Actors are creative people who often need to unleash their inner artist onto society via a medium other than acting. Pierce Brosnan paints, Jared Leto leads an alt rock band and even Johhny Depp can play a little guitar.
And then there's the poets.
Poetry exposes an altogether different side to actors. Without the thousand stimulations of a movie the words naked on a page seem to expose a side that would otherwise be obscured. Here are nine actors who have bared their souls through verse:
9. Keanu Reeves
Book: Shadows (2016)
Keanu Reeves' second book progresses from his first, Ode to Happiness, through a series of photographed outlines of Reeves with poetic lines alongside. The abstract phrases use light and dark as a channel to speak about the self. It's unclear whether, as his debut probably was, this is a joke.
The photographer Alexander Grant, who also provided the pictures for Ode, took the hazy snaps of Reeves. The link between image and picture could be seen as another wa of approaching audio-visual performance of Reeves in movies. Lines include such strangeness as "I was born twisted / I don't want to die". See below for more.
8. Daniel Radcliffe
Daniel Radcliffe cast something other than spells with the publication of four poems in an underground fashion magazine with the garbage title of Rubbish. He wrote under the pen name of Jacob Gershon, a combination of his middle name (Jacob) and his mother's maiden name (Gershon). Here are the first five and final two lines from the one publicly available poem he wrote aged 17.
Beside these verdurous and wind-blown fronds
I lie with two long-legged, glistening blondes.
The wisps of comb-over that I call hair
Are slowly bleaching in the sunlit air
That’s also turning orange the skin I wear.
My wife sweetly smiles and her eyes seem glad
My son gives me a hug and says: ‘I’ve missed you, dad.'
Haunting eh? For the rest of the poem see here.
7. James Franco
Renaissance sensation James Franco has written POEMS! Yes, what hasn't he done, and not just any verse, stanzas born from his heart about something he has an insider's knowledge about: Hollywood. The debut collection (he's scribbled one since) Directing Herbert White saw him dare such ground as lyrics in the voice of Lindsay Lohan, an ode to Heath Ledger and several poems with titles from The Smiths like "Please Please Please". Though these may sound indulgent he does have master's in poetry from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina!
Here's the one about Lohan. It came after her list of people she'd slept with - including Franco - had hit the headlines in 2014:
'The Voice of Lindsay Lohan'
"I took James back to the bathroom."
"You know why Amy put mirrors all around in here?"
"So you can watch yourself f--k"
"He didn't f--k me, that shit."
That shit! What a delicate touch.
Needless to say it received mixed reviews, with some like The Telegraph heralding it as a senseless ego exercise masquerading as intellectual adventure; while others lauded it as a brave, subtle masterpiece, like the blurb. Some loved it, however: he was drafted in to write poetry for Obama's second inauguration. If you get a taste for his style why not try his latest collection Straight James / Gay James.
6. Kristen Stewart
In a cover interview with Marie Claire in 2014 the actress opened up to the journalist by reciting some of her personal poetry. She wrote this gem after having completed filming the Twilight trilogy as a way of keeping her sanity. We're not sure how that worked exactly...
'My Heart Is A Wiffle Ball/Freedom Pole'
I reared digital moonlight
You read its clock, scrawled neon across that black
Kismetly ... ubiquitously crest fallen
Thrown down to strafe your foothills
...I'll suck the bones pretty.
Your nature perforated the abrasive organ pumps
Spray painted everything known to man
Stream rushed through and all out into
Something Whilst the crackling stare down sun snuck
Through our windows boarded up
He hit your flint face and it sparked.
And I bellowed and you parked
We reached Marfa
One honest day up on this freedom pole
Devils not done digging
He's speaking in tongues all along the pan handle
And this pining erosion is getting dust inMy eyes
And I'm drunk on your morsels
And so I look down the line
Your every twitch hand drum salute
Is your heart a wiffle ball?
To be fair, Stewart didn't actually go out of her way to publish the distinctive verse like ger fellow authors here as it was squeezed from her by a persistent journalist.
5. Charlie Sheen
The obscene, brilliant, insane, terrifying (take your pick) Charlie Sheen thought it necessary to bestow upon the world a window into his soul via the battering ram of his poetry. As A Peace Of My Mind was self-published there were not many copies produced when it was printed in the late '80s. Copies aren't cheap — one seller tried unsuccessfully to push a signed copy on eBay for $2,000.
The 80 poems in the 142-page volume travel to some obscure corners of thought. Here's one glittering example:
"Excuse me, aren’t you...?"
"Hey, you look just like..."
"Oh my God, that’s..."
"Sorry to interrupt your dinner, but aren’t you..."
"Look, I never do this, but, my wife thinks you’re..."
"My friend is so convinced that you’re..."
"I’m so embarrassed, but, aren’t you...?"
"I know you must be tired of this, but..."
All eyes held in stare, all mouths locked open in shock, as he pulled the latex Charlie Sheen mask from his head, revealing the rotted skull of President Lincoln.
A recurring nightmare I've had too.
4. Leonard Nimoy
The hero of Star Trek enjoyed traversing the galaxy of amore through his poetry. His 2002 volume A Lifetime of Love: Poems on the Passages of Life received generally positive reviews from its Amazon fanbase, with all of his 13 Amazon reviews awarding 4 or 5 stars!
Here's one example of his work:
'You Fill Me With Your Love'
You fill me
With your love
You fill me
With your caring
You fill me
With your thoughts
You fill me
With your sharing
I'd share anything with Spock.
3. Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Mortensen claimed fame in his role as Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, but his real passion is literature. His extensive bibliography proves him to be a far more dedicated poet than the other actors in this list — among the library are nine books of verse. Whether he's of a better quality than the others is up to you.
Check out this unique excerpt:
the rain is infected
from secret experiments
of lonely men
1. ed tongues.
Sounds like he was channelling ork fears.
2. Amber Tamblyn
The star of features such as The Ring, Grudge 2, 127 Hours, and TV like House and Two and a Half Men has also turned her hand at writing poetry. She's published a grand total of three books of the stuff: Free Stallion, Bang Ditto and Dark Sparkler, and has even attempted to champion the undiscovered through founding the Write Now Poetry Society.
See if a poem from Dark Sparkler lights your gloom:
When you find a skull in the woods,
do you leave it alone because it disturbs you
or do you leave it alone
because of what still living
I know what I'd do.
1. Ally Sheedy
Remember the quirky one in Breakfast Club who made pictures with her dandruff, Allison? That wonderful actress writes poems! Sheedy published Yesterday I Saw the Sun six years after that Saturday detention had hit screens in 1991, 140 pages of poems about the difficulty of being a modern woman. She also wrote a book when she was 12! She Was Nice to Mice about a time-travelling rodent became a bestseller.
float away my dreams
slicing through your waters
in a conscious jet-ski stream
rolling toward your ocean
on the swells of movie themes
my mind has come apart
finding liberation in extremes
It concludes with:
Lost in the twilight somewhere in New Jersey
I dream new worlds to life inside
With the rise and fall of every breath
I feel much more
I fear much less
and late last night my old world died.
And I watched it go. And cried.