Bono plays himself in his first fiction film
U2's lead singer inspires director Phil Joanou to shoot his own life story
Some people would contend that U2’s Bono is always acting. (And ever since he adopted the wraparound sunglasses and ”Fly” persona, he might not disagree.) Nevertheless, his official onscreen thespian debut is a supporting part -? as himself! -? in director Phil Joanou’s ”Entropy,” which premiered this past weekend as the L.A. Independent Film Festival’s opening-night-gala attraction.
Joanou’s most famous feat remains the 10-year-old U2 concert film ”Rattle & Hum,” though his subsequent credits include conventional pictures such as ”State of Grace” and ”Heaven’s Prisoners.” Says Joanou of Bono, ”He’s my toughest critic and one of my best friends. This guy loves nothing more than to kick the s— out of me on a regular basis.” The singer had some advice for the auteur a couple of years ago: ”His take was, ‘Being a director-for-hire is like covering other people’s songs, which is great, but they’re not your songs. Write your own song.”’
So Joanou did. ”Entropy” is a not-too-thinly-disguised, seriocomically autobiographical account of romantic and professional travails in the director’s own life, but it’ll hold special appeal for U2 fans because of a bit of real-life lore it re-creates. The main character is a filmmaker (played by Stephen Dorff) who breaks up suddenly with the love of his life, only to meet a woman backstage at a U2 show, whom he proposes to on the spot. Following a drunken Vegas ceremony, U2 projects the regrettable wedding footage on giant screens during ”Mysterious Ways.” Diehard fans will remember that, back during the Zooropa tour, U2 really did show tens of thousands of fans footage of Joanou’s Vegas wedding to a record company A&R executive he’d just met and married on the rebound. Reenacting this embarrassing moment for the new movie was ”both my catharsis and my penance,” says Joanou.
Though the names and personas of almost everyone else have been changed — including the many movie stars and studio executives Joanou takes revenge on — he had no intention of fictionalizing U2’s part in the proceedings. ”Bono was the first person I gave the script to, because without U2’s involvement, I couldn’t make the movie. It’s a plot point, and it isn’t like he plays the waiter. He plays Bono, and I’m not gonna get someone else to play an Irish rock star.”
Bono and U2 agreed to perform for free, but it took the director a year to raise the indie film’s $3 million budget; it came together just in time for Joanou and a crew to get to Capetown, South Africa, to film the final show of last year’s PopMart tour. Those who are eager to see U2’s stranger-than-fiction film appearance will have to wait; Joanou is still seeking a distributor for ”Entropy,” and it’s uncertain if he’ll find a market for a film about a filmmaker. ”Singers write about their breakups,” he says. ”I mean, Jesus, Alanis Morissette reads a love letter and it’s a song — and no one questions that for a second. But God forbid a filmmaker puts some of his personal life into a film.” Luckily, not everyone feels that way: ”Bono was like, ‘That’s exactly what you should be doing.’ He never teased me about hanging my bare ass out the window.”