What the Hell Happened to Movie Stars?
Jeffthewildman wonders where all the big movie stars went.
Yeah, it’s a shame that Ginger Grant can’t pack em in at tho box office anymore!
Nope, not that movie star.
I mean movie stars in general. There was a time when a number of things would draw people to a movie. It was a recognizable brand name. The story looked interesting. It was a recognizable brand name. The director was well-respected. It was a recognizable brand name. It was a popular series. It was a recognizable brand name.
And there were the stars of those movies.
Be it Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Richard Burton, Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor, Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Warren Beatty, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood, Meg Ryan or anyone featured in the WTHH series, movie stars have been one of the key elements of getting butts in seats.
That era however, seems to have come to an end.
So of course, the question is raised: what the hell happened?
A few things actually.
1: Movies have become less star-driven and more brand-centric.
There ae obvious examples of this (Marvel movies, Disney movies, DC Comics, Transformers, Fast And Furious, etc). While many of these franchises have recognizable names (Robert Downey Jr, Vin Diesel, Ben Affleck, etc) those names are not what draws audiences to them. It’s brand loyalty. You eat at McDonald’s/Wendy’s/Taco Bell because you know what you’re gonna get. Same with these franchises.
2: Older stars are losing their popularity.
In the 80s, the aforementioned Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were kings of the box office (along with also-rans like Seagal and Van Damme). But chnages in both Hollywood and the real world rendered them obsolete.
Outside of the realm of action, there are other examples. After having his career revived by Quentin Tarantino, John Travolta was a box office draw for most of the 90s and a while in the 2000s. Today, most of his movies go directly to video. Between 1994 and 1999, Jim Carrey was a guaranteed draw, Today, his box office success is pretty hit and miss.
Even Mr. Guarantee, Tom Cruise has hit a rough patch as of late. His late few efforts have underperformed at the box office.
A few of the more recent box office draws have started moving in other directions. When Ben Affleck and George Clooney began to sense that their time on the A-list might be coming to an end, they started following in Eastwood and Redford’s footsteps and shifting towards directing.
3: Newer stars are not the same draws.
There are new stars emerging all the time. And casting them in movies is often a help both artistically and in getting some people to come see the movies.
But they aren’t major draws the way the likes of Cruise was.
Older ones like Matt Damon and Brad Pitt have followings. But they’re not the huge ones they once had. Some of them, Russell Crowe comes to mind, are more character actors than A-listers. The likes of Tom Hardy and Oscar Isaac, while they have dedicated fans, are also more character actor types than major draws. Mad Max Fury Road was a huge success and deservedly so. But Hardy wasn’t the main draw.
There are a couple who might still have enough drawing power (Leonardo Dicaprio and Ryan Gosling come to mind). But there aren’t as many as there were two decades ago.
Of course, having well-known actors in a movie can still be good for the bottom line of the movie. A recognizable name like Bradley Cooper will likely draw more people than a name like Joe Schmoe. But even his name on the poster is no guarantee of success. American Sniper was a smash. Aloha bombed.
Some people say that the era of the movie star is over. Not quite. There are still movie stars. But the days of them as draws for big movies has passed for the reasons noted above. That’s what the hell happened.