Phil Collins At The Movies - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Phil Collins At The Movies

He's an easy lover.

You know Phil Collins, right? He of Genesis and solo music fame. The man who wrote the songs for Tarzan, released the No Jacket Required album with a gazillion hits on it. The guy who sang In The Air Tonight, Sussudio, Another Day In Paradise, Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now), Easy Lover, You Can't Hurry Love, and with Genesis; Invisible Touch, I Can't Dance, Mama, Jesus He Knows Me, Land Of Confusion, Abacab, Ripples, That's All, Turn It On Again, and so so many other group and solo hits. You know Phil Collins and chances are, even if you don't like to admit it, you have a soft spot for at least some of his music. Heck you may have even seen him in Buster, but if you think Phil Collins made his big screen debut in that 1988 picture then you are surely wrong. Phil Collins made his on-screen debut waaaay back in 1964, and it just so happened to be in The Beatles first movie A Hard Days Night. See if you can spot him below...

Nope, that's Ringo behind the drums. Phil Collins is in the crowd. Did you spot him? No? OK, let's zoom in...

13 year old Philip David Charles Collins making his on-screen debut in his best shirt and tie watching the biggest band in the world and, maybe, thinking to himself "one day that'll be me". Which of course it was - although with slightly less hysterical screaming girls, and as successful as Genesis were you'd be hard pushed to claim they were the biggest band in the world.

But from little seeds grow big acorns and Phil, like The Beatles before him, scored both musically and cinematically. And it's the latter we're primarily concerned with here.

The same year as A Hard Days Night, Collins began professional acting lessons at the Barbara Speake Stage School, and quickly received his first major acting role as the Artful Dodger in two West End runs of the musical Oliver!. Collins mother later recalled that his voice broke and gave way during a performance and he had to speak his lines for the rest of the show.

A small role in the BBC drama series R3 came in 1965, the following year came a slightly larger role in an episode of the anthology series Thirty Minute Theatre (as Gwyn in an episode titled A Letter From The Country). 1967, though, saw the young Philip Collins largest role to date, in the Children's Film Foundation production Calamity The Cow.

Although it's not the headline role, it's a substantial part. The film follows Farmer Grant's children (including Collins) who get him to buy a cow from another farmer. The children work hard to make the cow fit and healthy enough to display in a country fair. But at the last minute the other farmer steals Calamity. Dun dun dahhh....

After falling out with the director, Collins became unsure about acting as a career, and things didn't seem to be going his way. He auditioned for the role of Romeo in the 1968 movie version of Romeo and Juliet but the part went to Leonard Whiting. Coupled with his appearance in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as one of the children who storm the castle being cut from the finished movie, Collins decided to quit acting completely. He'd never originally intended to pursue it professionally anyway, and had always gravitated towards music, but his father had been less enthusiastic about that. In 1969, at the age of 18, Collins followed his heart.

You likely know what happened after that. Phil Collins had received his first drum kit at the age of 5 and later joined Genesis as their drummer in August 1970 (after playing percussion on "Art of Dying" by George Harrison for his solo album All Things Must Pass), eventually fronting the band and taking over vocal duties when Peter Gabriel left. A successful solo career was launched in 1981 with Collins soon achieving worldwide fame and commercial ubiquity.

After performing at both the London and Philadelphia segments of 1985's Live Aid, Phil Collins accepted his first acting role in 18 years, appearing in a second season episode of Miami Vice, entitled "Phil the Shill", in which he plays a cheating con-man who helps bring down a big-time cocaine dealer.

Perhaps it reignited a forgotten, if not love, then like for acting as Collins' name now started to be attached to various films by the press. Eventually, in 1988, his first film role since embarking on his music career and his first lead part at that, came with the British romantic comedy drama-crime film Buster.

Collins plays Ronald Christopher "Buster" Edwards, a criminal convicted for his role in the Great Train Robbery. Reviews for the film were mixed and controversy ensued over its subject matter; Prince Charles and Princess Diana declined an invitation to the film's première after it was accused of glorifying crime. However Collins's performance opposite Julie Walters received many good reviews. Quite rightly too, Buster as a film hasn't aged particularly well and now feels quite slow, but even when watched today Collins is charismatic in the role and you very soon forget he's the guy from Genesis and just buy into his performance.

Buster does glorify violence, there's no getting past that, but then so do films like The Krays (also based on real life subject matter) and Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. The difference here is that Buster is also entertaining, not just gritty and violent.

Collins approaches the role more like the Artful Dodger than that of a hardened criminal (perhaps pulling on that early stage work), with film critic Roger Ebert noting that Buster Edwards was "played with surprising effectiveness" by Collins, although he felt the film's soundtrack proved more successful than the film. That's quite true, especially with the passing of time.

Collins contributed four songs to Buster's soundtrack. His slow ballad rendition of "A Groovy Kind of Love", originally by the Mindbenders, became his only single to reach No. 1 in the UK and the U.S. Buster also spawned the hit single "Two Hearts", which Collins co-wrote with Lamont Dozier; the two artists won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song and receive an Oscar nomination in the same category.

Phil didn't follow Buster up with a further starring role for 5 years, which is quite surprising considering how good the reception was towards his performance, but touring his 1989 solo album "...But Seriously" kept him busy. Often during interviews to promote his tour or albumc, Collins spoke about making a film titled The Three Bears; with Collins, Danny DeVito, and Bob Hoskins as the bears. The film never materialised and no appropriate script was ever said to have been written but even after Hoskins' parting Danny DeVito still confirmed it was a potential project at one time.

1991 saw a cameo role for Collins in a film that also featured Hoskins, Steven Spielberg's Hook. Hardly on screen for 30 seconds, Collins plays the rather inept Inspector Good (clearly only in name and not in nature) who has no leads on the missing children...

Not his best performance, and he sorta sticks out like a sore thumb. Unlike Buster you instantly go "look, it's Phil Collins" when he comes on screen, and then he's gone before you get a chance to actually appreciate any acting skill. At least in Buster, you've got past the whole "it's Phil Collins" moment before the title comes on screen and "Keep On Running" starts playing. Perhaps that's the problem with a cameo by a famous musician?

Two years later, in 1993, Collins took another small cameo role in the Aids docudrama And The Band Played On. Featuring an all-star cast including; Matthew Modine, Alan Alda, Ian McKellen, Lily Tomlin, Richard Gere, Steve Martin, and Anjelica Huston, Collins played Eddie Papasano, a San Francisco bathhouse owner.

Again, hardly on screen for much more than 30 seconds and saddled with a ridiculous accent, Collins overcomes the flamboyantness of the role and delivers a much better cameo performance than his turn in Hook. And The Band Played On wasn't without its controversy though, based on the 1987 non-fiction book of the same name, the TV film carried a warning over its subject matter and viewed with the benefit of hindsight really does talk down to its audience, methodically detailing how casual homosexual relationships may occur.

The same year Phil Collins starred in his last headlining role to date. As Roland Copping in Frauds, an Australian thriller/black comedy, Collins plays a sociopathic insurance investigator who blackmails a married couple (Hugo Weaving and Josephine Byrnes) about the accidental killing of their friend during a prank gone wrong.

Frauds was selected to be In Competition at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival, but I don't think anyone else ever saw it (it took $29,000 Australian Dollars at the box-office). I only caught it myself on a late night TV broadcast about 20 years ago, and it's really not a bad film at all. Not groundbreaking or anything, but it's an interesting concept with fate decided through the role of a dice.

Collins character isn't exactly a million miles removed from either Phil The Shill or Buster. In those three performances he cornered the shifty-character market, but his turn here in Frauds is a pretty damn good one. I'd say his best to date, and Mr Collins would agree...
"[Frauds] is a great little film, and I was better in it than in Buster."
But perhaps sensing that he wasn't heading towards an Oscar for his acting abilities, Phil Collins applied his talents to other areas of film-making, writing and perform songs for the 1999 Disney film Tarzan. The lead track from the film, "You'll Be in My Heart", was released in June 1999 and spent 19 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, the longest time ever up to that point, and went on to win Collins an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.

Interestingly, Phil Collins also sang his songs in French, Italian, German, and Spanish for the dubbed versions of the Tarzan's soundtrack. 

Collins supplied voices to two other animated features: the 1995 film Balto, and Disney's 2003 direct-to-video sequel The Jungle Book 2 (2003). He then returned to Disney that same year to duet with Tina Turner on the soundtrack to Brother Bear.

Ill health would see the once everywhere Phil Collins withdraw from the limelight, rarely recording and making very few public appearances outside of the occasional brief Genesis reunion and live shows, and a couple of TV guest appearances as himself (the sit-com House Of Fools being a notable one). In 2010 he released what may well be his last album, a collection of 60's Motown and soul covers Going Back (with an expanded version released in 2015). The front cover for that album features the teenage Phil Collins practising at his drum kit, wearing a lovely shirt and tie...

Not just tribute to the music he grew up with then, perhaps also a tribute to that very first on-screen movie appearance in the crowd during A Hard Days Night.

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