Monday, May 31, 2010

ACTORS TIP: Longevity....a lost art?

Back in the day - it seems like once you "made it" as an A-list actor - you were golden. You had a career that would last and people couldn't wait to see your films. Hell - most of the greats are still making films and winning awards (Meryl, De Niro, Clint Eastwood etc.) But today - longevity is a lost art. With all the media outlets to learn about our favorite stars - we can access information about them at any given time - and when a star 'takes off' it seems there is a feeding frenzy that happens with fans and the media and they are shoved in our faces 24 hours a day - no mystery. We can find anything from what their favorite food is to how they spend their weekends - all with the click of a mouse. Hollywood stars weren't always as accessible - and I think the mystery is what kept people interested and always wanting more.

I think in a way - this has destroyed the longevity of young Hollywood. They are thrown in our faces so much that we get sick of them. We're all about it while they are hot - but once their 'run' ends - we are ready to move on to the next. Who is the Meryl Streep of our time? The Robert De Niro? The James Dean? The Audrey Hepburn? The Marlon Brando? These icons will always be remembered and still draw in audiences to this day. Are we going to have icons like that - or is today's society so fast paced and 'on to the next' that icon's are a thing of the past?

As an actor myself - this is scary. I think most actors have this dream of making it - but then what? It seems like one false move (or movie, rather) can mean then end. There is always someone younger - prettier or more handsome to take your place. So what will make you last? Your looks? Fat chance! (No pun intended). Talent? You would think talent would trump all this - but that doesn't always seem to be the case. So what then? Luck? How can you possibly pick a great script/role every time?

Another factor that I believe adds to this is... Independent Film's are having a hard time getting out there. Back in the day - actors had the opportunity to pick these gritty, character driven roles to show audiences their "stuff". But the whole Indie Film industry has completely changed. You can't be Joe Blow, who makes a small independent film and get it into Sundance. It's just not gonna happen. 

A perfect example is Kristen Stewart - I use her because she is so hot right now with the whole Twilight phenomenon.  She did several great films before Twilight - but I never really heard much about her before the Twilight franchise sky rocketed. Now she is all over the internet and in the tabloids and magazines...but even with her mega-Twilight fame - not a lot of people went and saw 'The Runaways'. Some would argue it's because it was rated R and her Twilight fans couldn't get in - which could be - but I tend to think not. Since when did an R rating stop a die hard 16 year old fan from getting into a movie? It didn't stop me! Are you saying that if the next Twilight film were rated R - that would stop these young fans from getting in? Especially in today's times - do they even 'card' at movies anymore? It will be very interesting to see what happens with her career once Twilight is over. Will those die hard fans still support her and all her films? Or will the next 'big thing' come along and divert their attention? 

You know - it's almost as if the movie franchise's themselves have taken the place of the stars. People will follow a franchise regardless of who's in it.

In the end - what I'm really asking is.... What does it take to have longevity in this business as a young actor?


  1. I like this idea. I agree the media gives away the mystery, I think actors have a harder time shaking off the persona and the hype to act. I think fanning has done it and stewart is desperately trying to shake it off and can't. RPatz is an example of the franchise being bigger then the star. He has done a couple of other movies and no one has seen them! So they just want him as a Cullen and Stewart is just wanted as Mrs. Cullen. Dan and were just talking about Samuel L. Jackson--aside from acting do we know anything about him? Does he have a wife, kids, past drug experience...??? I think that is how he is able to be so many characters because we don't have an 'Us weekly' version of him. Indie films seem to be shrugging off 'struggling' actors and becoming an avenue for 'it' stars to get gritty. So that leaves the up and comers needing to work twice as hard to get noticed. As a producer I always hear 'Who's the star?' not 'What's the story?'

    Good topic.

  2. It's not the fault of the 'rags' that push these people in our faces to the point of nauseum - it's the PEOPLE that keep buying those "magazines". They take no credibility when they report something and then it turns out to be false - they don't care how many times a certain actor is on the cover (as long as the magazine sells) and in a sense - it is the fault of the actor for being TOO acessible and letting EVERY single detail of their lives be out there in the open..

    That is one of the reasons that I am growing to hate Hollywood more and more. I look forward movies to hurry up and open so they will be a memory (ie: Karate Kid), and then, I look at most of these actors and think 'how long until YOU are a memory...?".

    At the end of the day - it is our own fault...

  3. Wow, this is a very good point. I've felt the same way but never delved into it like you just did, Nikki. Great points!

    My own personal thoughts on this, based on my experiences with the younger generation: Cell phones, MP3 players, game systems, and computers. These are all staples in the younger generation's lives, and how long are they around? They want the latest break through in cell phones (excuse me, personal mobile device) and it is cutting edge. They HAVE to have it, for about 6 to 9 months when the NEXT latest and greatest one comes out.

    They line up outside stores days in advance of the introduction of the latest game system, just like they did with the game sytem they have now when it was the latest and greatest a couple years ago.

    When I bragged to the younger generation that I still have my first portable CD player from 1986, and it works good as new, they asked me why I would want something that lasts that long when something better comes out every year?

    I feel the younger generation has no sense of things being around for very long, and that includes actors. I feel that some of the young actors are extremely popular because of the movie they are in, and not because of a truely captivating performance. Once that actor is out of that series of movies, they are something other than the magic of those movies, and that is not what they used to be, and therefore are ignored (with few exceptions).

    There will be another great movie or movie series that will be exciting and new. There will be "cute" actors in them with great abs, NEW abs at that, and a new smile. The comments now about actors is how "hot" they are (fan comments), not what an amazing performance they just saw.

    And so, this need for the latest and greatest, the next best thing, stokes a drive for new actors and new looks, and then on to the next. Is it possible that the truely breathtaking performances are no longer appreciated by the younger movie goer? I think so.

    .....unless they are talking about one of the classic actors, like Harrison Ford. But no numbers are being added to this class of actors by the younger audience. I don't feel the majority (at least 51%) are capable.

    This is sad.

  4. My take - so much content - who is going to fill the roles. TV - Cable - Theater - Commercials - Music Videos - Movie - Pay Per View only movies... every hour on any channel - you'll find a program that is in need of actors - at some point - the bar for talent has got to be lowered if all the roles are to be filled. It's math. I would also agree - the actor mystic is pretty much gone - we know EVERYTHING about the actor - the mystery on what makes them tick and able to be such an artist - is pretty much gone - save a very very few - take Chris Pine - know anything about him besides he kicked ass in Star Trek- has the talent and the looks to be huge with his acting chops - and just landed the next huge Jack Ryan/Tom Clancy movie - and he'll nail it - point is it can be done - but it will be very very rare. While I do feel some - not much - but some responsibility lands at the feet of the actor and their off screen behavior - because let me tell ya - the Rat Pack did some crazy drunken stunts - and so did Monroe and James Dean etc - plenty of actors made political statements - fought the in the war - protested the war and on and on - we just never heard about all the behavior via the coverage of news being what it was back then - or - we thought of it as cool because - hey - that's what those cool cats did - or - society was too busy working and thought - hell I'd do the same if I was them... whatever the reason - today - if you fart in the living room as an actor - it will be online and millions will know about it - add to that MOST if not all movies make ANY actor that has any following sign a contract DEMANDING so many interviews and public appearances to promote their movie - and if the actor won't do that - they get passed over for the next actor that will. I make my actors sign one - no way am I doing all the promotion work - big movies have HUGE demands forcing the actor to be out there talking night and day 24 7 for their movie. They have to do it - or sit at home and collect no money. Me - I sitll ove it all - I love the crazy acotrs - I follow certain acotrs and will see anything they are in - I could care less what they say and do offscreen as long as it's legal - hell truth be told I just have no time to bother with the news or TMZ or anything like that - I'm working all the time - but when I see they are in a movie coming up - I set up time to see the movie. That's just me - I think actors will always be - and the public does love them well - I agree the movie franchise itself is becoming just as huge as the stars themselves used to be - and maybe - that's not so bad - and maybe it is?

  5. Nikki, interesting blog on the longevity of actors. I agree the availability of information can be daunting but in the "old days" there were multitudes of movie mags to tell all about the actors. There were also a few privileged reporters who literally had control over many of the actors lives by threats of exposure about them. In early days any suggestions of a popular star being gay was devastating. And the media controlled the news about the actors. But as one of your bloggers said, you had to buy the mags to read this stuff. And now, tune in to all the tv shows, etc about them. I think actors must keep working to build up their "resume" so to speak.

    There was a great documentary on Eastwood this weekend. One thing became very apparent to me. He loved working and he constantly worked on projects he believed in, especially after obtaining the star power to do what he wanted to do. Both as an actor and especially as a director/actor. Not all his flicks were immensely popular but they were good. It has been said many times but IT IS TRUE. You must love the work and the doing of the work......not just the desire to be famous. Then I think you will survive and thrive and longevity will follow naturally. So don't worry too much, Nikki, just love what you are doing, constantly strive to do it better, and you will grow and last!!!

  6. Lots of great input by everyone on this topic. It would seem there are quite a few factors at work that prevent a lot of the elements that used to exist from happening anymore. It's not just 2 or 3 things, it would seem to be 8 or 9 things at play here.

    It would seem in this day of easy exposure, to keep their popularity up as an actor, that this very concept works against them and instead causes a quicker loss of the "honeymoon" with them.

  7. @ Nicole - first - thank you so much for reading/commenting! Seriously - it means a lot. I think you make a valid point about Sam Jackson - but I wonder if that is even possible anymore for young stars? How would Kristen Stewart avoid the media etc - I believe it's in their contract when they sign on to do these films that they have to give a certain amount of interviews/make appearances... and they are constantly followed around by paps.

    I was reading an interview she gave and she admits to hating the craziness - and has been photographed flipping off paps etc. So it's not like she's a Lindsey Lohan who's wanting to put herself out there.

    I dunno - just a thought.

  8. @ Ed - Thanks for commenting Ed! :) I do think the public plays a big part in this by buying the magazines... but I'm not sure it's the stars who necessarily make themselves too available. Kristen Stewart constantly comments how she doesn't like the constant attention and she refuses to answer questions about her relationships etc. I think actors are required a certain amount of interviews etc when they sign onto a project.

    @ Steve - I completely agree - and that's scary - it seems the younger generation doesn't care as much about a great performance - they care more about who's "hot" and what popular series they are in. There were a few great movies/great performances that came out last year - and I didn't hear anyone from the younger generation talking about those films or those performances... which is so strange to me! lol

  9. @ Shirley - That's what I have to tell myself whenever I think about this topic and the rarity of an actor being around for a long time anymore...

    All I can do is focus on the work and try to pick projects that I believe in and just see where that takes me. I've never been in this for the fame or money - I think it was more a worry of the type of path/career I want to have as an actor - and wondering if that path is even available anymore.

    I didn't know that about the reporters controlling the news about actors. That is terrifying. I guess at least the way the media is now - there is so much thrown at you and most of the time it's false that as an actor you could deny it... but if there were only a select few reporters and they said it - I imagine that would be devastating.

  10. @ Oak - I'm with you - I don't much care what an actor does off screen (with some exceptions of course) - if I love them as an actor and they constantly give good performances - I'll see their movie. What do I care if they got drunk and did a strip dance at a local bar... lol.

  11. Great discussion everyone! I know there are some contracted things and I agree that the news puts out what people want. Scorsese did admit at one time that he had to start letting news cameras on set for DVD packaging footage and he had to 'adjust'. Oak, you are spot on! I have a nice list of actors, directors and cinematographers that I will head to the movies for and with the cost of childcare on a Friday night that says a lot. :)

  12. Filling expectations is the key I would think.

    A coke machine delivers a coke that taste the same each time you taste it. Coke has become an American Icon. We see a red can and the first thing we do is say, "Wow, is that a coke?" or "That must be a coke." We pick the can up and try to sip it. Immediately our minds remember the taste and we try hard to simulate in our minds before the coke reaches our lips and tongue. Hell, just hearing the fizz while opening a can of coke causes some change in our body.

    I am not much of a coke fan like I use to be, but the point is that the word Coke is a proper noun. Even if there is a table of Pepsi's people say, "Grab me a Coke." You as an actor, or this can go for any career, needs to be a proper noun in peoples heads. Set the expectation and deliver each and every time like the coke machine does. You will live forever, in the hearts and minds of people.

  13. Wow Kelly - that is a very interesting point - I've never thought of it that way - but I can definitely see what you are saying. Almost like making yourself a brand that people can rely on.

    Thanks so much for reading/commenting! :)

  14. Hi, first time caller, excited to be on your show...

    Anyway, some of the issues here are age. Clint Eastwood was 35 when he broke out big time, (29 if you count the TV show Rawhide), Robert Redford was 33 when he became a star in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. John Wayne was 32 when Stagecoach came out. These guys had all been around awhile and had honed their chops. How many teen stars of my day (and Oaklahoma's) are still a major force? A few, but even those disappeared for awhile before making a "come-back."

  15. And I misspelled Oklahoma. I can't believe I did that.

  16. That's an interesting slant to consider Robert - I'll have to think how actors such as Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp etc and how they fit into that. But more so - how women actors fit into that... because in Hollywood - by the age of 35 - a female actor better have a large body of work behind her because 35 is considered pretty much over-the-hill - in Hollywood anyway. So I wonder if a 35 year old woman could even try to start a career. And so the more I think about it - I'm wondering if in today's time - how all this would apply - using the examples about such as Leonard, Depp etc..

    Good points though Robert - and thanks for taking the time to read/comment. It really means a lot. :)

  17. Great post. Agree about "mystery". Theres a difference between promoting your "work" out there and "yourself" We see too much.

    Too mny actors, comedians, musician's also cross over to shit like TV presenters, or go to areas they shouldnt. Although they are usually people I would not repect anyway.

    A top acting teacher from the actors studio says your talent lies in your "choice" I think she had a point here. The people that last long in this biz, are very specific about the work they do.

    Guys like Eastwood have just got better over the years because of this. Someone with his stauture could easily have took a commercial road of just one bad job after the other.

    I have seen countless actors that should be big stars, but they made a lot of bad choices after they won some big award or an oscar.

    When you lose tht edge, passion for the "work", I think its all over. Sure, many stars still work, but they dont "evolve"

    Great post!