The best moments when the musician played
tom is waiting had a very successful musical career for half a century and became the voice of a generation that had never heard of him. For those who have him, he is arguably the greatest songwriter who ever lived, and for the uninitiated, he is the one who wrote Downtown train for Rod Stewart. In addition, the musician has starred in almost 50 films; most of them are small roles, but even Waits’ few lines of dialogue can be the highlight of a movie.
Waits has worked with iconic filmmakers including directors Jim Jarmusch, Francis Ford Coppola and Terry Gilliam. Often he’ll play a variation of himself (or the gruff-voiced legendary character he’s cultivated over the years), but there are some unexpected performances as well; case in point, for Gilliam The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Tom Waits played the devil and did a very good job.
The musician always brings a special atmosphere to movies, but Waits admits acting doesn’t come naturally to him. “It’s a lot of work trying to be natural, like trying to catch a bullet in your teeth,” he told Rolling Stone. Let’s look at Tom Waits’ best performances, movies in which he caught the ball.
The 1993 comedy-drama Shortcuts tells the extraordinary story of the ordinary days of 22 characters. Each of them lives in the suburbs of Los Angeles and has their own problems. The New York Times proclaimed, “When future social historians want to know what life was like in some corner of America in 1993, Shortcuts will be a wealth of information.” Tom Waits plays a limo driver who drinks too much. The great cast of Shortcuts, including Tom Waits alongside Julianne Moore, Robert Downey Jr., Tim Robbins, Jack Lemmon and countless others, won a Golden Globe Special Award for Ensemble and the Venice Film Festival Special Volpi Cup.
7 Bram Stoker’s Dracula
In 1992, Francis Ford Coppola directed one of the best adaptations of Bram Stoker’s novel, focusing on a unique gothic blend of romance and horror. With an impressive cast including Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves and Anthony Hopkins, Bram Stoker’s Dracula captured the gothic, spooky and beautiful spirit of vampire history. Tom Waits (who previously scored Coppola’s film one of the heart) portrays Renfield, Dracula’s crazed minion who likes to eat insects. Waits gives here a charismatic performance, sinister and comic at the same time.
6 Seven Psychopaths
The entertaining dark comedy of 2012 Seven Psychopaths follows a writer (in one of Colin Farrell’s best performances) who, working on his crime script of the same name as the film, finds himself surrounded by psychopaths when his friend catches an abusive maniac’s dog. In the film, Tom Waits portrays one of the Seven Psychopaths, Zachariah. It’s interesting that Waits accepted the role without reading the script; the fact that his character was surrounded by rabbits was enough for him.
5 The old man and the gun
The old man and the gun is a moving 2008 crime film about the final years of Forrest Tucker (played by Robert Redford), a bank robber who escaped from prison 18 times. Of course, the main star of The old man and the gun is Robert Redford, a movie legend who says this film will be his last, and other legendary actors like Sissy Spacek and Danny Glover also shine. But Tom Waits’ performance is also stunning, appearing as Tucker’s sidekick Waller. His monologue on hating Christmas is arguably the best dialogue in The old man and the gun.
4 growling fish
One of Francis Ford Coppola’s best movies, the 1983 drama growling fish tells the story of two brothers, a younger one (played by Matt Dillon) wants to be as good as his older brother, a gang leader (played by Mickey Rourke). This film is quirky, experimental and breathtaking, remaining an underrated masterpiece overshadowed by Coppola’s 70s films. In growling fish, Tom Waits takes on the role of Benny, a bartender always ready to give philosophical advice. Waits had the chance to choose her own costume and write her own dialogue. The most powerful scene with Waits in the film involves a clock, which is accompanied by a poetic monologue about time.
Time is a funny thing. Time is a very special element. You see, when you are young, you are a child, you have time, you only have time. Throw a few years here, a few years there… it doesn’t matter. You know, the older you get, the more you say, “Jesus, how much have I earned? I have 35 summers left.” Think about it. 35 summers.
3 Licorice Pizza
by Paul Thomas Anderson Licorice Pizza is a warm, nostalgic and joyful love letter to the 1970s. This coming-of-age comedy-drama centers on the love story of teenage actor Gary (a winning debut performance by Cooper Hoffman) and the photographer’s assistant Alana (also Alana Haim’s first film). Tom Waits appears as director Rex Blau, who isn’t afraid to be loud. As always, Waits is the scene stealer. Alana Haim opened up to NME about the scene with Tom Waits, saying, “He had the best vibe. When he came on set it was tough because I’m a sandwich between Sean Penn and Tom Waits, and it’s like, ‘Who are you focusing on?!’ That was a crazy sandwich to be in.”
2 Coffee and cigarettes
The remarkable anthology of Jim Jarmusch Coffee and cigarettes contains 11 black and white short films in which great actors and musicians chat over coffee and cigarettes. The segment with Tom Waits and Iggy Pop, Somewhere in California, won the highest prize awarded to a short film at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival. Waits and Pop play themselves, two musicians in a café. They quit smoking and decide that they can now celebrate this achievement with one more cigarette. It’s impossible not to get caught up in their dialogue, which is as simple as it is brilliant. Coffee and cigarettes proves that sometimes interesting conversations are all we need in a movie.
1 By the law
By the law is an ’80s cult classic written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. This black and white film from 1986 follows three men (a disc jockey, a pimp and an Italian tourist) who escape from prison. Their funny and sometimes sad journey is well worth watching and cemented Jarmusch’s status as one of America’s great independent filmmakers. Three main actors (Tom Waits, John Lurie and Roberto Benigni) give extraordinary performances. Waits is exceptional as an out-of-work disc jockey with a smirk and grumpy temper, and his own music accompanies parts of the film perfectly. It’s the first starring role in Waits’ screen career, and he handled it brilliantly.
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