Legendary musician David Bowie sadly passed away this week and while Bowie’s achievements in the music industry have influenced just about every aspect of modern music he also dabbled in acting. And while he didn’t act a lot (most folks who remember him from Jim Henson’s Labyrinth) but he was good in what he did star in and it’s his first acting role that was probably his best.
Director Nicolas Roeg’s first movie starred a rock musician. Performance starred Mick Jagger, as well, Mick Jagger who crosses paths with a gangster. Roeg’s next couple of movies Walkabout and Don’t Look Now established Roeg as a brilliant filmmaker whose films had excellent cinematography while the stories tended to be deconstructed narratives.
After the success of Don’t Look Now Roeg managed to get financing from Paramount to adapt the science fiction novel The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis. The finished film wasn’t what Paramount was expecting and the studio had to be sued to finish paying for it. David Bowie stars as an alien who has crashed landed on Earth. He has arrived on a mission to get water back to his planet which has experienced a massive drought and his family is dying because of it. After landing in a lake in New Mexico Bowie walks into a jewellery store and sells some rings. He then becomes a business man and hires Farnsworth (Buck Henry) to help with patents as Bowie invents several devices using his advanced technology. Farnsworth and Bowie form a company and the wealth that the company makes is used to start building a new ship so he can return home.
Bowie later meets Mary-Lou (Candy Clark) and she introduces him to earthly pleasures like alcohol, sex and TV. Bowie becomes obsessed with TV and starts watching multiple TVs at the same time. Meanwhile Dr. Nathan Bryce (Rip Torn) who works for Bowie discovers that Bowie is an alien. And then the government steps in.
Bowie was on drugs while filming the movie and he just acted naturally creating a clearly alien being without any real make up or special effects. Bowie was just himself. The film is trippy and pretty experimental. It was remade for TV in 1980s but it’s a pretty crappy version. The movie wasn’t that big of a hit when it was released but it has become a cult hit over time.