Plenty of musicians have become actors throughout Hollywood history, with the likes of Justin Timberlake, Ringo Starr, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Will Smith and Mark Wahlberg taking to the silver screen with varying degrees of success. But, none have been quite so great in both industries as David Bowie, an iconic musician who changed pop culture forever and a cult favourite of cinema.
Working with the likes of Nicolas Roeg, Tony Scott, Jim Henson, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, and Christopher Nolan, Bowie’s time under the studio lights wasn’t half-arsed, giving his all to each and every eccentric part he chose to play. His very best role was actually his debut feature, starring in Roeg’s exceptional science fiction movie The Man Who Fell to Earth, where he led the movie as a curious, mysterious extraterrestrial, appearing with Rip Torn, Candy Clark and Buck Henry.
Despite this, most movie fans will remember Bowie from the Jim Henson movie Labyrinth, in which he starred as Jareth, the Goblin King of a bizarre fantasy land. Appearing alongside a cast of marvellous felt creatures, as well as young Jennifer Connelly in the lead role, Bowie gives the film its frenetic camp energy, making it the timeless family classic that it is considered today.
An active participant in the film, Bowie doesn’t treat Labyrinth as a mere paycheque, even doffing his cap to the history of cinema during one moment when he pays homage to Cary Grant and Shirley Temple from the 1948 film The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.
Helmed by Irving Reis, the same mind behind The Four Poster and The Falcon Takes Over, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer stars Temple as a high-school girl named Susan who falls in love with Dick, a loveable artist. Winning writer Sidney Sheldon an Academy Award for ‘Best Original Screenplay’, the film was a favourite of fans at the time, further elevating the profiles of the two lead stars.
During one moment in the movie, the starring duo have a comedic back and forth when Dick states:
“You remind me of a man,” and Susan replies, “What man?”, retorting, he snaps:
“The man with the power.”
“The power of hoodoo.”
“Remind me of a man”.
So, when Bowie was given some freedom to write his own lines in Labyrinth, he chose to pay tribute to cinema history, referencing this conversation in the song ‘Dance Magic’ from the movie.
“You remind me of the babe,” he starts:
“The babe with the power.”
“The power of voodoo.”
“Remind me of the babe…”
Replacing “man” with “babe” and “hoodoo” with “voodoo”, Bowie repurposes the back-and-forth joke to fit into the magical world of Labyrinth, hiding a piece of iconic movie magic under the noses of movie fans for years.