Bryan Ferry goes ‘Dylanesque’ 

The man is only on screen for a couple of minutes. But he steals the scene as Mr. Silky String, an unnamed off-duty cop in a Mercedes who chews toothpicks, sports dapper duds and a pencil-thin mustache — in Neil Jordan’s trashy "Breakfast on Pluto" fable. And he tries to kill Cillian Murphy’s tranny-hooker character by strangling him with his bolo tie.

Only when the credits roll do you realize that the guy who bore an eerie resemblance to art-pop icon Bryan Ferry was, in fact, Bryan Ferry.

"And the mustache was my idea," says the singer, who was flown to Dublin for the two-night shoot. "I had it back in ’76, as well, but I thought it’d be a nice touch, just to make me look different from how I look now. And I didn’t think the role was me, exactly, but I didn’t want to be some sort of good guy. It was quite nice to be a villain in the piece."

To look at the immaculately-groomed Ferry, you’d think that the 61-year-old would have become a matinee idol by now, in tandem with a Roxy Music-spawned singing career that’s led to his latest all-Bob-Dylan solo CD, "Dylanesque" (on Virgin).

"But I’ve done hardly any acting at all," he says. In the ’70s, he played himself on a French TV show, and he recently filmed a cameo in Budapest as The Musician in the crime flick "The Porter." But no scripts have hit his mailbox besides Jordan’s. "I’m not really thought of as existing in that world, so it just never happens. And for ‘Pluto,’ I guess they just wanted somebody a bit different, somebody who isn’t normally seen in films."

Back when he was in school, though, he enjoyed doing Shakespeare, because it was so different from everyday speech. "And I was quite good at reading Shakespeare, too."

Why didn’t Ferry go the thespian route, then? Therein hangs a life-defining tale, he says. His English professor in the ’60s thought he’d do well onstage; his art teacher didn’t. A tug of war developed for his blossoming teenage talent, and art won out.

By 1970, Ferry was putting his violet-hued vibrato to work in an early version of Roxy Music; By ’73, he’d issued his first solo album, "These Foolish Things," which contained his first Dylan cover.

He became such a die-hard fan, he tabled current Roxy Music recording sessions to concentrate on getting "Dylanesque" (with unique takes on "All I Really Wanna Do" and "Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door") out of his system.

"I have a long history of doing Dylan’s songs. He’s such a brilliant writer, with great words and just wonderful material, so this album was really fun to do."

Is there one role out there that Ferry would truly love to nab? Believe it or not, it’d be an animated walk-on with his favorite TV series, "The Simpsons."

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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