Are we running out of movie stars?

Perhaps all my blog posts will be spurred by listening to podcasts. The most recent B.S. Report features screenwriter William Goldman. In their wide-ranging discussion, Goldman points out that, for this first time in film history, there’s only one certifiable, bankable movie star left, one actor who can open a picture — Will Smith. This point was a coincidence for me, as just yesterday, I was looking at the box office take of film actors. If you sort it by average box office gross per film, the top three are Daniel Radcliffe, Robert Pattinson, and Orlando Bloom. It illuminates what has happened with Hollywood — it’s all about the bankable franchise (in this case, Harry Potter, Twilight, and the Lord of the Rings – Pirates of the Carribbean combo). Hollywood doesn’t need stars (and probably doesn’t want them). Vetted properties are what now sells tickets. What has changed? Why don’t actors and actresses have the pull they once had?

7 thoughts on “Are we running out of movie stars?

  1. I think your theory will be tested when we see which film has Colin Firth in it next, and how well it does.

  2. Peter,

    Point taken, franchises are a critical shift, but to play devil’s advocate…

    Johnny Depp. Brad Pitt. George Clooney. Danzel Washington. They can open films. I know, none are under 40, so maybe there’s trouble down the road, but right at the moment, there are still some stars with marquee value apart from the franchise they’re in.

    (As for actresses… maybe no one but Sandra Bullock… maybe not even her… but then again, not too many actresses could *ever* open a film. Sigh.)

    Regards,

    Kelly

  3. I think it also has to do with the dilution of having so many media and entertainment options through so many venues (and devices), 24/7. When you consider the Hollywood icons of the 40’s-50’s there was far less competition for people’s attention. Some of it might be oversaturation–but I suspect that some of it is also a long-tail phenomenon where people can get access to media that is more specifically interesting to them. Or it also might be that we’re going to hell in a handbasket–I know of no other explanation for the popularity of reality TV shows.

    We have been doing a project of watching all of the Cary Grant movies in order (and I have to say, he made some really, really *bad* movies)–but was he ever a Movie Star.

  4. A movie star represents who the fan wants to be, or wants to be in bed with, at least for a time in a darkened theater.

    Cary Grant was a super star because he appealed to both desires. Even in himself. He has famously said, “Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.”

    Personally, I would have settled for his haircut.

  5. Where’s the chart of box office take of the earlier film actors? I can’t do a comparison without that. I don’t think box office gross per film was ever used to rank movie stars.

    There are more ways to sell movies than there used to be. The new ways are not so human, and some tend to sell better than the humans. Figures.

    But, a lot of these modern actors can still be cast to significantly increase the odds that your film is a success. That’s a movie star, right?

    (although the 10% of my brain reserved for non-analytical reasoning is more inclined to agree with BJ.)

  6. I think the question here is…are we running out of GOOD movie stars?

  7. Daniel, you miss the point. Neither good nor bad are part of the star equation.

    Kelly, you are half right, Johnny and Denzel can open a movie, Brad and George do not. Sandra can open a movie, but from the silent days of Mary Pickford into the ’50s the ladies were often bigger bolx office stars with higher salaries than most of the men. That began to change in the late ’50s and ’60s when the youth market started to buy more tickets than their parents, especially their mothers.

    It is the youth market that began the dilution of movie expectations and talent that persists to this day. Not only in movies, of course, but all music, art and literature suffer from the same general irrelevance. Unfortunately, as they grow older, these youth do not mature in taste, not having been part of a social matrix that nurtures such development. In an era of electronic toy absorption, they don’t even know what they are missing.

    And Trav, it would seem that 10% of your brain is in sync with about 90% of mine. Together we make a whole protein.