Suck, the new film from Canadian director Rob Stefaniuk, honours two age-old movie traditions. It’s a vampire flick that pays homage to every cinematic bloodsucker from Bella to Edward Cullen and beyond, and it features musicians in acting roles. Rock legends Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Moby and Henry Rollins appear in cameos.
Since sound first merged with the flickering image, musicians have traded in their instruments for a shot at big-screen fame. Some have succeeded memorably — Sinatra took home an Oscar for From Here to Eternity — while others have floundered — I’m looking at you Madonna!
Perhaps one of the most surprising performances at this year’s TIFF comes from someone most critics had written off as a person who should stick to singing or anything that doesn’t involve acting. Mariah Carey’s work in Glitter was a career killer; a performance so bad one critic wrote it made her “physically uncomfortable” to watch Mariah on the screen. At this year’s fest, however, she’s redeemed herself with a decidedly non-glittery role in the gritty drama Precious. It’s a powerful performance that is being mentioned in the same breath as Oscar.
If Mariah earns an Academy Award nod, she’ll join the exclusive club of musicians who successfully traverse the gap between music and movies.
Courtney Love didn’t make it to the Oscar stage, but she was nominated for a Golden Globe for playing Althea Leasure Flynt in The People vs. Larry Flynt. The role of a drug-addicted hedonist may not have been much of a stretch for Love, but she brought depth and interest to a character who could have been a walking cliché.
Eminem did win an Oscar, but not for his acting. He took home a best original song trophy, but most critics agreed that his take on a poor white Detroit kid using rap to improve his life was better than average. His “roughed-up urban ghetto impression of James Dean” bagged him an MTV Award, but since then he has shied away from Hollywood (except for a brief cameo in Funny People) because he doesn’t “choose to rub elbows with the whole Hollywood scene.”
Many musicians have been sucked in and spit out by the Hollywood scene, but others, like David Bowie, Tom Waits (who appears in TIFF’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) and Dwight Yoakam, show that some musicians have staying power on the big screen.