Exclusive Interview: Darlene Love on Twenty Feet from Stardom

Famed backup singer Darlene Love talks about her new documentary Twenty Feet from Stardom and why she only ever acted in the Lethal Weapon movies.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

Twenty Feet From Stardom is a documentary about backup singers. These are the voices you hear prominently on all your favorite songs but who don’t get much credit. One of the featured singers in Morgan Neville’s documentary is Darlene Love, who the film informs us sang the lead on The Crystal’s hits “He’s a Rebel” and “He’s Sure the Boy Love.” Her big hit is “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” She recorded a solo album and appeared as Murtaugh’s wife in the Lethal Weapon films. The film played at Sundance and SXSW, and we got to speak with Love while she prepared for a performance with her costars and co-singers in Austin. Twenty Feet From Stardom opens this weekend.

CraveOnline: When you started working with Morgan Neville on this documentary, when did you become aware you would be one of the featured singers in the movie?

Darlene Love: Well, it’s amazing. I didn’t even realize it until I saw the movie because I knew he was talking to a lot of different singers, and I had given him a lot of singers to get in touch with, to call or whatever. So I had no idea I was going to be so featured in it. I knew I was going to be [in it] but I didn’t know I was going to be such a big part of it.

Were there other singers in the interviews, favorites of yours, that you would have hoped got more of a spotlight too?

It’s like Morgan says, a lot of times you go and interview people, a lot of people are not good interviewees. I have so many stories to tell. [Laughs] I think that’s why a lot of people didn’t get as involved as they could have, because I think a lot of people are going to be surprised when they see the movie, to see how well it turned out. A lot of times you say no to things, then when you see it later you go, “Why didn’t I get involved with this more?”

But your story also has the full arc where you left the industry, and then were inspired to come back.

Right. The biggest thing is because I knew I was supposed to be a singer. It was just a matter of getting myself to believe in me rather than not doing what I was supposed to be doing. So I came back. I never said the words that I was going to quit or I wanted to be out of this business. It was more or less I had to find a way to keep myself alive until I could get back up on my feet again.

I of course knew you from the Lethal Weapon movies. Were those the only acting work you did?

Yes. Those were the only movies I ever did.

Did you have any idea when you did the first one that they would keep calling you for three more?

No, I knew they were going to do a second one because they’d already talked about doing a second Lethal Weapon but I had no idea about three or four. That was great. That was a couple extra feathers in my had.

Did you pursue any other acting?

No, just on Broadway but it was mostly musicals. Other than that, the Lethal Weapon films were the only feature films that I ever did.

Why was that you didn’t want to pursue any more movies?

You have to wait until people come calling. [Laughs] My pursuit was more in the music thing so I never went out pursuing movies. It was more just pursuing my singing career, because people came to me for singing more than they did for doing movies. With movies, they have a certain person or style that they’re looking for. It’s not that they don’t like you, but maybe you’re not the person that’s right for their movie. That happens a lot.