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Everything You Need to Know About Tom Petty's Sci-Fi Role in "The Postman"

The Postman (1997) - Tom Petty
Tom Petty has died and he's best remembered for his music and a bizarre cameo.

Petty had a long and illustrious career as an American musician, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer. Sadly he died October 2, 2017 in Santa Monica, California. He was best known as the lead singer of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. His soulful rock style and vocals helped him achieve worldwide fame. What many people don't know is that he notably had a role in one of the worst sci-fi movies ever made.

The 1997 movie The Postman is based on the best-selling and award-winning dystopian novel of the same name. Kevin Costner stars as the unnamed Postman. He directed and starred in this action movie about a post-apocalyptic American West. In the year 2013, he finds a mail carrier uniform and sets out to unite the people.

The movie The Postman has a cult following but was not successful. The movie was almost universally panned by critics. It was also a flop at the box office making only $17.6 million off a budget of $80 million.

Tom Petty has a brief cameo as an unnamed Mayor of Bridge City. While Petty hadvoice acting roles like his long-running character  Elroy "Lucky" Kleinschmidt in the animated comedy series King of the Hill from 2004 to 2009. But how did he end up in The Postman?

It all started with a music video. The first single from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' album Long After Dark was called "You Got Lucky". The song reached #1 on the Billboard Top Tracks chart for three weeks in 1982.

When the band decided to do a video the group didn't want to make one of the standard ones they'd seen. Most music videos tried to emulate a concert and showed the band playing instruments and singing. They wanted to do something different.

The group came up with the idea of a short film in the style of Mad Max. Petty told Paste that the video had "nothing to do with the song". The music video is set in a post-apocalyptic world where Petty rides a hovercraft and finds an old tape player that has the song on it. The band wrote the treatment and borrowed heavily from Mad Max 2 (1982) which influenced many other videos at the time. Petty called their video a "real groundbreaker".

It's rumored that while filing the video he said he wanted to play in a movie as a post-War character.

Years later he got the chance. He was cast as the unnamed Mayor of Bridge City. In the movie, The Postman and a small group of mail carriers are on the run from the evil soldiers led by Bethlehem. They find a town by the falls and the Mayor takes them in and helps them on their quest.

While his character is never named it's heavily implied that he was playing a future version of himself. When Costner meets Petty he says, "I know you. You're famous."  The mayor smiles wistfully and says, “I used to be".

He only had a few scenes but he made them work. Why he was cast in the film is a mystery. He had some acting experience but nothing to justify a role in a big budget film. Petty's first film role was in 1978 when he had a cameo in FM. He had another small part in 1987's Made in Heaven and appeared in several episodes in It's Garry Shandling's Show between 1987 and 1990.

Tom Petty is gone, but his music and unusual cameo will live on forever.

What do you think of Tom Petty's role in The Postman?

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  1. Like a lot of people I never watched The Postman all the way through, but I did used to watch King of the Hill so I remember him from that. I remember the video for Last Dance With Mary Jane where he danced around with a very stiff Kim Basinger.

  2. I've never seen The Postman either. I do remember the video for You Got Lucky. Came out while I was in high school.


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