Punk Legend John Doe Presents at AFS Cinema
The L.A. to Austin transplant on acting: "I want to be sideways!"
"Howe Gelb says that I'm the Lee Marvin of punk rock!" laughed John Doe, Austin resident of two years and most notable for leading definitive L.A. punk band X. "And I call Howe the Warren Oates of punk rock."
No word on what acting skills Arizona-based singer-songwriter Gelb may possess. But since an uncredited cameo as "Door Guy" in Susan Seidelman's Smithereens (1982), the 66-year-old Doe's seemingly been first-call for roles Harry Dean Stanton was too old to play in the Eighties and Nineties. Ironic, considering they worked together on 1987's Slam Dance. "It was an eye-opening experience, in many ways," Doe said. "I felt like I was being left in the dust by Harry Dean [but] I felt lucky to be working with him, because he was a hero of mine. He would also do this very strange thing: He'd mouth your lines as you said them! Very disquieting! 'What the fuck are you doing?! Can you please stop that!'"
When not getting psyched out by Stanton, Doe's excelled at portraying downbeat, working-class characters haunted by a life lived hard. He's the best thing about Jerry Lee Lewis biopic Great Balls of Fire, as The Killer's cousin/bassist J.W. Brown. He oozed barely controlled heartbreak as an abandoned husband in Boogie Nights. Allison Anders couldn't have cast anyone better to play country music founding father A.P. Carter in Ring of Fire (a role Doe jokes he got "because I can sing!"). Soon he'll assume Edmund O'Brien's role as a dead man walking in a remake of 1949 noir classic D.O.A.
Doe enjoys acting for the challenges it offers that music may not. "X doesn't scare the shit outta me anymore. But it's a good thing to be sideways and not sure you're going to get there. If everyone looks around when something's done and says, 'Yeah. Cool!' you have at least a 60/40 chance of it turning out. If everyone's looking around afterwards, and you're going like, 'Uh oh. Uhhh, was that any good?' 'Yeah, yeah, yeah! I think so!' Then the movie comes out and it's terrible. Then you think, 'Y'know, my intuition was telling me...'"
We won't see any of those roles during the AFS series "John Doe Presents," as he hosts three films he either starred in or enjoyed: classic documentary X: The Unheard Music; 1978's reggae-drenched Rockers; and 1995's Georgia, in which he played the long-suffering bandmate of toxic junkie musician Jennifer Jason Leigh. "Georgia's a good movie," Doe insisted. "People don't get it a lotta times, and it's unfortunate. They said, 'Oh, God! Jennifer Jason Leigh isn't a real singer!' That's the point, you dumbass! Who has the guts, who has the courage to film a five-minute Van Morrison song, pretty much entirely in close-up? [Director] Ulu Grosbard and Jennifer Jason Leigh – that's it! ... When I watched it, I thought, 'I'm getting a window into every moment of this person's life. I'm the luckiest person.' I'm glad to be a part of that."
Doe will be signing and reading from the second volume of his L.A. punk history, More Fun in the New World, @BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar, Sat., Aug. 3, 2pm.
John Doe Presents @AFS Cinema, 6406 N. I-35@AFS Cinema, 6406 N. I-35. Tickets and info at www.austinfilm.org.
X: The Unheard Music, Sat., Aug. 3, 7pm
Rockers, Sat., Aug. 3, 9:30pm
Georgia, Sun., Aug. 4, 4:15pm