Disappearing act 

Jon Bon Jovi earns his stripes in 'U-571'

The taut WWII submarine thriller U-571 is sort of like a "Where's Waldo?" game for the MTV crowd: "Where's Jon Bon Jovi?" There are any number of reasons why the 38-year-old singer/songwriter/fledgling actor might not easily register on the audience radar. It could be because so much of the film takes place in the dark, dank confines of an overcrowded sub (or else on deck at night during torrential rainstorms), where it's rather difficult making out specific faces in the first place. Maybe it's because, even in broad daylight, most of the men look pretty much the same in their standard Navy-issued uniforms and slickers. In any event, the fun of trying to pick him out of all the group shots quickly becomes a moot point when, halfway through the picture, his character suddenly vanishes without any explanation whatsoever.

During a recent interview, Bon Jovi smiles and shakes his head, replying, "I know. I know. What happened was unfortunate, but they had to make some compromises in order to get a PG-13 rating. There's that pivotal battle sequence in the middle of the movie, and the last time you see me I'm snapping Matthew McConaughey's picture on the deck of the sub, right? Well, what you were supposed to see was this great, slow-motion shot of my head being blown off by a piece of shrapnel. It was really cool. David Keith took one between the eyes, too, but those scenes had to go to avoid getting an R. What can I say? I tried to tell them it was going to be a problem, but nobody wanted to listen to me."

And there, in a nutshell, is what Bon Jovi describes as the biggest adjustment he has had to make in his transition from being a veteran musician who calls all his own shots to being an acting newcomer who's just starting to pay his dues. "With the band, it's the five of us against the world, you know? I mean, we've outlasted two buildings, three CEOs and nine presidents in our 17 years with our label, so I can afford to be much more of a control freak when it comes to the music. When I show up on a movie set, though, I'm basically just an independent contractor, one of a hundred people there. I do my work and then I don't see it for a year. I'm not involved in the editing or the marketing of it, and that's a big adjustment," he says.

Bon Jovi caught the acting bug several years ago. Between recording sessions and concert tours, he has revealed himself to be a likable screen presence with supporting roles opposite Gwyneth Paltrow in Moonlight and Valentino and in Edward Burns' No Looking Back, among others.

"Acting is just another way of expressing myself creatively, and at the same time it's really humbling, too," he says. "I'm essentially getting to be 21 again, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, starting over and yet able to bring with me all the life experiences I've had over the years with the band. I'm usually the first one on the set every day, you know? It's like, 'Yeah, bring it on!'

"I really enjoy the process of songwriting and I need to keep that outlet open, too, but what I don't need anymore is spending 16 months out on the road every time we have a new album to promote," he says. Speaking of which, the band's next album is due out Memorial Day weekend, and they'll kick off their world tour from Tokyo in July, but he notes, "it'll be 50 shows instead of the usual 250."

Bon Jovi is currently working in Las Vegas, where he's playing a "drunken, abusive redneck rat-fink" in the film Pay It Forward, alongside a couple of Academy Award winners (Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt) and the Oscar-nominated star of The Sixth Sense (Haley Joel Osment). "Isn't that kid great? He turned to me between takes yesterday and called me Jon Bon Not-So-Jovial," the actor recalls with a laugh.

He says there are worse ways to be addressed. "You know, with all the hoopla I keep hearing about our forthcoming album, I kind of like it that no one ever talks to me about music on the set. I'm just Jon, the actor, and that's nice," Bon Jovi says. "I don't know if people in Hollywood still have the perception of me as being this rock singer, but these roles aren't just given to me. I have to go out there and earn them. I wouldn't say I was a great actor or anything, but I'd like to think I'm getting better each time, and I have to admit feeling a little proud of myself, when I can play a scene in U-571 with Matthew McConaughey or Harvey Keitel or Bill Paxton and actually hold my own."


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  • Re: Fresh air

    • Local band Manchester Orchestra, who provided the soundtrack, probably would have appreciated a shout-out.

    • on June 29, 2016
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