Gwen Stefani may have good reason to attend next year’s Academy Awards — her first film, the Howard Hughes biopic “The Aviator,” just might be up for a few trophies. And while the No Doubt singer and imminent solo artist doesn’t have many lines in her role as Jean Harlow, she’s excited just to have been cast in the film.
” I’ve been trying out for movies for years,” she said. “Because it all comes from the same place, all the creative things inside you, and I’ve wanted to do it for a long time. But when you’re touring and writing and busy, you can’t compete with some of these actresses that are like, that’s what they do every day. But that’s one of the reasons we took a year off. I wanted to do a film.”
Stefani said a picture that late celebrity photographer Herb Ritts took of her for the cover of Teen Vogue helped her land the role. She didn’t realize at the time that Ritts was ill (see “Photographer/ Video Director Herb Ritts Dies At Age 50” ) and had a playful shoot with him based loosely on iconic photographs of Marilyn Monroe at the beach.
“It was like a dream come true,” Stefani said. “He is so elaborate, I felt like I was doing a movie. My girlfriend Sophie Muller, who does a lot of our videos, happened to be with me and documented the whole thing.”
Stefani was saddened when Ritts passed away, having believed he was “potentially going to be one of my best friends, because he’s so great.” But the classic Marilyn-like image Ritts captured of her soon caught the eye of Martin Scorsese, who decided she’d make an even better Jean Harlow (see “Gwen Stefani To Play The Original Platinum Blonde In Martin Scorsese Flick” ).
“Martin Scorsese’s driving in New York City and he sees my Teen Vogue cover on the side of a bus stop shelter,” Stefani said. “And he’s like, ’Who’s that girl? Let’s get her!’ I had Leonardo DiCaprio [who’s playing Hughes] tell me the whole story in Martin Scorsese’s voice, so it was pretty bizarre.”
Stefani had known about “The Aviator” but didn’t think she had a shot at it. Her agent told her they were only going to use big names. (Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin and Jude Law are also in the film.) “That stuff always changes,” she laughed. Excited at her change in fortune, she tore through the script.
“And it’s like, ’Where’s the part?’ It was like one line or something,” she said. “But it didn’t matter because it’s, like, all the greatest people.”
A studio representative said that while Stefani’s part essentially amounts to a cameo, it’s an “important part” and “she’s definitely a presence.” Coincidentally, Hughes produced a then-18-year-old Harlow in her first major role, the 1930 film “Hell’s Angels.”
Stefani, who filmed scenes in Montreal in August and in Los Angeles in September, was so inspired, she portrayed herself as a 1930s Harlow once again for No Doubt’s “It’s My Life” video, shot in October (see “Gwen Stefani Bumps Off Bandmates In ’It’s My Life’ “ ).
“The Aviator” lands in November.