25 Years Ago: Mick Jagger Returns to the Movies in ‘Freejack’
After Mick Jagger starred in two movies in 1970 – Ned Kelly and Performance – plenty of Rolling Stones fans thought the rock legend would become a fixture on the silver screen. But the singer wouldn’t make another high-profile feature film appearance until more than two decades later, when he showed up as a villain in Freejack, released on Jan. 17, 1992.
It’s not as if Jagger abandoned acting ambitions in the ensuing years. He popped up in the occasional British and American television production, and made an effort to be part of a couple of movie projects that failed to work out (his part in Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo was cut when the film was recast, while an adaptation of Vladimir Nabakov’s Laughter in the Dark fell apart before shooting began).
But it was relatively big news to MTV, Entertainment Tonight and Rolling Stone when Jagger signed on to play dastardly Victor Vacendak in the science-fiction film Freejack. The singer earned second billing in the movie – behind star Emilio Estevez – but above Rene Russo, Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Banks (the future Mike Ehrmantraut to Breaking Bad fans).
Directed by Young Guns II helmer Geoff Murphy, Freejack was shot primarily in Atlanta over a few months in 1991 that followed the end of a Stones tour and preceded sessions for Jagger’s next solo record. In fact, the scheduling convenience was a big factor in Jagger joining the movie.
“Right now I’m working on a solo album project, just before that started they said, ‘Would you like to do this feature?’ I said, ‘Let me see’,” Jagger told Entertainment Tonight at the time. “And they said, ‘Well, we’ve got to know by next week, because it starts shooting in three weeks.’ So I said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it.’ [If I’d had] six months to think about it, I probably would have turned it down, and said, ‘Oh no, it’s not quite the one I want’.”
Because of how Freejack, which was plagued by reshoots, turned out, perhaps Jagger wish he had opted out. Based on only the basic concept of a 1959 novel titled Immortality, Inc., the movie mostly takes place in a polluted vision of 2009 in which a massive corporation is powerful enough to harvest unpolluted bodies from the past. Estevez plays race-car driver Alex Furlong, transported into the future as a surrogate human by “bonejacker” Vacendak (Jagger), who chases his prey for the majority of the film.
Jagger isn't the only rocker in the movie, which also features once-and-future New York Doll David Johansen – although the two don’t share any scenes together. However, the pair received much of Freejack’s (rather scant) praise, simply because they were among the only actors enjoying themselves amid the future schlock that mimicked Blade Runner and Escape From New York. Riding a tank while wearing a dopey crash helmet, Jagger utters B-movie declarations such as “Let’s do It!” and “Get the meat!” with a smirk embedded in nastiness.
“Mr. Jagger, managing to combine a sneer and a monotone, and revealing only the occasional flash of humor, is fun to watch but lucky to have other employment,” wrote film critic Janet Maslin in The New York Times.
Director Murphy eventually returned to his native New Zealand to work as a second-unit man on the Lord of the Rings movies, and his pseudo-cult flick is mostly remembered for Jagger’s wonky role. That’s certainly justified, given that Freejack brought Jagger back to the movie world, an industry he’s continued to work in.
“I’d like to do one movie every year. I’m quite serious about acting,” Jagger said before the 1992 film premiered. “I’d also like to start writing pictures, and I’d like to start producing. I should really initiate projects rather than just accept them. ... I like producing things.”
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