Actually, I was into his music already in seventh grade, the year I first saw Dune. (Yet another David Lynch connection between me and my friend Richard Moon, in fact; I talked to him about that movie not long before our circle of friends all got very into Twin Peaks which ended with my inadvertently matchmaking him with his now-wife.) When Dream of the Blue Turtles and . . . Nothing Like the Sun came out, my older sister got them on tape, and I borrowed them and listened to them over and over. Watching him in a metal bikini brief? Yes, please!
Sting is actually another one of those people where we could write more than one article about different aspects of his career, if I did that which I don’t. (I’m scheduled a year and a half in advance already without doing that!) He’s done some acting and he’s done a lot of writing for film, and it would be easy to talk about both of them. Easy, indeed, to get my full five paragraphs about either. And honestly, my normal tactic would be to talk about the acting beyond Dune, because that’s the thing few people talk about and that’s normally where I like going. But it’s my column, so we’re going to get all of it.
We will start, though with some of that more obscure acting, because he’s a talented actor, at least in my opinion, who I quite wish would have had more unusual chances. I mean, I’ve seen Brimstone and Treacle, which is a deeply weird movie that he’s very, very good in. There’s The Bride, of course. (I haven’t seen The Mighty, where he plays the Balladeer, but Elden Henson of The Mighty Ducks is third-billed in it, so have another Mighty Ducks moment?) Heck, I’ve even seen Quadrophenia, where I think he’s pretty aware of how ridiculous his character is. He’s made fifteen movies, and that’s not enough leaving aside that I still think he would’ve been an excellent Lestat.
I think part of the problem is that we as a society have a hard time with the idea that people can do more than one job, and with very few exceptions, you get to be either one thing or the other and the one you haven’t chosen is something where you’re just dallying. Admittedly it’s also true that, during the height of his fame with The Police, a lot of his acting was based on what he could do when he wasn’t on tour or in the studio, and that probably put a damper on things. Certainly he was never going to be Elvis, for which we should all—especially Sting, given Elvis’s own dislike of his film career—be grateful.
As for the music, you know, my favourite Sting moment is from when he was going to the 2000 Oscars; he was up for “My Funny Friend and Me,” from The Emperor’s New Groove (and I promise I will at some point watch the documentary about that; you can pay me to by contributing to my Patreon or Ko-fi), and he was asked if he was excited to be there. His immediate response was, “No, Bob Dylan’s going to win.” Which he did. Indeed, there’s not a single loss at the Oscars you can point to and say, “Yeah, that’s the year he should have won.” Though that doesn’t mean he lost to the right person, last time.
It is true that it’s hard to pick out how many movies he’s actually specifically written music for. Many, many of his credits are for movies that have lifted a single song—mostly from his Police days—for use at one point or another. The only movie I can see for sure that he wrote an entire soundtrack for is the aforementioned Brimstone and Treacle. Frankly, this is a place where IMDb is a lousy resource and I really wish I had a better one. They don’t sort it out in a way that makes any kind of sense; I’m not even fully sure what the difference between “soundtrack” and “music department” is half the time, and then we’ve got “composer” thrown in to boot.
But even with the assumption that the only five movies he ever wrote specifically for are the Oscar nominees and Brimstone and Treacle, and I should note that I don’t think that’s a safe assumption, that’s quite the record. Sure, okay, Jim: The James Foley Story appears to be one of those “we want to nominated this for something, so, eh, Original Song” nominations, but look at the other three. The aforementioned “My Funny Friend and Me.” “Until,” from Kate & Leopold. “You Will Be My Ain True Love,” from Cold Mountain. Those are some solid songs, and it’s not his fault that, say, “You Will Be My Ain True Love” got caught in the Lord of the Rings onslaught.
And I’m going to be firm here and mention that I like a lot of his not-movie music, too, and one of my favourite moments is his appearance on Studio 60, a show I like a lot more than a lot of other people do. He’s funny and self-deprecating, and of course there’s that marvelous performance of “Fields of Gold” on the lute. I also love the liner notes on his albums, which makes me wonder why I recently chose not to buy his autobiography when I found it at a thrift store. I should’ve at least looked to see if it had a photo insert.