20 Most Remarkable First Film Roles By A Musician

20 Most Remarkable First Film Roles By A Musician (photo)

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Some musicians have a distinct advantage when it comes to launching an acting career, bringing celebrity and a fan base to the bargaining table that can add crucial appeal to their early prospects. However, musicians (and we use the term loosely), rappers and singers must also struggle with the preconceived notion that comes with them, to the ruin of many who cannot break free of their tabloid typecasting. But this can also be their greatest asset — there is nothing audiences love more than watching someone defy expectation, other than perhaps a star, defying expectation. Many have tried, most have failed. Everyone from Michael Jackson to Mos Def, Method Man to Mick Jagger, have dabbled in acting with varying degrees of success. Most recently, Justin Timberlake has come out strong in “The Social Network,” but we decided to focus on the early role, the first real performance of some of the best crossover talents (and Timberlake in “Edison Force” didn’t make the cut). These are 20 of the most remarkable.

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20. Cher — As Chastity in “Chastity”

Given that the 1969 film “Chastity” provided Cher with her first dramatic role, the fact that she is on this list at all is a testament to her remarkable run of film roles in the 1980s. “Chastity,” a film written and produced by Cher’s, ex-showbiz partner, ex-manager, and ex-ball-and-chain Sonny Bono, is bad enough to warrant commentary from puppets. Verging on exploitation, the film follows a young woman, Chastity (Cher), as she negotiates the not-so-groovy summer of love while hitch-hiking across the United States. She finds love, loses love and then winds up working as a whore in Mexico avoiding the come-ons of the lesbian madam. Then she has a nervous breakdown.

The writing and filmmaking are so incredibly bad that one’s initial response is to excuse Cher’s performance as the fault of Sonny and one-and-done director Alessio de Paola (which we’re inclined to do), but those big brown eyes can’t hide can hide that Cher often walks lugubriously through the frame like a narcoleptic on a Haldol drip and delivers lines… like a narcoleptic on a Haldol drip. “Chastity” is perplexing because it is so discordant with her later rolls which so established her in the Hollywood firmament.

It took 13 years, and a complete break from Sonny, before Cher ventured forth into film acting again, in Robert Altman’s “Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” which some may argue is her first real role… though we’re still a bit preoccupied with this:

Most Iconic Role — Loretta in “Moonstruck”

In “Moonstruck,” Cher displays her ear for American accents and a gifted sense of comedic timing as Brooklyn widow, Loretta Castorini. The film, which depicts with operatic excess the events surrounding Loretta’s romance with Johnny Camereri (Nicolas Cage), won three Oscars including Best Actress for Cher. –JC

19. Art Garfunkel — Captain Nately in “Catch-22”

Maybe Art Garfunkel didn’t write all those hit songs and maybe his solo career was less successful, but he absolutely crushes Paul Simon when it comes to acting. Although Garfunkel has not made many movies, his first two film roles are worth enough of placing him on this list. In “Catch-22” (1970), Garfunkel plays callow, 19-year-old Captain Nately, and although it is a smaller role in a film full of legendary actors, he shines in it. In a scene in which Nately is disabused of his naïve beliefs about America by a grizzled old Italian man (Marcel Dalio), Garfunkel perfectly captures the young American’s cocksure, wide-eyed belief in American exceptionalism. Garfunkel’s performance so impressed director Mike Nichols that he chose to cast him again the following year in “Carnal Knowledge.”

Most Iconic role: Sandy in “Carnal Knowledge”

In “Carnal Knowledge,” Garfunkel once again plays a naïve, idealistic young man, but here we watch him transform into a disillusioned adult who ends up cheating on the wife he once thought would bring him bliss. Even though the roll is far more complex and demanding than Captain Nately, Garfunkel rises to the challenge and does not look remotely out of place next to an in-his-prime Jack Nicholson. –JC

18. Jack White — Jack in “Coffee and Cigarettes”

Jack White and his fake sister-wife Meg White came to notoriety with their Detroit garage rock band The White Stripes. Jack has proved himself to be a skillful musician easily moving from piano to drums to guitar. The fame associated with a critically-acclaimed music career brought White opportunities to act. While he was arguably playing himself, in the segment of 2003’s Jim Jarmusch film “Coffee and Cigarettes,” Jack White’s acting skills were apparent. His role in “Jack Shows Meg His Tesla Coil” was played with good humor and ease showing that if he wanted to step in front of the camera, he could have a steady paycheck.

Most Iconic Role: Georgia in “Cold Mountain”

His next role, in Anthony Minghella’s Civil War epic “Cold Mountain” proves that Jack White has the acting chops to compete with some of the best in the business. As the mandolin player Georgia who woos Renee Zellweger’s Ruby Thewes, White was able to combine his skills on camera with his musical abilities. Even as a newcomer, White makes himself noticed amid a cast of cinematic veterans like Jude Law and Nicole Kidman. Since “Cold Mountain” his only notable role was a bit playing Elvis in the Judd Apatow screenplay, “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.” Acting appears to be just another line on White’s resume, as he’s been too busy producing albums with Loretta Lynn, Wanda Jackson, and Conan O’Brien and making music with his bands, including the Dead Weather, to step in front of the camera. –ML

17. Dwight Yoakam — Bobby Lomax in “The Little Death”

When one considers that country music legend Dwight Yoakam was initially rejected by a Nashville scene not remotely interested in his old time Honky-tonk sound, it isn’t too surprising that he managed to rebound from a dreadful performance in a monumentally dreadful movie to forge a successful acting career. “The Little Death” has the stench (and appropriate title) of late night crotch-grabbing Cinemax programming circa 1997 and, other than Yoakam, an unremarkable cast to go with it. Yoakam plays a psychopathic photographer who murders the wealthy husband of the woman he is stalking. The best thing about this role is that it provided an opportunity for Yoakam to play a tremendously unhinged villain which he would refine in his breakout performance, “Sling Blade.”

(Watch Yoakam crotch grabbing at about 1:30)

Most Iconic Role — Doyle Hargraves in “Sling Blade”

Yoakam’s next film catapulted him into the national spotlight as a true crossover talent. In “Sling Blade,” he plays another unhinged villain, but the difference between his portrayals of Doyle Hargraves and Bobby Lomax could not be more stark. It may be the magic that only a great script can provide, but when comparing the two performances it’s clear that while working under the direction of Billy Bob Thornton, Yoakam ceased being a musician trying to play an actor and became an actor playing a great role. –JC

16. Bob Dylan — Alias in “Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid”

Stars Kris Kristofferson (Billy the Kid) and James Coburn (Pat Garrett) both championed Dylan’s involvement in this Western, arguing with director Sam Peckinpah that Dylan should be hired to compose the score. Peckinpah — whose only knowledge of Dylan was that kids used to listen to him — was reluctant to turn the score over to someone he didn’t know, but he agreed to let Dylan play for him one night after a cast dinner on location in Durango, Mexico. Dylan’s playing reduced Peckinpah to tears, and as he dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief he barked the direction, “sign him up.” Dylan was immediately hired, not only to score the film but to also play the character Alias. The role does not ask much of Dylan as an actor, other than to be amusingly cool, but even just having him there saying “plums” is worth it. Of course his soundtrack was totally integral to the film and the climactic “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” scene is classic.

Most Iconic role — Bob Dylan in “Don’t Look Back”

Okay, so this isn’t technically a role…but we just couldn’t name Jack Fate from “Masked and Anonymous” iconic. There is simply no filmic image of the man more iconic than the Subterranean Homesick Blues “music video.” Dylan standing in a London alleyway tossing away a stack of cue cards while Allen Ginsberg stands in the background having a conversation next to a pile of garbage, has inspired countless ripoffs and parodies, and is often cited as the first music video. –JC

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.


IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines


The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.


Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.


A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.


Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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