Six Ways of Looking at 'Seven Psychopaths' Actor Tom Waits

The musician has put in 34 years of cameos, edge-of-frame color and raspy voice work

Accessories and affects: hat, cane, monotone, eye contact, soul patch.

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An amalgam of all of the above, Waits' best role has always been that of Tom Waits. Sift through his '70s chat-show appearances and watch the shtick take shape: He's an impish riddle eager both to confound and please. Far from a cynical put-on, Waits has proved an amenable, durable construct, never more amusing than when turned back on itself (as in Coffee and Cigarettes). It's doubtful Waits will ever top his pseudo-candid performance on Fishing With John, the short-lived fishing-expedition show dreamed up by fellow Jarmusch alum John Lurie. Rather than pawning off his persona to Hollywood, here he's making his own mischief—shoving fish down his pants for easy laughs and improvising songs that are sorta brilliant, totally dumb and unmistakably Waits.

Time waits for no man
Chuck Zlotnick
Time waits for no man


Seven Psychopaths was written and directed by Martin McDonagh; and stars Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish and Tom Waits. Rated R. Click here for show times and theaters.

CLICK HERE to read Alan Scherstuhl's review of Seven Psychopaths.

Accessories and affects: cool, clowning, all of the above.

This article appeared in print as "Waits Variations: Six ways of looking at Tom Waits, character actor."

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