U2 primes for future

This month’s Grammy Awards underscored the power and prestige of movie music, but no one had to teach that lesson to U2. With yet another Grammy in pocket and their appetite whetted by two Golden Globe nominations, have they now set their sites on Oscar?

U2’s Bono is now considering his first acting role, a co-starring spot in Lightstorm Entertainment’s “Strange Days” alongside Ralph Fiennes and Angela Bassett. And his sophomore thesp role may be for his own screenplay, “The Million Dollar Hotel,” co-written with Nicholas Klein. CAA’s Tony Krantz is repping the screen project, which U2 manager Paul McGuinness intends to co-produce “sometime this century.”

U2’s interest in media ventures has never been more apparent, from their soundtrack kudos to the announcement of their interactive Zoo TV venture. Both ambitious and omnipresent, the band’s media expansion will likely become a model for other musical kingpins looking to diversify while still in a position to call the shots.

U2 can rightly be considered rock’s pioneers in interactive multimedia, having put CD-I and CD-ROM technology to use for their intricate Zoo TV concert tour. Although the band is currently considering proposals for their own CD-ROM/I title, the next big step will involve the launch of their own Zoo TV “network,” to feature avant garde original programming, cult movies and environmentally correct home shopping. Krantz is also repping the PolyGram co-venture, which will debut domestically this year via a test program.

The band’s pervasive soundtrack involvement has been considerably more traditional — mostly involving the licensing of pre-existing material — with some notable exceptions: Two projects with director Wim Wenders and one with “In the Name of the Father” director Jim Sheridan.

U2 and Wenders first crossed paths when the director helmed the band’s video for “Night and Day” from “Red Hot & Blue.” U2 returned the favor in 1991 by contributing the theme song to “Until the End of the World.” As an encore, Wenders’ latest pic, “Faraway, So Close!,” features two tracks from U2’s Grammy-winning “Zooropa.”

Bono got involved with “In the Name of the Father” through his friend Gavin Friday, the film’s music supervisor. Together with Maurice Seezer they co-wrote three original songs: the film’s theme, “Billy Boola” and the Golden Globe-nominated “You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart,” performed by Sinead O’Connor and filmed by Sheridan for a music clip.

In addition, U2’s music has been used in movie trailers; and some of their more obscure songs have been appropriated in pix. “Short Cuts” co-star Annie Ross even covered the Bono/Edge-penned “Conversations on a Barstool,” orginally written for Marianne Faithfull.

The high number of high-profile song placements is noteworthy, despite the band’s careful selectivity. “I don’t think there is any way they can be overexposed because they are in complete control of the placements,” says Dennis Fine, VP, communications for Polygram records.

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