James Newell Osterberg, Jr - aka Iggy Pop, aka the most photographed bare torso in rock - is not one to twiddle his thumbs. He's had a fashion line, he's had a radio show, he's done lectures, he's modelled nude for art students, and since the 1980s, he's appeared sporadically on the big screen, with 37 credits under his belt. Right now he has three films in the works. Oh, and did I mention he literally just put an album out and has 27 upcoming gigs? I'm 100% convinced he's a robot wearing human skin.
In the upcoming film Blood Orange, the ageing rock star plays an ageing rock star. Naturally. And clearly the line between his music career and his film career has always been blurred. Which isn't to say he's only ever been a shirtless rock star on the big screen. Far from it. He's done voice work in the French-Iranian-American animation Persepolis, and he's shared the screen with everyone from Chevy Chase to Greta Gerwig. In short, his movie career has always had legs and it shows no signs of slowing down just yet. Here, we zoom in on his greatest turns so far.
It's hard to judge Iggy's performance in Cry-Baby, a hilariously OTT musical, think Grease filtered through the tawdry mind of John Waters. Waters' forte - let's face it - is hardly nuance and understatement. In the film, Iggy plays Belvedere Rickettes, uncle to Johnny Depp's Cry-Baby. Belvedere is a rock'n'roll redneck and a proud drape (basically a 50s Baltimore hipster). In this often-challenging role we see Iggy, butt naked, scrubbing himself down in an outdoor tub. We see him pout, pick his nose and eat it. We see him dance wildly to Depp's rockabilly show, with his slick back hair and chiseled jawline, oozing charisma in every frame. His most memorable moment? When he's kissing Cry-Baby's grandma, his sloppy tongue swirling all over the place, saliva glistening. Easily one of the grossest kisses ever committed to celluloid. Good job, Iggy.
Dead Man, 1995
In Dead Man, Jim Jarmusch's monochrome western starring Johnny Depp, Iggy enters the frame looking like an extra from Little House on the Prairie. His big bug eyes pierce out from under a woman's bonnet. As Salvatore "Sally" Jenko, he tells rambling stories around a campfire and devours beans with Billy Bob Thornton and Depp's uninvited guest. Iggy, menacingly, strokes Depp's leg and his hair. "Your hair's soft like a girl's," he says, edging uncomfortably close. When shit hits the fan, Iggy isn't exactly the dab hand at shooting a gun - lucky for Depp. Still, he is said to make "a hell of a pot of beans" so he's not entirely talentless.
The Brave, 1997
Seems like Johnny Depp struck up a friendship with Iggy following Cry-Baby and Dead Man. Depp's first and only film as director, the little seen neo-western The Brave, saw Iggy lend his thespian talents as 'Man Eating Bird Leg'. In a somewhat surreal scene shot at a landfill where Depp's down-on-his-luck protagonist lives, a party is in full swing. And there, sat under a bright-coloured umbrella, is Iggy Pop, in full character mode, eating the aforementioned bird leg. The camera casually sweeps past him, as if this wasn't the guy who's screamed I Wanna Be Your Dog with his shirt off a million times. We glimpse him, clad in leather with a napkin stuffed down his neck, chowing down on a leg of meat (it's barbequed, FYI, he's not a cannibal). He's by himself and he's loving every second of it. For a plodding and pretentious drama, this curious cameo feels more like an in-joke between Depp and Iggy.
Coffee and Cigarettes, 2003
Coffee and Cigarettes is Iggy's career-crowning performance. Playing himself, he's at a late-night diner to meet Tom Waits, always playing himself, and we never learn why. He's there early so he orders Tom a coffee. But Tom is particular about his coffee and they get off on the wrong foot as he arrives. To make matters worse, Iggy points out that none of Tom's songs are on the jukebox. The whole thing is an absurd set-up. Can you imagine walking into a dingy diner at an ungodly hour, where Iggy Pop is sat opposite Tom Waits, casually firing banter back and forth? But then, that's also the beauty of it, isn't it? They just drink coffee, smoke cigarettes and chat about random shit. This scene couldn't be bettered, to be honest.
God knows how Iggy Pop ended up in this low budget vampire movie littered with rock star cameos, includeing Alice Cooper (looking every inch the vamp), Henry Rollins (wearing a terrible, terrible wig), and Moby (…Moby!). But back to Iggy. He's perhaps the only reason to see this frankly awful yarn described as "a rock 'n' roll vampire black comedy". Surprisingly, he isn't cast as one of the vamps. He's wheeled in as a record producer for a corny rock band, although it turns out his most valued service is the life advice he offers them: "Dude, let me tell you what I've learned on my many travels: always use a condom and never trust a goddam vampire." With his baritone drawl and his bad-guy cackle, he gets an A for effort, despite this being a film you'd only watch if all other films ceased to exist.
Text Oliver Lunn