Over recent years, Rocks Off has been repeatedly surprised by the quality performances of musicians in films. Naturally, there are some duds in the mix; even Mick Jagger himself, who starred in 1970's Ned Kelly, disowned the film by not promoting it or even attending its premiere.
But many high-profile artists have made successful cross-overs to the big screen, including Björk, Justin Timberlake, Madonna, Eminem, Courtney Love, Will Smith, LL Cool J, Mark Wahlberg, Frank Sinatra and our personal favorite, David Bowie in Labyrinth. But what remains intriguing are the musicians who po -up in smaller cameo roles, appearing in entertainingly unforeseen bit parts.
There are many, but here a few of our favorites:
Martin Scorsese's 2004 Howard Hughes biopic was renowned in part for its accurate portrayal of the decades it spanned. Considering the No Doubt front woman looks and dresses like an Old Hollywood starlet to begin with, her casting as Jean Harlow was right on. Harlow, whom Hughes cast in his 1930 war film Hell's Angels, accompanied Hughes to its premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
Idol first played the barely memorable role of Jim Morrison's drinking buddy, Cat, in Oliver Stone's 1991 biopic The Doors. But the punk-rocking Brit also had a small, yet more humorous cameo in the 1998 romantic comedy The Wedding Singer, playing a sensitive, insightful first-class passenger who encouraged Adam Sandler's character to go get the girl.
Shortly after the OutKast singer and producer's cameo in the 2005 sleeper Be Cool, he appeared alongside Will Ferrell and Woody Harrelson in the 2008 screwball comedy Semi-Pro. Inspired by '70s basketball player Julius "Dr. J" Erving, André played the role of the slam-dunkin', afro-sportin' basketball player Clarence "Coffee Black" Withers.
However surprising this casting choice seems, it's actually apropos, considering Pirates leading man Johnny Depp based his Jack Sparrow performance on the eccentric and drug-addled Rolling Stones guitarist. After the release of Life, Richards' far-from-family-friendly autobiographical account of his years of sexcapades and drug use, rumors flew that the Disney execs would be forced to give him the acting ax, but as far as we know, Richards is in the clear to reprise his role as Jack's father, Captain Teague, in Pirates 4.
In 2003, Waits played himself in Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes. Appearing in the film's "Somewhere in California" segment, Waits joins Iggy Pop in a short but hilarious scene, in which the two awkwardly sip coffee and bond over both recently quitting smoking. They celebrate their victory, of course, by sharing a pack of smokes. Waits also appears in 2009's dreamy Imaginarium, alongside Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Heath Ledger, who died one-third of the way though the movie's filming. Waits plays The Devil, aka Mr. Nick.
Snoop Dogg appears in the 1998 stoner comedy Half Baked as "the Scavenger Smoker," exemplifying the type of pot smoker who, according to the film's stoner stars, "never has weed of their own, but as soon as you smoke it, here they come." A few years later, Snoop appeared in director Todd Phillips' spoof comedy Starsky & Hutch as police informant Huggy Bear.
Most of us pop-culture nerds are savvy to the fact that the Canadian songstress first appeared as an actress in the '80s Nickelodeon game show You Can't Do That on Television. She's since traded in slime for song; 1995's Jagged Little Pill was certified 12 times platinum. But she has managed to squeeze in small acting roles along the way; our favorite being Kevin Smith's 1999 comedy Dogma, in which Morissette appeared as God. So she misuses the word "ironic" - she won us over with this pleasantly unanticipated cameo.
While the White Stripes/Raconteurs/Dead Weather front man's role in this 2003 Civil War drama is a bit more than a cameo, his performance is surely worthy of mention. White played Georgia, a mandolin player and love interest of Renée Zellweger's character Ruby. While he may be known for his rock and roll eccentricities, White impressed audiences with his natural onscreen ability, and also contributed five songs to the film's Americana-roots soundtrack. But Cold Mountain wasn't White's big-screen debut; the rocking Renaissance man had an uncredited cameo in 1987 neo-noir mystery The Rosary Murders, starring Donald Sutherland. White, then only 12, played an altar boy.
Thanks to shock-rocker and 2011 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Alice Cooper's hilarious cameo in Wayne's World, we learned that a) he's not that scary backstage, and is in fact quite eloquent and polite, and b) Milwaukee is pronounced "Mill-e-wah-que," which is Algonquin for "the good land." What a fantastically hilarious cameo this mapped out to be. Hey Alice - we're not worthy.
If the Red Hot Chili Peppers ever disband, Flea certainly has a professional safety net in movie cameos. The funky RHCP bassist has had bit parts in numerous movies since the early '90s, including The Big Lebowski, Gus Van Sant's timid Psycho remake, and 1994's The Chase (with RHCP front man Anthony Kiedis, as monster-truck drivers). While Flea is widely known for his musicianship and shirtlessness, he's simultaneously painted himself a minor league silver screen actor as well, making him not only perhaps the hardest-working man in music, but also our No. 1 choice for favorite musician cameo.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.