Sure, most people are familiar with Dwight Yoakam. Popular music fans probably know more than a thing or two about the man known as The King of Country Cool, too.
You might not be entirely surprised to know, for instance, that he’s sold more than 30 million of his brilliant guitar-heavy and vocal-cracking records, and has recorded over 20 albums – 12 of which went gold, 9 platinum, and 5 were Billboard #1’s, including 1993’s triple-platinum This Time.
It’s likely you’re aware that with a career spanning old-time Buck Owens Bakersfield to modern honky-tonk and popular country, he’s easily one of the most influential artists ever in country-rock, and that despite being active in the industry now 50-plus years he’s still distinctively twisting his spindly legs in what are surely the skinniest jeans in Nashville. Plus, that as a gifted and prolific songwriter, painting moods of twangy despair, he’s responsible for some remarkably evocative lyrical lines, such as these:
I’m a thousand miles from nowhere / Time don’t matter to me
‘Cause I’m a thousand miles from nowhere / And there’s no place I want to be
Maybe you know that he dated Sharon Stone in 1992 (which, notably, was the year of Basic Instinct). Or that he’s the most frequent musical guest ever in the history of The Tonight Show. Or even that notwithstanding him being practically synonymous with cowboy hats and chic country music since 1980 that he was actually raised in Columbus, Ohio.
But what I do wonder is if many people realize that country kahuna Dwight Yoakam has also had some pretty eclectic appearances in films, including the two we’re going to mention here: as the loathsome, abusive alcoholic opposite Billy Bob Thornton in Slingblade; and, in the wacky scene that prefaces the opening credits in Wedding Crashers, as one half of a befuddled divorcing couple overwhelmed by the unhinged rantings of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in their peculiar attempts at mediation.
Let’s start with Wedding Crashers, three minutes of lunacy in which Yoakam deftly delivers the classy line, “Hey, I got an idea, why don’t you just kiss my left nut”; takes in stride his disoriented soon-to-be ex-wife¹ shouting “You shut your mouth when you’re talking to me!”; and closes out the scene with a simple request of Vaughan and Wilson, “Could you two just not talk anymore.” That son of a bitch has comic tone and timing. And, as much as I’ll always wonder “Why Dwight Yoakam?” for this crackpot cameo, it sure seems like he nailed it.
Nearly a decade earlier, Yoakam had a very different as well as a co-starring role in Thornton’s dark drama Slingblade. He’s a snide, despicable character (and gets what’s coming to him in the end). With no prior acting roles, one must again wonder what could’ve possibly led to his casting. But regardless, the fact that the film worked so well as a parable of good and evil is at least partly testament to Yoakam’s serious acting chops.
So, notwithstanding his now demonstrated cinematic flair, let’s finish with something to more appropriately exhibit the role Dwight Yoakam was truly born for: country music superstar.² Here’s the biggest hit from the aforementioned smash album This Time, the foot-stomping ‘Fast As You.’ In it, Yoakam has got one pointy boot firmly planted in old-school country and the other gyrating in ass-kicking rock. Peering out from under his Stetson, well, the fact is he’s just cool as hell. And that’s no act.
¹Played by Rebecca De Mornay, young suburban hooker and object of Tom Cruise’s affections in Risky Business
²Real country music, that is, and not the insufferable dross of the auto-tuned, country hip-hop crap that makes up current pop country radio. Sorry for the outburst. But Saving Country Music, you know what I mean.