As an American solider assigned to pass along awful news in The Messenger, Ben Foster proves, once again, he can run circles around the competition. Here are the songs that got him into a GI’s state of mind.
I make different playlists for every movie I’m in,” says Ben Foster, while on break from filming a remake of The Mechanic with action star Jason Statham. “These songs, specifically, got a lot of rotation while I was working on The Messenger.” In that film, the 29-year-old actor—best known for his roles in 3:10 to Yuma and Alpha Dog—co-stars with Woody Harrelson as Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery, whose military responsibilities include informing families that their loved ones have been killed at war. His performance has already garnered a nomination at this year’s Gotham Awards, but Foster, who admits he hasn’t yet been able to shake the role, says, “If you make a chair and someone likes your chair, it feels good. And if someone says, ‘This is one of the best chairs I’ve seen all year,’ that feels great. but it doesn’t change the fucking chair.”
AA Bondy’s “Rapture (Sweet Rapture).” This is a great song about being at the end of your rope with nothing left but hoping for hope.
Jena Malone’s “Trouble.” She is one of my favorite human animals. She always sounds like she’s singing to herself in a cooling bath. We used to walk down the street making up songs, singing about people we saw, about the wheels spinning by.
David Bowie’s “Breaking Glass.” How do you pick just one David Bowie song? This one by the Thin White Duke makes you feel like you’re sitting nude on a lizard—and you like it.
Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s “You Will Miss Me When I Burn.” Will Oldham isn’t only a terrific musician but also one hell of an actor. I wish he’d do more talkies.
The Dead Weather’s “So Far From Your Weapon.” I have a terrible crush on [lead singer] Alison Mosshart. She is a savage onstage. I love the experience of being at a live show, in a collective membrane of ears. It’s dangerous and sexy rock ’n’ roll, the way it should be.
Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty.” He is a national fucking treasure. There’s a terrific documentary about him called Be Here To Love Me. He has the ability to express the most complex human emotions in the simplest of ways. He’s a holy man of music.
Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman.” This song makes me want to swallow cars whole.
Jeff Buckley’s “The Way Young Lovers Do.” I remember the first time I heard him. A friend of mine turned on his music in the car, and I said immediately, I have to see this man. And my friend told me, “He’s already gone.” We just sat and drove and listened to the whole record. I felt like I had been cheated and lied to. Following that, I became a serious wine, candles and Jeff Buckley kind of guy, spending nights by myself writing bad poetry.
The Langley Schools Music Project’s “God Only Knows.” In the mid- 1970s, this Canadian school choir covered pop songs from the ’60s and ’70s, like this one by the beach boys. If I had to choose one desert island album, this would be the one. Paul Dano turned me on to these guys.
Talking Heads’ “Heaven.” The first movie I ever saw was [talking Heads concert film] Stop Making Sense. I was sort of weaned on David Byrne, so he’s had a big impact on me. “Heaven,” he says, “is a place where nothing ever happens.” Amen.
BEN’S FAVORITE BOWLING ALLEY: LUCKY STRIKE LANES, NEW YORK CITY
[Photo by Davis Factor]