Every now and then in pop culture, there comes along an icon that manages to turn the entire world on It’s head. Leaving an almost impossible legacy and an seemingly infinite number of achievements as an artist. David Bowie was one of those icons. Beginning his career in 1962, he was already one of music’s most dominant figures by the time he took on his first onscreen acting role in Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 cult sci-fi classic The Man Who Fell to Earth.
The Man Who Fell to Earth tells the story of Thomas Jerome Newton (played by Bowie), an alien who comes to earth seeking water to return to his home planet. Whilst on earth, Thomas finds himself aided by a lawyer (Buck Henry) who helps Thomas formally as he builds several inventions, with the intention of finding a process of transporting water to his planet. That is until he falls in love with a human named Mary-Lou (Candy Clark) and comes under threat from the U.S. Government.
I can’t imagine Roeg knew at the time how influential this film would end up being in the future, not only to fans of the film but also to the general consensus about Bowie himself. Looking back at It now, It seems only logical that Bowie would play a mysterious alien ahead of his time, but I do believe that this film managed to escalate Bowie’s profile to a higher sense of the kind of person he really was.
Despite the impact he had previously made on the music industry, I feel like nobody really knew Bowie at all until this film was released. Not only did It prove his ability to act and how multi-talented he really was, but I also think that this film was almost semi autobiographical of Bowie’s persona.
I mean obviously, he wasn’t really an alien. But in the sense of how much of a fish out of water the man himself was, there’s something familiar about the character of Thomas and of Bowie that can’t be missed.
In all honesty I do feel that If It had been anyone else in the role of Thomas…I probably wouldn’t even like this film. Not because It’d essentially be bad without him, the film’s plot was unique enough for It’s time and the supporting cast all managed to turn in some of their finer defining performances, but I honestly believe that the biggest alien element in this film comes from the presence of It’s main star.
It’s rare that you’ll find a film being as great as It is because of one cast member. But that being said, Bowie never ceased to defy expectations of the world around him.