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Updated by Love It Loud on Jul 04, 2013
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Best Rock Stars Turned Actors


MEAT LOAF (Fight Club)

While Meat Loaf’s debut album, 1971′s uneven Stoney & Meatloaf, had failed to set the charts alight, his collaboration with composer Jim Steinman would result in one of the most successful and acclaimed albums in rock history. Bat Out of Hell took elements of heavy metal, opera and rock ‘n’ roll to create something truly unique and inspiring, resulting in several hit singles that would transform the singer into a bona fide rock star. In between the two albums, he had ventured into the world of acting with a minor role in the classic horror musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which starred Tim Curry as an extraterrestrial transsexual scientist called Dr. Frank N. Furter and writer Richard O’Brien as his hunchback sidekick Riff Raff. Meat Loaf’s appearance as delivery boy Eddie would be brief, murdered within minutes after performing a song by Curry. While he would continue to act throughout his career, appearing in the 1980 flick Roadie (which also included Alice Cooper) and the 1993 comedy Wayne’s World 2, Meat Loaf would receive major acclaim for his sensitive portrayal of misunderstood loner and cancer survivor Robert Paulson in David Fincher’s 1999 classic Fight Club. “I like Bob Paulson from Fight Club. Most of the character development was done by me. Bob really wasn’t on paper so I had to push hard,” he told Artist Direct in 2010. “I got David Fincher to give me shots and make that character come alive, especially with the walk in the beginning of the movie. I said, “David, I’ve got this walk for him.” He went, “Cool” and we shot that. There were other little pieces.” Meat Loaf’s subsequent movies (including The 51st State and BloodRayne) failed to live up to the promise of his turn as Paulson, although some inspired casting as Jack Black’s strict father in the 2006 comedy Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny caused Meat Loaf to once again steal the scenes away from their stars.

DEBBIE HARRY (Videodrome)

When Blondie broke out of the New York punk scene of CBGB and into the mainstream with the hit singles Heart of Glass and One Way or Another, singer Debbie Harry became an instant sex symbol, with fans often more fascinated with her glamorous appeal than her band’s music. When they split, however, the future of Harry seemed uncertain. She had already released a debut album, KooKoo, by this point but Harry had simultaneously attempted to launch a new career as an actress. While something music-orientated or comical may have been the obvious route, Harry was instead cast as the female lead alongside character actor James Woods in the Canadian body horror Videodrome. Written and directed by David Cronenberg, fresh from his success with the science fiction thriller Scanners, the movie followed the obsessive journey of TV president Max Renn as he searches through pornography and snuff broadcasts search of something surreal and depraved called Videodrome. “What we were looking for was something that would take me out of the image that people had of me – Blondie and being a singer, and being this cute, popsy little character,” Harry explained in the featurette The Making of David Cronenberg’s Videodrome. “We did, however, for the first film want something like a comedy, something that would be light and charming, and people would really love me. So Nikki’s not exactly that.” Harry’s risk-taking would pay off when Videodrome became a favourite among horror fans and would convince filmmakers that Harry had talents beyond singing, resulting in roles in Hairspray, New York Stories and Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, which would also feature Johansen.

COURTNEY LOVE (The People vs. Larry Flynt)

Courtney Love had failed to land the role of notorious rock groupie Nancy Spungen in Alex Cox’s punk biopic Sid and Nancy, yet the twenty-year-old never gave up her hopes of becoming a movie star. Music had been an equal passion in her life and in 1990 she had released her debut album, Pretty on the Inside, with her rock group Hole. Her controversial relationship with Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain would threaten to eclipse her music, but following his suicide in 1994, Love was finally allowed to become a star in her own right. Live Through This, released the same month as his death, was an instant hit and Hole became one of the most talked-about American groups of the mid-1990s, yet even as they revelled in their newfound popularity, Love had not given up hope of making it in Hollywood. Her calling card came in 1996 with a co-starring role in The People vs. Larry Flynt, an acclaimed biopic on the life of Hustler creator Flynt and his relationship with stripper Althea Leasure, played by Love. The role would bring numerous award nominations and wins, with critics impressed by her honest and convincing turn as the tortured Leasure, with the New York Times stating, “When Althea goes to seed, she begins looking more and more like Courtney Love, but Ms. Love’s performance is far too good to confuse one well-tended image with the other.” Love would follow The People vs. Larry Flynt with Man on the Moon, alongside Jim Carrey, and the ensemble drama 200 Cigarettes.


While now known more for his work as a humanitarian and political activist, in the late 1970s and early ’80s Bob Geldof was a modestly successful actor and singer, launching the legendary Live Aid event alongside fellow musician Midge Ure. Geldof first came to the attention of music fans as the frontman of The Boomtown Rats, the New Wave group most known for their 1979 classic I Don’t Like Mondays. Inspired by a visit to a radio station in Georgia, in which he heard a story on the news regarding sixteen-year-old Brenda Ann Spencer, who shot several of her fellow classmates at school before declaring to the police that “I don’t like Mondays,” the song reached number one in the UK charts (their second to achieve this, following Rat Trap a year earlier). On 1982, Geldof made his acting debut in The Wall, taking the lead role of Pink, a tortured rock star who slowly descends into his own personal hell, confronting all manner of surreal and twisted imageries. Based on the album of the same name by Pink Floyd, the screenplay was adapted by frontman Roger Waters and was directed by Alan Parker, who had enjoyed considerable acclaim during the previous decade with Bugsy Malone and Midnight Express.


When the New York Dolls split after just two studio albums, frontman David Johansen attempted to launch a solo career, releasing four albums to mixed reviews, before attempting to find further success with his lighthearted alter-ego Buster Poindexter. In the mid-1980s, Johansen turned his attention to acting with minor roles in a slew of television shows, including Miami Vice and The Equalizer, before progressing to commercial movies with Married to the Mob in 1988. The same year he appeared as the Ghost of Christmas Past in Richard Donner’s festive horror comedy Scrooged, a modern-day reworking of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, in which greedy TV executive Bill Murray is forced to face the sins of his life when he is visited by ghosts on the night before Christmas. The 1980s saw Hollywood exploring the evils of capitalism through movies such as Trading Places and Wall Street, and with Scrooged a rich and successful TV mastermind has turned his back on those he loved in order to rise in the cutthroat world of television. Each of the three ghosts are represented in ways that appeal to the actors’ strengths; Johansen is a rock ‘n’ roll taxi driver and Carol Kane is an eccentric fairy, while Robert Mitchum is the spirit of Murray’s no-nonsense former boss. Following the success of Scrooged, which capitalised on Murray’s appeal following his role in Ghostbusters, Johansen co-starred in the horror anthology Tales from the Darkside: The Movie and with Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger in the disappointing science fiction action flick Freejack.

IGGY POP (Dead Man)

Iggy Pop was in his fourties when filmmakers began to cast him in all manner of quirky and offbeat roles. Despite a résumé that would include such cult movies as Tank Girl and The Crow: City of Angels, it would be through his regular collaborations with Hollywood star Johnny Depp that would prove the most productive. First beginning in 1990 with John Waters’ Cry Baby, whose cast would also feature former teen adult star Traci Lords and future chat show host Ricki Lake, Pop’s music would be featured in Depp’s 1993 drama Arizona Dream, while he would also score Depp’s directoral debut The Brave. Yet their most interesting collaboration would be Dead Man, a surreal western from acclaimed director Jim Jarmusch that critic Roger Ebert described as, “a strange, slow, unrewarding movie that provides us with more time to think about its meaning than with meaning.” In a movie full of bizarre appearances from the likes of Crispin Glover, John Hurt and Billy Bob Thornton, it would be Pop’s performance as a cross-dresser that would prove to be Dead Man’s most memorable moment.

SHIRLEY MANSON (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles)

In the seven years in between the releases of the albums Bleed Like Me and Not Your Kind of People, Garbage singer Shirley Manson made the unexpected transition from music to acting with a key role in the second season of the underrated science fiction show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a small screen spinoff of the successful movie franchise. After being approached by executive producer Josh Friedman to audition, Manson soon found herself cast as the ambiguous company CEO and advanced Terminator Catherine Weaver. Never revealed as either the antagonist or an ally, Weaver’s ambition on the show was to help advance the creation of Skynet, the computer ultimately responsible for launching a nuclear war on the human race, yet her motives seem less loyal to the Terminators and more for personal gain. “I knew she was a Terminator but I didn’t realise the part was going to be so big. I just thought I would be getting in a fight with somebody,” Manson confessed to Comic Book Resources in April 2009. “I had no idea that it was going to be a recurring role at all. To be honest, when we were first shooting the episodes this season, the producers weren’t sure where they were taking me. So I was working pretty much in the dark, which was difficult but in retrospect also helpful. If I had known how big the role was going to be, I would of collapsed. It would have been bad.”

HENRY ROLLINS (Sons of Anarchy)

The film career of Henry Rollins first began to gain momentum in the mid-1990s with roles in such diverse projects as The Chase, Johnny Mnemonic, Heat and Lost Highway, yet to metal fans he would be forever known for his punk and rock work in the acclaimed groups Black Flag and the Rollins Band. While more recently he had flirted with the horror genre on films such as Feast and Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, in 2009 he would make a successful transition to the small screen as A.J. Weston, the leader of a white separatist group in the second season of the popular show Sons of Anarchy. “I play a bad man and, in Hollywood, characters like me often must die,” he told The Guardian at the time, regarding his death at the hands of protagonist Jax. “My character is a neo-Nazi white power pseudo-cracker.” First appearing in the first episode of the second season, Weston was executed in the season’s finale, a role which brought Rollins modest acclaim. Despite being known for his imposing physique, Rollins revealed in an interview with Monsters and Critics that he was forced to work out even more for the role; “I was asked if I could put on some more muscle for the part. I upped the daily caloric intake and lifting poundage. Hopefully I got the size they were looking for. I don’t train like that anymore, it’s hard on the frame and I don’t really need the mass.”

ALICE COOPER (Prince of Darkness)

Alice Cooper had specularly returned from the abyss in the mid-1980s with his hair metal-infused comeback album Constrictor and the minor hit He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask), which had been released to coincide with that of Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. Having teamed up with guitarist Kane Roberts, Cooper had recorded his most successful and acclaimed record in a album and had brought the former rock icon to the attention of a new generation of metal fans. In March 1987, Cooper had appeared at Wrestlemania III in Pontiac, Michigan, where he had struck up a friendship with cult filmmaker John Carpenter, the mastermind behind the genre classics Halloween, Escape From New York and The Thing. Through this encounter, Cooper was offered a minor role in his next picture, a supernatural horror called Prince of Darkness, which told of cylinder contained in a church that contained pure evil that could destroy mankind. Despite his part being dialogue-free, Cooper gave a memorable performance as a possessed vagrant who impales one character with the bar from a bike. Cooper would return to the horror genre four years later with a cameo as Freddy Krueger’s father in the critically-mawled Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.

CARL MCCOY (Hardware)

“When you mention the Nephilim, people speak of fallen angels,” explained Fields of the Nephilim frontman Carl McCoy in a 1989 interview with Spin. “The Bible, in Genesis, mentions these fallen angels as the sons of God, or in some Bibles they’re called the Watchers.” Perhaps it was inevitable that when McCoy finally turned to acting it would be with a small role in a movie rife with religious imagery and symbolism. Hardware, a science fiction-slasher-art picture hybrid, was the first feature from acclaimed filmmaker Richard Stanley, who had spent the 1980s cutting his teeth of an array of short films and music videos. His introduction to McCoy had come when he was hired to shoot the promo clip for the band’s 1987 track Preacher Man, an atmospheric and stylish video that would serve as their introduction to a wider audience. The result would help draw considerable attention to the group from the British music press, with Stanley being recruited once again a few months later to shoot a second promo, for the song Blue Water. McCoy’s role in Hardware would be that of a masked nomad, a drifter and scavenger who sells the remains of a military robot that beings to rebuild itself with the intent on destroying its new owner, played by newcomer Stacey Travis. Other notable performances in the movie came from Motörhead legend Lemmy Kilmister and the vocal talents of Iggy Pop.