It’s not that often when metal creeps its way into mainstream pop culture. So when metal/hard rock acts do actually pop up in beloved sitcoms, dramatic films, cartoons or even reality series, it’s kind of awesome. So in the weekly column Remember When, Metal Insider recalls the most random instances of metal’s elite appearing in front of the camera.
It would be shocking if a film titled Rock Star DID NOT have any actual rock stars in it, especially when said movie is loosely based on the story of how Tim “Ripper” Owens went from fronting a Judas Priest tribute band to the actual band for a few albums. So naturally the 2001 film starring Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston had plenty of cameos from rock and metal all stars. Most noticeably were the guys who portrayed the fictional band Wahlberg’s character idolizes and eventually joins, Steel Dragon, which included Zakk Wylde, Dokken’s Jeff Pilson and Jason Bonham. In fact, not only did all three play on the original songs that appeared in the film and soundtrack (as well as a cover of Rainbow’s “Long Live Rock And Roll”), but Jeff Scott Soto and Steelheart’s Miljenko Matijevic actually provided the singing voices in the film. Even Steel Panther’s Michael Starr had a small appearance in the movie.
But as we look back at the film (which wasn’t very well received by either critics or audiences at the time), there’s one appearance in particular that’s remains mind blowing: Myles Kennedy. The powerhouse vocalist was still fronting The Mayfield Four when he was tapped for a small role in Rock Star. Playing a young avid fan of Steel Dragon by the name of Mike (or as his friends call him, “Thor”), Kennedy’s character is noticed by Wahlberg’s character out-singing him from the crowd. He then pulls young “Thor” onstage to sing the rest of the song, then tells him to finish the rest of the band’s show (so basically, every metal fan’s dream when attending a show). It’s actually a rather important scene, one that directly parallels a moment at the beginning of the film and [spoiler alert] finds Wahlberg realizing that maybe life as a rock star isn’t for him.
Kennedy has since found his own rock star success, now best known as the frontman of Alter Bridge. He’s also become Slash’s go-to singer for his solo outings. Alter Bridge recently kicked off a tour with Disturbed and Breaking Benjamin, and is set to release a new album this October. HOWEVER, the singer was able to set aside some time to talk to us about how his cinematic debut came to be, and what it was like to film alongside Mark Wahlberg (as well as how the film essentially led to a jam session with a legendary rock band years later).
We’ll be posting a full interview with Kennedy about Alter Bridge’s new album soon. In the meantime, check out what Kennedy shared with us about Rock Star, as well as watch his appearance in the film, below.
I know you were still fronting The Mayfield Four at the time, and I’ve heard you previously say it was as simple as your manager finding out the movie needed someone with a really high vocal range. But do you recall how exactly you came to be approached for this role in Rock Star?
I think what happened was… I don’t know if you’re familiar with Brendan O’Brien. He’s a really amazing producer and mixer. He mixed the first Mayfield Four record [1998’s Fallout]. Apparently he was friends, or something happened where he was talking with one of the higher ups [involved with casting], and apparently they had been looking for [someone to play] that character for a while. They wanted someone who could sing and also play the role. So he threw my name out there, and they reached out to me. So I’m very grateful to Brendan for that. But yeah, I had never acted before, and I haven’t acted since [laughs]. But it was a really cool experience for me, nonetheless. I got to step into this entirely different world, and see how different the film industry is compared to the music industry.
Do you have any particular fond memories or funny moments that stood out while on set?
Well, the funniest moment that I remember was when we were getting ready to shoot, I think we were actually rehearsing, but we were all on the stage there at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena where a lot of [the live concert scenes] were shot. When we started practicing that scene, we were told that instead of Steel Dragon’s music playing [on the speakers], we were going to play Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch’s “Good Vibrations” [laughs]. That was pretty funny, just seeing the look on Mark Wahlberg’s face. So that’s something that definitely stood out as very humorous.
[Editor’s Note: part of the above mentioned prank actually made its way into the film’s end credits]
But I had a lot of great experience, like getting to hang out and meet Zakk Wylde and Jason Bonham. Interestingly enough, meeting Jason Bonham was partly how years later I got to jam with him, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones.
It’s funny you said that, because I always wondered if this film played a role in those jam sessions. Pretty cool that we can say Rock Star was essentially responsible for you getting to jam with your musical idols.
Absolutely! What happened was, one day we were sitting there either in between takes or rehearsal, and I just let [Jason] know what a huge role his father’s legacy and the music he was a part of played in my life. He was very gracious and appreciative of me expressing that, which is really cool to see, and he’s [obviously] so proud of his father. So yeah, who knew that a few years later things would play out the way that they did?
Going back to the filming itself, and correct me if I am wrong, but you’re the only actor whose “actual” singing voice was used in the film, is that right?
I’m the only one [in the film] that’s actually singing, as far as I know. I could be wrong here. But I think Jeff Scott Soto and Steelheart singer Miljenko Matijevic were the two voices for Mark’s character and the character he “replaces” in Steel Dragon [played by Jason Flemyng].
I ask because often a five minute scene in a movie can take hours or even days to film, as I’m sure you experienced firsthand. How was having to sing for that extended amount of time, take after take at such a high pitch, on your voice?
It wasn’t too bad because what happened was we shot the scene where I’m actually singing, I think that was done maybe in one day. The other scene where I’m acting and having dialogue with Mark was done in another day. I’m pretty sure that was the case. But yeah, there’s that super long high note that happens right before the guitar solo, so doing that time and time again wasn’t exactly the easiest thing to do all day long [laughs].
That was really the least of my worries. To be honest with you, I felt so uncomfortable with the outfit and wig I was wearing. Out of the whole process, that’s the thing I still think about. Even though everyone was in character, and that’s just the way it was and people understood that, I still couldn’t help get over the fact that I was wearing a leather outfit and eye liner.
Was it equally awkward for you once you were actually doing a scene with Mark Wahlberg? Because in the scene, you’re made out to look exactly like each other, wearing the exact same wig and leather outfit.
Yeah that was a little strange [laughs]. It was definitely a … the thing about Mark is he has such a presence, so standing next to that guy, you’re definitely aware of what a huge star he is. You could see it back then that he was destined for great things.
Let’s say someone decides to make a film about Alter Bridge. What actor would you cast to portray yourself on the big screen?
Oh that’s really tough! Who would I want to portray me on the big screen… I’m kind of drawing a blank… Jared Leto has definitely proven that he is a really talented actor. I think I first saw him in The Dallas Buyer’s Club. He’s a really great actor. That’s the only name that’s coming to mind… him or Macaulay Culkin? [laughs]
Both would be good choices, but I would’ve gone with casting Mark Wahlberg as you, just for old time’s sake.
Oh, now that’s a great idea! [laughs]