When thinking about good actors, actors that have changed a viewer’s way of watching a movie, I think about actors that have become so deeply immersed into their roles that you cannot tell which is which. Such is the case of Daniel Day Lewis, probably the most respectable character/method actor of the moment.
But where does that leave Tom Waits, since he is the subject of this article? Is he a character actor? In my opinion, he isn’t. He IS a character, meaning that no matter what his role is you will definitely recognize him (this doesn’t mean at all that he is being typecast or that he is a poor actor).
And I believe this has to do with how eccentric he is in real life also, and not just in the movies. For example, we see him in a supporting role in Mystery Men (where he plays Doc Heller). And what does he do when we meet this character?
He is making bizarre noises, in order to show how some eerie machines work. If that sounds familiar, then you are also thinking about all the noises and strange sounds Tom Waits makes in his poems and songs. Even more, in the same movie, Heller is an inventor of peculiar machines, for which he uses junk – yet again this is the case of Tom Waits, although his machines are used as musical instruments.
For now, one more example in which art imitates life (in this case, the life of Tom Waits) can be given. You might say that this isn’t the best example, but then again it is the most relevant one: in Coffee and Cigarettes he plays a character called Tom Waits.
While there is no reason to believe that the movie character wasn’t created after the real life singer/poet, I can come and say that his excuse for arriving late at the meeting with Iggy is one of a kind and sounds pretty much like what you would hear in an over the top comedy: he had to deliver a baby in the back of a car.
And this is pretty much his own style of toying with people, by coming up with lame and unbelievable excuses. And a great example comes when he says that he was born in a taxi, or in a barn, or in an elevator, or who knows where else.
As a conclusion, I can say that there are character actors and people which are characters in everyday life. In the case of Tom Waits, his own personality can be considered peculiar, but only because his personality can serve as a matrix for a multitude of different characters.
And a quote which goes in the same lines as his love for the sound of bacon: It’s a psychofrakulator. It creates a cloud of radically-fluctuating free-deviant chaotrons which penetrate the synaptic relays. It’s concatenated with a synchronous transport switch that creates a virtual tributary. It’s focused onto a biobolic reflector and what happens is that hallucinations become reality and the brain is literally fried from within.
Doesn’t make much sense, does it?