When Guns N’ Roses Met ‘Dirty Harry’
The Dead Pool arrived to mixed reviews in 1988 as the final installment in Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry series.
Despite never reaching the acclaim of its predecessors, however, the movie is notable for one thing in the rock world: The Dead Pool brought Clint Eastwood, Liam Neeson and (a then-unknown) Jim Carrey together with Guns N' Roses. At the time, they were the biggest band on Earth.
Appetite for Destruction had only recently hurtled Guns N' Roses' from Hollywood clubs to worldwide superstardom. So, when Warner Bros. decided to integrate the world of rock stars and music videos into the storyline, they seemed like a natural point of reference. Filmmakers even incorporated Guns N' Roses' hit song "Welcome to the Jungle."
Some critics couldn't decide if it all worked. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times described The Dead Pool as "smart, quick, and made with real wit." On the other hand, Michael Willmington of the Los Angeles Times argued: "With its stylized story-line and almost styleless direction, it sometimes resembles a juggling act with sledgehammers."
Watch Jim Carrey in 'The Dead Pool'
Carrey, a Canadian actor/comedian who had only a few small movie credits to his name, was cast as drug-addicted rock singer Johnny Squares. Neeson played music-video director Peter Swan. Their characters become intertwined in a game where people bet on which celebrity will die next – unaware that the contest has been rigged by a serial killer.
Eastwood, returning as Inspector Harry Callahan, is assigned to the case. At this point in his career, the leather-faced star had more than 30 years of acting under his belt. The role of "Dirty Harry," however, had cemented his place as a cinematic icon. Everyone in the cast for The Dead Pool was in awe of Eastwood, including Guns N' Roses.
"He came up to us on the set, and the guy's like nine feet tall," Slash said on the 2016 interview disc Tales of Destruction. "Yeah, he's very intimidating. He walked up to us and said, 'Great album,' shook our hands and walked off. I didn't really know what to think of it, so I don't know what his trip is."
Other than providing inspiration and contributions to the soundtrack, Guns N' Roses' role in the film was small. The only time the entire band appears together is during a funeral, as they quietly pay respects to a rock n' roll comrade.
Watch Guns N' Roses in 'The Dead Pool'
"When we did this movie, The Dead Pool with Clint Eastwood – the Dirty Harry movie – well, the scene in the cemetery, there’s five of us," Adler said during a 2017 interview. "And then the next scene, you see Slash and Izzy (Stradlin) and Duff (McKagan) shooting a harpoon through a window of this boat. Well, the reason me and Axl weren’t there was because I met some stripper that night and she put this brown powder shit in my beer. And next thing I know, I woke up in a hospital, charcoal coming out of every hole in my body, and Axl was holding my hand crying. He thought that I was gonna die. So, he has my eternal love, always forever. But if you ever watch the movie, that’s why me and Axl aren’t in it.”
Despite an entertaining car chase and the aforementioned harpoon scene, The Dead Pool underwhelmed at the box office, becoming the least profitable entry in the Dirty Harry series. Still, the film will always hold a treasured place in pop culture thanks to its eclectic collection of stars.
The Dead Pool also may also have spawned a friendship or two. Carrey was in attendance when Rose, Slash and McKagan kicked off a partial Guns N' Roses reunion in 2016. Rose has also routinely played the theme from Gran Torino, another Eastwood film, during his live sets.
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