Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Last week actor Kal Penn announced that he was leaving his acting career behind to join the Obama White House as Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison.

Penn made his name in movies such as Van Wilder and Harold & Kumar before moving into television to work on 24 and House.

However Penn is not the only actor to leave behind the big screen to pursue a career in politics and Femalefirst takes a look at some other thespians that have done exactly that.

Ronald Reagan

After starting out his career on radio before landing a seven year acting contract with Warner Brothers studios in 1937 going on to star in Love Is on the Air later that same year.

But it was King's Row that made the actor a star. However he had to wait to capitalise on this success until he returned from fighting in World War II going on to appear in Tennessee's Partner, Hellcats of the Navy and The Killers.

But it was the fifties where Regan's interest began to shift from the big screen to politics as he went on to endorse both Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. In 1966 Republicans nominated him for Governor of California, going on to win.

And it wasn't long before he had his eye on the White House. In 1976 he challenged Gerald Ford to become the Republican Party's candidate for president. And in 1980 he beat off Jimmy Carter to become the fortieth President of the United States.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Ok so Schwarzenegger is better known as a cinema hardman, whether he's a good actor is purely down to personal opinion.

After a career in bodybuilding Schwarzenegger turned his hand to acting and despite early roles in The Long Goodbye and Stay Hungry it was Conan the Destroyer in 1982 that was his breakthrough role, which went on to be a box office hit.

Schwarzenegger became an international star making a string of movies including the Terminator franchise along with Last Action Hero, Commando and The Running Man.

Always known as a Republican the actor's first political role came in 1990 when he served as chairman of the President's Council on Physical fitness and Sports, a role he held until 1993.

But it was ten years later when Schwarzenegger announced that he would be running for Governor of California, the actor saw off Democrat Cruz Bustamante and fellow Republican Tom McClintock to be the first foreign born governor of California since 1862.

Fred Thompson

Has enjoyed a very varied career as he began as an attorney, admitted to the State Bar of Tennessee in 1967 before moving onto Nashville and Washington DC.

He was appointed minority counsel in 1973 to help the Republican senators on the Senate Watergate Committee.

In 1975 he was involved in another high profile case as he represented Marie Ragghianti, a parole board office who was the famous whistleblower exposing Tennessee Governor Ray Blanton's 'clemency for cash' scandal in the late seventies.

Ragghianti's story was turned into a movie in 1985 called Marie and it provided Thompson with his first acting role. This kicked off his acting career as he went on to star in No Way Out, Days of Thunder and Die Hard 2: Die Harder.

Although he carried on his acting career throughout the nineties in 1994 he was elected to complete Al Gore's U.S Senate term, in 1996 he was re-elected with 61% of the vote.

Thompson has since returned to acting appearing in television series Law & Order for 116 episodes before going onto Special Victims Unit and Criminal Intent.

George Murphy

Murphy was a singing and dancing star of the big screen throughout the thirties and forties, making his debut in 1930. He retired as an actor in 1952 at the age of fifty.

It was the fifties that saw the actor move into the field of politics as he became chairman of the California Republican State Central Committee. By 1964 he had been elected to the United State Senate.

It was his poor health, suffering from throat cancer, that had an impact on the out come of his 1970 defeat.

Glenda Jackson

After studying at RADA Jackson made her acting debut on the stage in Separate Tables in 1957. Six years later she made her big screen debut in This Sporting Life.

Academy Award success came in 1969 when she starred in Women in Love she followed this up just four years later when she won a second award for Touch of Class.

But she retired from acting in 1992 to enter the House of Commons as the Labour MP for Hempstead and Highgate. After Labour's general election win in 1997 she became the junior minister in Tony Blair's government where she was responsible for London Transport.

Despite losing out to Frank Dobson to run for London Mayor she did keep her seat in the 2005 election.

FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw

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