Rock n Roll Hall of Fame
Movie stardom is well and good, but sometimes it seems like what film stars really want to do is front a band. While Will Smith is a bone fide pop star, and Billy Bob Thornton, Jamie Foxx, Juliette Lewis and Bruce Willis each have an album or two to their credit, Russell Crowe, Keanu Reeves and Johnny Depp have all foisted the frustrated rock n roller within on bemused audiences.
It's not surprising that actors tend to make more convincing singers when they're just pretending - and never more so than when they're impersonating a legitimate legend. Often it seems to be the quickest ticket to an Oscar nomination.
Until now, you could be forgiven for never having heard of Sam Riley. A 27-year-old from Leeds, he's done a little TV, and just one previous film. Spookily, he played Mark E Smith in 24 Hour Party People, Michael Winterbottom's inspired celebration of the Madchester explosion. Now, Riley's brilliant performance as Joy Division's Ian Curtis in the acclaimed biopic Control signals the arrival of a major talent.
No doubt it's going to open doors for him in Hollywood, but wouldn't you know it? Riley really wants to be a rock star. His band 10,000 Things may have scored 1 out of ten from NME for their debut album, but you can't argue with 50 free downloads on their website, www.10000things.org.uk. Meanwhile Riley can console himself with his access-all-areas pass to that elite club, LOVEFiLM's very own Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.
The Rock n Roll Hall of Fame
We still await the definitive Elvis biopic, but for now John Carpenter's 1979 made-for-TV effort, known fittingly enough as Elvis, remains the benchmark, largely on the back of Kurt Russell's credible impersonation of the young hip-shaker. As trivia fans will know, the former child actor had a bit part in the early Elvis movie It Happened at the World Fair when he ran on and kicked the King in the shins. He went on play an Elvis impersonator in 3000 Miles to Graceland.
Ray Charles : Jamie Foxx
A trained pianist in his youth, Foxx won the Oscar for his superb portrait of the rhythm and blues genius. Foxx played Ray from 19 to 49, delighting audiences with his audacity, charm and mischief. For this he had the advantage of studying with Ray Charles himself - and when Foxx opened his mouth to sing, it really was Ray's voice we heard. The movie was a labour of love for director Taylor Hackford, and his attention to detail and sensitivity to the music shines through.
Johnny Cash : Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix was the man in black in James Mangold's Walk The Line, reputedly hand-picked by Cash himself (evidently a Gladiator fan). Costar Reese Witherspoon won an Academy Award for her deft performance as June Carter, but Phoenix gives the movie its intensity and heat. For extra credit, both stars sang and performed on the soundtrack.
Buddy Holly : Gary Busey
These days the big, toothy Texan is best known for playing redneck heavies in action movies like Lethal Weapon and Under Siege and 101 straight-to-rental titles, but in 1978 he was an engaging and convincing Buddy Holly in a biopic imaginatively titled The Buddy Holly Story. A former professional musician, Busey had played the drums for the likes of Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson (both of whom went on to exploit a lucrative side career in acting).
Jerry Lee Lewis : Dennis Quaid
Quaid and director Jim McBride had a breakout hit with a sexy, funny cop movie called The Big Easy. They reteamed for Great Balls Of Fire, an ersatz rock n roll romantic comedy based on the early days of the Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis. Flagrantly stylized, with Quaid desperately OTT, the movie bombed and set back both their careers. But if you want to see a real tribute to Jerry Lee, see McBride's earlier movie, Breathless, with - Goodness gracious! - Richard Gere strutting his stuff.
Diana Ross : Beyonce Knowles
Admittedly Dreamgirls didn't explicitly identify the pretty backing singer with no personalty as Diana Ross (the character was called Deena Jones), but it was an open secret where the inspiration came from. Beyoncé, we are reliably informed, does have a voice, and class enough to cede the big showstoppers to newcomer Jennifer Hudson (and in case you're wondering whatever happened to her, post Oscar, she's currently filming Sex and the City, the movie. The mind boggles.) Wonder if Diana has seen it yet?
Tina Turner : Angela BassettDetermination is the key-note in Bassett's gutsy portrait of Tina Turner, née Anna Mae Bullock. An authorized biopic, based on TT's autobiography, What's Love Got to Do With It? finds its focus in her abusive relationship with husband Ike (a swaggering, savage Laurence Fishburne); that and raucous R&B belters that threaten to knock out your woofers. Yet again, both actors were nominated for Academy Awards.
John Lennon: Ian Hart
Ian Hart doesn't look much like John Lennon, at all. Which only proves what a good actor he must be, because he played the role twice and made it his own. The first time was for a small independent film, The Hours and Times, made in ten days with a crew of two. His acerbic, flirtatious performance was enough to convince the producers of Backbeat that he was their man. It's probably worth noting that Hart's a Merseysider, born and bred.
Sid Vicious : Gary Oldman
Gary Oldman often struggles to find roles that match his passion and taste for extremes. The Sex Pistols' Sid Vicious was definitely his cup of gruel, and in Repo Man director Alex Cox he found a filmmaker willing to let him go for broke. Sid And Nancy is about as romantic a film as could be, in the circumstances. (Sid charms Nancy by banging his head against a brick wall.) Oldman plays him as a reckless wrecking ball, loose limbed but tightly knotted. It's a great performance in a difficult movie (and look for Courtney Love in her first role).
Kurt Cobain : Michael PittOkay, so Michael Pitt's character is known as "Blake". He's a long-haired, grungy rock star strung out on drugs and living in retreat in the Pacific Northwest, "inspired by, but not based on" Kurt Cobain. Gus Van Sant's movie Last Days is a portrait of a lost artist. Blake is untouchable and unreachable - the longest conversation he has is with a Yellow Pages salesman. We're reminded not only of Cobain, but Elliott Smith, and River Phoenix, "that stupid club", Wendy O'Connor warned of.
Keith Richards : Johnny Depp
Captain Jack Sparrow may not play a lick, but Johnny Depp made no secret that the inspiration for his Oscar-nominated turn in Pirates of the Caribbean was none other than Keef: He of the spindly sea legs, the permanently pickled disposition, and knightly demeanour. To seal the deal, Richards agreed to a cameo as Jack's father in the second sequel.
Michael Jackson : Diego Luna
The Mexican star of Y Tu Mama Tambien plays a Michael Jackson impersonator in Mister Lonely, the long-time-coming third feature from Harmony Korine. Despite his obvious disadvantages - even Michael isn't this white, and the filmmakers either couldn't afford or couldn't procure rights to Jackson's songs - Luna is actually more convincing in the role than the real thing. Not least careering around a circuit on a mini-bike, his cuddly monkey dangling in the slipstream.
Bob Dylan : Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw, Marcus Carl Franklin
In his latest, I'm Not There, Todd (Velvet Underground) Haynes gives us his Bobness times six, the perfect acknowledgement of this elusive, multi-faceted genius. Young Marcus Carl Franklin is a twelve-year-old black kid, riding the rails and calling himself "Woody". Gere plays Billy the Kid Bob, in homage to Sam Peckinpah. And Cate Blanchett is electrifying as Dylan circa "Don't Look Back". Too bad Colin Farrell's BD didn't make the final cut.
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