Anthony Kiedis: I’m A Pepper
For the last couple of months, we’ve been digging through articles from the July/August 2002 issue of Movieline magazine. As I have said before, it was a strange issue. The magazine was struggling and tried to reinvent itself with a music-themed issue. As a result, a lot of the articles were only tangentially related to movies. Here we have a profile with Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis who had been in a couple of movies, but you wouldn’t exactly call him an actor. If you ever wanted to know what the rock star thinks about movies, this is the interview for you.
Anthony Kiedis is no stranger to the movies. His father, Blackie Dammett, appeared in a number of them, including Lethal Weapon, Doctor Detroit and National Lampoon’s Class Reunion (he played the bad seed who came out of the insane asylum to see his old classmates). When Dammett was still known as Jack and was enrolled in the UCLA film department, he made a short film called The Hooligans that starred his four-year-old son, Tony. Though Anthony Kiedis has had small parts in F.I.S.T. and Point Break, it’s music rather than acting that has made him internationally recognized. He’s the lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, whose last three albums (Blood Sugar Sex Magik, One Hot Minute and Californication) have brought them huge success. The band’s long-awaited new CD was released this month.
LAWRENCE GROBEL: Do you watch the Oscars?
ANTHONY KIEDIS: They’ve become so homogenized and watered down with bullshit and drivel–like the whole fashion aspect of it–I find it sickening. Also, a certain amount of nominations come just from commercial success. I didn’t want to watch these $20 million actors take their awards when there are other people out there who are better and are acting for peanuts.
Q: Are you against awards in general?
A: I take them with a grain of salt.
Q: Were you surprised Russell Crowe didn’t win Best Actor for A Beautiful Mind?
A: Thank God he didn’t get that award. We would have had to call in scientists to start managing his ego if he did. That guy…I met him around the time of LA. Confidential. He’s become so incredibly pompous and self-important. It’s funny how the world can do that to you.
Q: What movies do you like?
A: Amores Perros out of Mexico City totally rocked my world. That was my favorite movie of the year. I’m excited that Mexico is starting to churn out movies because the world can use a new epicenter of fresh ideas in moviemaking. I can’t wait to see Y Tu Mamá También. I saw an older movie last month that knocked my socks off–A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. I had never seen it before. It was hysterical, and showed me where Woody Allen derived his career from. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is my kind of movie–it’s not trying too hard or trying to manipulate you. I liked all the cast, including Johnny Depp, though these days when I see Johnny Depp in a movie, I don’t see the character he’s playing, I see Johnny Depp, and that bugs the shit out of me. I just saw On the Waterfront for the first time and now I see what all the fuss is about Marlon Brando.
Q: What movie scores or soundtracks have you liked?
A: I used to love the James Bond scores, and all the Henry Mancini stuff. Cliff Martinez, who was a drummer in my band for our first two records, did a great score for Traffic.
Q: How many songs have the Chili Peppers done for movies?
A: We’ve done some, but we’ve become much more selective now because soundtracks end up competing with our own records. But back in the day, pre-Mother’s Milk, we put out a song called “Show Me Your Soul” on the Pretty Woman soundtrack. No one had any idea that the movie was going to go through the roof, and the soundtrack sold gazillions of copies because of Natalie Cole, David Bowie and three or four others. We were the obscure, “who are these guys?” track on that record, but we got paychecks because for every record sold, we got the same percentage as everyone else. I never saw the film. We did a song called “Taste the Pain” for Say Anything… with John Cusack and lone Skye, who was my girlfriend at the time. We not only gave them the song, but I also did some weird incidental music where they turn on the radio and there’s this really abrasive 10 seconds of music that comes on–that was me. Rea did a song for The Basketball Diaries, a movie I hated. That movie really pissed me off, because it dealt with drug problems in a very unrealistic way. It was such a great book. But there was a lack of consistency in the film–it was from a specific period, yet the style of dress and the dialogue were all over the place.
Q: Since you can relate to substance abuse issues, what films have done that subject justice?
A: Leaving Las Vegas was a brilliant portrayal of alcoholism. I don’t know where Nicolas Cage got that from, but he captured the indescribable depression that comes along with that affliction. Days of Wine and Roses was also accurate, though a little more filmified. I’ve heard Requiem for a Dream was so accurate that maybe I don’t want to go see it.
Q: What directors do you admire?
A: Jim Jarmusch. David Lynch–loved Mulholland Drive. Robert Altman. Scorsese. I’ve got faith in Spike Jonze. The Coen brothers.
Q: What actors do you most enjoy watching?
A: I love De Niro’s early work, though ever since he did The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle I’ve been pissed off at him. He didn’t need to do that. Sometimes movies piss me off, and that one did. I left the theater angry. I hate that feeling. It makes me lose my heart for movies, and I love going to the movies.
Q: What others?
A: Armageddon is my least favorite movie of all time. What made me sit through that I’ll never know.
Q: Did any movie every turn you on sexually?
A: Yeah, Mulholland Drive–my God, an incredibly sexy movie. I was turned on for about three days after I saw it.
Q: How happy were you when you were picked to play Sylvester Stallone’s son in F.I.S.T. and how disappointed were you with him?
A: I had no idea how insignificant my part was when I got the job. All I knew was I was playing Stallone’s son. I was 14 and thought that was going to be a big break for me. Then I showed up and realized it was one day’s work. I went up to his trailer to say, “Hey, I’m going to be playing your son, let’s spend a minute together, so we can get some rapport happening here.” He came to the door and said, “What do you want kid?” He didn’t want to have anything to do with me.
Q: Were you disappointed with your role in Point Break?
A: I don’t think I dedicated myself to being the best that I could have been in the film. If you want to be a good actor you have to dedicate your life to it. I was so happy when the two days were up and I went back to being in the band.
Q: You weren’t too impressed with Jack Nicholson when you met him at a Lakers game, were you?
A: No, he really pissed me off. Mother’s Milk had a song called “Magic Johnson” and I asked him nicely if he could please pass it on to Magic. He didn’t want to touch me with a 10-foot pole. In retrospect I understand because it really becomes annoying when you’re just sitting there trying to enjoy a game and people want your picture, your autograph, a favor. He recently told somebody that I gave a good speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so all has been forgiven.
Q: Do you know about Christina Ricci wanting to marry you when she was 11?
A: Yeah, it gave me a warm feeling that there was a kid out there who had a crush on me and wrote this nice letter to me.
Q: Tom Hanks and his family are fans of yours, aren’t they?
A: Yep, because they have kids who like our music. I was at an event and [Hanks’s wife] Rita Wilson came up to me and said, “It’s a huge pleasure to meet you, I’m a big fan. My family loves your music. I had to buy each kid a separate CD of Californication because they all wanted their own.” Then Tom Hanks came over, and it’s nice to meet someone of that stature who cares about what I’m doing. Don’t ask me why, but it is.
Q: Do you remember auditioning for Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho when you were high?
A: Oh, I was in terrible shape that day. I later realized I should have gone up to Gus and said, “I’ve been up for two days, I’m high out of my mind, psychologically shattered, I have no business trying to read a single word.”
Q: What movies about the music business got it right?
A: Name some.
Q: The Doors.
A: Something about it I just didn’t like.
A: I loved it when I was a kid.
Q: The Harder They Come.
A: Great movie. That definitely comes the closest. And a great soundtrack.
Q: The Last Waltz.
A: It was like eight hours long–I got bored to death with it.
Q: Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
A: Saw it off-Broadway–it has nothing to do with anything in the music business that I’ve ever been exposed to, but it was entertaining.
Q: Why is being in a band better than being in the movies?
A: It’s not necessarily better–it’s more meaningful to me. I don’t really know what it is to be in the movies, but we get to write our own material based on anything we want; we get to perform our material, record it. We are the writers, the actors, the directors, the producers, all in one.
Q: So if you had to choose between being a movie star or a rock star…
A: I’d never, ever trade places. For one thing, if you make a record, it’s something that people get to listen to 100 times. You make a movie, maybe someone sees it twice.