Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Wishing for a star...

I was asked yesterday whether Daniel Craig was an A list star up there with George Clooney and my answer had less to do with Craig than it did with Clooney who, as regularly readers will know, I have a lot of time for. He's a smart man with great taste in material, a very good filmmaker, and, given the right role and director, he can be a terrific actor. He's also (damn him) a very handsome and charming fellow who both the press and public seem to love and connect to. But can he open a movie the way Cruise did in the 80s and 90s? Or Hanks can. Or Gibson and Ford did. Does he get the masses into the multiplexes on Friday and Saturday nights? I'm sure those involved in Leatherheads' would have been somewhat disappointed by its opening weekend in the US where it was predicted to finish top but made $12.6million and was beaten by 21, a film with no real stars, which clung on to the number one slot for the second week running. So if Clooney can't get them in — and I'm talking outside of the Ocean's franchise — then who can? Brad Pitt? Well, he couldn't open The Assassination Of Jesse James despite amazing reviews. Matt Damon? Keanu Reeves? Jim Carrey? Vince Vaughn? Denzel? Russell Crowe? Christian Bale? Leonardo DiCaprio? Will Ferrell? Ben Stiller? Arguably the most bankable star currently on the planet is Johnny Depp. But even he couldn't get Sweeney's box office up to anywhere near it deserved to have been, although that might also have something to do with how the film was marketed in the US as much as anything else. I remember a few years back when Hollywood began talking about the next generation of stars, the Colin Farrells, Josh Hartnetts, Paul Walkers, and Jude Laws. Now while I have much time and respect for at least two of those, they haven't really connected to audiences in the way Hollywood might have hoped. It seems to me, writing this, that, alongside Depp, one of the biggest stars of the moment is Judd Aptow whose Forgetting Sarah Marshall looks set to be another big hit this summer. And he's not even an actor. He's a brand, clearly. So who are today's truly bankable stars? Who out there today could open a movie and pull in the punters the way Cruise did in the 80s when people flocked to see him star in just about anything, even a film about a bartender making cocktails? As for Craig? Only time will tell.

14 comments:

Gerard said...

After a great 2007 and his upcoming involvement with the new Terminator series, I'm sort of rooting for Josh Brolin to be that guy. Wouldn't call it likely, but I've really come to appreciate him this past year.

Times have changed though. Thanks to the internet, the average cinemagoer is more savvy in terms of what to espect from a film - we have film news websites (and blogs!) which track their production and there's literally an entire world of reviews available to those looking the day a film opens anywhere in the world. I think the sort of superstardom that made people flock to Cocktail is definitely on its way out, and - as you say - it's the Judd Apatows who can promise and continually deliver a high quality product which people can count on who are really where it's at.

Or just brands on the whole, for that matter. Look at all the huge successes of the past ten years in terms of receipts - Lord of the Rings, Pirates, Shrek, Spider-Man... all driven by brand recognition and not star power; the excpetion, of course, being Pirates, but Depp's Sparrow became the brand in and of itself, really.

Gerard said...

...Espect? What an unfortunate typo. What am I, six?

Matt J said...

Interesting post-sure -fire audience pullers these days seem to be comedy & horror-at least in the US. Perhaps Americans have an inate desire to be distracted from Iraq &their economy. How else to explain the success of MEET THE SPARTANS & the ongoing SAW franchise.

PIXAR & SHREK could be seen as modern 'stars' .

As for Tom Cruise-I think those Scientology vids are sriously damaging his appeal.

Matt J said...

By the way, have you been following the 'Reel Geezers' film reviews on YouTube? They're informed & hilarious. Their latest review, of LEATHERHEADS, is up now-

Mark Salisbury said...

Pixar is, of course, another sure-fire brand and this summer's Wall-E looks likely to be another massive hit for them.

I think horror is going through a sticky patch at present. Think of how many failures there's been this year so far and The Ruins hardly made a mark this weekend. Which is a shame because I hear it's not bad.

The Cruise situation is intriguing, especially with the recent announcement that Valkyrie has been put back once again, to next February.

I'm certainly not the only one who thinks M:I:4 would be a good next move for him. And if it's anything like the last one, I'm all for it...

J.D. said...

I could see Clive Owen being someone on Clooney's level -- becoming a very bankable star. All he needs is the right vehicle to hit out of the park so to speak.

A lot of comedians used to be very bankable: Mike Myers, Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey but have seen diminishing returns. Altho, in Myers' case as long as he keeps making AUSTIN POWERS films, his box office should remain high.

It was disappointing to see LEATHERHEAD underperform at the box office. I too am a big fan of the man's work. He seems to work hard at making films for adults to see and enjoy (SYRIANA, GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK, MICHAEL CLAYTON) and is able to parlay his blockbusters (the OCEAN films) into getting his smaller, more personal projects made.

Gerard said...

How could I forget Pixar?!

I totally agree about horror, though. Perhaps the failure of The Ruins to make a mark is the apathy of audiences who are sick of pointless remakes (I'm looking at you, Prom Night) and awful sequels (the Saw films).

Matt J said...

TROPIC THUNDER may turn around Cruise's perception by the public. I'd like to see him tackle material more like MAGNOLIA than M:I.

Mark Salisbury said...

I agree matt. I thought he was terrific in Magnolia. It's perhaps his best performance, although I loved him in Jerry Maguire. (This is an aside, but it's worth tracking down Cameron Crowe's piece that he wrote for Rolling Stone about the making of the movie which details a fascinating meeting between Cruise, Crowe and Billy Wilder.)

I know, how about a Clooney/Cruise team up. Are you listening Hollywood?

I think the jury's still out on Owen but it may well be down to finding the right movie for him. I thought he was terrific in Children Of Men but I think Clooney has an onscreen... well, warmth is the only word I can think of to describe, and I'm not sure Owen has that. Or at least he hasn't shown it yet. I could be wrong. I haven't seen everything he's done.

Fran said...

I always get the feeling Clive Owen might be better on stage than he is onscreen. He's got presence, but I always feel a bit distanced from him because I'm aware of him as an actor rather than a character. Which is all very fine and Brechtian, but...

Speaking of Farrell, have you seen In Bruges yet? If not, hurry hurry, it's fantastic.

Mark Salisbury said...

Nope, not seen In Bruges yet. It's one of those films, just like Son Of Rambow, where events conspired for me to miss every single screening. I will be paying my money when it opens next week. Though I saw you managed to score some free tickets...

Fran said...

Made it all the sweeter ;) though I'm going to be going back when it opens and dragging everyone else with me! Well worth it :D Haven't seen Son of Rambow either, though...

J.D. said...

Yeah, I agree that Cruise was good in MAGNOLIA and JERRY MAGUIRE. He's one of the actors who really needs to butt heads with a director with a strong vision. I think that some of Cruise's finest work: COLLATERAL, EYES WIDE SHUT, COLOR OF MONEY, BORN ON THE 4TH OF JULY was a result of working with a director that he couldn't exert control over that he had to submit to their will. That friction, I think, resulted in some pretty fascinating work.

Schmid4Brains said...

i think that movie-goers are more motivated by the movie BRAND these days than by the actors...

ah crap. i need to read the previous posts before starting my own.

to gerard's point about the internet though, i think that (like blogs) there are too many one-hit actors/actresses coming across the screen. and when they HAVE that hit movie, you see them in a bunch of OKAY movies soon thereafter.

i mean, i get it. it's marketing. gotta make money. gotta develop the actor's BRAND right away while the buzz is still there... but cramming great actors down our throats doesn't make us want to go to the movies.

take Viggo Mortensen. there's a movie with him about once a year. i'll go see him because the media is not obsessed with him, there's not a movie with him every 4 months. he's a solid bet with the right script and director. right now, i would say more people would go to see a viggo mortensen film than daniel craig or even george clooney.

as with most of my rants, i'm about 4 days late and probably made little to no sense. congratulations to all who made it through.