Mick Jagger, a man who danced with the devil on the big screen
- Credit: Archant
Rolling Stones front man, Mick Jagger, has quietly pursued a second career as an actor on the big screen. We discover that his film career has rather been more hit and miss than his fame would suggest.
As The Rolling Stones pouting, preening front man, Mick Jagger has always had a 'look at me' persona and so it is unsurprising that he has always maintained an interest in movie-making which has run in parallel with his singing career.
His first encounter with the film world came when French auteur Jean-luc Goddard followed the Stones for his bizarre fly-on-wall look at the recording of Sympathy For Devil which was juxtaposed against a variety of montage sequences showing civil unrest and political protest.
A more coherent, but no less disturbing look at life within the world of The Rolling Stones, came when film-makers Albert and David Maysles along with Charlotte Zwerin took to the road to document the last weeks of The Rolling Stones' 1969 US tour which culminated in the disastrous Altamont Free Concert. The resulting film Gimme Shelter was a damning look at how the love, peace and freedom ethos of the Swinging Sixties had turned dark and murderous. The cameras glimpsed a member of the Hell's Angels (who had appointed themselves as The Stones bodyguards) stabbing a concertgoer to death after a fight broke out near the stage.
It was also at this time that Jagger first tried his hand at acting with an impressive film debut in art film Performance which was shot in 1968 and followed by Ned Kelly in 1970.
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Performance captured the darkening feel of the age with Jagger playing a reclusive rock star who finds himself giving shelter to a charming but violent hit man played by the urbane James Fox. The film paired up Jagger with Anita Pallenberg, band-mate Keith Richard's girlfriend, who played one of two girls living with Jagger's jaded rock star.
The release of film, written and directed by Douglas Cammell and Nicholas Roeg, was held up for nearly two years while censors wrestled with the sexually explicit menage-a-trois lifestyle displayed in the film and the aggressively violent sense of foreboding which lurked beneath the surface of the scenes between Jagger and Fox.
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When the film finally appeared in 1970, it only did so-so business as many cinemagoers didn't quite know what to make of it but as the decades have passed its reputation has increased and it is now regarded as one of the best films to come out of the 1960s. In 1999, Performance was voted the 48th greatest British film of all time by the British Film Institute while in 2008 Empire magazine ranked the film 182nd on its list of the 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.
Buoyed by his experience on Performance Jagger signed up to work with British directing legend Tony Richardson (father of Joely and Natasha Richardson) on the Anglo-Australian bio-pic of outback outlaw Ned Kelly.
At first Jagger was hugely enthusiastic, telling the press: "I am taking this film very seriously. Kelly won't look anything like me. You wait and you'll see what I look like. I want to concentrate on being a character actor."
However, shooting didn't go smoothly. Jagger's relationship with then girlfriend, Marianne Faithfull, who was also going to be his female co-star, was imploding and she swiftly returned to the UK. Things didn't improve as shooting got underway. Jagger was slightly injured by a misfiring flintlock pistol and co-star Mark McManus narrowly escaped serious injury when a horse-drawn cart in which he was riding overturned during filming. Cast and crew were also dogged by frequent bouts of sickness.
On release, the film didn't go down well with critics. It is regarded as the weakest film of Richardson's career and Jagger didn't even attend the premiere.
The experience clearly soured his love of life in front of the camera because for the next 20 years Mick returned to a life on the road, recording and touring with The Stones. The success of albums like Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street and Black and Blue put new fire in their bellies and Jagger's love affair with the film industry began to fade.
A few half-hearted discussions to appear in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo and Frank Herbert's Dune came to nothing and it wasn't until the 1990s that Jagger got his movie-making mojo back.
In 1992 he appeared as the heavy in the science fiction action film Freejack opposite Emilio Estevez, Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins. In 2009, the super-wealthy achieve immortality by hiring "bonejackers", mercenaries equipped with time travel devices, to snatch people from the past, just prior to the moment of their deaths, for use as substitute bodies.
It was a dark story and unfortunately for Jagger relaunched film career the film was not a hit. Hopkins once described it on a US talk show as terrible.
Things picked up when he was cast as Greta in the big screen adaptation of Martin Sherman's classic play Bent, opposite Clive Owen, Sir Ian McKellen, Jude Law, Paul Bettany and Rachel Weisz.
The story of a gay man living in 1930s Berlin (the era of Cabaret) the story is set against the historic Night of the Long Knives when Hitler disposed of his political rivals. The film was incredibly well-reviewed and one awards at film festival's around the world. Three decades after his debut in Performance Mick Jagger reminded the world he could act.
Unlike, his friend David Bowie, who continued to do small, interesting parts in movies, this was Jagger's last real foray in front of the camera. Instead he set up Jagged Films and became a producer, bringing the World War Two drama Enigma, with Dougray Scott and Kate Winslet, to the screen.
Friend and band mate Keith Richards tried to persuade him to appear with him in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides but he could not be tempted. Perhaps being confronted by Richards and Johnny Depp being 'Keith' may have proved too much for him.