If you’re not already aware, musician, visionary and performer david bowie could do just about anything. While Bowie has been acclaimed as a musician for much of his career, his acting roles are equally notable. Bowie has starred in sci-fi, horror, fantasy, war dramas, art films, and everything in between, and has managed to incorporate his larger-than-life persona into each of his respective performances. Bowie’s film roles also demonstrated his remarkable range and presented layers to an already impressive set of skills.
For fans of Bowie’s film roles, there’s a heated discussion as to who constitutes his best performance to date. Luckily, we’ve compiled a roundup of some of Bowie’s most dramatic, campy, harrowing, or gonzo roles in one place. In preparation for the long-awaited remake of the classic Thin White Duke movie The man who fell to earthtake a look and find out which film truly represents the pinnacle of Starman action.
2006 Christopher Nolan movie Prestige is notable for many reasons, and Bowie’s snarky but hard-hitting cameo as Nicolai Tesla is a real highlight. Despite the brevity of the role, Bowie’s theatrical swagger and cheeky humor meshes effectively into the character’s part of the film and leaves a lasting impression. While the role could have been a glorified stroll, Bowie manages to make Tesla’s appearance essential to the themes, and he perfectly captures the genius’ restless spirit and eccentricity. Nolan reportedly begged Bowie to appear in the film and, luckily for viewers, he not only agreed but delivered a scene-stealing role that enriched the film in the process. Bowie’s performance in Prestige was well received by critics and audiences and proved that even in a brief role, Bowie could still create a performance that resonated.
It’s no secret that Bowie was a master at embracing the absurd and that certainly extends to his film performances. In the 1996 Basquiat, Bowie plays none other than the iconic pop artist Andy Warhol. Bowie’s performance here lacks subtlety and is clearly frantic, but his over-the-top nature and flamboyant touch are delightfully entertaining, his theatrical style giving the role dynamism and his line readings and mannerisms strike the right balance between campy and self-awareness. self. Many performers have taken on the role of Warhol, and while some have portrayed him as a tortured visionary, Bowie’s exuberant and fiery take on Warhol is refreshing to behold. Also, bonus points for the way Bowie shamelessly rocks the Warhol wig; again, this is a man who knows a thing or two about hairstyles.
For every musician turned actor, it seems the vampire movie is a rite of passageand Bowie entered the genre in 1983 the Hunger. In the hyper-stylized film, Bowie plays John, the lover of the immortal vampire Miriam (Catherine Deneuve); the vampire pair find themselves trapped in a love triangle that tests their loyalty to each other. The film stands out for showcasing its gothic aesthetic, and Bowie’s haunting and seductive performance only adds to its appeal – his chemistry with Deneuve simmers and adds a layer of daring sexuality to the proceedings. Bowie’s penchant for performance art has served him well, as he translates his glamorous showmanship to film very effectively here. the Hunger was not a critical success, but has since established a cult following and is considered one of Bowie’s most iconic feature film roles to date.
4 Twin Peaks: Fire Walks With Me
Few performers can become an iconic character in a single scene, but Bowie managed to do it in his role as Philip Jefferies in Twin Peaks: Fire Walks With Me. Bowie’s tormented role as Jefferies in David Lynch’s seductive classic is one of his most powerful performances, and while he’s only really present in one scene, he owns more than his screen time. . Bowie brings an angsty intensity to Jefferies and demonstrates a real dramatic presence here. Bowie’s role is considered by many to be one of the film’s most iconic moments, and has been widely embraced by the fandom. It’s a testament to Bowie’s talent that despite the brevity, his role as Jefferies remains so important and impactful.
3 Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence
Although Bowie had acted in films before 1983, it was with the one from that year Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence and Hunger it established the seeds of his acting potential. The film follows Bowie as a prisoner of war during World War II and his relationship with a ranking commander evolves in unexpected ways. The film finds the actor in his most serious performance, and he manages to rise to the occasion with conviction, sincerity and emotion. Bowie is also in a more low-key mood here and manages to retain his charismatic presence in the process. It’s a heartbreaking film throughout its runtime, and while it would be easy for an actor to pull it off, Bowie’s restraint here is extremely powerful. His performance in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence won him critical acclaim and helped establish his credibility as an actor, and his work in the quiet, mysterious, and often beautiful film remains one of Bowie’s finest dramatic performances.
Although Bowie may have had “more serious roles”, few remain celebrated and adored like his turn as the Goblin King in the 1986 fantasy film Labyrinth. Bowie’s performance is gloriously over the top and theatrical, and he puts his glam rock pedigree to good use. Bowie is known for being a flamboyant performer, and he uses that strength a lot in Labyrinth, owning all the scenes it is in. Credit also goes to his comedic timing, as he manages to easily interact with the film’s many animated characters and young performers. Bowie’s turn as Goblin King is celebrated by many and continually introduces him to new generations. For many, Labyrinth serves as a gateway to Bowie and is one of his most important screen performances.
1 The man who fell to earth
One of Bowie’s first starring roles came in the 1976 sci-fi film The man who fell to earth. With a main character inspired by Bowie’s stage character, the film follows Bowie as an alien who crash-lands on earth in the form of a human while navigating modern society. The film is known for its existential and philosophical themes as it explores morality, corruption, desire, and the human spirit. Bowie’s performance as Thomas Jerome Newton makes great use of his unearthly presence, and his intensity and vulnerability are powerful to watch. Bowie also organically demonstrates an intimacy and understanding of his character that allows us to gain deeper resonance for his plight. Refreshingly, her performance lacks vanity and is organic and heartfelt throughout.
Like many of Nicolas Roeg’s masterpieces, The man who fell to earth polarized audiences at the time, and Bowie was not fully accepted as an actor of respect; he would only direct one more movie for seven years after this one, until Hunger and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. The film, however, became cult and is considered one of the most influential science fiction films of its time. Bowie’s performance here has also been noted as one of his most defining roles, with many automatically associating the Starman musician with the film’s star man. While Bowie has acted in numerous films, his role in The man who fell to earth remains his most definitive.
Jim Henson asked his family to help him choose which rock star would make a good Goblin King in Labyrinth, and it was an easy choice for his son Brian.
About the Author