Sunday, October 21, 2007
Where have all the movie stars gone?
Interesting pair of articles about the alleged decline of the movie star: David Denby's piece in the October 22 New Yorker (unfortunately, not available online) and Kim Masters' Slate piece about George Clooney's ability as a box office draw.

Denby's article observes that movie stars were once untouchable figures, written about (and pictured) as happy, bigger-than-life fantasy figures. (Indeed, they fulfilled a fantasy -- that of the boy or girl from the middle of nowhere who won a lottery and became the idol of millions.) Now, celebrities -- in the famous title of an Us magazine column -- are "just like us." Worse than most of us, if you believe all the scuttlebutt in the gossip magazines. Regardless, the aura is gone.

(Of course, it's not like the movie stars of old MGM were glorious figures -- in some cases, their behavior was uglier than anything Paris Hilton could imagine. But perceptions -- and coverage -- have changed.)

Which brings up Clooney, who -- in an age when a tangential character on an MTV reality show can be considered a "celebrity" -- may be one of the few movie stars out there, the closest thing we have to Cary Grant. But movie stars are supposed to be able to "open" movies -- that is, bring in big box office. As Masters notes, "Michael Clayton," despite good reviews and a great cast, hasn't been packing them in. (In "Clayton's" defense, it's already made its alleged $25 million budget back.)

But do we even need movie stars anymore? Lately, the biggest box-office successes, as Denby points out, have been the huge summer and Christmas special-effects extravaganzas, along with a handful of comedies. Yes, some of them may feature Johnny Depp or Tobey Maguire, along with other fine performers, but the attraction isn't about the lead's charisma -- the movie star's trump card. It's the spectacle, the entire package.

What do you think? Are movie stars still necessary, or are we past all that in this Age of Celebrity?

(Incidentally, Denby's article makes frequent reference to an interesting new book, Jeanine Basinger's "The Star Machine." And I always like to recommend the excellent history of the studio system, Thomas Schatz's "The Genius of the System.")
I don't think 'star-power' itself is enough to open a picture anymore, but actors for whom the public has affection can lend an otherswise uniteresting flick some credibility. I will go see Edward Norton in almost anything, for instance-- films I wouldn't even consider otherwise. But even he couldn't get me to plunk down $15 bucks for 'Death to Smoochie'.
I think movie stars are still necessary to a degree. Mostly those who have notable acting skills or a really good screen persona. Meryl Streep, Christian Bale, Jack Nicholson, Cate Blanchette, Russell Crowe are a just a few who usually turn in solid performances. Brad Pitt is nice eye candy. Actors/Actresses we can do without are the ones who demand outrageous salaries and consistently give horrible performances. I know I won't go see a movie if there aren't at least 2 "big names" on the marquee - but it does make a difference WHO the names are. But likewise, I won't go to a movie JUST BECAUSE it has favourite actor/actress - another criteria has to be that the movie looks like it will be worth sitting through (via the trailer). I don't usually pay much attention to the critics pans or praises.
Do not have the movie stars ala CARY GRANT,J. WAYNE,C. GABLE,IRENE DUNNE,OLIVIA DEHAVILLAND,L. OLIVIER --THEY HAD A RADIaNCE, BUT, ALSO MOVIES THAT WERE CREDIBLE. THAT IS, THERE WERE REAL STOrY LINES, DIALOGUE THAT MADE SENSE. Just like the songs of that era when lyrics told a story, not a repeated phrase, over and over again with no melody and sometimes stupid lyrics
I don't find any of the popular male leads interesting anymore. None of them are physically attractive like days past and a few can act. The female leads are attractive but most can't act. I think the Age of Celebrity for now is gone.
There's a reason why there are no "movie stars". Hollywood insists on giving audience what they think are movie stars but are just ridiculously beautiful people that have no talent whatsoever. Here's a few off the top of my head: Josh Hartnett, Eva Mendez, Colin Farrell, Hilary Duff, Lindsay Lohan, etc. None of the above have the same track record as say Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, or even George Clooney, but Hollywood insists that these are these are the new stars. We need to stop settling for these worthless idiots and support the real new talent like Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling.
its not the actors. its the marketing.

If Michael Clayton had a better marketing campaign as well as better distribution (eg. released in 4000 theaters) then the movie would sell more.

Michael Clayton isnt a box office success not because it was a bad just has bad marketing and a poorly edited trailer.
It's a testament to the dumbing down of society. Where bright lights and loud noises captivate audiences instead of plot driven or character developed stories. The summer blockbuster is contributing to the downfall of American society, as are tabloid magazines and reality television shows.
When this subject comes up I always think of the movie "The Core".

This movie was far superior, to say "Armageddon" and of the same science fiction genre.

"The Core" made 73 million world wide.

"Armageddon made 553 million world wide.

The major difference? The core had no major stars in the lead roles while Armageddon had Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck.

These two stars could open a movie.

I also think that, especially in the science fiction genre, that they lift a movie from the perception of being potentially a B movie to being a movie event.
Yes, I think we still need movie stars. The age of celebrity has, however, negated the hustle dynamic of longer do you have to display real charisma and stage presence anymore, nor do you have to work hard to make your name in Hollywood (right Lindsay?) There are still some who take the craft seriously - de niro, nicholson, norton, bale, pitt, clooney, cheadle,roberts, cruz and cruise..and they will inevitably be a big draw..nevertheless, I think when it comes to cinema there are 3 ingredients...the director (i would always watch anything that had fincher, soderbergh, spielberg, clattenburg et al on board), at least 2 serious actors by reputation and a mixture of unknown players and title content...that formula = the new age of celebrity, with interesting and passionate cinema
I personally enjoy movies with more unknown actors. I find these movies to be more believable somehow. There are very few well known actors who perk my interest, and even then if the story isn't interesting to me in some way I am still not going to see it. Many movies are too formula and way too dumbed down. Hollywood really under estimates the taste and intelligence of movie goers. Then again maybe I am over estimating the capablitites of hollywood.
First let me say that Johnny Depp is beyond the movie star level. I have never been able to put his name and the moniker "movie star" in the same sentence. For some reason they just don' fit together. Johnny is an artist not just an actor. George Clooney would also be put into this category along with Johnny. Nowadays anyone can be called a movie star just as long as they can go through the motions to make them look as if they are acting. As long as the person is beautiful or handsome (sometimes even that is debatable) then they can become a movie star. Most of these "new" movie stars don't possess the talent it takes to become known as a true actor. One that will be remembered for many years to come.
Part of the problem lies with the media. In the past, movie stars led lives and rarely allowed glimpses into their private lives.

We now cannot turn on the news, open a paper, read a magazine or surf the net without finding some morsel about celebrities. We now know so much about them that the 'allure" of the celebrity is no longer relevant. Hence the success of Reality Shows.

I also believe the "culture" of going to the theatre is non-existance. To see a movie today is akin to going to Disneyland. Thanks...but I can wait to see the movie on DVD..rather than pushing through crowds at a multiplex to see a movie which may not appeal to the masses (no matter if my favorites star in them)
I no longer feel capable of being "swept away" during a feature film, as I'm too distracted by the recent memory of the featured star or starlet grabbing an iced coffee at Starbucks, doing their laundry or (heaven forbid!) crossing the street without makeup.
I think "movie stars" are a thing of the past. We don't idolize them because we see them for what they really are, undereducated, schmucks who latched on to good deal. I know I can do Eva Longoria's job. I can wear pretty clothes, memorize a few words and mug for the camera. But can she do my job? I think not.
Consider what many view as "entertainment" today - watching someone else make a fool of themselves on TV or a movie screen. The goal of many younger actors/musicians etc. seems to be the limelight, not achievement within their craft. When the ultimate goal is the number of tabloid covers they are on at any one time how can you expect a high quality performance? I think there are still some actors out there that are movie stars, but they are not the ones getting all the press for the latest stupid hijinks. Hollywood is also to blame - judging the quality of talent based upon dress/pant size and age cannot help but limit the quality of performance....
Maybe if movie stars were movie stars and forgot all the mis-directed political junk, I could get interested in paying to go to a movie again. I really don't care what they think about world events. Nothing makes them smarter than any of us about that stuff. I do my job, let them do theirs.
When I saw the title Where are all the movies stars gone well i thought the real true classy one are very old or have passed away.
I think of Cary Grant,Irene Dunne,John Wayne,Grace Kelly,Rock Hudson,Audrey Hepburn,Steve Mcqeen,Ava Gardner, Kathrine Hepburn,Clark Gable and many more.
They had class,manners,real acting ability.They did not air their private life in public. it is and was not anyone elses business.they were real movie stars. Unlike todays wannabees.They make a mockery of the title Movie Star.Todays so called stars will NEVER be in the same class as the aobve mentioned stars.
After 25 years in radio, both promotions and on-air, I'm pretty jaded when it comes to "stars". An earlier poster had in spot on, though. "We the People" are a stupid lot. We let things like PNAC go unread while it spells out this war criminal of a presidents war for oil even before he was appointed office by the powers that be. Sad. We know what time "Idol" is on, though, don't we?
The movie stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood were the real deal. The had a aura of mystery about them. They did not tell their most intimate secrets in public the way the trash in Hollywood does today. Most stars today tell you about where they have their tatoos (in places you shouldn't have to know) or what they do in bed. They think that makes them hip. It only makes them stupid. There are no real movies stars anymore because they are all gone. Susan Hayward, Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Gene Kelly, Grace Kelly, James Stewart, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Claudette Colbert I can go on. Those were movie stars. They've been replaced by Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton. Look how far we've come done.
I think the days of these idiots are over. I cannot recall seeing or not seeing a movie based on who was in it. (exception being some kung fu movies)
Studios pay WAY to much money to these people and really get nothing out of it. The same can be said of animated features, who would pay someone so much money to do a voice? Most of the time I have no idea who is doing the voice anyways, nor care, all I want is a good story.

The studios should do themselves a favor and stop paying them so much money and cut prices.
Clooney is just one more example of a movie star who ALIENATES a prospective audience by trying to uses his/her platform to promote a political cause/affiliation.
Yes he/they have the right to do so...but it will cost the studio.
Studio execs need to realize political convictions run deep.
Deep enough to choose not to pad the wallet of a movie star whose political views are contray to others.
A few years ago I read that Katherine Hepburn was going to have a small role in what turned out to be her last film, "Love Affair." I went to see the film because of her, not Warren Beatty, the star. Similar trips to the movies in recent years were to see Lauren Bacall, Bette Davis, Sophia Loren, Jack Lemmon, Walter Mattau - the older stars who had faces, name recognition and who were genuinely talented. How can I like or respect someone like Julia Roberts who broke up a marriage to finally land a husband? Or Brad Pitt dumping Jennifer Anniston to be with Anjelina Jolie? These people are not "real" film stars. They can't hold a handle to the stars of the past. I wouldn't pay a nickel to see any current actor in a movie. The difference? The stars of the past had CLASS and a bit of mystery to them. Now I can see Julia Roberts picking her nose on TMZ and it makes me sick. No mystery. The writer of the blog was right when he said George Clooney is the closest thing we have to a Cary Grant. The funny thing, which reverses the entire movie star image is the fact Cary Grant hated his screen personality so much he honestly couldn't understand what HIS appeal was. At least George Clooney KNOWS what he is and what he is capable of. The old studio system kept talented people under their thumb unable to branch out and do the projects they wanted. Today the talented stars can prove themselves to anyone who doubts their talent. Look at Farrah Fawcett, Sally Field, Jessica Lange - their early roles were mocked and they were branded talentless idiots. They proved themselves in a way that the old system wouldn't let a star do.
"Movie Stars" today cannot really be accurately compared with "Movie Stars" from what is known as the Golden Age of Hollywood. Today's stars are to be considered more of a celebrity than a star and thus will not carry a movie by themselves. Until recently, Movie Stars were not really people, they were fantasies. Fantasy by it's very definition is not real. Traditional Movie Stars were not real either. They were essentially manufactured by the old Studio System. A System that decided what fantasy the Star was to represent, how that fantasy was to be sold to the public and then used the resources of an entire corporation to manufacture as well as publicly protect that fantasy...frequently protect it even from the individual they were building. Bad behavior that did not support the fantasy was not allowed to be publicly displayed without serious recourse by the Star manufacturing machine. That system of star manufacturing no longer exists which is why we are now left with celebrities which are only a faint shadow of a real Movie Star.
One major difference in today's entertainment industry is the reflection of the deterioration of American culture in the projects it produces. In past generations, society did not glorify thugs, prostitutes, or murderers. The true stars were actors that portrayed characters we admired, and fashion, music, and lifestyles were all influenced by these iconic personalities. Today, the youth only have gangster rap, hypersexualized children, get rich quick reality and contest oriented shows, and the perception that the most photographed people are the most accomplished. I know that there are many independent and foreign films produced every year that are superb, and feature serious actors who have actually studied their craft. Will those films ever be recognized by the general audience? Not until the major studio goes the way of the major record label, and hopefully the corporate control of radio airwaves. There will eventually be a swing back in the direction of quality, strong moral values, and class. Unfortunately, I do not believe it will happen in my lifetime.
I would pay twice the movie admission price to watch Jessica Lange read the phone book than so much as read a photo caption about any of these so-called "stars" today. Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears...Has America truly dumbed down that much?
We do still need really good actors.

My favorite 'classic' actor of today is James Franco. He has the class, charisma, and of course the good looks of the famous movie stars of yesterday.
Calling Tom Cruise a true actor is laughable. He plays the same smug jerk in every movie. He has no range and is nowhere near the artistic standard of say Nicholson or Streep.

Otherwise, yes, the influx of untalented people in big roles has led to the downfall of the 'movie star' along with the lack of privacy in their lives. The mystic of the person on screen is ruined if you can honestly say that any smuck could act the part just as well, or think about how demoralized a life they are leading.
The issue is more one of celebrity status as opposed to true dramatic creative talent. The tabloids generate "buzz" about a celebrity, without regard to true talent. Tom Cruise is a perfect example of someone whose hype outweighs his acting abilities (compare him to Brad Pitt in true acting skill and role adaptability), and yet he continues in the public eye due to hype and spin and lucrative negotaitions, without regard to being able to act at all. We have so many talented, skilled actors out there--would producers and directors please hire them based on skill rather than controversy or arrogance alone?
I rather doubt the movie stars of the Hollywood "Golden" Age were *that* different from today's celebrities. Angelina Jolie came between Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston? The same thing happened all the way back in the late 50s when Elizabeth Taylor broke up the marriage of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Remember?

I think the real difference is now we have the media "reporting" on every little minute detail of celebrity lives - to the point that we, the public, get truly sick and tired of these people in general and that fact most likely contributes to a blase attitude about their films.

Celebrities, by their nature, are self-involved, self-indulgent, and over-exposed. I'm sure they've pretty much *always* misbehaved - they have the money, time, and egos that allow them to do whatever they please - but now that the media delights in showing them at their worst, we are no longer blinded by the fake glitter and glamor that used to surround them.
Watch "My Favorite Year" with Peter O'Toole for a great quote about this subject..."I'm not an actor, I'm a movie star"!

The old stars are long gone and now we live in a world where we have crap like TMZ,Enquirer and Star around.
What about Tom Hanks? Out of his extensive string of hits, Cast Away surely illustrates star power draw. Harrison Ford has (or at least had) that kind of star power, though he's been throwing it behind questionable projects. It's a combination of top talent and top popularity, and alone isn't enough to guarantee a hit, but all successful actors have it to higher or lower degrees, and there are at least a few names out there that are clearly at the top.
The media's attention to every detail of a Hollywood Star's life has spoiled the image of most celebrities. (Kevin Costner's actions on his honeymoon, Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah's couch and his Today interview, countless stars arrested for DUI's, the list goes on and on). I truly have so few stars that I admire, that I seldom go to the theater, regardless of how good the movie review is. I do however, rent a lot of movies, mostly Independent Films, which I love. Only now because Independent Films have become so popular, A/B Listers are showing up in Indie films, which spoil them in my opinion. For a while there I was really enjoying Indie Films with unknown actors. The films were absolutely inspiring. There are so many gifted actors, writers and directors who are not on the Hollywood A List and Indie Films gave those talented individuals a chance to show off their brilliance. I loved that Independent Films were giving Hollywood a run for it's money!
A couple points to weigh in on...

First, celebrities are the same as they've always been. It's just that the curtain has been drawn back and we can see the ugly details. What has Lindsay done that Marilyn didn't do?

As for star power, let's define the word. A "movie star" is someone who dazzles with both talent on screen and charm off screen. The problem is that with so much focus on "celebrity" (i.e. people who get talked about a lot), the people who should be movie stars aren't getting their fair shake and their fame isn't rising as quickly as we'd like it. Someone mentioned Ryan Gosling as an example, I'll throw Judy Greer in that category as well.

Finally, we can't ignore what's happened with television. The quality of television has increased dramatically over the past years. Why would I pay $15 to watch a tense character drama on the big screen for two hours when I can watch Sally Field and Rachel Griffiths for 24 hours a season on Brothers and Sisters for free? The only movies I bother seeing in the theatres these days are those that gain something from the big screen experience... and yes, that is the big showy spectacle. This Christmas, it's me and the Golden Compass.
When asked "Where have all the Movies Stars gone?", many repsonders speak about the loss of the Star Mystique due to changes in the way Hollywood makes movies, for better or for worse.

The collapse of the studio system is only part of the change in the percieved qualities of Movie Stars. The American caste system has gone further underground then ever before. One can no longer speak of class in this country. The studios want to make the buck, and class does not buy movie tickets in a world where class lines have been all but erased. Is this not a poitive step?

The nickelodeon was not exactly upper class entertainment. Film got its start from the vaudeville world. It is, and has always been, an art of the masses. In a time when money was equated with class and manners, the stars of the films, fulfilling the American fantasy of wealth in a depressed era, had (as far as the public could see) class and manners.

Some of the names mentioned as being modern movie stars are people who have devoted their lives to their art. Read an interview with Christian Bale and you will see that he puts nothing before his acting- but thought long and hard about continung to do film at all. Other fine actors choose indepedent film over A-list film because they share our disdain for the quality of Hollywood today.

May people hate that Bono, Clooney, and Pitt spend so much time in the political limelight. Bono was nominated for a Nobel Peace prize. I can't help but respect those more fortunate than myself trying to do something better for us all. They could be out partying, afterall.

Americans will call anyone a star, but we are hard on our stars- those who remain in our good graces, and earn our respect, are people entirely devoted to their craft, and are lucky enough not to get caught being human.
A more interesting question is Where Have All the WRITERS Gone?

With the Hollywood writers on strike and late night show hosts predictably taking the first hit, it will be interesting to see if the hosts crack jokes about the writers. I'm curious to see if in fact no subject is untouchable to a late night show comedian. Pretty touchy subject.

Also, I would love to hear the hosts present their own materials; not something that someone else wrote.

- Mary Doueidar, Ottawa Canada
Occasional musings and gab about the world of entertainment.
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