Nothing bothers me more than when you can tell that that an actor on screen can’t play a musical instrument that’s supposed to be integral to their character. I’m a musician, as well, and my eye immediately goes to the fingers of an actor trying to mimic guitar parts or piano notes. Worse, a fake drummer stands out like a sore thumb in a movie or TV show. Just learn the song! You are being paid! That’s what Michael J. Fox did for his iconic guitar-playing scene in Back to the Future, and it’s a huge reason why that scene works so well.
Marty McFly (Fox) wasn’t even supposed to be up on that stage at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. He needed his parents to kiss. He needed them to dance. But the house band’s guitar player, Marvin, damaged his hand, so Marty – who can play – agree to fill in. It works! George McFly (Crispin Glover) kisses Lorraine (Leah Thompson), and Marty’s future is secured.
But before he goes, he’s coaxed into doing one more song. Something that really cooks. You remember this, right?
Of course you do. In the interview, Michael J. Fox goes on to confirm that the dance moves in that sequence were suggested by him, and choreographed by an instructor who had worked with Madonna. The Eighties!
And he’s right. Their kids really did love it. Can you think of blatant examples of bad “musician acting” in a film? For whatever reason, I’m more enamored with the actors who DO learn to play. Ryan Gosling on piano in La La Land jumps to mind. Or all the guys in The Wonders from That Thing You Do! Hit the comments and remind me of some terrible ones from over the years.
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