July 11, 2014 in Features

Levine draws on rock star life

Singer sees role in ‘Begin Again’ as start of acting career
Jake Coyle Associated Press
 

Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine plays Keira Knightley’s musician boyfriend in “Begin Again.”
(Full-size photo)

NEW YORK – Adam Levine knows pop stars-turned-actors are greeted suspiciously. And he’s hesitant to make any grandiose declarations about suddenly transforming into an actor. But he also can’t help himself.

Following his movie debut in “Begin Again,” the Maroon 5 frontman is exuberant about a potentially budding movie career.

“It really made me fall in love,” said Levine about “Begin Again” in a recent interview. “It’s the very beginning of something really cool.”

The transition is unusually seamless for Levine in “Begin Again,” a naturalistic indie about musicians in New York by “Once” director John Carney. Levine plays an aspiring musician, the boyfriend to a singer-songwriter played by Keira Knightley. But it’s his breakthrough that’s brought them to New York, and his fast-growing fame pulls the couple apart.

“I had been through that before, maybe not the same version,” said Levine of the tumult of sudden fame. “That’s what connected me to this guy. I immediately understood exactly what needed to be done with this character just based on my life’s experience.”

The 35-year-old Levine grew up in Los Angeles, so acting in movies was, he said, always “somewhere in the back of my mind.” Carney approached him about the film and Levine jumped at the chance, working for little pay.

“I knew that I would try doing it,” he said. “Because of the other wonderful things that have happened in my life and my career, I’d been given the opportunity to try it. I thought to myself, ‘Well, I’m going to try it. I’m not going to not try it.’ ”

Levine, of course, is familiar with working in front of the camera. Aside from music videos for Maroon 5 and a cameo on “30 Rock,” he’s been a judge on NBC’s “The Voice” since 2011. He also played an arc as a newlywed visiting an insane asylum on FX’s “American Horror Story” in 2012.

“He’s so confident and he’s such a natural entertainer and he’s very comfortable on camera because he does that show and he’s made lots of music videos,” said Knightley. “He kept claiming he didn’t know what he was doing, but it looked like he knew exactly what he was doing to me.”

Though “Begin Again” represents a more substantial shift into acting for Levine, he drew heavily from his day job.

In one of the film’s most moving scenes, Levine performs the original song “Lost Stars” while Knightley’s character looks on. The song, which Levine wrote with former New Radicals frontman Gregg Alexander, will be pushed for an Oscar by the film’s distributor, the Weinstein Co.

“Everything about the things that I experienced while making this movie just felt very real,” said Levine. “It never felt pretend. It always felt like we were making a documentary.”

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