One of the basic premises of my novel is that a huge and versatile movie star with tremendous box office power exists. I’m starting to wonder what’s happened to them in real life.
Just ten to fifteen years ago there were dozens of them, and despite the fact that Hollywood made plenty of junk movies (and that a number of these stars were in them) they also made a good deal of Oscar-buzz films built around the Gwyneth Paltrows, Juliette Bincohes, Nicole Kidmans, Joan Allens, Emma Thompsons, Daniel Day Lewises, Lawrence Fishburnes, Nicholas Cages and Kenneth Branaghs. Just take a look at some of the great, literate films these actors cut their teeth on.
Now things have changed. So many of these stars are now doing mostly comic book movies. You know the type: films people go to see largely for the CGIs, not the acting or stars. Do you think Iron Man or Iron Man 2 sold any more tickets because Gwynnie was in it? Were you as shocked as I was to see Adrian Brody and Lawrence Fishburne in Predators? Has Nicole Kidman made anything recently that’s worthy of her potential? The point isn’t that these aren’t or are “good” movies. The point is that the stars aren’t the draw. They seem to have lost some of their luminescence.
Meanwhile the celebrities that are making headlines are people who are accidentally famous, the “reality stars” and scandal sordids we just can’t seem to get enough of. (Just watch TMZ some night.) It seems today we don’t want famous people to have actually achieved anything, and I hesitate to arm-chair psychoanalyze, but I wonder if this says something about us. While there have always been the disproportionately famous, Paris Hilton began the present cycle of notoriety for absolutely nothing. And she opened the floodgates for all the Kate Gosselins and Kim Kardashians and Jersey Shore “celebrities.”
So what is fame? Is it recognition for achievement, or just hitting the lottery? It’s a good question—and one not easily answered. And is the premise of a Paltrowesque heroine now an outdated (or at least anachronistic) one?
P.S.: I just found this post, which seems to agree with me—movie stars as such may be a thing of the past, Welsey Shaw excepted! This writer thinks franchises are the draw now, and while that may be true, it’s interesting to note that a lot of franchise movies have landed with a thud this summer. So what’s next? Who knows?