Saturday, January 14, 2006

Character vs. Celebrity

Just saw Fun with Dick and Jane last weekend. It was okay. A couple funny parts. I find myself giving that review a lot more often these days. Kind of tired of seeing just "okay" movies. The big anchor that was holding the movie down is something that claims a lot of movies. The star was too big for the character. I wasn't watching "Dick" struggle to climb the corporate ladder, I was watching Jim Carrey throw his rubber band body around. How can Jim Carrey EVER play anything than...Jim Carrey? You'd never be fooled.

Sometimes actors become too unique, weird, or popular in and(or) outside of their films that they become their own "character" and are incredibly less effective as an actor. They can't step into a character because they eclipse it with their own. Here's some examples:

1. War of the Worlds - 2005
We were supposed to see a dead beat dad struggle amongst an alien invasion to protect his children. What we got was Tom Cruise. We've spent so many movies watching Tom Cruise shoot, jump, punch his way around corrupt law firms, super tech CIA computers, and F-14 Tomcats. Not for one second did you think he could fail. This is no dead beat dad, this is freakin' Maverick. How much more power would that film have carried, had the dad been played by an aging, overwheight, sloppy looking man? The type you imagine the very second you hear the words "child support."

2. Daredevil - (2003)
rated CP's number 1 worst movie of all time

I don't care how much red leather you throw on him, that is still Ben Affleck. It is quite a difficult feat to attempt to take a long standing, much loved character that in itself, without a human face attached, is popular. To then try and put an actor caught up in tabloid spectacles into that mask is a crime. We won't see Daredevil. We'll just see J-Lo.

Richard Donner did it best when he chose Christopher Reeve, a complete unknown, to be Superman. Warner Bros. wanted Robert Redford or Paul Newman. But all you'd be seeing is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

The problem when you put an unknown into an already established and cherished character is that if they do a bad job, they never act again, and if they do a great job, they're typecasted as THAT character the rest of their career.

3. The Family Stone (2005)
This is a different case. This isn't a single overwhelming person. This is a film where it is just too big of a stretch to put too many well known actors into a family, to the point where you can't possibly buy that they ARE a family. We've got Diane Keaton, Craig T. Nelson, Rachel McAdams, Luke Wilson, etc. It just takes a lot of "willing suspension" to buy that Annie Hall, Coach, The Notebook Girl, and Richie Tenenbaum all grew up together. To put together a cast like this could be killer. It just takes ridiculously good actors. The example of this pulled off flawlessly? The Godfather (1972), but even Pacino was an unknown back then.

So what's the answer to this? Always cast unknowns? The very second you become popular, you shouldn't get hired again? No. Not at all. See Naploeon Dynamite's Jon Heder about this. He'll forever be Napoleon Dynamite and any movie he does from this point on people will say, "It's that movie with Napoleon Dynamite in it."

While I do agree that unknowns are required for certain roles, I don't think that should ALWAYS be the case. I just think that directors should be careful what type of actors they cast. Do you want people to come to see the celebrity, or do you want them to come and be engaged by the story and the characters? Sure Jim Carrey will draw in some crowds, but unless he's funnier than anything we've ever seen him in thus far, then they'll be leaving the theater to never see your movie again.

1 comment:

ben s. said...

Good points. Casting unknowns is usually the way to go, especially with fantastical/escapist fare. That is why Star Wars worked back then and why Harry Potter works now. You sympathize and struggle with the CHARACTERS not ACTORS...since there is no baggage from tabloids and so on. And films like Star Wars and Harry Potter have proved the studios wrong when they constantly suscribe to the theory that the only way to make a buck is to have a popular actor/actress be the foundation of the film. Movies should be avenues of great STORIES, not an excuse for actor PROFILING and SHOWCASING.

So annoying.