By Jeff Labrecque
December 16, 2011 at 11:09 PM EST
Charles Sykes/AP

Could David Beckham really be a movie star? His pal, Tom Cruise, thinks so. At a recent premiere of Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, the film’s star was asked if the soccer legend could step into his line of work. “I’d love to do action movies with Beckham,” Cruise said on the red carpet. “He would be great, he could kick ass.”

Of course, Beckham is, in many ways, already bigger than our most famous movie stars. His popularity was so transcendent they titled a whole movie after his extraordinary ability to bend a soccer ball. He’s handsome, he’s stylish, he’s charming. He could be a movie star. In fact, when Beckham joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007, it was assumed that the lure of Hollywood was a major factor in his decision to play in the less-competitive American soccer league. Only 36 years old, he could still easily make the transition to show business as his days on the pitch wind down.

It’s an interesting parlor game: What celebrity athletes have the looks, and more importantly, the aura, to translate fluidly on the silver screen? Beckham is certainly a strong candidate. Tom Brady is another. The New England quarterback married a supermodel, so he knows the life. Mix his supreme confidence and steely nerves with the fact that he’s 6’4″, and we’re talking about a a guy who wouldn’t need a stunt man. He might be too pretty for action movies, though. Boston native and one-time Sexiest Man Alive Matt Damon once said, “If you asked me (which you didn’t) I would suggest Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for this award. He’s like a taller, better looking version of me anyway.”

LeBron James seemed destined for this type of stardom — until he took his talents to South Beach and became the sport’s biggest villain. At 26, he still has plenty of time to get back in to the fans’ good graces, but maybe playing the heel has even greater Hollywood potential. (Then again, it didn’t really work for Dennis Rodman.)

You’d think it would be easier for the most famous of athletes to segue into movies, what with their built-in audience of fawning fans, but their track record is spotty at best. Jim Brown made the transition to temporary popular success, and Shaquille O’Neal was granted the privilege of making several artistic failures(Kazaam, anyone?). But I suspect that many athletes simply aren’t built for the tediousness of filmmaking. If you’re Michael Jordan, it must be difficult to have to hurry up and wait on a movie set for 16 hours, shooting the same film fragments over and over again, when you are so used to obeying your natural instincts to dominate.

Would you like to see David Beckham starring in a Hollywood movie? What genre of film would suit him best? Which other athletes can you envision starring in a blockbuster? Serena Williams remains my only choice to play Wonder Woman, should that elusive project ever come to fruition. She makes Pam Greer look like Thandi Newton!