Whilst the star man may finally made his way back home, us mere Earthlings have been left with plenty to remember him by.
David Bowie’s musical back catalogue speaks for itself, but contributions to TV and film have also provided some interesting moments – a mixture of roles that walk the line between truly sublime and downright strange.
Here are some of the roles which sum up Bowie’s on-screen career.
The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976)
Often considered the quintessential Bowie role, Nicolas Roeg’s sci-fi classic The Man Who Fell To Earth tells the story of Thomas Jerome Newton – an extraterrestrial who has crash-landed on Earth in search of water for his home planet. Bowie, who was very much in the ‘Thin White Duke’ phase of his career (and heavily into cocaine, also), fitted the role of a well-dressed slim-line alien being with absolute ease.
Despite essentially being a low-budget arthouse project, the film gained cult status amongst Bowie fans and the wider film community. Bowie later stated in interviews that he liked the film, but remembered very little about actually making it.
Jim Hensen, George Lucas and David Bowie all involved in one project? What’s not to love?
The strange world of Labyrinth has become part of the cultural tapestry of the 1980s – up there with shoulder-pads and power ballads. Bowie’s role as ‘Jareth The Goblin King’ saw him packed into obscenely tight trousers, dolled up with eye-liner and given a long blonde Van Halen haircut. Much like the film itself, Bowie’s performance as the prancing Goblin King was something of a critic-splitter, described as ‘charismatic’, ‘spooky’ and ‘plastic’.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)
As Bowie checked out of his Tin Machine musical project, he checked into the sleepy town of Twin Peaks for the feature-length Fire Walk With Me.
His role as missing FBI agent Phillip Jefferies is, frankly, as bizarre as the film itself. Kitted out in a pale suit and floral shirt combination, Bowie spends his time on screen shrieking at people in a very, very sketchy Southern accent. The film was met with jeers on its première at Cannes, but has since been re-evaluated by many critics.
In the case of a serious ‘walk-off’ between two of the biggest male models in the world, who better to call in as a judge than the man who wrote ‘Fashion’ and whose reinventions reached double figures?
Despite being a fairly broad comedy, it says a lot about Bowie’s reputation as a fashion frontrunner that his appearance in this film isn’t even questioned.
Once again proving that he was blessed with a sense of humour as well as supreme talent – Bowie’s short scene in Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s The Office follow-up Extras proved to be one of the show’s greatest moments.
As actor Andy Millman (Gervais) pours his heart out to his musical hero about the fear of selling out his creative vision, an aloof Bowie turns his pain into an impromptu song at the piano nearby – a song about his ‘pug nose’ and referring to him as ‘fatty’. A beautifully judged comedy scene which saw Ricky become real-life friends with the musical hero.
The Prestige (2006)
An understated role in a film swimming with big performances, Bowie was cast as the reclusive inventor Nikola Tesla in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige. Although just appearing in a few short scenes, Bowie’s role as Tesla could easily be considered one of his finest, capturing a character that is wrapped in mystery and intrigue whilst appearing totally serene on the surface.
Having initially turned down the role, Nolan flew to New York to convince Bowie in person that he was the only person that Nolan could imagine playing that role.
SpongeBob Squarepants (2007)
Yep, that’s right. Always one for spotting trends, David lends his voice to an inhabitant of ‘Bikini Bottom’ for a feature length episode of Spongebob Squarepants titled SpongeBob’s Atlantis SquarePantis.
Take note: Bowie could accept or turn down any project which he wasn’t interested in, but described his role as ‘Lord Royal Highness’ on his blog as follows: “At last. I’ve hit the Holy Grail of animation gigs.”
Even when his choices were odd ones, they were still always distinctly his own.
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