The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - Everybody's In Showbiz
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Everybody's In Showbiz|
One of the things that irritates me about Hollywood is how everyone's is a star. Name anyone who's been in a major movie, ever, and I guarantee you there's a publication out there who will refer to them as a star: Amy Irving, Keanu Reeves, Ice Cube, Owen Wilson.
Worse yet, there's a group of people who consistently appear in failed movies (or in good movies as a sidekick to a much bigger celebrity) who get PR beyond people's dreams: Kate Hudson, Halle Berry, and yes, Nicole Kidman. For no apparent reason anyone can name, the public seems to be fascinated by the private lives of these B-list celebrities.
Yet I have always drawn a clear distinction: These people are celebrities.
You know who celebrities are (sorta), and their casting choices generally tell you what kind of movie you're going to watch - but except for a few rabid fans, nobody goes to see a movie because, "Hey, Samuel Jackson is in it!" Sam Jackson might be a factor in why you choose to go.... but if the trailer looks bad or the movie isn't the kind you generally like, chances are good you'll stay at home or wait for it on video. You like Sam Jackson - and who doesn't? - but he is not a strong enough presence that the general public will go to see a crappy movie with him in it.
A star can open a film that's utterly terrible and still have it do okay. People will go to see a movie because that celebrity is in it, even if it looks terrible otherwise.
At any given time in Hollywood, there are maybe four stars. Maybe.
To become a star requires flawless movie selection. You've gotta have at least four or five smash hits under your belt, because the public has to learn to trust that you only appear in good movies. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a bona-fide star for a long time, appearing in consistently-good action flicks like Predator, Running Man, Twins, Kindergarten Cop, and culminating in Terminator 2.
Then came Last Action Hero, Junior, and - God help us - Jingle All The Way. The public soon came to realize that Arnold had lost it, and now he has to sell his movies the hard way.
Tom Cruise is a star. Oh, he doesn't kill on every picture, but he can make an art-house flick like Magnolia profitable, and when he shows up as a samurai in a long, boring film, it still makes money. He makes the cut.
Tom Hanks used to be a star, but I'm not sure whether he's retained his status. People will forgive an interesting failure or two by a star if they step outside their range, but Hanks dropped off the map with the double-bombs of The Terminal and The Ladykillers, both poorly-received movies that did okay at the box office but exhausted his fans' patience. Still, Polar Express made a strong comeback after a weak opening, so maybe he's got it after all. We'll have to see.
And as much as it kills me to admit this, I'm pretty sure Ben Stiller is a star. I don't like him that much, but his comedies have been consistent hits, and I think that his name on the marquee now guarantees a certain dollar value.
Leonardo DiCaprio? Not a star. He's a big name, sure, but Gangs of New York struggled to get money, and The Aviator is winning mondo awards but is working overtime to crack $100 million. A star would have made it a smash hit by now.
There are nebulous people, who I'm not sure are stars. Jim Carrey had a lot of weirdo flops that might have killed a lesser man, but his double-turn in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (an arty flick that showed his acting chops) and A Series Of Unfortunate Events (back to hoo-hah comedy!) may have saved him. Jamie Foxx, I think, is on his way to becoming the first real black star. (No, Denzel didn't count. EDIT: And neither did Sidney Poitier, I think... But Eddie Murphy and Will Smith certainly did. D'oh!) And Johnny Depp, I think, is a low-level star - he can't turn Finding Neverland into a smash hit, but I think his presence guarantees a minimum box-office take no matter how bad the film, which is the definition of stardom.
Like I said. Four stars. Maybe.
|Date:||February 3rd, 2005 10:31 am (UTC)|| |
the first real black star
You dishonor Sidney Poitier.
And despite her inability to act as anything other than herself... don't you think Julia Roberts has to be included on that list?
I haven't looked at the box office takes, but I don't think Sidney was a draw by himself. I could be wrong, but I'd have to analyze his movies.
Sidney was definitely the first black celebrity serious actor. Which is a lot of words, but that's who he is.
wow. you liked running man? it's one of my all-time "old -school" sci-fi/dystopian faves (right up there with rollerball) but most people in my sci-fi/geek circles consider this one a boring flop, compared to ones like terminator, total recall, predator, etc.
anyway, it's nice to know someone else thinks it's a great movie!
The novel's even better.
Though you may notice a near-total disconnect between their plots.
I'll go see anything he is in. I normally like his films... I tend to think that just him having interest in the script means something.
|Date:||February 3rd, 2005 11:26 am (UTC)|| |
I'm still a little unclear on exactly what Ferrett is looking at to judge "star power". I get the impression that most people don't go to see Johnny Depp movies because Depp is in them, but his amazing acting chops tend to raise the movies he's in to a level that people who aren't interested in Depp wind up hearing how great the movies are as movies. (Then again, I've also noticed that although I take Depp's name as a sign that I should check out a movie, I never really see Johnny Depp. He disappears so thoroughly into his characters, and has picked a varied enough range or roles, that the actor himself becomes invisible. In two of his movies, I got half an hour in before it dawned on me which character was played by him.)
So what I'm not sure about is whether (according to this discussion's definition) this is simply the (or "a") mechanism by which star status is achieved, or a separate effect. If the former, then the only thing keeping Depp from being a full-blown star is that not enough people have noticed the pattern yet. If the latter, then it could be that his skill -- that "vanish into the character" thing he does -- actually works against his stardom.
(I guess the difference is between how many people (like you and I) say, "Depp? I should check that out!" and how many say, "Wow, that turned out to be a great movie ... wasn't that Johnny Depp?")
OTOH, I'm inclined to list Jackie Chan as a Star. There are plenty of people who start planning to see "the new Jackie Chan movie" before they've heard anything else about it. He even got his own Saturday morning cartoon on the strength of his name and "the Jackie Chan character". (On top of that, he's been influential -- he's shifted the expectations of his genre.)
|Date:||February 3rd, 2005 10:35 am (UTC)|| |
Why doesn't Denzel count?
Denzel isn't a name-brand box office hero. I mean, shit, did you see "John Q?"
Twins? TWINS? I couldn't even finish watching that. I made it farther into "Junior" than I did with "Twins."
He doesn't count? Is this a Condi thing?
Three words: "John Q." "Fallen."
Even if I liked "Fallen."
If there's a "cult star" category, Johnny Depp would have to lead it. Hell, you could probably put Carrey and Samuel L. Jackson in it.
Changing Lanes. In My Country. Twisted. Basic.
No, I'm not wrong.
And I am drawing a distinction between stars and celebrities. Stars get money.
</i>I'm pretty sure Ben Stiller is a star.
Oh, behave yourself. You're having a laugh, mate.
Stars that were but are no more...
Stallone and Arnie
Robert De Niro
As for female stars... Are there any? I'm having a hard time here.
|Date:||February 3rd, 2005 10:43 am (UTC)|| |
Julia Roberts (mysteriously enough - she's always the same person, but her movies make $$)
"Kate Hudson, Halle Berry, and yes, Nicole Kidman. For no apparent reason anyone can name,"
The women listed above are incredibly, amazingly HOT?
As for Depp, he's no better than Jackson.
|Date:||February 3rd, 2005 10:42 am (UTC)|| |
DaVinci Code will sink Tom Hanks' star for a long while. Mark my words.
And First black star? What about Will Smith? I, Robot shouldn't have made half of what it did.
|Date:||February 3rd, 2005 10:44 am (UTC)|| |
ooh good point... will smith *is* a draw... Wild Wild West sucked, I, Robot was sad - yet it WAS Will... and he's got the draw.
The A list need to be spotless... perfect and God-like in order to be worshipped (so no delving too deeply into their lives)
The B-listers however are there to distract folks from their humdrum lives... A real-life soap opera!
|Date:||February 3rd, 2005 10:45 am (UTC)|| |
Say... what about Bill Cosby? does he not count? or did Ghost Dad do him in?
|Date:||February 3rd, 2005 10:46 am (UTC)|| |
And Eddie Murphy??
Eddie has turned movies like Bowfinger into box office $$... he even managed to turn money with Beverly Hills Cop III and The Nutty Professor II...
|Date:||February 3rd, 2005 10:45 am (UTC)|| |
I think Stiller is more of a niche star. He's proven that he can safely open certain comedies, but although he had a great 2004, that still included one miserable bomb (Envy). And 2002 and 2003 gave us almost nothing by him other than a Danny Devito flop. One defining characteristic of stardom is at least some semblance of longevity. Still hasn't proven himself over time (and I'm speaking as someone who actually likes him).
Interestingly, you don't mention female stars (although you mention celebrities), even though Meryl Streep certainly was one during the '80s, and Demi Moore approached stardom (and was always a celebrity) during the early '90s.
Meryl Streep was never a star. She was a great actress, but the "great actress" and "star" aren't related. A star would have sold River Wild.
Demi Moore was overpaid, but not a star. Her movies bombed on a regular basis. I think Julia Roberts was.
And the definition of "a star" doesn't mean your movies never bomb, but when they do they have a certain amount of money. Envy didn't completely lose it, and even Arnie had Last Action Hero before True Lies.
I was shocked at the low box office of The Ladykillers. I derived more pleasure from that flick than from most of the movies I saw last year.
$40M isn't *that* bad.
Ultimately, the move will make money.
Nicole Kidman is, in some ways a star. The Others was sold based on her, Stepford Wives did well despite being terrible because of her, most of the publicity for Dogville revolved around her. She's not up there with The Cruisester, but she's certainly a draw in her own right.
And I'll take Last Action Hero over Kindergarten Cop, Twins or The Running Man.
|Date:||February 3rd, 2005 10:50 am (UTC)|| |
I don't worry much about what other people think. There are certain actors and directors whose work I'll go see just because they had a hand in it, and most of the time my tastes disagree with just about everyone else's. Oh, sure, I still appreciate some of the more mainstream actors, and there are some actors whose work I'll see if it's in a specific genre. Mostly though I let the credibility of the actor stand on the basis of their body of work. In some cases it only takes one really fantastic movie to make me a believer. Tom Hanks, Johnny Depp, Zach Braff, Jim Carrey. They're all stars in my book.
He's *still* a star.
|Date:||February 3rd, 2005 10:59 am (UTC)|| |
Re: Oh, yeah...
Nope. Look at the gross for Million Dollar Baby.
Hollywood greenlights pictures for stars, whereas he had to fight to get MDB made. Clint's a great director, an excellent actor, and a hell of a guy, but not a star. Not anymore.
|Date:||February 3rd, 2005 10:59 am (UTC)|| |
I have to disagree with your entire premise.
A star is someone who headlines a production. Period. An online dictionary added something about having an acknowledged good performance, but stripped down to the bear bones, its someone who is in a starring role. If they happen to be a box office draw, then that's nice, but it's not the defining characteristic.
There is no actor I can think of who hasn't turned out a turkey, or even a good movie that made no money. I can't see how that invalidates their position entirely.
In general I don't think there are as many of the type of star that you're describing as there once were because the audience, and the audience's choices have changed. Going to see a movie isn't the only thing you can do on a friday night, and there's always the wait for video. I can see half of the film in previews before I ever go to the theatre (or in most cases, all of it), so I don't need to see movies by trial and error to figure out what's good. It's not just the actor's name anymore and comparing it to the times when Arnold was in his prime (well, his money making prime anyways) is comparing apples and oranges.
I personally will go see Depp or Jackson in just about anything. I look for directors too, though I wouldn't call them stars. I'm not saying you have no point, but I am saying your definition of the term is a bit too narrow.
Nope. This is my definition. You can try to dictionary-hijack it, but then you wind up with the word "star" defining Pauly Shore and Alan Rickman and Tom Cruise, with no distinction between them. You can keep that definition if you like, but I prefer to find a better way.
And as I said, we have stars now. They work. Tom Cruise can sell movies to an audience that would normally ignore them, and make it a hit. That's star power.
I think Brad Pitt deserves to be on that list. He totally made movies like Snatch and Troy.
For female leads, Uma Thurman might deserve a nod. I haven't finished it yet, but this article
seems like a kind of interesting take on male vs. female stars.
Brad Pitt is definitely on the list, and I probably only saw Paycheck because of Uma Thurman. And I didn't really have a choice, but HAD I had a choice about seeing it, that's probably the reason I would have gone.
i think the only reason Johnny isn't, and possibly never will be, a star by your definition is because he doesn't really want to be in that position. ;)
smart guy, that Johnny.
|Date:||February 3rd, 2005 11:29 am (UTC)|| |
Huh. I hadn't considered that when I put forth my own hypothesis
regarding Depp's stardom or lack thereof ... but I wonder if the two aren't actually related (that is, that the attitude you describe follows from his approach to acting in the first place).
I will see anything with Johnny Depp, John Travolta, and Liam Neeson in it. (especially porn LOL)
I mean, for Heaven's sake, I walked out of Hideaway (w/ Jeff Goldblum) because it creeped me out....but I would have stayed had it been John Travolta. Maybe they're not Hollywood's stars, but they're mine.
And a peanut gallery stunned... I didn't see it in the comments above, but I admit I skimmed...
Re: Jim Carrey:
A Series Of Unfortunate Events (back to hoo-hah comedy!) may have saved him.
Sad but true? I read the books. I loved the books. Jim Carrey KILLED the movie. It was as if he merged Count Olaf (who was supposed to be truly frightening) with Fire Marshall Bill of In Living Color, and expected it to be passable. The CHILDREN saved the movie, as did the wonderful guy with the accent (he was the second teacher- Billy!- on Head of the Class, but I can never remember his name), with no help from Carrey at all. x.x; If the movie saved him, it wasn't in spite of his performance, not because of it.
I don't know, you might be culturally biased. Our church is abuzz when Samuel Jackson or Denzel are coming out with new movies, along with Will Smith of course.
Yes, they will definately go see movies just because of them... as a whole even.
I'm not sure--by that defintion--that many black celebs would make the cut... you run into black racial/economic issues.
|Date:||February 3rd, 2005 12:35 pm (UTC)|| |
True. I mean, I can't think of any other reason why Coach Carter did so well for a January movie. It's not like people haven't seen the same formula a dozen times already.
|Date:||February 3rd, 2005 12:31 pm (UTC)|| |
While this is all very interesting....
I think you make a valid point, although most of the following posts seem to be arguing semantics, which are arbitrarily assigned - you could reverse the words "star" and "celebrity" and make your valid case just as well (although I agree that it makes the most sense, to me, the way it's presented).
It would be more interesting, though, to look at the difference between stars/celebrities and actors, that is, people with actual talent. Where do those fields cross? (such as Tom Hanks) And what is the appeal of the celebrities who don't appear, by most standards, to have talent, yet still get a big draw? (i.e. Ben Stiller)
It also may be that there was a little too much theory in my last acting class.... :)