From pill-popping teen to Confederate flag-wearing trash humper, we look back at the offbeat director’s most notable roles
It’s hard to believe that Harmony Korine, the oddball indie auteur who once made a movie about old people humping trash, would ever star in a drama alongside Al Pacino, one of the most revered actors of all time. But here we are. After a string of charismatic cameos and minor roles, Korine serves up his meatiest – and most hilarious – role to date, playing a portly pimp in David Gordon Green’s low-key drama, Manglehorn (2015).
Korine once said that when he watches movies the only things he really remembers are characters and specific scenes. Well, coming away from Manglehorn, that couldn’t be truer: it’s his character and his scenes that linger in the memory. With that in mind, we’re zooming in on Korine’s scattershot acting career thus far.
FIDGET IN KIDS (1995)
Like the majority of the cast in Kids, Korine, then 19, was a Washington Square Park skate rat – not an actor – discovered by photographer-turned-director Larry Clark. Clark commissioned Korine to write the script, and, inevitably, he bagged a little cameo too.
In the film, he plays bespectacled club kid Fidget, a hyperactive little guy who enters the frame as if he were a hipster version of Screech from Saved by the Bell. He looks about 12, with his backpack on, ambling through Manhattan’s Club Shelter with Chloë Sevigny’s Jenny. “Oh shit, I got something for you. It’s a present – it’s a pres, Jenny-Jen,” he says, twitching, bug-eyed. He hands her a pill. Korine has since said that he was stoned at the time – which would explain a lot. Watching it now, it’s hard to believe this is the same kid who penned this blistering movie.
BOY ON COUCH IN GUMMO (1998)
When he was 23, Korine again appeared briefly on the big screen – again off his face. This time it was in his own movie, Gummo. In it, he directs himself on a couch, pouring a bottle of beer over his head as he opens his heart to a black dwarf called Bryant. Korine explained in an interview why he needed to be wasted in real life for the scene to work: “In order to get to the place where I could be honest with my emotions, I needed to be in a certain state – and it’s hard to direct in that state!” In other words, the key to a great drunk scene is a drunken actor. Yeah, Harmony Korine knows method acting.
JERVE IN GOOD WILL HUNTING (1998)
Nestled among the greatest director cameos – Tim Burton in Cameron Crowe’s Singles (1992), Jim Jarmusch in Billy Bob Thornton’s Sling Blade (1996), etc – is Korine’s hilarious 30-second appearance in Gus Van Sant’s Oscar winner. His role? Jerve, a disheveled convict who’s swiftly ushered past fellow inmate Matt Damon while rudely interrupting his phone conversation to offer him some ass: “Wassup, baby? Do you want some of that ass? Wassup, bitch?” With his strange eyebrow plaster (is it an eyebrow plaster?), his orange prison garb and his convict swagger, Korine overshadows the rest of the cast in a matter of seconds.
GUY IN CLUB IN LAST DAYS (2005)
Joining forces with director Gus Van Sant for a second time in the film that chronicles Kurt Cobain’s Last Days, Korine delivers another curious, minute-long performance; only this time you won’t be able to make out anything he says. Korine bumps into the laconic grunge star at a noisy gig. Cobain says nothing; Korine does all the talking as usual. We barely hear a word of what’s said – because, hey, it’s a gig and this is a realistic film – but Cobain is clearly unimpressed and shuffles off without a word. Notably, although Korine is playing yet another motormouth, it’s the first film in which the director/actor hasn’t appeared totally wasted. Which is not exactly something you can say about his subsequent role.
HERVE IN TRASH HUMPERS (2009)
In what’s probably Korine’s most batshit crazy film, the director dishes up a suitably zany performance as Hervé, one of the titular trash humpers in this lo-fi pseudo-documentary. He is, like the rest of his cast, made up to look way older than he is (think Johnny Knoxville in Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, 2013); he sports a jumper emblazoned with the Confederate flag, and, in his southern twang, squawks: “Make it, make it, don’t take it, make it, make it, don't fake it.” Another eye-popping role for his CV, if not much else.
MR. FELDMAN IN STOKER (2013)
In Park Chan-wook’s English-language debut, Korine appears fleetingly as art teacher Mr Feldman. It’s a slightly more conservative role than we’re used to seeing him in, sure, but it’s not that unlikely – he is a painter in real life, after all, and he also grew up in Nashville, where the film was shot. Either way, it’s another great blink-or-you’ll-miss-it cameo that completely contrasts with his following role...
GARY IN MANGLEHORN (2015)
Korine’s latest acting role is his most demanding yet. It’s also his best – and not just because we get to see him knocked out by Al Pacino. Employing his beloved southern accent yet again, Korine plays a plump pimp called Gary, who, in an unforgettable scene, sorely misunderstands his old high school coach (Pacino’s forlorn Manglehorn). “I thought you wanted a massage, coach,” says Korine, seconds before Pacino’s fist lands squarely on his nose.
It’s hard to imagine that playing a southern pimp was anything but second nature to Korine – especially after seeing the slew of Spring Breakers (2013) promotional shots of the director with his scantily clad cast. Presumably, with this role being his juiciest, Korine the Serious Actor has a lot more to offer.