Joplin’n’Durkin July 9, 2012

I’ve been curious, but not enthusiastic, about the idea of a feature film about Janis Joplin.

The role of Joplin would be a demanding challenge for any actress. Quite a few have been associated with Joplin movies in the past, but none of them have yet delivered. Amy Adams? Sure, I’d love to see her take a shot at it. Renee Zellweger? That, too, could be interesting… and, potentially, a career-reviving role for an actress who’s been absent for too long. Zooey Deschanel? I love her, but it would be hard to hear such a sweet singing voice transformed into Joplin’s bluesy rasp and banshee howl.

I much prefer it when lesser-known actors take on roles like this, so that I’m able to suspend my disbelief. Otherwise, I’m sitting there in my theatre seat thinking about a performance… not the person that the film invites us to consider. It’s kind of like watching a stuntman doing stunts: Can he do it? Or will he crash? I can think of only a few occasions when famous actors played rock stars in a way that made me forget about the actor. (Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison was so convincing, it worked for me.)

So how about Nina Arianda as Janis Joplin?

Okay! Now we’re talking. This sounds promising.

I’m not familiar with Ariadna (although she apparently appeared in Win Win), but the praise she’s received for her stage performances are impressive.

I am familiar with the director of this project: Sean Durkin. And now, a Janis Joplin movie sounds doubly promising!

Here’s my review of his last movie, a film that tied me up in knots...

What’s your favorite case of an actor playing a rock star?

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  • Kilmer as Morrison

    Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett
    Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious
    Sam Riley as Ian Curtis
    all the incarnations of Bob Dylan in “I’m Not There.”

    and of the fake ones, probably Matthew Lillard in SLC Punk, which for some reason is one of my most favorite movies.

    • oops i think i just realized that Lillard doesn’t play in a band in SLC Punk, I coulda sworn he did, but he’s just a music follower…never mind. Still, great movie.

  • Yes I’ve seen Top Secret, and I also know a little German. He’s sitting over there. :)

  • I thought Jamie Foxx was good in Ray but this is probably an example of the “suspension of belief” that you’re talking about because you know that Jamie Foxx is both not Ray Charles and not blind, and you end up constantly seeing how well he is “acting”.

  • Ah, another sweet spot for me, as someone who loves music and loves movies, I love movies about music even more.

    For me too, Kilmer’s Morrison jumped immediately to mind when I saw this question posed on Facebook. I also loved Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon’ s performances in ‘Walk the Line’ (though I guess that’s more country than rock, but still great)

    As far as actors playing fictional rock stars, Spinal Tap goes without saying as the epitome of the satirical variety….and of the more dramatic variety, I love the members of Stillwater from ‘Almost Famous’ (hell, I love the entire cast of that movie!)

    …and don’t forget Steve Buscemi’s under-stated cameo as the “Buddy Holly waiter” in Pulp Fiction.

    • Jeffrey Overstreet

      Ken, I assume you’ve seen Top Secret!, Val Kilmer’s first rock-star role. In that, he played Nick Rivers, who really knows how to “shake the rug.” Still one of the funniest movies I know, and Kilmer’s great all the way through.

      I loved Phoenix too. Now you’ve made me want to go back and see Walk the Line again.

  • Mayrock . . .

    Nigel Tufnel as Jeff Beck. ;)

  • John

    Real rock star(s) – Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett in “What’s Love Got to Do with It”

    Fake rock star – Bill Nighy as Billy Mack in “Love Actually” ( the only thread of that film I actually enjoyed).

  • I agree that Kilmer as Morrison was pretty amazing. Lately I liked Martin McCann as Bono in “KIlling Bono” He had the accent, tone, swagger and smirk down. As far as Joplin? I think another singer would have to do it…and I can only think of one: Joan Osborne.