The Kansas City Star 06/22/00

Jon Bon Jovi looks for place in film but has found his way back to the concert stage

Bon Jovi performs Saturday during Mix 93.3's Red, White and Boom Festival, which begins at 2 p.m at Sandstone Amphitheatre. Other performers include Third Eye Blind, Enrique Iglesias and Melissa Etheridge. 

Back in 1990, after he composed a soundtrack for the movie "Young Guns II," New Jersey rocker Jon Bon Jovi decided that life as a multi-mega-platinum rock star wasn't quite enough. So he went to school to become an actor. 

Ten years, lots of acting lessons and several acclaimed movie roles later, including his debut in "Moonlight and Valentino" five years ago, Bon Jovi, 38, is nearly a full-fledged movie star: He played an acclaimed role in the recent submarine thriller "U-571," and he just finished a movie with Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt called "Pay It Forward," in which he plays "a bad-ass, redneck drunken dad." 

This summer the band that bears his surname begins a world tour to promote its first album in five years, "Crush," which, by the way, describes how Bon Jovi was feeling one morning last week not long after he turned down a coveted movie role. 

"Filming starts the same day our European tour starts, so there's no way I could do it," he said. "No, I don't want to say anything more about it, except `Popeye Doyle,' if that means anything to you .... It's really killing me." 

Saturday night at Sandstone Amphitheatre, Bon Jovi will perform during the annual Red, White and Boom Festival, a multi-act pop/rock showcase that will help his band, which has sold about 80 million records worldwide, get in shape for the tour that will keep its star out of that Gene Hackman movie. 

"We'll do about six of these mini-shows," Bon Jovi said. "They're like pre-season scrimmages. First we do training camp -- running around and doing press for the new record. Then we do these scrimmages. The season starts July 12 in Tokyo. We'll play two shows at the Tokyo Dome, which is the equivalent of two shows at Arrowhead Stadium, then we go to London and Berlin." 

Movies and music aren't the only things in the life of Jon Bon Jovi, but that's primarily what he talked about during a recent chat with The Star. 

Q. What do you get from making movies that you don't get from being in a rock band? 

A. In the music business, I'm the director, the producer, the star, the marketer. In the movies, I'm the bass player. I don't write anything; it's not my vision of anything. I just play my part, with no machinery behind me, no entourage. 

I go to the movie set with all the exuberance of youth but with the wisdom of someone who's been around for a while. I like having all that up my sleeve. When a young actor is bitching or a big starlet is throwing a fit, they can look over and see me and think, "Maybe I should shut up." 

It's a good, humbling learning experience and a great opportunity to diversify and learn about myself. And a movie set is a great place to sleep for three months, instead of moving from city to city, hotel to hotel. 

Not too many critics were kind to your band. How much did that matter? 

I've seen and read a lot of the bad things, and, yeah, it hurts. On the other hand, my response to that is: "I've sold 80 million records and I've got a Golden Globe on my mantel. What've you got?" ... But I can be cocky today because I'm so tired. Yeah, I've been beat up, but on the other hand, we're ready to go on a world tour, and we're not part of some multiple-act package. I'd rather stay at home than beg somebody to listen to my stuff. 

What comes to mind when you think of the late 1980s? 

Excess, excess, excess. It was the Reagan era: two chickens in every pot, and it was never gonna end. Put up a white picket fence and paint it gold. Everything exploded. Kids still believed in that last gasp of what Kennedy first told us and then Reagan told us about living in America. 

Thank God Kurt Cobain came along. That needed to be done. The music had gotten so watered down and excessive, it would have eaten itself. 

How high are your expectations for the new record? 

I released a solo record a few years ago ("Destination Anywhere") that was by far my least successful in 15 years, and, yeah, I was disappointed. But going in, I knew it wasn't going to affect my record deal. So it was my art record, my "Nebraska," my "Almost Blue," by Elvis Costello; I didn't expect everyone to know what "Midnight in Chelsea" was about. 

This new record? If it takes off like "Slippery," well, we'll know how to tame the beast. And if it doesn't, we won't be crushed either. 

Apparently, despite how your acting career has prospered, you missed being in a band. Are things better, five years after the last record, 14 years after "Slippery When Wet"? 

The first time around, we had too much success and fame and information thrown at us all at once. When "Slippery" came out, it hit us so hard we almost needed to be strapped in, like the guy in the Maxell commercials. It was too much. But when you're 23, you don't care. You're young and dumb, walking a tight rope, and you don't know better. 

Is it better now? I hope so. Even after five years off, we're still a good live band. We just played Letterman, with no tape or anything behind, so we're absolutely not afraid to perform live. 

For me, personally, I'm really enjoying everything about it this time. Except when somebody calls and offers you a great movie role on the same day your European tour starts ...