Big Willie Style: The Red Headed Stranger at the Movies

Honeysuckle Rose

This weekend at the Woodlands comes one of the most prolific trios of artists to ever appear on the same bill. Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp converge on the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion for what looks to be one of those landmark shows people brag about catching, kind of like the Dylan/Paul Simon gig out there about a decade ago.

Nelson is so ingrained into the state psyche that if we ever decided to make our own musical Mount Rushmore in West Texas, he would be on it. Along with Frank, Billy and Dusty of course. And maybe Townes and Doug Sahm.

Between building a prodigious recording catalog, ranging from gritty country to, er, elevated reggae fusion, the Red Headed Stranger has been no stranger to the silver screen. The 76-year-old's music is a soundtrack staple, ranging from Bush-baiting Oliver Stone tale W. to the Oscar-winning bromance Brokeback Mountain.

The man has also had his time in front of the camera, mainly playing wise old men not unlike himself and stoner seniors also not unlike himself. Willie may not have much range, but it's always a treat to see him on the big or small screen. We're also pretty sure his on-set trailer is the coolest place to be on the planet. Probably just looking at it from afar would give you a contact high of the utmost order.

The Electric Horseman

In 1979's Robert Redford/Jane Fonda vehicle The Electric Horsemen, Nelson not only a small part in the film, but he also sang five songs on the soundtrack. His "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" played a pivotal part in the rodeo-romance flick.

The next year came the semi-biographical Honeysuckle Rose, which he starred in with Dyan Cannon as his wife. Nelson earned an Oscar nomination that year for "On the Road Again," featured on the soundtrack alongside lmost every bitchin' Willie song to date at the time.

Then of course came Red-Headed Stranger in 1986, with Nelson cast as the title character without one bit of irony. Like his landmark 1975 album, the flick saw Nelson as a preacher badass who was out for revenge. Kind of like a country Dirty Harry.

After a few appearances on various cheese-tastic television shows, like Miami Vice and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Nelson began steering away from dramatic roles and began to embrace his newfound freewheeling public persona onscreen.

In 1998's pot classic Half Baked, Nelson pretty much played himself as the "You Should Have Been There" smoker. The next year, during the closing scenes of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me he cameoed as his name was used a sight gag as Dr. Evil's phallic rocket flew through space.

Half Baked
In 2005, Nelson lucked into playing Uncle Jesse Duke in the remake of The Dukes Of Hazzard and in the sequel. It must have sucked being on set with fellow Texan Jessica Simpson at the height of her hotness, not to mention that red bikini she wore as Daisy Duke. Somehow, the old dog also lucked his way into playing Simpson's grandfather in her 2007 bomb Blonde Ambition.

We once saw the box for Nelson's film with Toby Keith, Beer For My Horses, at the video store but decided to rent Schindler's List again. We figured it would be a better time anyway. Last year he played "Farmer Bob" in the Matthew McConaughey documentary Surfer, Dude. Austin native McConaughey is also a well-known blazer, so we are sure the filming had a kind buzz.

Currently Nelson is working on vocal duties for an animated kids film called The Wild Bunch. Sadly, the film is not a child-friendly remake of epically violent western, but a tale of peace-loving wildflowers battling it out with evil genetically-modified cornstalks. Naturally, Nelson voices "Sage," which, if you read the herb's Wikipedia entry, makes perfect damn sense.

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