Saturday, 5 April 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #79: A Tale of Two Types of Movie Stars

George Clooney's period football comedy Leatherheads got tackled at the box office, opening weakly in the #2 slot, in a slow period and making way below the expert forecasts.

Now I wrote about Clooney before when Time Magazine named him the Lost Last Movie Star I hoped that would be the last I'd have to write about him but I'm compelled to explain the situation again.

There are two types of movie stars in Hollywood.

Those who appeal to the audience, and those who appeal to the media.

Audience Appealers are actors like Will Smith, Adam Sandler, and a handful of others who seek that essential, yet often overlooked, ingredient for making a hit movie: The good will of the audience.

These actors use that good will to not only sell the broad crowd-pleasers, but can sometimes sell more "artsy" or "non-commercial" fare. While some may not view most of them as aspirational as the old-time stars of Hollywood's Golden Age they're likable, people can relate to them, and most of all they don't insult the audience.

Audience appe
alers generate an aura of positivity around them. They present an image of someone who works hard to entertain the audience, because they consider the audience the most important part of their business.

Media Appealers: Build their careers on appealing to media insiders. To them the approval of the audience is secondary to the approval of other actors, entertainment reporters, major critics, and other media insiders.

So you see them make movies that fail, but they keep getting more and more money, because of the almost constant coverage they get in the press, that treats their every fart like a revelation from the mountain.

Now there was a time when media controlled how things were spun and they could make a star who appealed only to them a box-office success. That time is dead, thanks to the internet.

Remember George Clooney's decidedly callous remarks about Charlton Heston's Alzheimer's disease, which he then defended, claiming Heston "deserved it" for his work with the NRA.

The media forgave Clooney because he pandered to their prejudices against Hollywood outsiders like Republicans, Christians, and political/social conservatives, but all the public saw was a rich, spoiled, brat of an actor, cruelly taunting a terminally ill old man with a distinguished career, and a personal life dedicated to many fine causes like civil rights.

You don't win fans by kicking Moses when he's sick.

Just imagine the uproar if a political conservative actor (if you can find one) made a similar comment about an elderly, and terminally ill liberal activist?

He'd be scorned by the media, shunned by the audience, and rightly so. No one likes arrogance and cruelty in their movie stars, whether it's politically correct or not.

And then there's Clooney's air of arrogance, as if stardom was a divinely dispensed by the accident of his birth and by virtue of having a Malibu address, and not by audiences.

That may be how you win friends and influence people in Hollywood, but it's not going to make you any friends on Main Street.

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