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Scoring Roles: Mark Wahlberg, Harry Connick Jr. and Lou Reed

Can pop stars translate to the big screen? The latest results are mixed

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Call it the ultimate ’90s synergy. TV stars make a few extra bucks and gain literary cred pounding out toothless memoirs. Rock stars earn fast cash and gain even broader mass appeal signing up for a film role. When Whitney Houston returns to the screen this Christmas in Waiting to Exhale, she’ll be the last in a long line of pop stars who contributed to popcorn sales in 1995. From punk grandfather Lou Reed to classic rocker Robbie Robertson to easy-listening pinup boy Harry Connick Jr., music personalities of every stripe have been making big-screen appearances. And it doesn’t look like the trend will end anytime soon. Coming up next year are cinematic turns by David Bowie (as Andy Warhol in Build a Fort, Set It on Fire), Courtney Love (as a waitress in Feeling Minnesota), and Poison has-been Bret Michaels (in A Letter From Death Row)—not to mention the directorial debut of Ice Cube. Hey, hey, my, my, rock roles will never die.

David Browne and Michele Romero

Robbie Robertson

Day Job: Onetime member of The Band and jam-session guy for Rock & Roll Hall of Fame benefits; currently picks tunes for movies like Martin Scorsese’s Casino

Movie: Sean Penn’s The Crossing Guard

Role: Anjelica Huston’s spine-free spouse

Drama Mien: Suffers a Jack Nicholson (above) choke hold even worse than the bashing he received by ex-Band mate Levon Helm in Helm’s Band memoirs, This Wheel’s on Fire

Art Imitates Rock: Colorless performance mirrors Robertson’s tepid solo career

Musical Contribution: None; the only gravel-throated crooning here is by Bruce Springsteen on the compelling ”Missing”

Grade: C

Henry Rollins

Day Job: Tattooed poet, publisher, actor, MTV Sports correspondent, and leader of hardcore Rollins Band

Movie: Robert Longo’s Johnny Mnemonic

Role: Spider, a 21st-century doctor called a ”flesh mechanic”

Drama Mien: Loudly yelps lines (”Information overload causes it! All the electronics around you poisoning the airwaves!”), much like Rollins’ staccato spoken-word performances Art Imitates Rock: Drives a van in the movie. Wrote a book about life with former band Black Flag called Get in the Van.

Musical Contribution: Rollins Band contributed typically amelodic song to industrial soundtrack

Grade: B-

Mark Wahlberg

Day Job: Rapper Marky Mark, as well known for modeling underpants as for rapping

Movie: Scott Kalvert’s The Basketball Diaries

Role: Mickey, a heroin-addicted New Yawk delinquent and basketball buddy of real-life street poet Jim Carroll, played by Leonardo DiCaprio (above)

Drama Mien: Boy from the hood convincingly plays boy who’s a hood in the hood

Art Imitates Rock: Feels the vibration while going through heroin withdrawal. Does one scene in his skivvies.

Musical Contribution: Alas, rap had yet to be invented in the mid-’60s, when this film takes place