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Celebrity politicians: Red carpet to the White House?

Red carpet to the White House?

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World leaders have to possess a special steely set of characteristics - think Obama, Merkel and Putin - not traits you expect to find in TV presenters, film stars or pop artists. Saying that, it's not so rare for celebrities to run for office, and many famous faces from the U.S. and across the world have dipped their toes in political waters.

As opera superstar Jessye Norman tells CNBC that she once considered running for Congress, we look at some of the famous faces who dabbled in politics. For more on Jessye Norman, check out "CNBC Meets: Jessye Norman."

- By CNBC's Alexandra Gibbs

Matt Damon

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Having starred in more than 30 movies, it's hard to imagine how Matt Damon has any time outside of filming.

In recent years however, Damon has lobbied for the Democratic Party, hosting fundraisers and giving his outspoken thoughts on political leaders and policies. His enthusiasm has sparked others, such as controversial filmmaker, Michael Moore, to encourage Damon to run as a political candidate. However, Damon has told the media that he loved his day job too much to ever run for political office.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

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Famous for his action-packed roles in the likes of "The Terminator" franchise, the muscle-bound actor shocked film fans when he announced his Republican candidacy for the governor of California in 2003 on Jay Leno's talk show.

After battling it out with journalist-entrepreneur Arianna Huffington and Democrat Cruz Bustamante, Schwarzenegger came out on top, with almost half of the votes (48.58 percent). He subsequently held office as California's governor from 2003 to 2011.

Jesse Ventura

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James George Janos, better known by his stage name Jesse Ventura, has had a colorful career. From professional wrestling in the 1970s and '80s to action films like "Predator," it seems Ventura isn't afraid of trying new things—including politics.

In 1990, Ventura was elected as mayor of Brooklyn Park in Minnesota. He then picked up his political career again in 1998, when he ran for governor of Minnesota as a member of the upstart Reform Party and won against Republican Nole Coleman.

Fred Thompson

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You may recognize him from "Law & Order," "Die Hard 2" or even "Curly Sue," however Fred Thompson has fought for the law in the real world, too, both as an attorney and a politician.

In late 1994, Thompson was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Republican representing Tennessee, having defeated Democrat Jim Cooper with a landslide of votes. He finished his time in the Senate in January 2003, and has returned to his television career.

Wyclef Jean

Wyclef Jean
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Born in Haiti, Wyclef Jean moved to the U.S. as a child and gained popularity as a solo artist and singer in hip-hop group The Fugees in the 1990s.

In August 2010, the musician confirmed that he would run for office in the Haitian presidential campaign that year. However, his bid was canceled under constitutional law because he had not lived in the country for the requisite five years prior to his announcement.


Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood
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Brooding actor Clint Eastwood took some time out from Western sets in the 1980s to pursue his political career. In 1986, Eastwood was elected as mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, a city in California. He served one term before deciding not to run again.

Over the years, Eastwood has campaigned for the Republican Party. He endorsed Mitt Romney in the 2012 elections, speaking in Romney's favor at the Republican National Convention in August 2012 and appearing in his election commercial.

Sonny Bono

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Remember when award-winning singer Cher was one half of Sonny & Cher? Not many people at the time thought Sonny would turn politician, but he did.

After Sonny and Cher hung up their double act in 1977, Sonny launched a restaurant, before becoming mayor of Palm Springs in California in 1988. He was later elected to the House of Representatives, where he served until his death in a skiing accident in 1998.

Jerry Springer

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Before launching "The Jerry Springer Show," the now-infamous television presenter was a Democratic politician.

Having studied political science at Tulane University, Springer worked as a campaign aide to Robert F. Kennedy, and became mayor of Cincinnati in 1977.

In 1982, Springer ran for governor of Ohio, but failed to win the Democratic party's nomination, losing out to Richard F. Celeste.

Ronald Reagan

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It sounds like a movie script—a film star dips his toe into politics and come out as president. That's what happened to Ronald Reagan, who is best remembered as the 40th U.S. president, serving from 1981 to 1989.

Before making president, Reagan was governor of California for two terms between 1967 and 1975.

As an actor, Reagan starred in films like "Kings Row" and "Dark Victory" with Bette Davis. Reagan also won the Hollywood Citizenship Award at the Golden Globes in 1957 and was president of the Screen Actors Guild.