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Hollywood Posers: 20 Supermodels Who Tried Acting

Some of the fashion world’s hottest stars haven’t been content to keep the talents on the catwalk

kate upton

On April 25th, two-time SI Swimsuit Issue cover girl Kate Upton makes her play for silver-screen stardom in the romantic comedy The Other Woman. But despite her supermodel status, Upton is far from a guaranteed bet to make it big as an actress. To help gauge her odds for a smooth transition, we've amassed a runway's worth of other modeling megastars who've made similar cinematic leaps, noting their first significant film role. For Kate's sake, we hope the future looks more like it did for Rebecca Romijn after her X-Men success than it did for Cindy Crawford following her Fair Game dud. By Kenny Herzog

PAPER LION Lauren Hutton

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Lauren Hutton (“Paper Lion,” 1968)

Eileen Ford, founder of the famous Ford Modeling Agency, personally signed former Playboy Club employee Hutton in 1964, and launched what many consider the first American supermodel ascendancy. Just four years later, the gap-toothed beauty was sharing the screen with Alan Alda in Paper Lion, and the next decade-plus was peppered with parts big and small in The Gambler, Robert Altman's A Wedding and, most provocatively, the 1980 male-escort drama American Gigolo. Sure, there have been some stumbles since then (Once Bitten, anyone?), but Hutton has arguably pulled off the model-to-actress transition better than anyone.

THE BOY FRIEND TWIGGY

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Twiggy (“The Boy Friend,” 1971)

British babe Lesley Lawson, aka Twiggy, is generally regarded as the world's first supermodel. After just a few short years in fashion − during which he not only landed several Vogue shoots but also launched a Twiggy cosmetics line − the now-64-year-old beauty quit modeling for Hollywood. She first starred in auteur Ken Russell's 1971 musical comedy The Boy Friend. Over the ensuing years, Lawson scattered the odd film role (e.g. Harold Ramis' underrated 1986 comedy Club Paradise) among TV stints and a recording career. Proving that everything goes in cycles, in the mid-2000s, she became a regular judge on America's Next Top Model.

THE HUMAN FACTOR Iman

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Iman (“The Human Factor,” 1979)

The Somalian stunner, who's been married to David Bowie for more than 20 years, first came to the U.S. as a teen fashion muse in the late 1970s. It wasn't long before she scored the part of Nicol Williamson's love mistress in director Otto Preminger's final film, 1979's The Human Factor. She was featured six years later alongside Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in Sydney Pollack's acclaimed Out of Africa. Despite such impressive early goings, Iman instead focused the majority of her post-cover woman energies on charity work and a cosmetics line, although a generation of Michael Jackson fans will never forget her turn as Eddie Murphy's queen in 1992's mini-movie for the MJ single "Remember the Time."

HER ALIBI Paulina Porizkov

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Paulina Porizkova (“Her Alibi,” 1989)

This 49-year-old Czech's Twitter bio proclaims she's an "accidental former supermodel" and "occasional actress." She is also the long-time spouse of Cars frontman Ric Ocasek (whom she met while starring in the band's video for "Drive"). Porizkova's supermodel status spanned the 1980s, featuring the gamut of major magazine covers (SI, Playboy, Vogue et al) and TV ads. By the late Eighties, Mrs. Ocasek began to pursue acting. She gained widest notice playing a murder suspect opposite Tom Selleck in the quirky comedy Her Alibi, and has since stayed mostly in the nook of smaller indie fare, having avoided big screens entirely for the past decade. 

Rene Russo Major League

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Rene Russo (“Major League,” 1990)

This 60-year-old Left Coaster was so ever-present as a leading woman during the 1990s and 2000s that it may come as a surprise to learn she was a much-in-demand model throughout most of the previous two decades. But by 1989, she was ready to slide headfirst into big-screen baseball romp Major League as Tom Berenger's ladylove. A succession of crowd pleasers followed, including In the Line of Fire, Get Shorty, Ransom and The Thomas Crown Affair, before Russo took a sabbatical to raise her daughter. She returned these past few years in both Thor movies as the titular comic-book hero's stepmother, and will appear in Nightcrawler with Jake Gyllenhaal later this year. 

Kathy Ireland Necessary Roughness

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Kathy Ireland (“Necessary Roughness,” 1991)

Before putting her name on lines of furniture (her Kathy Ireland Worldwide brand is a $2 billion business), Kathy Ireland set tongues wagging on the cover of SI's 1989 Swimsuit Issue (and again in '92 and '94). She was the ultimate Californian girl next door, and like most of her peers, a familiar face on magazines before turning 18. But her breakout role in 1991's ragtag football comedy Necessary Roughness, didn't quite break the box office. Apart from sidling up against Emilio Estevez for 1993's action spoof Loaded Weapon 1, Ireland mostly cashed in her recognizable appeal for sitcom drop-ins and gauzy TV movies. 

RETURN TO THE BLUE LAGOON Milla Jovovich

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Milla Jovovich (“Return to the Blue Lagoon,” 1991)

Legendary photographer Richard Avedon photographed this Ukrainian beauty when she was just 11-years-old. At 12, Jovovich landed the cover of an Italian fashion mag. Nearly 30 years on, she still strikes poses for Ann Taylor and Mercedes-Benz. But in between, she's proved herself to be a versatile film actress, starting with her turn in 1991's Return to the Blue Lagoon, in addition to inhabiting one of Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused slackers, an android goddess in The Fifth Element and the lead ass-kicker in her director-husband Paul W.S. Anderson's Resident Evil franchise. 

SIRENS Elle Macpherson

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Elle Macpherson (“Sirens,” 1993)

Hard to believe this Aussie siren just turned 50. Or that it's been 21 years since her head-turning work as a painter's oft-nude muse in the provocative Hugh Grant vehicle Sirens (Macpherson's actual big-screen debut was as, naturally, a model in Woody Allen's 1990 romance Alice). Macpherson started out in TV ads, like this retro spot for TaB cola. By 1988, she'd made the covers of Elle and SI's Swimsuit Issue. Post-Sirens she compiled some impressive screen credits by working in Barbra Streisand's The Mirror Has Two Faces and alongside Ben Stiller and Sarah Jessica Parker in If Lucy Fell. Unfortunately, a supporting turn in 1997's misstep Batman and Robin halted her Hollywood momentum. But don't feel too bad. Like so many of her colleagues, Macpherson has thrived as a peddler of namesake beauty products

tyra banks

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Tyra Banks (“Higher Learning,” 1995)

The America's Next Top Model host and all-around cultural paragon had risen to international modeling preeminence while still a teenager. After several episodes opposite Will Smith on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Banks signed on as college student Deja in John Singleton's race-relations drama Higher Learning. (Banks' character was shot and killed in the film, which wasn't exactly an auspicious beginning.) She'd go on to ensemble appearances in Coyote Ugly and Halloween: Resurrection, and makes the odd TV cameo on series like Glee, but ultimately thrived in her most natural role: empress of the Tyra brand. 

Cindy Crawford Fair Game

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Cindy Crawford (“Fair Game,” 1995)

Cindy Crawford and Fair Game co-star William Baldwin's ludicrous freight train sex scene lives on in film infamy, even if the cockamamie action flick (based, no less, on the same novel that inspired Sylvester Stallone's Cobra) has since faded from our collective memory. Crawford's acting trajectory largely stalled (excepting occasional sitcom guest spots), but she's since flourished in the quintessential ex-supermodel role of skin-care spokesperson. 

carol alt

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Carol Alt (“Private Parts,” 1996)

Statuesque brunette Carol Alt had graced more than 200 magazine covers by the time she'd turned 23 in 1983. At one point in her preeminence, Playboy even christened her "The Most Beautiful Woman in the World." Howard Stern apparently concurred, and cast her as his fancy mistress (complete with CGI breast enhancements) in the opening scene of his semi-autobiographical 1996 comedy Private Parts. Before and after that performance, Alt was a regular in foreign and straight-to-video flicks (see: 1992's Beyond Justice with Rutger Hauer). Woody Allen put her back into theaters with a small part in 2012's To Rome With Love, although her main gig these days is as a health and lifestyle author and expert. 

FRIENDS & LOVERS Stephen Baldwin Claudia Schiffer

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Claudia Schiffer (“Friends & Lovers,” 1999)

The German model often evoked comparisons to Bridget Bardot, but to most who were alive and awake during the Nineties, she'll forever be temptation personified as a result of appearing in a string of Guess? ads immortalized by their Wayne's World "schwing"-worthiness. (That, and her marriage to magician David Copperfield.) Schiffer took a stab at acting starting in the late Nineties, appearing in romantic dud Friends & Lovers and James Toback's ensemble oddity Black and White, in addition to a Zoolander cameo and a brief appearance in 2003's date-night staple Love Actually. Since then, she's gone back to being a famous retail face and launched an eponymous fashion line. And done this.

rebecca romijn x men

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Rebecca Romijn (“X-Men,” 2000)

We could debate whether Romijn's current husband, Jerry O'Connell, was an upgrade from ex John Stamos, but her upward professional arc from SI supermodel to summer-blockbuster regular is undeniably impressive. After nearly a decade of catwalks and cover shoots, not to mention hosting MTV's House of Style, Romijn went big − and body painted − as Mystique in 2000's X-Men. The requisite sequels followed, along with a head-turning 2002 lead role in Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale. Most of her subsequent acting work has been in recurring TV gigs. Accordingly, it was announced last week that she's set to star in TNT's upcoming supernatural drama The Librarians

amber valletta

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Amber Valletta (“What Lies Beneath,” 2000)

In 1996, Oklahoman Amber Valletta grabbed one of fashion's brass rings, taking a turn as MTV's House of Style host after Cindy Crawford's departure. In 1999, her preeminence was crystalized on the cover of Vogue's "Modern Muses" issue (along with Gisele, Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer, to name a few). The next year, she tripled down with a trio of film roles, including Robert Zemeckis' Harrison Ford-headed horror flick What Lies Beneath and Brett Ratner's Nicolas Cage vehicle The Family Man. Valletta's filmography has steadily grown (e.g., Hitch, Transporter 2), although she never quite attained A-List status. She did, however, snag a juicy recurring role in ABC's hit Revenge.

Tyrese Gibson Baby Boy

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Tyrese Gibson (“Baby Boy,” 2001)

Los Angeles native Tyrese Gibson was ubiquitous in Guess? and other retail ads before being old enough to legally buy a drink. Gibson paired up with John Singleton for Baby Boy in 2001. The inner-city coming-of-age story wasn't a smash, but the new actor had a spark. He's since become a bona fide box-office draw, thanks mostly to the Transformers and Fast and Furious franchises. He's also established a third career as a R&B singer. 

Gisele Bundchen Taxi

20th Century Fox Film Corp.

Gisele Bündchen (“Taxi,” 2004)

Mrs. Tom Brady waited until the relatively ripe age of 24 to explore how her slinky Brazilian figure and sea-blue eyes might translate to movie screens. Unfortunately, she attached herself to the 2004 Jimmy Fallon/Queen Latifah debacle Taxi, playing the ringleader of villainous South American lady bank-robbers. Apart from a tiny bit of screen time in Devil Wears Prada, Bündchen has happily retreated to her foremost occupation. 

SEX AND THE CITY: THE MOVIE Jason Lewis

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Jason Lewis (“Sex and the City,” 2008)

Millions of HBO viewers' jaws dropped when Jason Lewis debuted as Sex and the City vixen Samantha's (Kim Cattrall) boy-candy, Smith Jerrod, in 2003. But fashion insiders had been admiring his California surfer-dude magnetism for years (just check out this vintage House of Style profile on the former runway king). In SATC, Lewis' alter ego − a model with aspirations of movie stardom − foretold his own future. Prominent screen time in both of that series' movie adaptations followed, and he's since appeared with Adrien Brody in The Jacket, Kevin Costner in Mr. Brooks and a lot of TV odds and ends. 

JUST GO WITH IT Brooklyn Decker

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Brooklyn Decker (“Just Go With It,” 2011)

After becoming a mainstay in the SI swimsuit issue, Decker caught the acting bug, popping up on television in Ugly Betty and Chuck, among other network shows. Then, in 2011, she landed a plum gig as Adam Sandler's love interest in Just Go With It (a remake of a 1969 Walter Matthau/Ingrid Berman rom-com). Alas, not too many folks went to go see it. Ditto for ensuing bombs Battleship and What to Expect When You're Expecting.

marisa miller R.I.P.D

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Marisa Miller (“R.I.P.D.,” 2013)

This latter-day Victoria's Secret Angel and SI Swimsuit model has parlayed her visibility for those brands, in addition to high-profile campaigns for Tommy Hilfiger and True Religion, into a variety of fashion lines, including sneakers and surfing gear. And in 2013, Miller made the calculated jump to film. Unfortunately, her first major role was in the reviled comic-book adaptation R.I.P.D. 

Kate Upton

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Kate Upton (“The Other Woman,” 2013)

Her hourglass figure has helped make Upton the modeling world's breakout face of the decade, which she's now trying to parlay into a theatrical career via The Other Woman — though she did appear fleetingly in 2011's Tower Heist and 2012's The Three Stooges. This time around, the 21-year-old acting novice is fortunate to have pros Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann to carry the weight in The Other Woman's story of jilted women out for revenge.

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