He might not be part of the Hollywood glitterati like Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, or any of the other thespians and pretty people that choke the headlines with their antics, hijinks, and shenanigans, but Eugene Levy has carved out a varied and diverse body of work with moments of brilliance.
Younger moviegoers will know Levy as Jason Biggs’ father in the American Pie movies, while an earlier generation grew up watching him as a cast member of the classic SCTV series from the early ’80s (which also featured the talents of John Candy, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Rick Moranis, and others). He’s appeared in more than three dozen movies including Christopher Guest’s stellar mockumentaries, but there is one role that he was born to play…
Those of you who are under 45 or not from Western Pennsylvania might have collectively asked, “Who?”
Iris was the voice of the ’80s hit Ah Leah! – a thunderous slab of crunching guitar riffs and Iris’ otherworldly banshee wail as he yearned for his girl. It was probably his best known song, although he did manage a handful of other hits like Love Is Like A Rock, My Girl, Do You Compute? and Injured In The Game Of Love over the course of half a dozen or so albums in the ’80s .
Iris also performed the national anthem at the 2002 AFC title game before the Pittsburgh Steelers hosted the New England Patriots – he grew up in nearby Beaver Falls – and remains a local hero to this day in the region (apparently, he is now a mortgage broker).
If the past several years have shown anything – with the commercial and critical successes of music bio-pics like Ray and Walk The Line – it’s that Oscar voters love these films. Playing Donnie Iris would be the pinnacle of Levy’s career and most certainly get him some awards show hardware.
And Levy is particularly qualified for the role. SCTV featured some incredibly hip musical guests and Levy provided voices for several characters in the animated cult film Heavy Metal, which was driven by a rock soundtrack including Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath, and Cheap Trick. During the Live Aid/USA For Africa period, Levy was a vocalist on the Canadian offering for famine relief as a member of the all-star group Northern Lights on the song Tears Are Not Enough.
The man also did something that Iris never did in winning a Grammy Award for the song A Mighty Wind from the movie of the same name in which Levy brilliantly played an aging folk singer. Yes, all roads have lead Levy to this end.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s one more aspect that should not be overlooked. Eugene Levy looks so much like Donnie Iris that, in truth, it’s not inconceivable that they are indeed the same person. Consider the photographic evidence…
Yes, this one has Academy Award written all over it…
Donnie Iris – Agnes
Although Ah Leah! was the hit from Iris’ debut Back On The Streets, Agnes was also a worthy bit of ear candy with a more frenetic tempo and a lyrical tale of a bar romance gone bad which wouldn’t have been out of place on a Bruce Springsteen album.
Donnie Iris – Do You Compute?
Iris often infused his traditional-style of rock with hints of the New Wave trappings of the day and this track from 1983 put a technological spin on its lyric of unrequited love. And despite the musical heft, Iris’ powerful vocals still effortlessly pierce the surging keyboards and some searing guitar.