David Bowie – The Man Who Fell to Earth

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As the music world continues to mourn for the loss of one of its greatest ever exponents, let us reflect also on the passing of David Bowie the actor.

It was never a surprise that a rock star as flamboyant, creative, innovative and physically extraordinary as Bowie would turn his talents to the big screen – this seemed to be a completely natural sideline for him, particularly as he had come from a performing arts background, studying mime under the legendary Lindsay Kemp.

The Man Who Fell to Earth (directed by Nicolas Roeg in 1976) was an obvious choice for his first starring vehicle. Bowie always seemed to be not of this world, an alien creature. His metamorphosis into Ziggy Stardust with his extraordinary costumes and make-up, led many of his fans to believe he actually was an alien, so the role of Thomas Jerome Newton, refugee from an unknown planet, was a superlative piece of typecasting.

He pushed his acting talents a little further in his next endeavour, Just a Gigolo (1978), playing a Prussian officer during the First World War, and later films in which he made an impact and won plaudits, included Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence (1983) and Labyrinth – a cult fantasy film – made in 1986. He also provided the perfect title track for Julien Temple’s Absolute Beginners, released in the same year.

Bowie also impressed in Christopher Nolan’s magic mystery drama The Prestige (2006) and had other small but memorable roles in comedies such as Zoolander (2001) and Ricky Gervais’ TV sitcom Extras (2007).

David Bowie possibly suffered from being too instantly recognisable – his music persona was so strong, so unique, that it took a while for him to establish himself as a fine and serious actor. He threw himself into the roles with as much intelligence and intensity as he displayed in his rock concerts and ground-breaking music videos, and leaves us a legacy of admirable acting performances, as well as providing the most inspirational and all-encompassing soundtrack to all of our lives.

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