With the release of Nick Cave's fantastic semi-documentary 20,000 Days on Earth, I decided to look into other musicians who have taken on film roles. Of course there are some terrible ones: Madonna, Prince, Snoop Dogg, Ludacris – who do they think they are ruining our eyes as well as our eyes?! But there's also some very good musicians turned actors and I look at the best performances.
The main reason this is in here is because if I left it out I fear Cookie might kill me. I'm joking of course. (I'm not, if I go missing place the blame on her). I get that not everybody is a fan of Björk's brand of Icelandic pixie pop, myself included, but if you've ever doubted that she has depth as an artist, take a look (or re-examine) her as Selma Ježková, the lead character in Lars von Trier's 2000 musical drama, Dancer in the Dark.. As a Czech immigrant and single mother who works at a bleak factory and is slowly losing her sight thanks to a hereditary disease, Björk's Selma slips into trance-like daydreams where her dull, depressing existence transforms into a musical. Though the plot gets bleaker by the minute, Björk creates a believable and sympathetic heroine -- albeit, a heartbreaking one.
Enter the Goblin King, played with a great malice by David Bowie. Bowie chews scenery like there is no tomorrow, he's clearly relishing in the role. There are also a few song and dance numbers too. Some of them, such as the magic dance number, are immortally embarrassing. Or at least, they would be, if not for two things. First, the suspension of disbelief that Henson so admirably achieves with his puppets is a real pleasure. Second, Bowie's golden voice could charm the paint off walls. When he sings "I saw my baby, crying hard as babe could cry", it stands out like a stark reminder of why this man used to be able to sign record deals worth tens of millions of dollars. It may even bring tears to your eyes.
8 Mile shouldn't have worked. The film, which looks at the career of a rapper growing up in inner city Detroit, stars Eminem in the lead role. Luckily, as bizarre as it sounded, the already-established musician proved to have some acting chops as well. He impressed all with his non-showy, subtle, but hypnotizing performance and epitomizes a successful music to film crossover. While he hasn't starred in anything since, the role, which was clearly personal (and somewhat autobiographical), is a reminder that the man's anger and passion can translate onto screen.
The Rolling Stones hellraiser saunters about meditatively as Jack Sparrow’s father. Johnny Depp based his characterisation of Sparrow on the guitarist in his drug-taking heyday and after a rather reserved performance from Richards; it seems Depp puts in a more vintage Richards performance than Richards does himself. Nevertheless, Richards is perfect for the role.
The ever-eccentric White gives a very convincing performance as Georgia in Anthony Minghella’s Oscar-winning film. Whilst also contributing a fitting soundtrack, he also managed to work wonders for the films publicity by getting romantically involved with co-star Renée Zellweger. Then again, he is no stranger to acting as he and Meg still keep up the pretence of being ‘siblings’. White brings all the charisma you see on stage and transplants it to the screen with aplomb.
Dogma has been spoken about on these very pages frequently and if you haven't seen it – it's a must-see – but Kevin Smith’s decision to cast Morissette as God was a stroke of pure comic genius. When asked if she had ever read the Bible. She replied “yeah but it’s patriarchal and sexist.” Cue controversy on so many levels. Brilliant.
What Do You Think?
Are there better performances?
Let us know in the comments!
20,000 Days On Earth is out on DVD now