goldblum, Jeff… Goldblum. He's actually quite GOOD at the, er, at the, er… jazz. And that's why he's on the…list.

YouTube Says:

"oooo jeff goldblum is there anything he can't do??...erm yeah scat!"



Kelsey Grammar



Well, of course Beast can play piano. David Hyde Pierce can too. (Ok, I admit this one might just be an excuse to watch old clips of Frasier.)

YouTube Says:

"Frasier does"

You BET he does.



Hugh Laurie



Not happy with just being House, Hugh Laurie actually went down the road that more and more actors seem to choose these days: he released an album of piano playing. Like, a serious album. Of jazz standards. And then went on tour. Luckily, he's pretty decent. Fake American accent and all. Here's one of Hugh Laurie's best: St. James Infirmary.

YouTube Says:

"Glorious! Thank you 1000 times!!!"

1,000? That may be a little excessive!!!!!!!!!!


Dakota Fanning



YouTube Says:

"Little Dakota Fanning play piano on tv. O_O I didn't know that she can play piano too! ^_^"

"She can do a lot of thing! :DDD What do you think about she?!? :)"

I think she can do a lot of thing too.



Chris O'Dowd



The video that started me off down this black hole... After you've scrutinised Chris O'Dowd's iPad playing, try and spot Jessica Mauboy as Julie - she's the one out of the cast who actually appears on the soundtrack. Girl can sing.

YouTube Says:

"screw the bastard who disliked this song your probably rascist! they are the same as us!"



Dustin Hoffman 

Dustin Hoffman piano

Yes, Dustin Hoffman can play piano - something I only found out at the LFF press conference for Quartet. So here's Bette Midler taking Dustin Hoffman's clothes off while he tickles the ivories.

YouTube Says:

"aww look how cute dustin was if i was bette i would want him to do me right there on the piano lol"

LOL. But seriously, me too.



Chris O'Dowd's non-piano playing loveliness is out in UK cinemas now - head this way to read our review of The Sapphires.