Monday, January 30, 2006

Falling stars

Big article in the LA Times CALENDAR section Monday bemoaning the fact that today we have so few legitimate “movie stars” (Hollywood’s version of the Great Depression). Don’t tell that to the actors themselves. As far as they’re concerned they’re bigger and shine brighter than ever. They’re also under the delusion that their stardom will last. Approach one of these thesps to star in a television series and they will take it as an insult.

Well, guess what – sooner or later you’re all coming to us little people of the little screen. That’s right. You may have your Oscar and religion and entourage. You may have your vanity production company, a little yapping dog that you always carry in your purse, and star on Hollywood Blvd in front of the Museum of Bras – but sometime in the future you’re ours.

If there’s such a thing as “Murphy’s Law” I call this “Murphy Brown’s Law”. Candice Bergan, Whoopi, Bette, Geena, Spader, both Sheens …. The list goes on and on.

Movie people consider television the Fredo Corleone of entertainment even though most movie stars today made names for themselves by originally being on TV.

What usually happens is this: their career starts going south. Three straight flops, age catches up (29), a new Flavor-of-the-Month arrives, having a kid by Billy Bob Thornton – these are just the common reasons.

Your agent starts getting inquiries. Instead of laughing in your face he says “she’s not ready yet but maybe in a year”. This means the only offer she’s received in the last few months is the PROJECT GREENLIGHT movie and they want her to read for the 14 year old director. Check back in a week.

The next step is the agent informing the networks that their client “might” be available for someone to build a show around them. This list is distributed to studios and producers. I’m always amused that on this list are always two or three who include the condition “will only meet with A-level writers”. Invariably, these are actors who have never received higher than seventh billing.

A year later they’re in – starring in pilots, reading for pilots, doing a four show guest arc on a prestigious series, joining the cast of an established hit. At first it’s hard, a come down. But then they discover something – television is a great life! Big money, major recognition, steady work, three to six months off – all the things that were there the first time they were in TV and couldn’t wait to leave.

It turns out Fredo’s not so bad after all.

Jack Black – see you in five years. Jennifer Aniston – welcome back in three.


Stephen Gallagher said...

Jeez, you mean that in the long run there's nowhere we can go and be sure that Tom Cruise won't show up?

Alex Epstein said...

Also, on TV you get to do more acting. Assuming there's something left of the kid who actually wanted to act rather than "be a star," on TV you get to spend more time being someone else. And it's meatier acting -- delving deep into a character, discovering new things about that character... in movies you mostly, as Harrison Ford has it, get to run, jump and fall down.

I figured out once that Harrison Ford gets to spend about 20 hours a year acting. (120 minutes per movie, one movie per year, generous 10 to 1 shooting ratio = 1200 minutes = 20 hours.) . It would be nice to get his money, but I would HATE it if I only got to write, say, one month out of the year.

Paul Parducci said...

I think that more and more the line between Television and Film is blurring. Technology will continue to improve its ability to bring entertainment directly and portably to consumers.(Which lets face it, is more TV-ish than Movie-ish.) As an actor who works in both areas I have always enjoyed the pace of Television work and the "lets get it done" attitude of all involved. In addition, for the past while the Narrative work I've enjoyed as a viewer has been mostly Television ie: Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Sopranos,24, Six Feet Under and Desperate Housewives.

Cunningham said...

"that today we have so few legitimate “movie stars” (Hollywood’s version of the Great Depression)"

You know, as somone who has worked with the LA Times folks before, I am so surprised at their ignoring the history of movies. There has ALWAYS been those few at the top and many more working consistently in the industry.

Examples that come to mind are all of the stars of Republic studios, Monogram, PRC, etc -- The B-Movie "Stars" (the TV of their day) who were in series films in theaters across the country. Some actors actually got out of their contracts at the large studios where they weren't being used, and moved over (down?) to actually star in a picture. People like John Wayne, Roy Rogers, Judy Canova (sp?), et al...

This is not a new phenomenon this here populist TV thing attracting name talent...

Anonymous said...

So what does it mean when the only show on TV that will take you is "Dancing With The Stars"?

Michael said...

Does this mean Heather Graham will be on Cinemax anytime soon?


What our gracious host has supplied us with is the irrefutable law of nature known as the "Product" cycle in 4 phases - like a bell-curve.
and Decline

Read "The Kingmaker"
A masked Reagan bio
Lawrence Sanders'
"The Tomorrow File"
The next "Wild Palms"?