Since the beginning of time, rock stars have wanted to be movie stars and movie stars have wanted to be rock stars. It almost never works out. How many times have you heard this sentence, “Honey, how about, to get in the mood, we listen to the new Jennifer Love Hewitt CD?” About as many times as you’ve heard the sentence, “I think today I’m going to sneak up on a wild boar and make sweet sweet love to it.”
But still rockers have always wanted to act. Maybe because they think it’s easier to say lines in a script rather then to have to write and perform their own songs. It’s also tremendous exposure and quite a rush to see yourself on the big screen. Because, let’s face it, rocks stars just don’t get enough adulation in their lives.
In the past fifteen years or so, rappers have also started acting in film and TV with a more evenly matched record. But, for every Will Smith there’s a Big Boi and for every Queen Latifah or Mark Wahlberg there’s a Bow Wow and DMX. A word about the following list, everyone on it has acted in more then one movie or TV show so they can’t blame their god awful performances on inexperience. Nope, they just suck.
10. Gene Simmons in “Never Too Young To Die” (1986)
You’d think that if there was a role Gene Simmons was meant to play it would be Velvet Von Ragner, the hermaphrodite cross dressing villain who dressed like a stripper. The ironic part was that the costume he wore in the big show stopping number was the same costume Lynda Carter wore on her variety special when she sang Kiss’s hit, “I Was Mad For Loving You.” The sad thing is that this coincidence was by far the most interesting part of Gene’s portrayal. It is the rare actor who has the opportunity to suck in two different genders in the same film. His first line is, “Hello turd nuggets.” From there it goes down hill.
9. Sting in “The Bride” (1985)
Being a huge Police fan in high school, I really, really wanted Sting to be a good actor. He was boring in “Brimstone & Treacle.” He was way over the top in “Dune” wearing his metallic underwear but he truly was awful in “The Bride.” What lead to his break through as a terrible thespian? For starters, he was the lead in this retelling of “Frankenstein” but this time the monster was a young Jennifer Beals.
The New York Times called the Stinger’s performance “a glowering supercilious fiend spouting philosophical gibberish” and not in a good way. Granted, the best actor in the world would have trouble making lines like “The new woman will be as free and as bold as we are. A woman equal to ourselves!” sound credible and Sting is not the best actor in the world. He’s not even the best actor in The Police. Stewart Copeland’s turn as “pickpocket” in “The Equalizer” is a helluva lot more captivating and believable. Oh well, at least Sting can always make another lute album.
8. The Bee Gees in “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band” (1978)
In 1977, the brothers Gibb (Barry, Robin and Maurice) were riding high. Their album was number one as well as their TV specials. It was sweet vindication for a band that spend most of the early seventies marginalized. The next logical step was for the Bee Gees to star in their own movie and it couldn’t be just any movie. Their manager, Robert Stigwood, decided to make a movie out of one of the best albums ever made, The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The Bee Gees were constantly trying to fight their way out of The Beatles shadow and this seemed like an odd way to go about it.
The movie had no dialogue. It was wall to wall music which made the Bee Gees feel like they had to overact every moment. It’s a bit like watching home movies from the 50’s where everyone’s waving to the camera or rubbing their stomachs to indicate hunger. However, home movies don’t usually have a thirty million dollar budget and charge admission.
The film was a magnificent stink bomb, almost destroying the Bee Gees career and taking down Peter Frampton‘s. The good news is that after this failure, none of the Bee Gees ever acted again. So, in the end, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was a good thing.
7. Vanilla Ice in “Cool As Ice” (1991)
For a guy who made a lot of money ripping off that riff from Queen, you’d think he’d know what movie to rip off to make his movie debut successful. He didn’t. Basically, “Cool As Ice” is an Elvis Presley movie but in 1991. Vanilla, as his friends call him, played Johnny Van Owen, a motorcycle riding rapper who drifts from town to town with his posse. In this town, Johnny falls for honor student, Kathy Winslow. Someone’s dad gets killed by corrupt cops, Johnny saves the day, blah blah blah…
Vanilla Ice was so bad that no one bought he was a rapper. Hell, I didn’t believe he was vanilla. The director later disowned the film and it made a piddling $638,000 at the box office. If only Suge Knight dropped Vanilla Ice off that balcony, he could’ve save all of us a lot of pain.
6. Mariah Carey in “Glitter” (2001)
Released in the aftermath of 9/11, this movie was a direct assault on our shared values and sense of decency. If you think I’m exaggerating then you sit through it. Mariah Carey portrays Billie, a club dancer from the wrong side of the tracks who yearns to sing. Along the way there’s a bunch of sexual misadventures, assorted close calls and hurt feelings. But, yes, at the end, Billie realizes her dream and becomes the singer we all prayed she could be all with the same facial expression.
Carey blamed the movie and soundtrack’s lack of success on being released after 9/11. Damn it, the terrorists won.
5. Ice -T in “Leprechaun In The Hood” (2000)
Before Ice-T started putting rapists and punks in prison on “Law & Order: SVU” he imprisoned a leprechaun. Big mistake. Apparently, they don’t enjoy it and if you don’t believe me, check out the scene where Ice-T is robbed of his gold and his dignity. He did get to utter this immortal catchphrase, “I hope you had sex last night, cause I’m gonna come over there and I’m gonna cut off your d*ck.” If there was any justice, that phrase would be emblazoned on every t-shirt in America.
4. Mick Jagger in “Freejack” (1992)
If nothing, Sir Mick deserves the longevity award for being a substandard thespian for over forty four years. He played a vicious outlaw in “Ned Kelly” and plays a mercenary who steals healthy bodies for rich patrons in the future in this screen classic. Mostly, he just stands there and tries to look menacing but it comes off as merely annoyed. I imagine it’s the same expression he has on in concert when Keith stays on too long during his solo spot. The only positive thing I can think of to say about this film is that it gives us a glimpse of the future. Namely, the Bronx circa 2009.
3. Elvis Presley in over 30 films (1956-1969)
There’s not many actors who can say they created an entire genre of films but the King can. For over fifteen years an “Elvis movie” meant a good looking lifeguard, chopper pilot, hot rod driver or swinging doctor would waltz into town, sing a few banal songs, bed the hottest girls and by the end, have everyone eating out of the palm of his hand.
The sad part is that Elvis could’ve been a great actor but his manager “Colonel” Tom Parker never wanted to stray from the formula and Elvis was too docile to put up any kind of a fight. Still, seeing the King of Rock & Roll sing, “Mamma’s little baby loves clambake, clambake / Mamma’s little baby loves clambake too” is pretty darn moving.
2. Master P in “I Got the Hook Up” (1998)
Master P not only starred in this, he also co-wrote and executive produced it which makes him a reverse triple threat. This movie is, allegedly, a comedy and it must be because everyone shouts their lines in it. Christopher Null called it, “An utter waste of time” and that’s being generous. Master P has dozens of credits but he seems to have graduated from the “if less is more than doing nothing is awesome” school of acting.
1. Madonna – Lifetime Achievement Award In Bad Acting (1985 – 2002)
Sure, issuing a lifetime achievement award over a specific movie is a bit of a cheat. Trying to decide your least favorite Madonna movie is kind of like picking a favorite piece of garbage. “Swept Away,” “The Next Best Thing,” “Dangerous Game” and “Body of Evidence” are all horrible in their own special way. You wouldn’t think someone who’s so dynamic on stage would be so wooden on screen but she is. It kind of makes sense because her talk show appearances go over like lead balloons. It’s like she has no sense of humor and very little personality.
For anyone who insists Madonna was good in “Desperately Seeking Susan,” she’s not in it all that much and she’s playing herself. Then I would insist they watch “Shanghai Surprise” and “Who’s That Girl.” On further thought, maybe that’s how we should break down terrorists. Whoever said “thank God for small favors” was probably referring to the fact that Madonna hasn’t acted in any movies since 2002. I pray I just didn’t jinx it.