”I am the world’s forgotten boy,” proclaimed Iggy Pop in ”Search and Destroy,” his signature 1973 punk anthem. More than two decades later, the 49-year-old Pop — lined and battle-scarred but still, somehow, boyish — is far from forgotten. He has a featured role as a villain in The Crow: City of Angels, and his music is central to two of the summer’s most critically lauded films, Trainspotting and Basquiat, both of which use Pop’s 19-year-old ”Lust for Life” in critical scenes. Add to that a new ”Lust for Life” video (directed by Trainspotting‘s Danny Boyle) and the use of ”Search and Destroy” in a Nike television commercial earlier this summer, and Pop’s currency looks to be at an all-time high. Not bad for a guy who, by his own admission, couldn’t get a job at McDonald’s after his band, the Stooges, ground to a drugged-out halt circa 1974.
The Michigan-reared rocker is no newcomer to the film world, with roles in The Color of Money, Cry-Baby, and Tank Girl to his credit. But Pop, born James Osterberg, views acting strictly as ”an adjunct [to being] a 100 percent musician. Rock & roll tends to be more street,” muses Pop, ”whereas in film there’s a hell of a lot of politics just to get the part.”
His reputation as rock’s most extreme Method actor may help explain Hollywood’s belated fascination with him. At Stooges concerts in the early ’70s, fueled by drugs ranging from LSD to heroin, Pop would savagely cut and contort his exquisitely chiseled body while howling songs like ”I Wanna Be Your Dog” and ”Death Trip,” flinging himself about like a man hell-bent on breaking out of his own skin. ”He embodies the kind of phenomenal energy that you don’t moralize about,” says Boyle.
With his days of rolling in broken glass and swallowing truckloads of quaaludes behind him, the happily married (he and his wife of 11 years, Suchi, live in New York City), clean-and-sober Pop is now enjoying a taste of the mainstream success that has eluded him for most of his career. But don’t expect him to bask in it.
”I would say that other people are a lot more impressed with my success than I am,” says the singer, currently composing the soundtrack for Johnny Depp’s The Brave. ”To do quality work, you’ve got to have your mind on something other than what they think of you on the 39th floor.”