Hollywood to higher office: 8 actors who made the switch to politics, from Donald Trump to Arnold Schwarzenegger

Hollywood to higher office: 8 actors who made the switch to politics, from Donald Trump to Arnold Schwarzenegger
Amid rumors of Hugh Grant contemplating a career in politics, here are 8 actors turned politicians who have had varying levels of success after transitioning to a new challenge (Getty Images)

8 actors who turned to politics as Hugh Grant hints at a career in policymaking

(Getty Images)
British actor Hugh Grant's interest in a career in politics has been the trajectory of other leaders like Donald Trump and Ronald Regan who switched from acting to becoming politicians (Getty Images)

In the modern era, numerous actors have diversified their careers by venturing into diverse fields such as music production, film direction, writing, culinary arts, and even professional wrestling. Moreover, an astonishing number of them have decided to leave Hollywood and represent the common man in the realm of politics, albeit with varying degrees of success. One such actor is Hugh Grant, who has recently hinted at a potential shift away from acting. The 63-year-old British film star has revealed in an Entertainment Weekly interview that he had contemplated pursuing a career in politics. Given his previously expressed political opinions, Grant has acknowledged that the idea of switching careers has crossed his mind. Interestingly, he has also portrayed political characters in his previous films, including ‘Love Actually’ and ‘A Very English Scandal'. From unsuccessful mayoral bids to successful congressional runs, here are 8 actors who have transitioned into politics with differing levels of success.

1. Donald Trump

SUNRISE, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 26: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a homecoming campaign rall
Former President Donald Trump is currently vying for his second term at the White House, challenging incumbent President Joe Biden in the upcoming November general elections (Getty Images)

Donald Trump, a real estate tycoon and host of ‘The Apprentice', has had a varied career in the public eye. He has made cameo appearances in several popular films, including ‘Home Alone 2: Lost In New York,’ ‘Zoolander', and ‘The Little Rascals’. Despite having previously attempted to run in several presidential primaries, Trump only seriously considered running for the US presidency himself in 2012 against then-President Barack Obama. It was not until 2016, however, that he officially announced his candidacy, which many initially doubted. Despite this, he emerged victorious over the Democratic presidential opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and became the first US president without prior military or government service. The aftermath of his presidency is well-documented and is perceived to be very divisive, which led to him not getting re-elected for a second term, with President Joe Biden winning the 2020 election.

2. Ronald Reagan

circa 1985:  American president Ronald Reagan makes an announcement from his desk at the White House
Ronald Reagan became the Governor of California in 1966 and was elected President of the United States in 1980 (Getty Images) 

Ronald Reagan, a prominent American political figure, first gained national attention as a Hollywood actor in the late 1930s. His notable film credits included ‘Love Is In The Air', ‘Dark Victory', and ‘Knute Rockne, All American', with 1942's ‘Kings Row’ serving as his breakthrough role. Despite serving in the military, Reagan continued his acting career and starred in several successful productions. Later, Reagan transitioned to politics and served as the President of the Screen Actors Guild before becoming the Governor of California in 1966. He later campaigned for the presidential nomination in 1976 and was elected President of the United States in 1980, defeating incumbent President Jimmy Carter. Reagan served two full terms as President before leaving office in 1989 and his legacy as a Hollywood star and a political force in his own right endures to be celebrated in American history and culture.

3. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger attends an event marking the completion of a 4-acre solar rooftop constructed atop AltaSea's research and development facility at the Port of Los Angeles, in the San Pedro neighborhood, on April 21, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. The installation will supply enough energy to power AltaSea’s 35-acre campus, the country’s biggest 'blue economy' tech hub, which is focused on clean oceans, climate resiliency, and clean energy.
Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is a renowned Hollywood action film star (Getty Images)

Arnold Schwarzenegger, a well-known action film star from the '80s and '90s, is recognized as a bodybuilder turned actor, and the face of several Hollywood classic action and science-fiction flicks, including ‘The Terminator', ‘Conan The Barbarian', and ‘Total Recall'. Even though the older generations may endear to him as "Arnie," in 2003, the Austrian-born actor ran as a Republican candidate in a special recall election to replace the then-Governor of California, Gray Davis. Schwarzenegger successfully secured 48.6% of the vote and was elected as Governor of the Golden State that year. He was re-elected in 2006, and his tenure lasted until 2011 when he resumed his acting career.

4. Cynthia Nixon

RINDGE, NEW HAMPSHIRE - FEBRUARY 10: Actress Cynthia Nixon speaks to the crowd before the arrival of
 Cynthia Nixon launched her gubernatorial campaign for the Empire State in 2018 (Getty Images)

Cynthia Nixon is widely recognized for her portrayal of Miranda Hobbes in the popular television series ‘Sex and the City', where New York City is depicted as a quintessential character. 14 years after the show had ended, Nixon launched her campaign for the Governor of New York in 2018, as a contender to the Democratic incumbent, Andrew Cuomo. Her campaign focused on key issues such as income inequality, renewable energy, and the establishment of universal healthcare. Despite her efforts, she was unsuccessful in the Democratic primary, and Cuomo was reelected.

5. Clint Eastwood

BURBANK, CA - FEBRUARY 05:  Director and producer Clint Eastwood arrives at the premiere of Warner B
Clint Eastwood was elected the nonpartisan mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, in 1986 (Getty Images)

Clint Eastwood has been a prominent figure in the film industry since the 1950s, having starred in several iconic films, including ‘Dirty Harry’ and the ‘Dollars Trilogy'. Additionally, he has won two Oscars for Best Director for his work in ‘Unforgiven’ and ‘Million Dollar Baby’. Despite his successful Hollywood career, Eastwood's contributions extend beyond the film industry. In 1986, the now-registered Libertarian was elected as the nonpartisan mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, and served in the position for two years. His tenure in office demonstrates his ability to succeed in public service as well as his dedication to making a positive impact in his community.

6. Fred Thompson

JOHNSTON, IA - DECEMBER 12: Republican candidate for U.S. President, former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN), speaks during the Des Moines Register Republican Presidential Debate at the Iowa Public Television studios December 12, 2007 in Johnston, Iowa. The debate will be the last Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses. (Photo by Andrea Melendez-Pool/Getty Images)
Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson ran as a Republican candidate for the US presidency in 2008 (Andrea Melendez-Pool/Getty Images)

Before pursuing a career in acting, Fred Thompson worked as an attorney and lobbyist. He was approached to play himself in a film about Marie Ragghianti, a former Tennessee Parole Board Chair whom he had previously represented. Thompson went on to star in several films, including ‘No Way Out', ‘The Hunt for Red October', and ‘Die Hard 2', and played the role of District Attorney Arthur Branch in the television series ‘Law & Order'. In addition to his acting career, Thompson also served as a United States Senator from Tennessee from 1994 to 2003. He later became a co-chairman of John McCain's presidential campaign before eventually launching his own candidacy for the 2008 election. Despite initially gaining significant support, Thompson eventually withdrew from the race in January of that year due to shrinking support.

7. Stacey Dash

Stacey Dash attends the Los Angeles Premiere of Starz's
Stacey Dash ran as a Republican candidate for California's 44th congressional district, albeit unsuccessfully (Michael Tran/Getty Images)

Stacey Dash gained popularity for her role as Dionne, Cher’s best friend, in the teen classic ‘Clueless’ and its subsequent spin-off series. Dash also appeared in Kanye West's music video ‘All Falls Down’. In 2012, Dash, a former Democrat, switched her political allegiance to the Republican party and became a vocal critic on political issues, often drawing criticism for her controversial views. In 2018, she filed to run for California's 44th congressional district as a Republican, to "free people from the shackles of a plantation mentality." However, she withdrew from the race after just a month.

8. Shirley Temple

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29: Actress Shirley Temple Black accepts the Life Achievement Award onstage during the 12th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 29, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Shirley Temple Black was the first female Chief of Protocol of the United States, and she even served as the United States Ambassador to Ghana, and the US Ambassador to Czechoslovakia (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Shirley Temple, a revered child star, became an icon in Hollywood with her adorable curls and charming smile, starring in several films including ‘Curly Top’ and ‘Heidi’. However, her post-film career is equally captivating as she became involved with the Republican party in the late 60s, and after an unsuccessful run in California's 11th congressional district special election in 1967, she shifted her focus to foreign service. Her extensive experience includes serving as the first female Chief of Protocol of the United States, the US Ambassador to Ghana, and the US Ambassador to Czechoslovakia. Shirley Temple's remarkable career is a testament to her unwavering commitment to public service and her contribution to the nation's diplomatic relations.

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