Cannes: Norah Jones, the latest in a long line of pop singers seeking movie stardom, is a reluctant actress but that doesn’t mean that cynical film critics here are in a mood to show her any leniency.
By her own admission, she would never have taken the plunge into acting but for cult director Wong Kar Wai insisting that she was just right for the role of the protagonist, Elizabeth, in his new film, My Blueberry Nights.
“I did not ever plan to be an actress,” says Jones, the daughter of renowned Indian musician Ravi Shankar. “It was Wong Kar Wai who knocked on my door. I thought he wanted me to do some music for his film. So I went and had lunch with him. Thats when he popped the question: do you want to play Lizzie?”
Jones wasn’t familiar with Wong Kar Wai’s work until then. She saw In the Mood for Love. And that settled it for her.
“It was the most amazing film I had ever seen,” she says. “I would not have jumped in if it hadnt been Wong Kar Wai. I don’t regret the decision one bit.”
Why would she? Jones was the toast of Cannes on the opening night of the 60th edition of the worlds premier film festival as she walked up the mythical red carpet alongside her director and co-star Jude Law.
As for the quality of her on-screen performance, the jury is still out. On the face of it, she has done a decent enough job. But My Blueberry Nights is a Wong Kar Wai film and she will be assessed against such actresses as Maggie Cheung and Gong Li.
The danger of Jones coming up short is real.
The last time a pop singer launched her acting career on the Croisette - Bjork in Lars von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark” in 2000 — the director walked away with the coveted Palme d’Or.
Will Jones bring similar luck to Wong Kar Wai, who is yet to win Cannes top prize?
However, barring that one positive precedent that Jones can fall back on, pop divas-turned-movie actresses have had a rather rough time in recent years. Since the 1980s, after Desperately Seeking Susan, every attempt that Madonna has made to resurrect her acting career has come horribly unstuck, none more so than 2000’s Swept Away, directed by her hubby Guy Ritchie.
Beyonce nurtured Oscar dreams for her performance in Dreamgirls, but it was newcomer Jennifer Hudson who took the statuette from under her nose.
Mariah Carey fared much worse. She was such an unmitigated disaster in Glitter (2001) that she won a worst actress Razzie.
Pop music fans have since been subjected to equally horrendous on-screen “star” turns by the likes of Britney Spears (as a wayward college kid in Crossroads) and Jessica Simpson (in The Dukes of Hazzard).
One can almost sense the critical knives being unsheathed for Norah Jones.