Movie stars aren't just movie stars anymore, they're so much more than that. Actors are public figures with a public face that do so much more than merely act in movies. They support charities and are sportspersons as well. Some of them also run businesses on the side. Restaurants, car dealerships, cosmetics, lingerie – they have all been there and done that, and rather successfully too since they already have a bankable name to their credit.
Along with their public façade, of course, actors are human beings, who possess human interests and hobbies. Not all of these hobbies go down with the public, or are something celebrities may even want to make public. Take cars and racing, for example. Some actors are car fans, while some – on the other hand – love cars but mostly when they're going at G-force speeds. Of course, while some celebs speed on roads and get arrested for risky driving, the actors we're talking about are the ones that have a penchant for racing but only on tracks. These actors may have a bit of a wild streak in them, but they exercise it in safe environs built for racing instead of risking lives by speeding on the road. Some of them were born with the racing bug, while some got bitten by it when they had to play a race car driver for a movie part. Either way, in case these actors get bored with acting, well, the race tracks will always have something thrilling to offer them.
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24 Michelle Rodriguez: Fast & Furious For Real
Michelle Rodriguez has been seen in two-bit roles in many a movie. In fact, she was an ace helicopter pilot in Avatar as well. It was only after she appeared as Vin Diesel’s love interest though in the Fast and the Furious franchise that she really became a recognizable superstar. All that aggressive driving of hers you see onscreen isn’t all fake. She does fast laps in a Ferrari 488 GTB, spins around in a Mini Cooper atop a skid-pad and also does many track days and race car experiential every year.
23 Tom Cruise: Not Just A Pretty Face
Despite all that Cruise may or may not have done to bring about the end of his marriages, he's still a bankable name in Hollywood. This bankability comes from his acting chops and the way he handles himself on a bike or in a car. When he took part in the Star In A Reasonably-Priced Car show and race, he crossed the finish line on two wheels! He set a new lap record while at the Top Gear test track in England, and according to RedBull, was invited to go for a ride in their victorious car.
22 Patrick Dempsey: The Dreamy Driver
The very dreamy Dempsey doesn’t just look good enough to eat, he's also a racer of awesome repute – a combination guaranteed enough to make just about every girl go weak-kneed. A total of 68 races, including the World Endurance Championship, Grand-Am, IMSA Sportscar Championship, 24 Hours of Le Man and the ALMS – makes him quite the racer, even if he started at a late age. With nine wins in total, his career as a racer isn’t all that behind his acting career.
21 Rowan Atkinson: More Than Just Mr. Bean
Mr. Bean seems to have rather ridiculous driving skills, especially when a Reliant Robin is always around to topple. In real life though, according to Autoblog, Rowan Atkinson is quite the serious track guy. He not only wrecked a McLaren F1, but managed to crash it again – not that he's given up on racing though. In the '80s, he raced a Renault Turbo 5 though he has raced anything and everything from vintage cars to modern day sportswriters. In case you were wondering, crashing a McLaren F1 doesn’t make you a bad driver, for the car is tough to drive, for sure.
20 Eric Bana: Racing In His Australian Blood
When it comes to Australian imports, we all tend to forget all about Eric Bana, not because we don’t like him – but because we forget he is Australian. Now, the thing about the outback is, you must know your horses, your snakes, and your cars. We don’t know about the first two, but Bana sure knows his cars considering he even raced Porsche Cup cars for some time and has been an active rally driver for long. His brand of racing poison is the Ford, and the love of his life has to be his '74, Ford XB Falcon.
19 Emily Ratajkowski: Beauty With Speed On The Side
Honestly, how cool does a supermodel look in racing digs? If its Emily Ratajkowski, well, there can't be a better combination. Now, while she's no racer, she looked so good as the first female celebrity driving a Formula E car at the Berlin Grand Prix, that she might as well pursue a racing career. The picture of her in the racing digs got more than a million likes, so people really like her in her racing avatar. The only question being, does Emily have a need for speed?
18 Megyn Price: More Than Just A Funny Lady
So Megyn Price may not be a movie star but she's a well-known sitcom actress for her roles in Grounded For Life and Rules of Engagement. She's also an avid racer and has taken part in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Races a couple of times. She drove a race modified Scion tC and stood at 11th place – though her daughter didn't like her mom whizzing around the tracks. For those who like speed, though, the tracks hold no fear.
17 Jason Priestley: First Driver, Now Co-Owner
Remember the blue-eyed heartthrob from Beverly Hills: 90210? Well, Jason Priestley didn’t just have the look, he had the guts too. In the 90s, the raced Celica and Cobra R, the latter being a car sold only to a professional race car driver. From track to circuit to IndyCar – Priestley was doing great as a racecar driver till he crashed in 2002. Legally flatlined for 45 seconds, Priestley endured a long hospital stay and doesn’t race anymore. But he is the co-owner of a few IndyCar teams and still loves the track.
16 Matt LeBlanc: Funny Guy To Gearhead
We know and love Matt LeBlanc as the goofy Joey, who looks great but has the brain power of preschooler. But that’s just his onscreen character, in real life Matt LeBlanc is a total gearhead and now one of the hosts of BBC’s hit show, Top Gear. Now he may not be racing any cars but he sure drives them well and fast for the show – and he manages to drive them on the toughest roads of the world as well. So he may not be competing, but he is the best and the coolest gearhead ever. He also holds the record of having the fastest lap around the Top Gear track.
15 Paul Newman: The Most Successful IndyCar Team
There was a reason why the Pixar animation movie Cars used Paul Newman’s voice for the “Hudson Hornet / Doc Hudson” character. That’s because Newman was quite the racer in his heydays, once he discovered his need for speed after starring in a movie called Winning. After the movie came out, Newman formed his own IndyCar team called Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing; and they became the most successful IndyCar team of all time. Aged 70, he was the oldest driver in a winning team for the 24 Hours of Daytona, and continued racing till the end, using a racing number that corresponded to his age.
14 Gene Hackman: From Formula Ford To Daytona
According to Top Gear, well-renowned race instructor Bob Bondurant remarked that Gene Hackmen was perhaps the most talented celebrity student he ever had. And Gene Hackman’s love for racing is evident in the way he gets behind the wheel in the 1971 movie, The French Connection. This was a movie that involved rough driving and Hackman was behind the wheel 60% of the time. Hackman went on to compete in Formula Ford in the 70s, and then in a Toyota Celica run as well. In 83, he raced in the 24 Hours of Daytona as well.
13 Bruce/Caitlynn Jenner: Driving Away From The Truth?
In 1976, the then Bruce Jenner became famous and rich. Now that he was free to do whatever struck his fancy, he decided to race cars. The man, at the time, wasn't without talent. He won a celebrity race and then sailed through the Formula 1 Long Beach Grand Prix. He studied racing after that and made his pro debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona in a BMW M1. He raced through the '80s and won his class at Sebring, until finally, he stopped racing.
12 Paul Walker: A Speedster In Real Life
Paul Walker had a serious fascination for cars from the beginning. Of course, his role as Brian in the Fast and the Furious franchise not only fuelled his love for speed but also gave him the wherewithal to have some 30 personal cars in his collection. He raced in the Redline Time Attack racing series, driving a Street Tire Class BMW E92 M3 for the AE performance team. He also raced a Ford Boss Mustang in the Pirelli World Challenge Series with Roger Rodas – the same guy who was with Walker in the Porsche Carrera GT the day the world lost them both.
11 Frankie Muniz: No More In The Middle
Despite being stuck in the middle, Malcolm– or rather, Frankie Muniz– prefers to be behind the wheel than shotgun. In 2001, he drove the Daytona 500 pace car. In 2004, he participated in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race in Long Beach but didn’t make a mark – but in 2005, he finished third. He was signed on by Jensen Motorsport for 2006 and then moved to Champ Car Atlantic Series in 2009. In 2011, he broke his unlucky streak by starting the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race in 15th place and crossing the finish line fourth.
10 Tim Allen: The Funny Man Gearhead
Tim Allen was quite the funny man as Tim the Toolman in his hit sitcom Home Improvement, and later as Mike Baxter in Last Man Standing. In both these series, he is shown to be a gearhead in love with his wheels. In real life too, this stands true. In fact, Allen actually took a break from acting and spent some time racing instead. He raced one of the Saleen Mustangs in the mid-90s, and also at the 1997 24 Hours of Daytona, where he finished at number 58 out of a total of 80 cars. Not bad for an actor.
9 Steve McQueen: The Undisputed King Of Cool
There was something about Steve McQueen and his need for speed that came through his movies and roles as well. Be it for The Great Escape or Bullitt. In fact, the Mustang he drove for Bullitt became so famous, and so “wanted” – it could potentially earn the owner millions. According to Top Gear, he had once famously remarked that he wasn’t sure whether he was an actor who raced or a racer who acted. He even competed in many races, including the Baja 1000, Mint 400 and the 1964 6-Day International Motorcycle Enduro in Germany; all the while making movies on the side.
8 Walter Cronkite: The Fastest Anchorman Ever
Many millennials may not remember or even know of Walter Cronkite, but he was an A-class broadcast journalist and CBS Evening News Anchorman. So sure, he wasn’t an actor, but news anchors are quite the performers in their own right. Cronkite, despite his everyday evening news appearance, was also a motorsport fan. He raced Volvos and raced as well as reported the Sebring 12 hours in 1959. Despite his time being divided between reporting and racing, his team raced the Lancia Appia and came fifth in their class!
7 Jodie Kidd: Model, TV Presenter, And Racer
While TV presenters are not actors per se, in a way they are and model Jodie Kidd – who is also a TV presenter and an automobile buff – certainly qualifies to be in this list. She participated in Top Gear’s Star In A Reasonably-Priced Car segment and clocked the fastest time in it. This made Maserati extend an invitation for her to join the Toora VIP team. In 2004, Kidd took part in her third race and finished first along with her co-driver Fabio Babini. After a crash, she retired from pro racing but did drive in Gumball 3000.
6 Jackie Cooper: From Child Star To Race Cars
For a long time, Jackie Cooper was the youngest star to have ever been nominated for an Oscar – in fact, he was the first child actor to have ever been nominated for the award. Cooper wasn’t just a successful child artist, he managed to transition to being a successful movie career as an adult as well. Other than being a star, he was also a racing fan and participated in many events like the SCCA road racing competitions. He also was a record-breaking racer for Class D cars at the Bonneville Salt Flats – which is otherwise notorious for stuck cars.
5 Phoemela Baranda: Best-Looking Pro Racer
The western world may not know or recognize Baranda much, but she's a Filipina model, actress and entertainment anchor who's also been voted one of the best-looking women of the world many times. Plus, this beauty has been hooked to speed since her teenage years – she would race a Toyota Corolla TRD in drag races and also started doing karting. Her first celebrity race came in 2000 and she has been hooked ever since, also racing in the Toyota Vios cup.
4 Adam Carolla: Comedian, Podcaster and Racer
Carolla may have started out as a comedian and a podcaster, but then he started to be noticed as a celebrity racer. He took part in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Races and won both the Pro and the Celebrity categories. This was enough for him to move on to the Goodwood Festival of Speed Hillclimb in a Nissan, and then made his pro debut in a Corvette for a TransAm event. He loves vintage cars, admits he needs to be more skilled and has also launched a motorsports channel.
3 Christine Kuo: A Crash Only Strengthened Her Resolve
Kuo is a Taiwanese-born Canadian actress and also held the title of Miss Chinese Toronto. She has taken part in many celebrity races and in 2015 even had a bad crash. But that didn’t faze her much. In fact, she not only got married to William Lok, a race car driver, but also joined his endurance racing team as both an ambassador, and a driver. They aim for the Asian Le Mans Sprint Cup and the other championship titles, plus plan on competing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans as well. Now that’s some fast ambition.
2 James Garner: From Good Actor To Great Racer
In 1966, James Garner played Graham Hill in the movie Grand Prix, and it was not all fake driving. We say this because according to Motor1, Graham Hill told Garner that he was a pretty good racer himself. Apparently, that was all the fuel Garner needed who then formed the American International Racers team and competed at Le Mans, Daytona, and Sebring. He took part in the Indianapolis 500 three times over but loved off-roading the best. In the inaugural Baja 1000 Mexico run, he was inducted into the Off-Road Racing Hall of Fame.
1 James Dean: Of An Era Gone By
Most of us know of James Dean, right? He’s the guy who portrayed an angst-ridden teenager in the 1955 cult movie, Rebel Without A Cause. And most know of his love for speed as well, primarily because it made him lose his life when he crashed his car while heading to a race. When Rebel Without A Cause became a hit, Dean celebrated by buying a Porsche Speedster – and so he entered into races, winning his class in his very first race. But his promise as a racer, and as an actor, came to an abrupt halt when his need for speed took his life.
Sources: Redbull, TopGear, Motor1, and AutoBlog