Don't Worry Darling Puts Harry Styles In The Company Of Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Cher, And Madonna

Long before Harry Styles was being criticized left and right for his work in the new thriller "Don't Worry Darling," he was being compared to every iconic musician in the book — so clearly, he's no stranger to being analogized among his contemporaries and influences alike.

But from a film standpoint, he can be analyzed just as well. In fact, his movie career is starting to take a page or two from the books of the singer-actor hybrids that came before him, namely Elvis Presley, Madonna, Frank Sinatra, Cher, and even Sting. Each of these iconic performers started their acting careers in the same way as Styles did: in a relatively small supporting role. From there, they forged ahead to successful, and sometimes not so successful, movie careers.

Elvis Presley's humble film beginnings

For Elvis Presley, it all started when his manager, Colonel Tom Parker — whom we all now know as Tom Hanks in a fat suit with a funny accent (from "Elvis," have you seen it yet?) — secured him a part in "Love Me Tender," the 1956 Western from MGM.

The film was a post-Civil War family drama, and the role — rejected by actors Jeffrey Hunter and Robert Wagner for being too small — was definitely a supporting part that was clearly billed behind the film's stars Richard Egan and Debra Paget. To better suit the musical sensation they had cast, the producers added four songs to the film, including "Love Me Tender," which was actually not the film's original title. When it debuted, the now well-loved film became the studio's widest release, and the rock 'n' roll crooner was never billed second again, despite being once being asked to do so later in his career by Barbara Streisand for her 1976 drama "A Star Is Born."

Walking in the footsteps of greats

Styles is definitely following the road Presley once took — you know, with some small differences that behoove a newcomer finding his footing, as well as reflect his personal character. The former One Direction member got his start in the professional film game with a supporting role in Christopher Nolan's 2017 war epic "Dunkirk." He was billed fourth on the project, behind Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, and Jack Lowden (but fun fact, he has the most dialogue out of anyone in the film).

Nolan has famously said he didn't know about Styles' superstar life before casting him in the role of Alex, a mouthy realist of a soldier whom Whitehead's fellow fighter character Tommy befriends on Dunkirk beach. Whether or not that's actually true will probably forever remain a mystery, Nolan seemingly did right in casting him, because he holds his own among an ensemble cast of top-notch, leader-of-the-pack performers. Unlike Presley, though, this wouldn't be Styles' last film with an under-the-marquee title.

Though he is considered the leading male actor in the upcoming thriller "Don't Worry Darling," he's billed second behind Florence Pugh, the film's protagonist and obvious leading part. However, his next film, which is right on the heels of the suspenseful Olivia Wilde-directed feature, will see him take top billing for the first time. "My Policeman," a film about a doomed love triangle between a woman and two men in 1950s Brighton, stars Styles opposite "The Crown" star Emma Corrin and stage veteran David Dawson, but with the singer's celebrity paired with his role as the titular policeman in question, it makes sense this film would usher in an era of top billing.

What's next

Looking at Presley's film career — and, by extension, his music career, which continued to soar alongside his movies — it's not hard to imagine what's coming next for Styles. Presley, and several other singer-actors over the years including contemporaries like Justin Timberlake and Will Smith, went on to star in many major motion pictures that were hits at the box office, calling in a whole other side to his stardom. Considering Styles' current level of success and worldwide popularity is arguably even bigger than the behemoth that was One Direction's celebrity; it makes sense that he would continue to try to expand his reach by testing the waters with other avenues of work, like acting and building a brand (he's doing this too, by the way, with a beauty line called Pleasing).

Honestly, if he's going to continue working in film, I'm interested in seeing how his work evolves and improves from the foundation he has already built. He's not winning Oscars yet, but he's certainly better than a lot of the memes would make him out to be. And what he lacks in skill or nuance, he clearly makes up in heart and effort, as per, well, the overwhelming majority of accounts of folks who have worked with him or simply ended up crossing his path somehow. In my eyes, that's a person who wants to learn and get better, which makes me excited for the future he will undoubtedly be awarded in this business simply because he has the status to choose to pursue it, something many talented creatives do not.

Starting on some rocky footing

Folks were seemingly kinder to a lot of the musicians who crossed over to acting before Styles did, or maybe it's just been such a media frenzy surrounding "Don't Worry Darling" that it seems that way. A few weeks before the film's Venice Film Festival premiere, a 20-second clip of an argument between Pugh and Styles' characters was the laughingstock of Film Twitter, and during said premiere, everything the cast did or didn't do with or to one another was the subject of intense scrutiny quite literally the world over. It's been one big scandal of a different color, the likes of which we haven't seen in a long time, and certainly not since the Covid pandemic changed the landscape of film forever.

Either way, it doesn't seem like the incessant drama — much of which is also quite sexist in nature, to be clear, and all of it takes away from the art on display — will be much of a deterrent for how Styles' film career will flourish. A lot of major directors have been clamoring to work with him, or at minimum compliment him publicly, in recent years, particularly following his work with Chloé Zhao on "Eternals." Jennifer Grey wants him to play Baby in a reboot of "Dirty Dancing," Nicholas Sparks recently revealed he hopes Styles will take the leading role in a film treatment for one of his newer novels, the list goes on. Like Presley, Sinatra, and even Timberlake before him, it seems as though we'll be seeing a lot more of Harry Styles on our movie and TV screens soon, and hopefully with that, he'll shape himself into the skilled singer-actor hybrid that his predecessors mastered.