It's not easy to make the jump. Many flame out. Jason Bateman is crossing over. Jennifer Aniston did it a few years ago and is still making movies.
it got me thinking about other TV vets who crossed the great divide and
made it big in features. The one that jumps to mind immediately is
James Cromwell. Terrific actor. Can play anything. But for years he
just knocked around as a goofy character actor on TV. He was “Jamey”
Cromwell then. We used him a couple of times on MASH and he was
terrific. But I remember once when casting a pilot his name came up and
my partner and I said, “he’s good but Jesus, haven’t we seen him like a
million times? Isn’t there anyone else more fresh?”. Today we’d be
lucky if he’d read one of our scripts.
there are many other examples from George Clooney to Morgan Freeman,
Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Goldie Hawn, Thomas Hayden Church, Woody
Harrelson, and I'm sure you can list ten others. But for every one who
makes it, there are also a hundred David Caruso's and Matt LeBlanc's
who don't. Why?
I don’t know. The X-Factor.
Movie stars have a presence, a danger, a glow. There is something
riveting about them. They can surprise you. They can command the big
incredibly lucky. They happened to be in a hit. Again, going back to
Jamey Cromwell. He gets a call from his agent:
Agent: Listen, I think I got something for you.
Jamey: (excited) A guest spot on WEBSTER?
Jamey: Wow! What?
Agent: A movie.
Jamey: Really! Fantastic!
Agent: Yeah, it’s a great story. There’s this pig that wants to be a sheepdog and he goes to live with this…
Jamey: Wait, wait. Back up a minute. A pig?
Agent: Cutest one you’ve ever seen.
Jamey: Brother. And what do I play?
Agent: The farmer.
Jamey: Who does what?
Agent: Who enters the pig in a sheepdog contest.
Jamey: Do I have a lot of lines?
Agent: Yes, but not as many as the pig.
Jamey: See if you can get me a callback on that WEBSTER.
Agent: No, no, you’re not hearing me. This could be a huge mainstream movie. And of the humans, you have the most to do.
Jamey (wavering): Well… it would be good to be in a big summer blockbuster.
Agent: Great. They film in Australia.
Jamey: Huh? How mainstream can this be if we film it in Australia?
Agent: I dunno. They got a deal on the pigs.
Jamey: Don’t Levine & Isaacs have a pilot? I mean, if I’m going to stoop…
Sorry. Nothing this season. I think the industry is starting to wise
up about those two hacks. And I’m afraid WEBSTER isn’t going to
happen. I’ve been holding this from you but Alex Karras doesn’t think
you’re a good actor.
Jamey: Alex Karras? I’m not good enough for Alex Karras? Okay. Fine. I’ll do the fucking pig movie.
Agent: That’s great! Fantastic! Except…
Jamey: Except what? I lose the audience’s sympathy by eating my co-star?
Agent: No, it’s just that… you don’t have it yet. They’re going to want a screen test
A screen test?! Why? They know what I’ve done. Just watch any
episode of LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE. I must’ve played eighteen
but they… they kinda want to see if there’s any chemistry between you
and the uh… your little pink co-star… who by the way, would get billing
under you. I negotiated that. It wasn’t easy but I got it. (Off
Jamey’s silence) Look, you’re right. I’ll find something else. Let me
check the cop shows. See which ones you weren’t killed in and I’ll
call them again.
Jamey: (resigned) No, no. What the hell? Set up a meeting with the pig.
was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in BABE and went on to
terrific roles in many top movies including L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. If Matthew Perry's new series (THE ODD COUPLE) doesn't catch on I think he'll be on the phone to agent saying, "Scare me up a pig."