Madonna, bubbe: Shanghai Surprise, Who’s That Girl, Bloodhounds of Broadway, and still you want to be a movie star? Bless your rapacious soul. But haven’t you figured out that rock stars venture into films at their own peril? Want it plainer? Rock stars can’t act. Here’s why:
THEIR JOB IS VULGAR EXCESS, NOT DISCIPLINED CONTROL
Professional actors spend years ”refining their instrument.” Rockers spend years playing theirs — or smashing them to bits, or setting them on fire. This is why Roger Daltrey seems so thrilling singing ”Won’t Get Fooled Again” and so dippy running around in diapers in Ken Russell’s Lisztomania.
THEIR DIALOGUE SOUNDS REAL ONLY WHEN IT’S THEIR OWN
It’s hard to maintain that hip, rebellious independence when you’re spouting a hack screenwriter’s lines. By being her own ditsy self in interviews, Cyndi Lauper originally came off as a delightful found object. But in the prefab comedy Vibes, her neo-Betty Boop shtick just seemed tinny.
WHO WANTS TO SEE THESE PEOPLE ACT NORMAL?
If rowdy rock excess looks ridiculous on film (see ”Vulgar Excess,” above), the flip side — a musician essaying a kitchen-sink role — can be just plain boring. Examples: Phil Collins as the drab Buster, Art Garfunkel on the losing end of Carnal Knowledge, and Neil Young as a monosyllabic biker mechanic — all-too believably — in ’68. Exceptions: Joan Jett in Light of Day and Levon Helm in anything.
THERE’S A REASON THESE PEOPLE SING
Does anybody have any idea what Bob Dylan is saying in Hearts of Fire?
PLAYING A CHARACTER IS NOT THE SAME AS BEING ONE
Except for David Bowie — whose act has always consisted of role playing — rock stars seem to think MTV mannerisms will serve in place of Method. Sting has wanly pursed his lips through The Bride, Dune, and Stormy Monday, and Kris Kristofferson has shoveled his laid-back mellowness in so many movies he has practically worn a rut in the ground.
POSTURING LOOKS REALLY, REALLY SILLY IN CLOSE-UP
One word: Prince.