Is being a celebrity good for you?
Is being an actor good for you, indeed, is stardom good for you, and not just your health either, but is it good for your life and those around it? Friends, family and close relationships?
With the passing of Heath Ledger who was undoubtedly going to reach much greater things in his career, and all the news of celebrates heading off the rails, I began to wonder, is acting and fame good for you?
We'll never really know what happened really to him, but it seems clear that it was an accident and is a tragedy to film. However it did make me think once again on the cult of celebrity and how the life of the Hollywood actor is far from conducive to a normal, healthy world.
The very essence of being an actor is playing and being known as someone else, someone totally different, and while that can protect some it also causes problems for others.
It's the same with most celebrities, they become known for their alter ego(s), their public persona, and that's all the public can often see them as. We, the audience and the fans, can place incredible demands on these people.
What's worse is when something is discovered about that star that contradicts the public facing persona, for instance infidelity, religious beliefs or beliefs in general. This is especially true if they decide to speak out publicly on some issue, with the media and the audience ready to make them a saint or paint them a self-serving devil.
It seems that neither group is really interested in the private, or real side of a celebrity until they are failing or contradicting that public persona.
Here's something, why don't you try and think of all the ongoing successful marriages between actors that you can, and then think of failed ones. It's much easier the latter.
Now the question does arise is what is the biggest issue, is it that relationships between actors are incredibly difficult to keep going, or is it that the media and the audience don't care until something goes wrong, and when it does the star is hounded for it?
I've always thought that there's an incredible strain that must be placed on a relationship between actors. There's the months away from home for a single film, depending on filming location and the work schedule, and if there are two celebrities in the relationship, the added pressure of the other partner doing likewise.
This just doesn't hold true for actors, musical artists have tours, and other celebrities have similar work pressures and constraints.
For me though there's always been another fundamental issue, and forgive me if you're an actor and I'm a naive audience member, but in many films an actor has to fake a relationship with someone. While they are somewhat removed from reality by repeated takes and huge amounts of people on set it's still intimacy and closeness, and with the amount of time spent off set and the closeness that can grow between people, there's still a real chance of a relationship starting.
At the heart of this people are still people, and we're flawed. We have pangs of guilt, misdirected anger and we get jealous. Now if I was married to an actress - forgive me I've been using the term actor in the generic sense - I would find it hard to reconcile the difference between them kissing me and telling me they loved me, and their on screen and on set relationship.
That's ignoring the extra pressure that would be put on my emotions and the relationship through the media and their continuing wild stories, especially if they were off on location.
There lies the biggest obstacle to a Hollywood/celebrity relationship, the media. They care little of the person or people involved (apart from Filmstalker I like to think) and can ride right over their personal life.
One only has to look at the pressures that couples such as Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, or Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt face, two of the perhaps biggest examples of the media encroaching on the personal life of stars and the audience mixing that with their public persona.
Of course we have a right to their public persona, they are selling that persona to us and taking money from us, but shouldn't we let them have some private life alone and let the pressures of fame be eased off from them?
Doing the normal private things that couples do can become impossible with the media after every square inch of page viewing possible. Shopping, going for a coffee, eating out, sitting in the garden, spending time on holiday. It all becomes impossible.
Should we be surprised when stars retreat to huge villas, set-up exclusion zones around their houses, walk round with a group of bodyguards, snap at photographers, and even refuse to sign autographs continuously?
Imagine your life in that environment and under those pressures, could you keep a relationship alive? Could you keep a happy private life going and maintain some kind of normality? I, for one, would find that very hard to do.
So is it little wonder that Hollywood stars and other celebrities are finding their lives and relationships in complete turmoil? Are we and the media at fault for propagating and building the pressure that falls on them? Do we all need to back off from their private lives and just concentrate on the personal persona?