Actor and rapper Will Smith turns 49 today. He began his career as a rapper, performing as The Fresh Prince, almost immediately after his graduation from high school. He and Jeff Townes (aka DJ Jazzy Jeff) won the inaugural Grammy for Best Rap Performance in 1989. He also got himself into difficulty with the IRS, but escaped potential bankruptcy when he landed the starring role on NBC’s The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Success in films soon followed. In the early 1990s, he appeared in films like Made in America and Six Degrees of Separation, and he then starred in Bad Boys in 1995. In the next two years, he starred in the two biggest box office successes of his career (after adjusting for inflation), both sci-fi films, one a large-scale action thriller with an ensemble cast, the second an action comedy pairing him with Tommy Lee Jones.
Pretend you are a high powered Hollywood producer. The year is 1992 – a time when movie stars mattered. If you wanted to open a hit movie, you needed an A-list leading man. In order to attract top-tier talent, deals were being struck that included ever-increasing pay days for a select group of movie stars. In the July 1992 issue of Movieline magazine, they looked at who was earning six million dollars or more per picture and asked, are they worth it? Some of these guys may have been. Some, in retrospect, definitely weren’t . With the benefit of a quarter century of hindsight, let’s sort out who belongs in which group.
John McTiernan’s Predator was a manly movie. Most 80’s action movies would be satisfied with having a bunch of commandos shooting up a gang of insurgents in the jungle. But that’s Predator‘s starting point. From there, the military guys find themselves hunted by an alien creature. By comparison, Oliver Stone’s Wall Street is a lot more grounded. In his still-topical drama, greedy men do whatever it takes to make themselves just a little bit richer.
In 1987, Michael Douglas was having a very good year. He had the biggest hit of his career to date (adjusted for inflation, Fatal Attraction remains the highest-grossing movie in Douglas’ filmography) and he would go on to win Best Actor (not Best Supporting Actor) for a supporting role in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street. Douglas’ one-two punch of 1987 pushed him into the A-list and fueled his career as a leading man into the next decade.
Our two headliners today are married, making it very easy to find a photo of the two of them together.
Michael Douglas, son of actor Kirk, turns 72 today. In the 1970s his acting career took off on television’s Streets of San Francisco, but during that decade his greatest fame came as a producer, when One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest won Best Picture for 1975. He produced and co-starred in The China Syndrome, but he did not emerge as a convincing leading man until another film he produced in 1984, involving a map, a fabulous emerald, and Kathleen Turner: