Kristen Stewart in The Runaways (2010)
Kristen Stewart is probably best known for playing Bella Swan in the Twilight saga of films but in 2010 she played a rocking version of Joan Jett in writer/director Floria Sigismondi’s The Runaways. The coming-of-age biopic followed her all-girl rock band’s rise to fame in the 1970s. The film, which also co-stars Dakota Fanning as singer Cherie Currie, features tons of on and off stage performance with Stewart and Fanning both singing their vocal parts and Stewart, who already knew how to play guitar, rocking the instrument like a true pro. Jett has expressed her thoughts on Stewart’s embodiment of her in the film, saying she picked up all of idiosyncrasies very well. We couldn’t agree more!
Forest Whitaker in Bird (1988)
Clint Eastwood’s 1988 biographical film on jazz musician Charlie Parker gave actor Forest Whitaker the perfect opportunity to really show audiences the depths of which he was willing to go to embody a character. His Golden Globe-nominated, Cannes-winning performance of Bird didn’t just fall out of the sky, it came after a number of lengthy alto saxophone lessons combined with extensive research on the legendary musician. He credits the film’s musical supervisor, Lennie Niehaus, for teaching him how to finger the keys in the style of Parker and claims that by the time the film wrapped, he could actually play the saxophone. There is no room for audience doubt as to whether or not the musical performance in the film looks authentic. Just watch the clip seen here to see the freedom his abilities provided Eastwood as far as “long takes” with “no cuts.” A simply brilliant performance.
Joaquin Phoenix & Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line (2005)
It was in 2005 that Joaquin Phoenix blew people’s minds with his portrayal of country music legend Johnny Cash in James Mangold’s 2005 biopic Walk the Line. In order to get his voice and guitar playing down for the film, he wisely spent months at “rock and roll boot camp” before getting onstage to embody the Man in Black. And let’s just say that it shows. Also worth mentioning is Reese Witherspoon’s performance as June Carter Cash, to which she credits T Bone Burnett for her singing skills and Catherine O’Hara for introducing her to her A Mighty Wind autoharp teacher Kit Anderson. The film earned Phoenix a Golden Globe and his co-star Witherspoon an Oscar.
Who are your picks for the most convincing performances of musicians in film? Let us know your thoughts…