Elliott Smith in Film

Musician Elliott Smith has made an abundance of legendary contributions to cinema, both in his short lifetime (he passed away at the age of 34 in 2003) as well as posthumously. He is, arguably, the greatest singer-songwriter of his generation. In film, Smith is, perhaps, most well-known for his tracks on Gus Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting in 1997, namely, his Oscar-nominated “Miss Misery.” That song played over the oft-quoted “Had to see about a girl” scene. Although Smith lost to Céline Dion’s (of whom he used to do a spot-on impression) “My Heart Will Go On” at the Academy Awards, “Miss Misery” and Good Will Hunting launched him from indie musician to somewhere in between the stratospheres of successful and superstardom overnight.

The Nebraska-born, Texas-raised, Portland transport’s hauntingly graceful tracks have also been featured in several other prominent films and television shows, including many indelible scenes. His hollow, whispery voice, forever yearning for a different reality, remains a staple in film. If Van Sant hadn’t run out of music to listen to on a cross-country road trip and been forced to listen to discarded soundtrack music for To Die For, perhaps Smith’s brilliance wouldn’t have been exposed to the masses. And he wasn’t exactly the type of person capable of bearing the pressures of fame. He had enough demons, as it was. However, fame was inevitable for someone as talented as Smith. Alas, it’s a delicate, almost selfish relationship we, as fans and admirers, have with artists. They create. We consume, and consume, and consume. If their art is deemed mainstream, we become exponentially more voracious. Sometimes, it can destroy a person. Sometimes, it can enable their most dangerous temptations. Sometimes, it can awaken their most sinister demons.

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