Reelin’ & Rockin’ – When Movie Stars Turn Rock Stars Case File #1: Keanu Reeves and Dogstar

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dogstar

This column is dedicated to the great rock ‘n’ roll films throughout history, but I’ve decided to take a short break in order to look at another phenomenon that occurs at the intersection of cinema and rock ‘n’ roll – when a movie star shuns the silver screen in order to chase dreams of rock stardom. There’s only one rule for this project: the actor or actress’ forays into music have to be separate from any filmed work. In other words, it can’t just be some awful song on the awful soundtrack to an awful movie. Robin Williams’ work on the Popeye soundtrack, for example, is out of bounds.

For the first journey down this rabbit hole of vanity projects I chose Keanu ReevesDogstar. For much of the mid-‘90s, Dogstar worked as a synonym for bad career decisions. Most famously, Reeves’ turned down a reported $11 million payday for Speed 2 in order to tour with the band. In what was surely a stroke of genius by the actor-turned-bassist, he knew that no matter how bland and forgettable Dogstar was, Speed 2 was most definitely worse.

Finally taking the time to listen to Dogstar, I discovered 2 things. First, Dogstar, as initially believed, wasn’t that good of a band. Second, it’s not inconceivable that this band would’ve found some minor success in the climate of the mid-‘90s alternative scene. You can easily imagine Dogstar finding a small hit with a track like Forgive. It’s the kind of song that would’ve been played in heavy rotation on the alternative stations, sparking a handful appearances at local radio festivals, and maybe even finding its way on the soundtrack of some forgettable angry youth indie film starring Stephen Dorff.

All of that speaks to the actual nature of Dogstar’s music – a kind of dated and bland generic rock from a bygone era. You could easily sneak a few Dogstar tracks into a playlist of Stone Temple Pilots or Creed and not cause anyone to turn their head. At the very least, Dogstar plays into the narrative of Keanu Reeves’ ability to pick the right roles for himself. Had he gone all the way and attempted to be the lead vocalist, all the attention and scorn directed at Dogstar would be ever more focused on the actor. As the bassist, despite the media attention his involvement brought, he avoided making the band about him. He was just an adequate bassist of a forgettable band, not the driving force of an all-time awful band. Jokes about Dogstar had a short shelf life. For the 5-year span following Speed and prior to The Matrix, Reeves’ movie career floundered, a string of box office disappointments weighed down his once-rising appeal. After The Matrix, jokes about Reeves turning his back on Hollywood success to chase pipe dreams with a crummy band no longer worked. Now, Dogstar is a distant memory, an obscure artifact from the Clinton years. They’re still not as awful as Speed 2.

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