Michael Peter Balzary is better known to the world as Flea, who of course plays in the hugely successful band Red Hot Chili Peppers. He’s arguably one of the best bass players around, but did you know that he’s also pretty clever when it comes to movie cameos? Since 1983, Flea has appeared in more than 20 films. In an interview with Rolling Stone he said, “I just lucked into this weird, little obscure cameoesque film career. I just love being a part of film history.” Here’s a look at ten classic Flea movie cameos.
10. Floyd – The Blue Iguana (1988)
Okay, Flea, we forgive you for this one. The 1988 comedy crime caper The Blue Iguana stars Dylan McDermott as bounty hunter Vince Holloway, who’s blackmailed by two psychotic tax collectors. In an epically scathing review, film critic Roger Ebert wrote, “I have no idea why this movie was made. I have no notions of what the actors in it thought they were doing. I have no clues as to whether the writer-director, John Lafia, thought it was funny. I do not know why Paramount released it.” Flea appears as an overexcited henchman named Floyd – in a movie that’s not that amazing.
9. Tattoo Artist – Son In Law (1993)
In wacky 1993 Pauly Shore comedy Son In Law (directed by Steve Rash), Carla Gugino plays country bumpkin “Becca” Warner, who moves from South Dakota to attend college in Los Angeles. She soon makes friends with California slacker “Crawl” (played by Shore) and takes him back home for Thanksgiving to meet her family. Flea, in an uncredited cameo, appears as a tank top-wearing tattoo artist who doesn’t do much other than give menacing stares. He also gives Becca a tattoo of a butterfly on her ankle and delivers the memorable line, “You pick it, I stick it.” It’s not the best look for Flea, but it’s still a solid cameo. Who else wanted to see Pauly Shore stranded in California and Flea taken to the Midwest in his place?
8. Dale – The Chase (1994)
Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis appears alongside Flea in 1994 action comedy The Chase, starring Charlie Sheen (and directed by Adam Rifkin). Charged with a crime he didn’t commit, a desperate Jackson Hammond (Charlie Sheen) kidnaps wealthy California socialite Natalie Voss (played by Kristy Swanson) and hits the road. In the movie, the Red Hot Chili Peppers duo drive a Ford Bronco and attempt to run the fugitive Hammond off the road. The best part of this cameo role is Flea boasting about scaring the suspects.
“It’s the only time we’ve done something like that outside of TV interviews or something,” said Flea in an interview with Rolling Stone. “It was fun to work with him [Kiedis] and create these weird, little redneck characters and just drive around.” The Chase was released just a few months prior to the infamous real-life O.J. Simpson Bronco chase.
7. Bob Summerfield – Psycho (1998)
Director Gus Van Sant’s 1998 remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s landmark 1960 thriller Psycho was a complete disaster, but you can’t blame Flea for accepting the role, after the success of Van Sant’s brilliant 1997 film Good Will Hunting. In Psycho, Flea plays Sam Loomis’ employee Bob Summerfield, who’s asked to take off for lunch but replies, “Er… that’s okay, I brought it with.” The original Bob Summerfield was played by a smartly dressed Frank Killmond, but Flea gave the character a modern look with a buzz cut and a classic V-neck.
6. Budd – My Own Private Idaho (1991)
Seven years before Gus Van Sant’s Psycho disaster, Flea appeared in another Van Sant film, the critically acclaimed 1991 dramaMy Own Private Idaho. Flea plays Budd, loyal manservant to mentor Bob Pigeon (played by William Richert), and the Chili Peppers bassist definitely holds his own alongside the bigger acting names around him. The movie, which is vaguely based on Shakespeare’s Henry IV and Henry V, stars Keanu Reeves and the late River Phoenix as drifter hustler buddies looking for inner truth. Rob Humanick of Slant Magazine wrote, “My Own Private Idaho might be the perfect cinematic time capsule for ‘90s aimlessness, universal in its details.” Interestingly, while shooting the film, Flea and some of the main cast members partied so hard that Van Sant was forced to flee his own home – where they were staying – to get some shuteye.
5. Himself – Thrashin’ (1986)
Flea and the rest of the Red Hot Chili Peppers make an explosive cameo as themselves in 1986 cult skateboarding drama Thrashin’, starring a teenage Josh Brolin as lead character Cory Webster (and directed by David Winters). The band performs “Blackeyed Blonde” from their 1985 album Freaky Styley, injecting the movie with a bit of psychedelic funk. Flea’s performance has to be seen to be believed – and he plays a classic ’51 Fender Precision bass. Director David Winters’ first choice for the lead role was Johnny Depp, but he was eventually replaced by Brolin. Oh, and legendary skaters Tony Alva, Tony Hawk, Christian Hosoi and Steve Caballero all make appearances.
4. Razzle – Suburbia (1984)
Suburbia, the 1984 movie directed by Penelope Spheeris, may not be visually inspiring by modern standards, but it’s still a relevant and memorable piece of work that documents the punk youth of 1980s America. Flea belongs to a group of outsiders who call themselves “T.R.,” or “The Rejected,” with a particularly memorable part of his performance involving him shoving a rat in his mouth. Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club remarked that the film “shows enormous empathy and sensitivity in capturing the angst and alienation of American youth, making it seem both rooted in a specific time and place and strangely timeless.”
3. Hippie – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Terry Gilliam’s adaptation of brilliant 1971 Hunter S. Thompson novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was something of a calamity at the box office, but it’s gone on to achieve cult status. The story follows bizarre journalist Raoul Duke (played by Johnny Depp) and his psychotic lawyer Dr. Gonzo (Benicio del Toro). At one point in the film, substance-chomping Duke recalls an acid trip from the late ‘60s in which a hippie (played by Flea) licks LSD from the sleeve of his “red woolen” shirt. It’s a brief yet spectacular cameo that may mess with your head if you’re not in the right state of mind. The long hair is a different look for Flea, and his LSD-induced movements are hysterical.
2. Nihilist #2 (Kieffer) – The Big Lebowski (1998)
Flea takes a bowling ball to the gut in this classic 1998 comedy from the Coen brothers. In one of his larger cameo roles, the actor-musician players Kieffer, one of a group of three German nihilists hoping to get a piece of the Big Lebowski’s money. Along with his fellow conspirators, Flea’s character was also in a band called Autobahn – a direct reference to the hit 1974 album Autobahn by German band Kraftwerk, who played clubs with the Red Hot Chili Peppers back in the ‘80s.
In an interview with Rolling Stone Flea said, “The preeminent thing in my mind is just working with the Coen brothers and seeing how those guys work and make movies. They would finish each others’ ideas and sentences. They were really a two-headed creative monster. For me, they’re just these two stoner brothers who have all these inside jokes.” A four-piece costume worn by Flea in the movie later sold at auction for $2,880.
1. Needles – Back to the Future Part II (1989) and Part III (1990)
Perhaps Flea’s most well known and arguably coolest cameo role was playing Needles in Robert Zemeckis’ 1989 cult hit Back to the Future Part II and its equally popular 1990 follow-up Back to the Future Part III, with his goading performances all too brief.
Back to the Future II takes us to the year 2015, where an older-looking Flea can be seen on screen as Douglas J. Needles. Future Needles taunts future Marty into a shifty business deal that ends up costing Marty his job. By the time Back to the Future III rolls around, Marty has learned his lesson: back in 1985, instead of playing up to Needles’ taunts – this time concerning a street race – Marty decides not to take the bait. In the end, the decision saves Marty from a crash that would have injured his hand and forced him to give up music. And after all, nobody calls Marty McFly chicken.