October promises to be a big month for Billie Joe Armstrong. Last week saw the release of ‘Revolution Radio’, Green Day’s first album in four years and a barnstorming return to form, while this week, you’ll find him starring in Ordinary World, writer-director Lee Kirk’s heartwarming comedy about a former punk musician turned suburban house-husband, who uses the occasion of his 40th birthday to host a blowout party in the presidential suite of a swanky Manhattan hotel. NME caught up with the Green Day frontman to talk acting, guerrilla filmmaking and the existential dangers of Donald Trump…
Ordinary World isn’t your first acting role, but movies are a fairly new thing for you. Did the American Idiot musical give you a taste for it?
Yeah, the American Idiot musical was really the thing that gave me the bug to give acting a shot, and I had a lot of off-time with Green Day, so I figured, why not do it if something comes along? Then Ordinary World came along, and it seemed like the perfect role to sink my teeth into.
You’re in almost every scene in Ordinary World, and the film stands or falls on your performance. It must have been nerve-wracking, to be so far outside your comfort zone, with so much depending on you…
Sure. Leading up to it, there were times when I was like, ‘God, I hope I don’t destroy this guy’s precious script!’ But I worked closely with [writer and director] Lee Kirk a lot before we started shooting, and we fleshed out the character together, to get into it as much as I could. And after a couple of days, it felt really good. The part that I actually related to most was the whole independent spirit the movie was made in – it was a guerrilla style of filming, and I was sleeping in churches in-between takes. It was fun.
There are a lot of similarities between yourself and Perry – his life almost seems like the one you could have led, if things had turned out differently.
Yeah, there are definitely a lot of comparisons there. I mean, I’m a pretty clumsy parent when I’m at home anyway, so I kind of understood where Perry was coming from when he was hanging out with the ‘Dads Group’ and all that. I’ve been in that situation where you’re pretty sure that you’re the only one of the dads at school who owns a Clash record…
One of the big themes of the film is putting your responsibilities as a parent above personal ambition, and like Perry, you also had kids when you were pretty young – how did that affect your own life at the time, when Green Day were starting to really take off?
A lot! You know, rock ’n’ roll is kind of a night-time sport, whereas being a parent is a morning sport, so one of the hardest things for me was having to get up early, whether I liked it or not. I was sleepwalking through a lot of responsibilities back then. I could definitely relate to that in Perry.
You play musicians in in both Ordinary World and in your first movie, Like Sunday, Like Rain – are you looking to test your range in the future?
Yeah, I definitely want to learn as I go along. I felt more at home with Ordinary World, because this was an independent film and not some big Hollywood picture, and I felt closer to it for that reason. So if I have a choice in the matter, I’d like to go slowly with acting, do some fun things, and then maybe, eventually, get to a place where I can take on bolder roles. But I’d definitely love to keep doing it.
What sort of roles do you typically get offered?
I get sent stuff here and there, although I think it probably has to go through a whole series of rejections before it gets to me! Thinking about the stuff that I’ve done in the past, I’ve been a riverboat gambler, I’ve been a junkie, I’ve been a drug-addicted ex-boyfriend, a drug-dealer… and now a dad! So maybe next time I’ll be a drug-dealing stay-home sitcom father…
Is the American Idiot movie still on the cards? And will you be reprising your Broadway role as St. Jimmy?
That’s the plan right now, yeah. We’ve got a green light from HBO, and the script is currently going through a couple of rewrites here and there, so I’m not sure when exactly we’re going to start shooting, but it’s definitely all systems go at the moment.
Green Day have just announced a massive BST Hyde Park show for next summer – are you excited to be playing in the UK again?
Really excited. Hyde Park is going to be spectacular.
How are you finding life on the road, now that you’re sober?
I’ve been sober for over four years now, so I guess I’m pretty used to it by now. Wherever we are, I’ll just go walk around, maybe check out some of the museums, see the sights. And I put a lot into playing live. I’ve always loved playing live – it’s the most intoxicating thing I can think of.
Speaking of performances, what did you make of Donald Trump’s at the presidential debate last week?
I mean, if you wanna call that a performance… I don’t even know what that was. Donald Trump is everything that’s evil about America. He’s turned the Republican party into the white supremacist party. If I could be so honest, I don’t think of Trump as a choice, I think of him as a danger to the entire world.