One of the more peculiar pop culture happenings is when professionals decide that just because they’re good at their particular craft, they should inevitably be good at other ones-waaaait, what’s that? An overwhelming sense of Déjà vu? Yeah, yeah, I’m taking TK’s stellar list of Actors Turned Musicians and I’m gonna put the thing down flip it and reverse it. As TK mentioned there have been several musicians who have successfully tried their hand at acting. Sometimes, in fact, that allure of Hollywood is so strong, performers will abandon their music careers entirely. (Justin Timberlake! Nooooooo!!!) For every Latifah, Smith or Whalberg, there are, of course, twenty Alicias, Beyonces, and Britneys, dear god, the Britneys. This list isn’t about any of those folks. This is about musicians. Real musicians. Those who continue to be musical while also picking and choosing quirky, interesting film projects. Every time these folks show up I give a little cheer. This is for them.
Tom Waits: I love Waits and his whisky soaked, time ravaged voice. I love his darkness and his oddness. He’s been dabbling in acting since the early 80s in The Outsiders and Rumble Fish and his off-beat persona fit the role of Renfield in Coppola’s Dracula perfectly, but it was in 2003’s Coffee and Cigarettes and 2006’s Wristcutter’s: A Love Story that Waits truly impressed. Waits wasn’t the only musician to appear in Jim Jarmusch’s collection of shorts, Iggy Pop (alright), The Wutang Clan (pretty funny), Jack White (not too shabby) and Meg White (wooden) also appeared as themselves. But it’s Waits that seemed the most natural, the most effortlessly charming.
Bjork: Another musician known for oddness, Bjork has only had one starring role, as Selma Jezkova in Dancer In The Dark. But Bjork’s performance was arresting an unforgettable. Quite often the charisma of a stage performer gets lost in translation when they try their hand at acting. Not so with Bjork who maintains all of her eldritch magnetism, even under the intimate scrutiny of the camera.
Debbie Harry: When she was the lead singer of Blondie, Harry was impossibly beautiful. Her face had an unreal quality. Now that she’s aged, she’s still beautiful, but in a much more comfortable and familiar way. That knowledge of her formerly remote loveliness informs her performances in such indies as Me Without You and Elegy. And though she’s been acting for a long while, it’s only in more recent years that she’s grown into her talent. As if, in her youth, she was uncomfortable in her own skin as we were with her perfection.
David Bowie: Bowie is best known, of course, for his bulging, campy performance as Jareth, The Goblin King in Labyrinth. But before he filled out a pair of tights, he made the fantastic Man Who Fell To Earth. Bowie is capable of both comedy (Zoolander) and drama (The Prestige) and never disappoints.
Seu Jorge: Speaking of Bowie, many know Jorge from his largely musical role in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic, where he practically stole the show singing acoustic, Portuguese covers of some of Bowie’s most famous songs. But Jorge was brilliant in the hard to watch City of God and held his own against Brazilian acting legend Fernanda Montenegro in House of Sand.
Marianne Faithfull: A former rock goddess and muse, Marianne Faithfull has the most delicious voice you’ll ever hear. Her tumultuous youth is etched on her vocal chords, leaving it richer and fuller. She brings a strangely wry gravitas to everything she does and in the candy-coated popfest that was Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antionette, Faithfull’s voice alone served as an anchor.
Eugene Hutz: I could honestly write an entire column dedicated to Hutz and his combustible stage persona. Lead singer of the gypsy punk group Gogol Bordello, Hutz and his crew will put on a stage show that will leave you sweating and buzzing and begging for more. So I was surprised with his light, at times comical and at times deeply emotional turn as Alex in Everything Is Illuminated. There are huge flaws in that film (well, mostly, one tiny hobbit-sized one), but the soundtrack (Gogol Bordello) and Hutz are pitch perfect.
And I’ll leave you with this video of Hutz performing. You can practically smell the gypsy.