❉ Micko Westmoreland, who played ‘Jack Fairy’ in the cult classic, on its recent 4K screening and panel in New York City.
“The essence of the film has permeated into my subconscious as the 25 years has passed. In part because I’m a passionate believer of freedom of personal expression through art which the film deeply explores. The fundamental human right to explore your own sexuality and define it, should you wish, in a manner of your choosing.”
Friday 16th June was a very special date in the calendar. The 25th anniversary of the soon to be re-released Velvet Goldmine (Sony Pictures Classics) in New York City as part of the Tribeca Festival 2022.
I’d stayed in touch with director Todd Haynes since we shot the movie in ‘97, he’s remained a close personal friend of my filmmaker brother, Wash Westmoreland (Still Alice, Colette) and I was thrilled to be invited along.
The movie has grown in infamy as the years have rolled by and is now regarded as a cult classic, those diehards who didn’t get it first time have come round in droves. The packed house of super fans were so appreciative as the opening titles rolled, the volume cranked couldn’t drown the cheers as each cast member first appeared on screen, it felt like a Rocky Horror Picture Show screening from their rapture. So great to see it projected in an A-grade theatre after all this time.
I was cast in the part of ‘Jack Fairy’, one of the three glam rockers alongside Ewan McGregor (Kurt Wild) and Johnathan Rhys Meyers (Brian Slade). As time has passed, it’s never quite gone away; like the occupant of a certain blue box it’s stayed with me as a kind, benevolent ghost. So the narrative in my head is very well-established when it comes to explaining a kind of mythic, spirit of Glam rock creature to an audience.
A mixture of Jean Genet, Brian Eno, Marlene Dietrich and Little Richard placed in a blender by Nik Cohn’s Johnny Angelo…, ‘Jack Fairy’ is nebulous in nature, written as a true original, an enigmatic and charismatic figure, and I’m very flattered that I was asked and managed to hold good on this enormous responsibility. But back in the day I was very aware of all this so I really did my homework, I lived it, to ensure that the character convinced and got over the line. The screening night was important too so I’d watched the film before arrival and considered where it might sit in culture presently…
I had been asked to join the Q&A panel along with Ewan McGregor, Eddie Izzard, Todd Haynes and producer Christine Vachon. Unfortunately a COVID double whammy had occurred. Ewan and Eddie were struck, although Ewan sent a text to be read out and phoned after the show and his daughter, the actress Clara McGregor, was in attendance. I would be the only cast member present with two enormous stars down, which brought with it general trepidation. I spent the afternoon low-key with bags of meditation to counter jetlag and gain an explicit, clear head for the evening’s festivities; fingers crossed it would pay off.
The show was excellently curated by Tribeca, no detail had been overlooked, from photographs for Getty Images to signing memorabilia for fans, it was a perfect night. As panellist and question master the wonderfully social James Kleinmann of The Queer Review introduced me to the audience. I was first up, Christine next, followed by Todd, all choreographed. As both the aforementioned are seasoned pros I had to be on best form.
Above: Tribeca Festival 2022: Micko Westmoreland talks about working with Toni Collette on Velvet Goldmine
The essence of the film has permeated into my subconscious as the 25 years has passed. In part because I’m a passionate believer of freedom of personal expression through art which the film deeply explores. The fundamental human right to explore your own sexuality and define it, should you wish, in a manner of your choosing. One response I gave related to the above, why there seems to be an issue over people being just who they are, speaks to me of some kind of concealed prejudice. I think what’s missing is a greater tolerance and a fundamental respect and acceptance, ‘a freedom you can allow yourself’, to quote a phrase from the dying moments of the film. I said as much to the crowd and it landed well.
The enthusiasm from the crowd was so intense that Todd and I had to be asked by Tribeca officials to wrap it up some 25 minutes after the show, so much amazing feedback. One young woman came to me trembling and tearful saying that she’d picked up a camera as a result of the title sequence. She said “I’m graduating from film school next month and the reason why it all happened was because of what I saw then, I watched it so many times and I found it so compelling and inspiring and that’s why it’s such a great pleasure to meet you and Todd here now”. That’s a wonderful thing. I felt very humbled, to think of a project that I’d worked on that had such an impact on someone else, and that she was loving what she did as a result. Those kind of remarks really make it all worthwhile and I’m grateful to her for volunteering it. And of course I have the wonderful Todd Haynes to thank for giving me that break and Christine Vachon for supporting this.
Velvet Goldmine is such a magical joy. I’m very proud to have played a cult character in such a great cult movie. As the narrator recites at the start of the film, ’Histories like ancient ruins, are the fictions of empires, while everything forgotten hangs in dark dreams of the past, ever threatening to return’.
❉ Directed by Todd Haynes ‘Velvet Goldmine’ ((Sony Pictures Classics, 1998) is due to be released on Blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection, details TBC. It is currently available on Region 2 DVD via Film 4/Spirit Entertainment, RRP £5.99.
❉ Micko Westmoreland is a musician, actor and director, who has been producing music for over twenty years, most recently with his band The Mellotronics, whose album ½ dove – ½ pigeon (released 27 November 2020 via Landline Records) was described on this very website as the Album of the Lockdown.