Suck: A tribute to the brilliant acting career of Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson

Alex Lifeson as a US immigration officer
(Image credit: Capri Films)

If there's one downside to Alex Lifeson's accomplishments as a musician, it's that his onscreen career has not received the same degree of attention. Indeed, anyone lucky enough to have witnessed Closer To The Heart, the 2003 episode of Canadian comedy Trailer Park Boys in which the Rush guitarist, appearing as himself, is kidnapped, can attest to his ability. It was, more than any other, the role he was born to play.

Lifeson would go on to appear in the 2006 movie Trailer Park Boys: The Movie, starring as 'Cop #2', before narrating the 23-minute short Trailer Park Boys 101 the following year. In 2009 he played 'Undercover Prostitute #1' in Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day, and in 2017 he appeared as himself in the Netflix series Trailer Park Boys: Out of the Park: USA, assisting cast member Bubbles in recording a song entitled Who's Got Your Belly?. Most recently, he featured, once again as himself, in two episodes of the 2021 series Trailer Park Boys: Jail.

"It's fun to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation," Lifeson told the Globe & Mail [paywalled link] in 2018. "If you have a little bit of confidence and you just get out of your own way, these things can happen. The same thing happened when I got asked to do a small role in a TV show, Crawford, a new comedy on CBC from Mike Clattenburg, who created Trailer Park Boys.

"I thought I couldn't do it – that it was something for real actors. But I ended up doing a few episodes. It definitely was not in my comfort zone. But if you throw a challenge at yourself and dive into it, it can be really gratifying."

In Crawford Lifeson plays Taylor, a character described as "a little worse for wear, with an aura of fast-food grease about him". He appeared in three episodes, including one entitled I Can't Go To U2 Without You.

Trailer Park Boys and Crawford aren't Lifeson's only tastes of big-screen success. In 2011 he appeared in the award-winning film Ecstasy, based on Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh's book Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance. The story tells of a Scottish drug smuggler who develops a relationship with a Canadian girl, and Lifeson plays the part of pioneering psychiatrist Dr Figg, baffling global cinema audiences with an accent that bounces crazily from Scotland to Canada via somewhere that might once have been part of the Soviet Union. The potential, however, was obvious for everyone to see.

Lifeson also played a US immigration officer in the comedy/horror movie Suck, which tells the story of The Winners, a hapless rock group whose journey to stardom is interrupted by an encounter with a vampire. Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Henry Rollins and Moby also played cameo parts, so Lifeson must have felt at home, and this confidence is reflected in a brief but majestic performance. 

Most recently, in 2022, Lifeson appeared in the horror film The Breach. It's a movie that lists Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash as its executive producer, and tells the story of John Hawkins, Chief of Police in the tiny town of Lone Crow, Northern Ontario, whose last days in office are rudely interrupted when "a mangled body with uncanny wounds washes up on the shores of the Porcupine River." Lifeson plays the part of 'Alex', a conspiracy theorist, and received a rave review from film site Ravenous Monster.

"Lifeson’s appearance breaks up the monotony of the earliest investigation scenes and gives us something to think about as we wait for the chaos to unfold," they wrote. "Plus, Rush rules, so The Breach gets bonus points just for managing to sneak the legend in, even if only for a few moments."

"I was so scared when I watched, that I’ve only stopped crying now," said Lifeson. "And that was just the trailer!” [Which Lifeson appears in, at the 1'08" mark, below].

We wait with bated breath to see what he does next, but Hollywood must surely beckon. And when the inevitable Oscar arrives, you just know Lifeson's acceptance speech will be one for the ages. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.