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Ex-punk musician identifies with film

by DAN LYBARGER Special to the Democrat-Gazette | April 17, 2015 at 1:48 a.m.

"I'd love to go Hollywood. I need to exercise more, focus on my center, work on my core. I need to get grounded," says former Beastie Boy Adam "King Ad-Rock" Horovitz. "You know what I'm saying?"

Before it was time to worry if the rapper/punk musician had abandoned all of the edgy material he used to record, he quickly added, "I was being sarcastic that entire time, just so you know. Just go with the fact that I'm usually being sarcastic. I'm from Manhattan."

From spending half an hour with him over the phone, it was oddly reassuring that the man who once told the young of America to fight for their right to party and who reminded us that everyone knows it's sabotage hasn't lost the biting humor that has made vintage Beastie Boy albums like Paul's Boutique and Ill Communication worth listening to more than two decades later.

Nonetheless, just as he and the Beasties switched genres and even art forms the way most of us switch clothing, Horovitz is getting rave reviews for playing a new dad in writer-director Noah Baumbach's new dramedy While We're Young.

He plays Fletcher, the best friend of Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts), a couple who have reached their mid-40s and now feel out of place by having a sketchy career path and no children. In real life, Horovitz says that he identifies more closely with Stiller's and Watts' roles than his own.

"My wife and I know tons of people like that because I'm 48 years old. For years, our friends were like those people [Fletcher and Marina, played by Maria Dizzia]. It was like, 'Yeah, it's fun hanging out, but we're real members of society, and you're not. But it's cool,'" he says.

Baumbach called on the moonlighting musician (who now plays bass with singer Bridget Everett) to do more than simply be the "hip" friend of the film's leading man. For example, he had to express convincing frustrations about parenting.

"That's what I thought was going to happen," Horovitz says. "We were having drinks one night, and Noah [Baumbach] asked me if I wanted a part in a movie. I said yes. I read the script, and it was insane. Oh, this is something an actor would do.

"We're friendly. He's friends with my sister. That was one thing. I wasn't just a stranger to him. We'd known each other for a year; not close, but we were friends. I think from hanging out with me, he saw something in me that showed I was up to the task. I don't know. I've never actually asked him. I would have assumed an actual actor would have done a great job."

When asked if it was challenging to hold a baby who wasn't his own relative, he quickly retorted, "I'm an enthusiast with children. Let's just get this out of the way."

Not the Same Old Song

Horovitz is no stranger to on-camera roles. He starred in Lost Angels (1989) and Roadside Prophets and even appeared in episodes of The Equalizer and Inside Amy Schumer. He and the other Beastie Boys were a fixture on MTV despite the fact that they didn't seem as camera ready as, say, Duran Duran.

"It's an inner beauty. It's an inner hunk that people see," he quips. "I'm more comfortable in front of it than I am behind it. It's less work. I was making a documentary a few years ago with a friend, and it was too much work, so we stopped doing it. Directing movies and things is a lot of work. You've got to be like the coach of a whole team. I'm a selfish person, so that's probably what it is. I'm more concerned with me than other people."

Actually, that may not be true. In Sini Anderson's documentary The Punk Singer, Horovitz is seen helping his wife, Bikini Kill and Le Tigre singer Kathleen Hanna, deal with graphic complications from Lyme disease. In the film, Horovitz administers a dose of her meds to relieve her suffering.

"Kathleen has been battling Lyme disease for years, and it was important for making the movie to share what she's been going through, what we've been going through, with other people who are struggling with it," he says. "It's like an epidemic. Millions of people have Lyme disease or undiagnosed Lyme disease. Every single person feels alone, so she wanted other people to know that they're not alone, so I'm just there for her."

He Can't Stop

Seeing the man who used to celebrate having a girl to do his laundry on License to Ill now behaving like a responsible adult is one of the more heartening aspects of watching The Punk Singer, but Horovitz says getting older and changing with the times is not only unavoidable: It can be preferable.

Unlike the 70-something George Clinton who still wants to make music that frightens parents, Horovitz has a more nuanced attitude toward his work.

"I don't know if it was subversive. It's a hard call when you're a teenager or in your early 20s and you make this music," you don't care about anything, he muses.

"And then you get to be thirty-something, mid-30s and in your 40s, and you're still making music, it's coming from a different place. And you can't say, 'I want to upset parents because some friends of mine are parents. So, it's a hard call. Luckily, most of us aren't the same person we were when we're 20. Nobody wants that. The world would be so much more [screwed] up if everybody was like the way they were when they were age 20."

MovieStyle on 04/17/2015

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