Pop-rockís leading man Jon Bon Jovi talks to Emma Forrest about music, movies and the problems of being taken seriously.

Jon Bon Jovi made me Hoover. As he was coming over, I was going to make him do it. The last time we met, Jon, whoís 34 years old admitted he doesnít really know how to do anything by himself because heís so cosseted. Since Bon Joviís seminal bubblegum metal album Slippery When Wet made him a star, heís barely had to flick a light switch. Now that Bon Jovi have got rid of the eye-liner and big hair to become a more rootsy rock outfit, heís willing to learn. As a treat for him, finishing John Duiganís erotic thriller The Leading Man, filmed in London and starring Barry Humphries and Thandie Newton, I was going to let him have a go at my dusting. ďBut itís disrespectful!Ē cried my mother. ďHeís Italian!Ē and, although I was quite taken with the idea of Jon Bon Jovi taking one look at the ring around the bath tub and immediately calling in the Mafia to kill me. I decided to tidy up anyway.

GQ: Have you enjoyed living in London these past months?

JBJ: Iíve loved it. Living in a city gives you an electricity I canít find in New Jersey. Even in our Malibu home, Iím an hour out of Hollywood. Here, every night was something else - books, movies, culture. I would live here. But it still comes off as a small town compared to New York. The kids can walk to school and girls can walk through the park at night.

GQ: Were you here when Dunblane happened?

JBJ: Yeah. Words canít describe that. If that guy had killed my kids and lived, thereís no question I would have killed him. Thereís no question. I would be happy to go to jail for the rest of my life, knowing that I got to be the one to blow his head off.

GQ: I hear that since you appeared on TFI Friday, you have become best friends with Chris Evans. Say it ainít so, Joe.

JBJ: weíre not best friends. I met him. He was actually very nice.

GQ: But the week after, he was such a pig to Ticoís girlfriend [Wonderbra model Eva Herzigova]. She seemed really sweet and bright and he was just unbearable to her. He came over as really misogynistic.

JBJ: I heard that. I heard he was really mean to her. Apparently she flew in, got right off the plane, went there and he just slammed her. The week before we were having the best time in the world with the guy, so it was really strange. He was very humble with us. He told me quite intimate stories about himself, about how much he admires Letterman and Carson.

GQ: Big surprise.

JBJ: He just genuinely wants to be like them.

GQ: Are you a good actor?

JBJ: Iím much better in this new film that I was in Moonlight. But that was the best I could be at that time. Itís the same with the records. I canít listen to Fahrenheit. I think itís a piece of shit. But in January of 1985, thatís all I could do.

GQ: How would you feel if you got the critical respect for your acting that youíve never really had for your music?

JBJ: It could happen. And birds might fly out of my butt.

GQ: Charmed Iím sure. In Moonlight And Valentino, a female buddy flick, your character is the token male bimbo. Is that how you get treated in real life? Dumb sex symbol?

JBJ: I hate that whole sex symbol thing. [He absent-mindedly tugs at his T-shirt which has the slogan ĎHustlerí daubed across it]. I hate photo sessions, I hate videos, Iím not a model.

GQ: But Cindy Crawford is a model and she gets taken more seriously than you do.

JBJ: I canít think about it too much. I remember ten years ago when we were on the cover of Rolling Stone, the journalist just wanted to talk about my hair. It broke my heart. I wanted that record - because of itís enormous commercial success - to give us credibility. But it didnít. I was distraught at the time. But ten years down the road, I now know I wasnít just being cutesy. [He starts flicking through a collection of Allan Ginsbergís poetry].

GQ: Are you into the Beat writers?

JBJ: Yeah. I loved On The Road. Thatís the whole facade you adopt as a kid, when you pack a suitcase and you go to take on the world. We went to go pick a fight, to chase our heroes and to do what they did. Iím not fighting any more. Iím just being.

GQ: The Leading Man is an arty, left-of-centre film. Have you gone out of your way not to get into an ĎMTV Star In Action Flickí situation a la Cindy?

JBJ: The movies Iíve done are the kinds of things Iíd go to see. I donít get excited about the big action movies. Some guys do them great. Iíve been thinking a lot about Bruce Willis lately. Of the three action heroes - him, Arnie and Sly - he had the least going for him physically. Arnold is a superhuman; Rocky is superhuman.

GQ: And Bruce looks like Homer Simpson?

JBJ: Well, heís just a guyís guy. What he did with Die Hard was his superhuman stuff. But heís smart enough to take small roles in Nobodyís Fool and Pulp Fiction and not to have an attitude or an ego. He just does what interests him. On the back of Moonlight And Valentino Iím being offered all the romantic comedies and I just have no desire to do them.

GQ: How successful do you think Moonlight is?

JBJ: It definitely has holes in it. But, in my mind, the director will always be Francis Ford Coppola, because he gave me a shot. I have a stigma attached to me because Iím a rock Ďní roll star. They said, ďHe canít actĒ or ďHe only wants to do this because heís boredĒ.

GQ: Everyone knows that pop stars want to act and actors want to be pop stars. Do you rate Bruce Willis as a musician?

JBJ: I have to look at him as someone who just wants to broaden who he is. Like Keanu Reevesí band. Even though Iíve written a whole albumís worth of material, I canít just go and do another record. I just canít. Thatís what I do. I know how to do that. I need a challenge, I need something to get me off.

GQ: What was the last thing that did that for you?

JBJ: The band gets me off. But just selling out stadiums doesnít thrill me. Iím not a junkie for that.

GQ: Does it embarrass you?

JBJ: No. Because it means what we did wasnít in vain.

GQ: But there are only a handful of bands that can fill a stadium. Youíre one of a dying breed: the Stones, Madonna, Springsteen, REM, U2...

JBJ: Not even REM. We are in a very fortunate position.

GQ: Itís interesting that you have the same level of success as Bruce Springsteen despite the fact that, from day one, he was taken seriously and you werenít.

JBJ: I guess our commercial success came quicker than his.

GQ: OK. Quick-fire. Whatís better, Phil Spector or punk?

JBJ: For me, itís Phil Spector. I remember listening to punk in the basement with my friends. My friendís big brothers were way into it. I donít get Green Day at all. To me, thatís horse shit. Thatís pretend. This kid with the fake English accent. F**k Ďem.

GQ: Whatís the best film ever made?

JBJ: The Godfather.

GQ: Wrong. The Godfather II.

JBJ: OK. Those two. Theyíre the greatest films ever.

GQ: Any opinion of Oasis?

JBJ: Until they develop their own voice, I donít want to give the accolades that everybody else is laying on them. Their voice is still too Beatles. That whole ďf**k everybody, f**k everybody, f**k everybodyĒ. Iíve heard it before.

[I play the Oasis cover of the Beatlesí I Am The Walrus, but he remains unimpressed.]

GQ: Whatís wrong with them apeing the Beatles? If they can do it as well as the Beatles did, who cares?

JBJ: Make it your own. Make it your own! I still want to be Johnny Lyons from Southside Johnny. But Iím not gonna just imitate him. You have to have your own voice.

GQ: Thatís very grown up. Do you feel old?

JBJ: I feel comfortable. For the first time in my life I donít give a f**k. For the longest time, I didnít feel that. I remember sitting at dinner with Bruce [Springsteen] and saying: ďBut Bruce ... wrong!Ē and he said: ďNo, youíre f**king wrong.Ē a couple of years after that, we were together at Christmas and he had dinner at my house. He looked me in the eye and said; ďIíve never been so happy.Ē and heís putting out the Tom Joad album. I tell him all the time: ďPut the band back together.Ē The E Street band are my Beatles. Iíd love to see them be the old band again and to see him and Steven spitting on a microphone. Thatís why I did this. But I completely understand thatís not right for him now.

Jon has some work to finish before he heads back to New Jersey, so we arrange to meet again briefly at the Conrad Hotel at Londonís Chelsea Harbour. This place is also home to Princess Dianaís gym, although Jon claims he couldnít afford the membership. My immaculately tidy room is now a jumble of Tom Petty CDs and Leonard Cohen records left out of their covers. An overflowing ashtray is placed on a BB King autograph. Rock stars and their filthy ways.

Mind you, his room isnít much tidier. He has spent the afternoon poring over scripts and packing to leave. He plays me some Cranberries songs [awful] and the theme song heís written for The Leading Man [marvellous]. I move a script and a Donna Karan sweater out of the way and settle into a plush sofa.

GQ: How was your trip to Sicily?

JBJ: It was amazing. I went to trace my roots. I knew where my ancestors were from so I went there. I pulled off the exit and the first thing I saw was a sign that said ďBongiovi CeramicsĒ. It turned out that the guy wasnít related to me but he knew this guy who was. So I found him, this guy, Ignazio Bongiovi. I knocked on his door. It was that siesta time when nobody is nowhere, so I had to sit on the street for three hours and wait for him to come home. I was so anxious to see if he had the trademark Bongiovi nose - a dynasty of people with this nose that just goes from ear to ear. He did. So we figured out through a translator that my great grandfather and his brothers were Ignazioís grandfatherís first cousins. So weíre distant cousins. But his kid was my age and he really wanted us to be related.

GQ: Were they how you expected?

JBJ: Oh yeah. They were just like part of the old folklore that we were all fishermen. These guys are fishermen except, in the off season months, they have a lingery/perfumery shop. [He beams proudly]. So cool.

GQ: How Italian are you?

JBJ: Iím Italian in my heart and thatís about it. Iím as American as you can get. Really Iím a mutt. My mother is German and Russian and my father is Italian and Slovak. My name is Italian, thatís it.

GQ: If you could look like anyone, who would it be?

JBJ: I think Al Pacino is cool as f**k. And I think Rod Stewart has aged well.

GQ: What film would you most like to do now?

JBJ: I guess my ultimate film would be a cross between Angel Heart and Seven.

GQ: How old were you when you lost your virginity?

JBJ: Thirteen or fourteen. Weíd just experiment. Weíd take off all our clothes and just touch each other, like: ďWhat is that?Ē [He wriggles his index finger, his tongue hanging out of the corner of his mouth.] I remember always getting seduced by these older women. I remember a friendís mom just grabbed me in a garage one day.

GQ: Didnít it ever freak you out?

JBJ: Nah, it was cool. Iíd usually get a new jacket out of it.

(GQ, 1996)


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