Wednesday, 25 August 2010
What is it about some film stars, musicians, artists, that causes an adoration bordering on obsession from fans? I’m avoiding using the word celebrity because to me celebrity conjures up images of Jordan (Katie Price, whatever) and even Brad Pitt is more of a celebrity these days than a real star. A real star generates a cult following, makes the public almost worship their indefinable cool and leaves a mark on the world long after they’re gone.
To me stars who embody this are James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Kurt Cobain, River Phoenix…and I’m hoping the most recent one stays alive; Robert Pattinson.
Ok, so many people don’t think he is the embodiment of cool seeing as his most well known films are Harry Potter and the Twilight series. I remember reading in the press that Cedric from Harry Potter had landed the coveted role of Edward the vampire in Twilight and I thought, Cedric, seriously? A floppy haired posh English boy was far too nice to cut it as a vamp. Then I watched Twilight, a good number of months after it had been released on DVD, and remember feeling like my eyes were glued to the TV as Mr Pattinson walked into that cafeteria (what a difference staying out the sun and coiffing up your hair with super strength hair spray can make).
By the time he was sitting doing science experiments with Bella I was hooked. This was what every Vampire in gothic history should be. Someone with a presence and an indefinable broody passion which you could totally imagine throwing your human life away for. He also had me glued to the screen in his film Remember Me. He is captivating with a capital C. Not since River Phoenix have I felt so compelled and fascinated by a film star.
I’m hoping that Mr P keeps some of that down to earth humour he’s displayed in interviews, to see him through the crazed obsessive following he has acquired which I’m sure contributed to the end of the others. I feel sorry for these stars who have to put up with lunatics who can’t separate fantasy from reality. I admit to buying a vest with Robert Pattinson’s picture blazoned across it (hey, every girl should have one, and every woman too!) but it’s all tongue in cheek and an ode to someone who I think is cool. Do we really want to see a picture so badly of him in the newspaper that the press feel that they have to hound his every move? I think the media should leave him alone, let him breathe and let him retain a little bit of mystery which is what we really want.
I was reading through Douglas Coupland’s Polaroids from the Dead and he has an entry in this titled ‘Letter to Kurt Cobain’. It’s a written account of an ‘I remember where I was when I heard the news breaking ‘moment’’, when some major event occurs that leaves the world a little bit different for everyone, or for you personally. He describes the impact the news of Cobain’s death had on him and his friends.
I remember when I found out that River Phoenix had died. I was 13 and had picked up a magazine at a service station during a family trip somewhere. I don’t know if I found out about his death late (I wasn’t so switched on to the media at that age) as I can’t really think why we would have been on a family holiday around Halloween when he died. The magazine detailed that he had died outside the Viper Room in the early hours of Halloween and it was a suspected drug overdose. Double shock. He was dead. He took drugs? I remember feeling a great sense of sadness and loss that a star I was just discovering had died in such a horrible way.
Back in the car my brother made us listen to his REM cassettes for about the tenth time on the journey. It wasn’t until later that I learned Michael Stipe and River Phoneix were great friends. On the single sleeve for ‘E-bow the letter’ you can apparently see the words ‘For River’ in the driving mirror. REM’s 1994 album ‘Monster’ is also dedicated to River.
Stipe was also incidentally great friends with Kurt Cobain and Cobain died within 6 months of Phoenix. The song ‘Let me In’ was apparently written for both stars. So it seems quite fitting that I was sitting listening to REM five minutes after I found out about Phoenix’s death.
There are other connections between Cobain and Phoenix. Gus Van Sant shot an ode to Cobain after his death, titled, ‘Last Days’ and also directed Phoenix in ‘My Own Private Idaho’, (which could arguably have been titled Last Days also as it’s painfully clear to see this is where Phoenix must have embarked on some heavy drug experimentation). He was a great actor but there’s something unsettlingly incoherent about his performance in this film which makes you question his sobriety.
I once thought I was being haunted by Phoenix’s ghost; (I was about 16? And have an overactive imagination). A biography about his life kept falling off the shelf in my bedroom and I had a really strange dream where I was swimming through a river of rainbows and fish and felt his presence in the dream but never saw him.
So my advice to Robert Pattinson if he is reading this, (which of course he is, he is my biggest fan, can’t it be a two way street?) is to stay away from drugs, Gus Van Sant, method acting, Michael Stipe and loaded guns.
And keep doing what you’re doing; setting the screen on fire and creating that magic that should run on for at least another few generations to glimpse.