Sundance: Beastie Boys' Adam Horovitz on Why Acting Is "Better Than a Job"

Golden Exits Adam Horovitz Still - Publicity - H 2017
Sean Prince Williams

As he heads to the festival with two films — 'Golden Exits' and 'Roxanne Roxanne' — the former rapper talks about his first, "really bad" role three decades ago and why he's hoping to book more acting gigs.

Adam Horovitz may be best known as Beastie Boys member Ad-Rock, but since the band retired after the death of member Adam Yauch in 2012, he's quietly been stepping in front of the camera as an actor. After appearing in his friend Noah Baumbach's 2014 film While We're Young, he'll be seen in two indies at Sundance this year. He stars in Alex Ross Perry's Golden Exits as one half of a Brooklyn couple (opposite Chloe Sevigny) whose life comes unhinged after a foreign girl (Emily Browning) comes to visit, and he plays a lawyer in '80s biopic Roxanne Roxanne in a subtle nod to his iconic work in hip-hop during that era.

You're going to Sundance with a domestic drama called Golden Exits and a Roxanne Shante biopic, Roxanne Roxanne. Is acting something you've always wanted to do?

I was interested in acting in the '80s, but I thought I was really bad at it. I was in a movie called Lost Angels with Hugh Hudson, the Chariots of Fire director. That was really bad, the worst movie. It wasn't just my fault, it wasn't his fault, it was just f—ing everybody. You can point fingers, but it was the worst movie. It was an interesting lesson in how Hollywood works: The movie was supposed to be about rich kids getting sent away by their parents, but then because Colors was a really big movie at the time, they changed the script to be like, "Oh, they should be in gangs." It was awful.

What was shooting Golden Exits like? How was Alex Ross Perry as a director?

He's terrible. He's the worst. (Laughs.) Way too laid-back. There was no script supervisor, there were no little TV screens for people to watch what they were shooting. He was just sort of going on trust that we knew what we were doing. And that's great if it's Chloe Sevigny. But me? I don't know. He'd be way across the other room, and I'm a mumbler. So there's no way he could've heard what I said. I'm like, "You sure?" He's like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah." I was like, "Maybe let's do another one." He was like, "OK, I think we got it, but if you want to." I'm not supposed to be the one that says, "Let's do it again." It was similar [with Roxanne Roxanne director Michael Larnell]. He wasn't really watching monitors or any of that stuff.

Are you hoping to do more acting?

Yeah, it's fun — while it's happening. The waiting-around stuff is a drag. But, you know, it's better than a job.

Donald Trump's inauguration is during Sundance. How are you facing our political future?

This is no disrespect to this movie, but I was like, "Why am I going to Sundance on the day after this is happening? This movie has nothing to do with that. This movie has nothing to do with what potentially could happen to so many of us." But when it comes to things like arts funding for schools — I can't imagine that's a priority. I can't imagine that the Trump administration is going to foster any type of creative outlet for kids and future adults. So it is important for artists to congregate anywhere, really. But I should be doing something else. I don't know how much creative work I need to do, but I know that there's social work or actual help that I need to do in the world. There's people that are going to need f—ing help. I feel like homeless people, women's shelters, there's so many things that are just going be tossed aside, and so many people are going need help. I feel like it's important that we all pitch in.

What are you working on next?

I was working on some film score stuff, and I'm going to be doing that in the future. But I'm writing a book now. Me and [Beastie Boys member] Mike [D] are writing a book about our band.

When is that supposed to be done?

I think the deadline was a year and a half ago. So that's another reason why I don't know what the f— I'm doing. But it's Mike's fault. If you're going to write any of this down, you can write that it's Mike's fault. If there's a footnote anywhere: Blame Mike for most things.

A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.