BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. — Jon Bon Jovi may be a wizened elder of the rock scene, but when it comes to acting he says he feels 21 again.
"With acting, I've learned humility," says the budding thespian, his long, modish hair styling him every bit the rocker. "I'm learning a new craft. Now, I'm the supporting player," laughs the performer, who has fronted his eponymous pop/hard metal band for nearly 20 years.
Signed to Polygram/Mercury in 1983, Bon Jovi (n Bongiovi) cut gold and platinum albums throughout the 1980s and remained one of the few names from that decade to carry on successfully into the '90s. Acting came as a creative accident after he wrote a Grammy- and Oscar-nominated movie score for "Young Guns II" in 1990 and developed a casual interest.
But even with coaching and auditioning, it took another two years before the bug really bit. While it was an interesting avenue to explore, he says he developed a passion for the profession after he landed a role in the independent film "Moonlight and Valentino."
"I'm a creative person, and I need an outlet," Bon Jovi says. Acting is an adventure that offers new opportunities, not the least of which was how to identify the parts of a World War II submarine, the actor says. With his latest period epic, "U-571," he now has seven acting credits.
"Film is very different from the whole world of live-rock shows," Bon Jovi says. For starters, there are at least 100 people on the set, "and there's no band jet!"
Poking fun at the perks of his rock-world success, Bon Jovi says he doesn't mind starting over. "I have to audition like everyone else, and in my case, I've had to audition more often than not."
Even though the creative crossover is fairly well accepted these days (nobody blinks when Will Smith or Keanu Reeves do both, he points out), it's been a slow change of attitude. "But if another boy from Jersey, Frank Sinatra, could do it, why can't I?"
Married to his high school sweetheart, Dorothea Hurley, Bon Jovi says his success actually serves him well on a movie set. "I have all this experience," he says. On "U-571," a war epic cast with a slew of young performers, Bon Jovi saw his success in another field as an opportunity. "They can look at what I've done and settle down, you know?"
In truth, he's always remained a few engaging smiles short of the bad boy image of many rock performers. With his status as an minence grise of rock, an entirely separate and successful career that shadows him on any movie set, Bon Jovi relishes the opportunity to use his notoriety to make a good impression.
"It's good for the young guys on the set," he says, to see him work as hard as any bit player and ask for no special perks, regardless of the challenges.
Bon Jovi was remarkable for his lack of ego on the set of "U-571," confirms director Lawrence Mostow. The actor was so involved in the work, "half the people didn't even know who he was." Being able to work in smaller roles is good for Jon, Mr. Mostow says. "He's building an acting career slowly and from scratch."
Acting isn't the only possibility on his plate, Bon Jovi says. His next album comes out at the end of May, and he kicks off a promotional tour in the summer. Even there, he's exercising more control.
A homebody at heart, Bon Jovi says he can cut back the tour stops from 250 to 50 and leave time to be with his family and pursue other acting projects, such as a role in Mimi Leder's ("Deep Impact") coming film, "Pay it Forward."
But all that humility aside, the trials of starting a new career are not lost on the father of two young children.
The long hours in saltwater and rain spent perfecting a scene between two enemy subs in "U-571," took its toll on the whole cast. "I was out there rowing," Bon Jovi laughs, "and I was thinking, 'I'm already rich and famous. Why am I rowing this boat?' "
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society