Best Actor nominee for "A Star is Born" Bradley Cooper arrives for the 91st Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on February 24, 2019. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP)/ Owen Wilson attends the Opening Of The New Exhibitions Jean-Michel Basquiat And Egon Schiele At The Fondation Louis Vuitton at Fondation Louis Vuitton on October 1, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)/ oseph Gordon-Levitt speaks at A ‘3rd Rock From the Sun’ Reunion during Vulture Festival 2021 at The Hollywood Roosevelt on November 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Vulture)
MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images/ Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images/ Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Vulture

Who Should Play Willie Nelson in a Movie?


Willie Nelson has been in the public eye for six decades now. The man is not only a country music legend, he's an American icon. Willie is known as much for his activism and good-hearted nature as he is for his lyrical prowess. He's also had one hell of a life, one that seems overdue to be shared in a Willie Nelson biopic. It got us to thinking: if Willie Nelson's life story were to be turned into a feature film, who would play the Red Headed Stranger? It would be a tall order to play such a singular figure, especially one who means so much to so many. But surely someone in Hollywood would be up to the task, whether it's a fresh-faced newcomer or an A-list actor.

Below, we've rounded up our dream casting for a Willie Nelson movie, from fellow stoner Texans to noted talented actor-singers.

Bradley Cooper

Best Actor nominee for "A Star is Born" Bradley Cooper arrives for the 91st Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on February 24, 2019.

MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images

Now maybe it's just my love for the A Star is Born soundtrack talking, but I think Bradley Cooper could actually make a great Willie Nelson. For a Willie Nelson movie, it's all about finding the right Willie era to showcase onscreen. As talented as he is, I can't see Cooper portraying just-off-the-bus-from-Texas Willie, back when he was a crooner pounding the Nashville pavement and playing in Ray Price's band. But '70s era Willie, after he moved to Austin, grew his hair long and released his iconic 1975 concept album Red Headed Stranger? Braids Willie? Weed-advocate Willie? Oh yeah, Cooper would crush that.

-- Bobbie Jean Sawyer


Owen Wilson

Owen Wilson attends the "The French Dispatch" screening during the 74th annual Cannes Film Festival on July 12, 2021 in Cannes, France.

Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images for Kering

Owen Wilson might seem like a peculiar pick at first, but there's two reasons why he's the right actor to fill Nelson's boots and bandana.

One, Wilson's a Nelson confidant. He's joined Woody Harrelson and other Hollywood stars in poker games versus Nelson where the stakes probably weren't the only thing getting higher and higher. Being friends with the person you're playing in a biopic is hardly a casting requirement, but surely it'd aid Wilson in portraying Nelson in an accurate and dignified way.

Two, Wilson's shown some range over the years. Roles in Behind Enemy Lines and No Escape shatter misconceptions that Wilson should be painted into a buddy comedy corner. Though it's certainly a plus that Wilson can capture the quirkiness of Nelson's personality, especially if the film allows moments of levity.

-- Bobby Moore


Joseph Gordon Levitt

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 14: Joseph Gordon-Levitt speaks at A '3rd Rock From the Sun' Reunion during Vulture Festival 2021 at The Hollywood Roosevelt on November 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, California

Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Vulture

It's hard to picture anyone playing the Red Headed Stranger. Willie Nelson is one of a kind from his unique voice to his signature braids, so you need an actor who will be able to fully morph into whoever they take on. Joseph Gordon Levitt could be that guy. He has a similar build which visually helps things but more importantly, he can sing and play the guitar. Kind of comes in handy when you're playing a country singer, right? He could actually play his beloved guitar Trigger in the film, which would add to the authenticity of his performance.

Based on having an incredibly eclectic resume, ranging from romantic comedies to thrillers and even historic dramas, Levitt has proven he can do pretty much anything. He also has a certain charm about him that could easily reflect Willie Nelson's quirks on the screen.

-- Courtney Fox

Scott Eastwood

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 10: Scott Eastwood attends the GEANCO Foundation Hollywood Gala at SLS Hotel on October 10, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California.

Tibrina Hobson/FilmMagic

Okay hear me out, Scott Eastwood might be a random pick, but if you really think about it, he might be the perfect actor. One, because he has so many genres under his belt, you know he can easily perfect any role. Two, because well, we love to see a fresh face get the recognition they deserve.


Just look at Austin Butler, who's set to star as Elvis! Plus, Hollywood is getting so good at makeup now that it wouldn't be a problem aging him a little to see the progression of younger Willie to older Willie. Braids and all! Plus, you know that the gift of acting was given to him thanks to his father, Clint Eastwood, a staple in Hollywood. So you know he's learned a few tricks from him!

-- Silke Jasso

READ MORE: Who Should Play Dolly Parton in a Movie?

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