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Joel David Moore on becoming Joey Ramone in 'CBGB'

"Avatar" actor Joel David Moore talks about how he became Joey Ramone in "CBGB" and how social media has changed how we see bands.

Joel David Moore does his best Joey Ramone in the biopic "CBGB." Credit: Getty Images Joel David Moore does his best Joey Ramone in the biopic "CBGB."
Credit: Getty Images

Hiding under a huge wig, dark sunglasses and a leather jacket, Joel David Moore — of "Dodgeball" and "Avatar" fame — gets in touch with his own skate-punk roots to play Joey Ramone in "CBGB," a film tribute to the NYC rock club's genesis. The role called for a lot of reminiscing — and a lot of thought about how much times have changed.

How much of getting Joey right was just about the look?
That was a big, giant part of it. I had a lot of valuable resources to look at. You don't get to meet Joey, because obviously he's dead, but you have the entire public awareness of him. There was no casual arrogance with Joey Ramone. He was a very, very smart guy but there were some social patterns that were… different. He was a little tucked in, and I think that was what I was really going for. When you see him on stage, he becomes a little bit of a rock star but he's really just getting up there and tapping his head and singing his song and done.

What's the most punk rock thing you've ever done?
How punk rock? I mean, I've jumped out of a plane. That's pretty badass. But punk rock? When I was a kid in Oregon I ended up doing such dumb things. Like a friend of mine wanted to sell me a car — this is terrible — and I knew it was stolen. I was probably 16 and he was 14. I got in and there was a f—ing screwdriver in the ignition. And he was like, "Give me $200 for this." I was like, "I'm 16, where am I going to get $200?" And he goes, "Okay, give me, like, 20 for it." I was like, "Dude, this is totally stolen." But because we're in this rebel mode of our lives, whether it's rebelling against our parents or rebelling against society or whatever, I was like, "F— it," and I took the car and we drove around all night. If I'd gotten pulled over I would've been arrested. There was no version of me going, "Oh no, my buddy gave me the car and he said just take it."

Do you think a movement like this could happen again, given how culture and communication have changed?
Not in the same way. I think the punk movement was a movement of a bunch of people, and social media allows for movement of certain people. Justin Bieber blew up from social media. He blew up from the YouTube generation and then somebody getting him onto a social media platform and now he has 45 million followers. He can do what he wants. It's switched places. Back then it was a grassroots movement of people, and now it's movements or persons, one person at a time getting famous.

And that's mostly due to social media?
Social media has made us more aware but dumber because we're getting pieces of information. Back in the day if you wanted to go to CBGB you'd see a bunch of different bands. Now you're just following one person and his tour around America or what he's doing or what he wore or if she shaved her head. It's so easy to just click in for just a second and then come out. Every time something happens in Syria we can go onto Twitter and find out from the news sources we're following, but we're just clicking in for a second. Back in the day you had to read a two-page article on what is happening in Syria, the history of it and why they're in this mess. Now I can tell you, "Oh man, 47 people just died in Syria." Why? "Oh, I don't know, I didn't read why. I'm just giving you the news blip of what's going on."

 
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