As one of the most influential figures of late 20th-century popular culture, David Bowie helped to sculpt music and cinema as we know it today. With the help of his multiple on-stage personas, including Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Halloween Jack, the Thin White Duke, Bowie was able to break new ground, explore the many artistic avenues of the contemporary medium and inspire others to explore their inner creativity.
Whilst Bowie’s influence largely resided in the world of music, he was also known for his foray into cinema, starring in the likes of The Man Who Fell to Earth by Nicolas Roeg, the children’s fantasy Labyrinth by Jim Henson and many other eclectic roles. Bowie became an icon of stage and screen, with his potent appearance and grandeur capturing the attention of fans and media across the world.
Of course, Bowie wasn’t the only one making great creative ground in the late 20th century, with many individuals responsible for sculpting the zeitgeist of the era including film director Stanley Kubrick, rock band The Beatles and the influential artist Andy Warhol. Many of these individuals Bowie took inspiration from, making reference to Warhol in particular throughout his discography, elevating each of these creative voices to represent a defining performer of the era.
A great lover of cinema, Andy Warhol and Stanley Kubrick were not the only two filmmakers he admired, with a great love for Fritz Lang and his 1927 film Metropolis in particular. Cherishing the film, Bowie stated that the film had a profound effect on his later career, calling his third album Metrobolist in tribute to the film before his record label convinced him to change it to something else.
Along with such great avant-garde works of art, Bowie also enjoyed a great plethora of cinematic tastes, with his love stretching from golden-age Hollywood to contemporary British comedies. His favourite of all time, however, was none other than the silent-era hero of Hollywood, Buster Keaton, with Bowie Rolling Stone in 1979, “There’s still a lot of Buster Keaton in everything I do”.
A great admirer of the work of the slapstick silent comedian, the performer later discovered that his official photographer, Steve Schapiro, had worked with the Hollywood star in the later years of his career, Bowie instantly took a great liking to him. As the photographer wrote in his 2016 anthology, Bowie, “When David heard that I had photographed Buster Keaton, one of his greatest heroes, we instantly became friends”.
Influenced by the performer’s irresistible comedic swagger and allure on-screen, Bowie frequently paid homage to the actor, most notably when he impersonated him in the video to his 1993 song, ‘Miracle Goodnight’. Though, he wasn’t the only comedian Bowie admired, appearing on screen beside the several iconic cinematic funny-men including Spike Milligan, Ricky Gervais and Eric Idle.