Tom Waits – The Acting Years

Tom Waits – The Acting Years


– Welcome to my world. – [Narrator] If Tom Waits isn’t an actor, then he’s regularly been
getting away with some acting for over 40 years. – When was the last time
you were with a woman? – Probably the Depression. – [Narrator] Do we thank
Sylvester Stallone, of all people, for first casting him in
1978’s Paradise Alley, albeit as doppelganger to his already established
musical persona, a smart-mouthed, Wachowski-esque piano man of late-night dive bars? And if Waits has expanded
his range over the years, there are still striking connections between his recording
career and his screen one. – Wanna buy a ticket? Wanna buy a watch? Wanna buy a watch? Eight o’clock! Show’s about to start. Come on in. – [Narrator] After all,
Tom Waits the musician has long been a consummate role player. ♪ Well, with buckshot
eyes and a purple heart. ♪ – [Narrator] He’s called
it method singing. ♪ Rolled down the national stroll ♪ – [Narrator] Pre the music-video era, Waits had already experimented with visualizing his song,
“The One That Got Away,” in pioneering rotoscoped animation short, “Tom Waits For No One.” ♪ The one that got away ♪ – [Narrator] His album covers, almost always featuring himself, look like movie stills from
obscure film noir B-pictures or grungy indie productions. ♪ Well, Jesus gon’ be here ♪ ♪ He’s gonna ♪ ♪ Be here soon ♪
– His songs often play like movie vignettes populated
by eccentrics and loners. ♪ Do what I want and I’m gonna get paid ♪ – [Narrator] Outsiders and loose cannons. ♪ Nothing you can say about mankind ♪ ♪ There’s nothing kind about man ♪ – [Narrator] The nighthawks at the diner, the rain dogs abandoned on the street. ♪ With the rain dogs ♪ – [Narrator] And similarly, his film roles often
feel like second cousins to characters on the record. ♪ Shore leave, shore leave ♪ ♪ What’s he building in there ♪ – [Narrator] Try and envisage Tom Waits in a Marvel movie or fighting star wars. ♪ Way down in the hole ♪ – [Narrator] Many of them even talk like dialogue ripped from
his lyrics’ evocative imagery and tall tales. – The road ain’t what it used to be, kid. It’s bad food, and
everything looks the same. That’s Nanuk. She’s a mute. She does this throat singing. She’s hilarious. You didn’t think I was serious just ’cause I carry a rabbit around? – [Narrator] And if Waits’s songs tend to focus on the marginalized, on-screen he, too, rarely
takes center stage. Sometimes that trademark chuckle-tipped growl of a
voice alone will suffice, the perfect narrator for an eerie fable. – [Tom] No question, something
evil was abiding there. Oh, it’s 2:20 in the a.m.
right here in Memphis. – [Narrator] Or
smooth-talking late-night DJ. – You got a vice officer who
swears you approached him and fondled his privates
in the men’s room. – [Narrator] He can pop up in blink-and-miss-’em
or uncredited cameos. – [Man] Didn’t even look at you. – Well, he’s paying so
he don’t have to look. – [Narrator] Get erased due
to music copyright reasons. ♪ Life of Riley on the swing ♪ – [Narrator] Or even just
get a couple of lines. – What do you boys want? – The Dally, we gotta see Dally. – [Narrator] He has his
favorite filmmakers. – Hey, hey, Tom. Right, glad you could make it. – [Narrator] He’s appeared as Tom Waits. – Freeze, sailor! – [Narrator] He’s
repeatedly gone toe to toe with A-list stars. – Okay, gimme a couple hours. Could I have a little bit
of quiet in here, please? – [Narrator] Some of this movies have almost disappeared
in the digital age, regardless of whether they
and he have been engaging, – It’s all right, freeze!
(alarm ringing) – [Narrator] or frankly, aggravating, and for all the music and movie overlap, Waits has frequently described the frustrations of filmmaking, not just in the endless
downtime when Tom just waits, but also in his smaller
overall creative input. – No, come on up. Come on, we gotta go. Come on up. – Fuck! – C’mon, man. – [Man] I, I can’t. – C’mon, what are you gonna spend the rest of your life down there? – No, but why am I– – They’re gonna be here in a second. (vocalizing)
– No, no, no! Wait, wait for me! – My moth tells me about you. – [Narrator] That’s it. There are times when Waits’s
screen work really does soar. – But he’s coming. – [Narrator] So with honorable mentions to his devoted lunatic Renfield
in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” – A canned tornado, huh? – [Narrator] His cracked inventor in old superhero comedy “Mystery Men.” – Doctor, you are a genius. – It’s what the card says. – [Man] You on drugs or something? (man moans) – [Narrator] His undercover angel in “Wristcutters: A Love Story,” and his lovelorn serial-killer killer in “Seven Psychopaths.” Here are Tom Waits’s top
five movie performances. (woman singing operatically) In Waits’s second, far
more substantial role for Terry Gilliam. – It’s been a while. (flames whoosh) – [Narrator] He’s the devilish Mr. Nick, making mischief and taking bets for souls with Christopher Plummer’s
enchanted theater troupe leader. (grunting) – Can I offer you a stick
of gum or a breath mint? – [Narrator] Waits handles
Gilliam’s freewheeling fantasy with a sprightly flair he’s
seldom been asked to supply, and a wicked glint in his eye. – Damn! – [Narrator] He should have played stylish villains more often. – I’ve won. – [Narrator] It’s effectively a short in the Coen Brothers’
pitiless Western portmanteau, but Waits still gets a rare
center-stage near-solo outing as a grizzled prospector
in “All Gold Canyon.” Whether croaking out “Mother Machree” or yapping to imaginary
companion Mr. Pocket. – I’ll catch up with you tomorrow. – [Narrator] Waits utterly
convinces and captivates (gun bangs)
as a wily and unexpectedly tough obsessive. (gun bangs) It went clean through! He didn’t hit nothin’ important! (sobs) – [Narrator] Gold country for an old man. – He didn’t hit nothin’ important! – [Man] Move! – [Narrator] For a true Tom Waits feature leading role, though, see his first and best outing in Jim Jarmusch’s offbeat
prison-break shuffle. Feckless DJ Zack, framed for murder, shares a cell, escapes,
and goes on the run with the equally abrasive Jack and irrepressible Italian Roberto. – Come on, come on! (enthuses in foreign language) – [Narrator] Soulful but inexpressive, Waits is an ideal fit for Jarmusch’s wry,
laconic existentialism, a loner who can flee jail, but he’s a perpetual prisoner
of his own inner cages. – I got the whole I got the whole outfit up at the house. – [Narrator] The terminally ill sidekick to Jack Nicholson’s haunted alcoholic. – Doc says I got cancer. First thing I ever got. – [Narrator] In Hector
Babenco’s intimate epic about vagrants in the Great Depression is the closest Waits ever came to fleshing out one of his own
song-rendered down-and-outs. – She told me she wanted to
be a nurse up there in Alaska. – [Narrator] Holding his own opposite Nicholson and Meryl Streep, Rudy is Waits’s most
heartbreaking screen creation, a testament to how well he understands lives of bad livers and broken hearts tossed aside by society like small change. ♪ Every night ♪ – [Narrator] Too often,
Tom Waits’s film directors shortcut around his music
persona’s real dark hearts and head straight for
the easy eccentricities. Not so, Robert Altman. Working from Raymond
Carver’s short stories in his L.A. mosaic masterpiece. Waits’s heavy-drinking
limo driver, Earl Piggott, feeling emasculated, can only lash out and
take refuge in booze. – Oh, you’re such a bullshit artist. – You’re the one chippin’ away
at our mansion of love, baby. – [Narrator] Of course,
he has just enough charm to vacate the last chance saloon, though doubtless he’ll
be back there again soon. (laughs) It’s a brilliant disappearance
into a small, weak man by a larger-than-life character. Even in an ensemble with
relatively little screen time, “Short Cuts” is the film
that proves Tom Waits, rather than just occasionally indulging in some acting in movies, can be, as he’s proved
in his music for decades, some actor. ♪ I’m only talkin ♪ ♪ ‘Cause you looked like
you needed a friend ♪ (doleful jazz music)

100 thoughts on “Tom Waits – The Acting Years

  1. Thank you for putting this together. I've been a Tom Waits fan since first hearing Closing Time in about 1980. I've seen several of his performances in movies and unsurprisingly enjoyed and rated them, but did not know he had been in so many. Thanks for the heads-up and direction towards these.

  2. What a total treat. Brilliantly produced video on one of my top 3 guys, if not my top.
    Thanks very much for making this video. All further insights on this man are always appreciated.
    May you go to Valhalla or something like that.

  3. Say what you want about him,tom waits is a singer, songwriter, actor, poet, character actor, whatever you want to call him.as far as I'm concerned, he's a national treasure.one of greatest of all time unfortunately, he's is over looked and that is a real big shame.

  4. It sounds like the narration was recorded in the middle of the night while people were asleep in the same room, but great video, nonetheless.

  5. A true legend, he just doesn't write and perform songs, he paints them as well, his words recreate the images he's singing about, not many singer song writers can do this.

  6. great tribute.. I have always marveled at his ability to chanal the very heart of gritty americana, someplace i have lived my whole life through.

  7. Fantastic video. A great tribute to a true one of a kind man!
    By the way…what is the music at the beginning of this video?

  8. Tom Waits has so much presence, in everything he does, there is a light that that shines from him. His songs are filled with emotion heavily featuring the tormented souls of people existing on the fringes of society. I'm surprised David Lynch never called him as I think they would have been an amazing partnering.

  9. It's almost 2020, how about you learn how to add actual dialogue to your video? This is not 1920. Video is good, audio, dialogue, and subtitles are crap.

  10. Can't listen to this voice, sounds unnatural and distracting. Try to speak normal and not like you want people to belive there is some mystery about you, because that is Waits job.

  11. Hey Anti-Records. Is Tom Planning on putting out any new music in the new decade?
    Big fan and excited to see what he does next.
    Thank you.

  12. I would love to see Tom Waits and Ron Perlman play brothers.

    I played a song I wrote to a musician friend, when I apologized for my singing voice. He laughed and said, "ya think Tom Waits or Bob Dylan ever apologised for their singing voice?" It made me laugh. Then I thought for a moment and replyed, "that would be more of a compliment, if I weren't a woman."

  13. I like this narrator.
    Too many videos on here use narrators with voices so ‘put on’ and forced; they’re unbearable.

  14. This video was excellent, very hard work put together well done, excellent narration. I didn't know Tom Waits did acting to be honest so this was very interesting to watch.

  15. My pops died in 2006 at the age of 81. He was into Waits since Rain Dogs. Among his things, I found Mule Variations, Swordfish Trombones and Rain Dogs. Me? I saw "Down Bt Law" in 1986 and was hooked. "Buzz off." "Buzz offa to you, too."

  16. He's one of the best actors alive. He occupies the same sort of space that legends like Warren Oats and HarryDean Stanton did. The man is a national treasure.

  17. I love the concept of this video. I really do, but the guy whispering is annoying. I would have cut him out and just shown clips.

  18. Sub-titles and on-screen narrative competed for the viewer's attention while the visuals were running. Maybe seek a simpler form of presentation.

  19. God bless you, Tom… a true artist

    You will find few with such a bottomless reservoir of beauty and inspiration.

  20. "Bad writing is destroying the quality of our suffering." — Tom Waits (b. Thomas Alan Waits, December 7, 1949)

  21. As a person of color, I am a huge fan of this man.Tom Waits is a national treasure…. weather he likes it or not.Happy belated 70th birthday, tom. Whatever you do, don't die here's hoping you live on for another seventy years!

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