Are films too reliant on big name stars?
The other day we learned that Gravity, the film from Alfonso Cuarón that was set to co-star the big name of Robert Downey Jr. but showcase the talents of a leading Hollywood actress, was struggling and might not get made at all. Why so? Was the studio in difficulty? Downey or Cuarón pulling out? No, it's because Angelina Jolie had said no to the lead for a second time.
We've seen this kind of thing happen a few times before, but what's surprising here is that after they tested many big name actresses they went back to Jolie, and now she's said no again, the word is that the film is in danger of being scrapped.
That surprises me and raises two points, first is that the film is so reliant on a big name star, and one in particular, that it won't get made otherwise, and the other that Jolie was the only female actress who could take charge of the film.
Let me address the obviously incorrect one first, that Angelina Jolie is the only one who could lead the film.
Gravity will tell the story of a Captain and a member of his crew who are the sole survivors after a terrible accident in space. For some reason which we don't know yet, the crew member ends up being the only one to face the journey back to Earth on her own. The majority of the film would feature the actress as the only character on screen, she would have to carry the film.
For me that means two things. You cannot be distracted by the person the actress is, you cannot watch her and think of the person or another role that she's famous for or some type of personality trait, and also that the actress has to be utterly believable in the role, never mind the fact that she has to be an excellent actress.
So why is Angelina Jolie the only actress that can play that role? Well I think some would find it hard to say that she can disassociate herself from previous roles or her public persona, do you look at Jolie and get drawn into the character she's playing, or do you see Jolie playing a part? There's no question of her being a wonderful actress, but she's going to have to play this role hard to stop us looking at Jolie.
Then there are the other choices that were tested between the two offers made to Jolie, and according to Deadline Hollywood Daily they are Sandra Bullock, Natalie Portman, Naomi Watts, Marion Cotillard, Carey Mulligan, Scarlett Johansson, Sienna Miller, Abbie Cornish, Rebecca Hall, Olivia Wilde and Blake Lively.
Rumour's aside, is the suggestion that none of these actresses could match up to Jolie? Is that really the case?
Looking at Hollywood “star power”, I would think that she's probably leading the way on that list, but then there are a few names there that are very close, and some of those names will be hard to disassociate from their previous roles or their Hollywood persona.
For me there are some clear options that leap off the page/screen, Sandra Bullock and Naomi Watts meet those criteria, they are the big Hollywood star names they need, they could carry the role themselves and they could convince the audience that they are the character, but it seems that the studio weren't convinced.
If we drop the "Hollywood star power" comment for the moment there are three names that pop out at me, Marion Cotillard, Carey Mulligan, and Rebecca Hall. All these actresses are more than capable of capturing the audience and convincing them of the part, and they are great on screen.
So why didn't they choose one of these names? Why did the production test all these actresses and then try out Jolie once again? Did all of them deliver such poor performances? We can't really sure but I can take a strong guess, it's that “Hollywood star power” that is so often talked about, they don't yet have it.
Right now Jolie is incredibly hot property, she's starring in huge films that are raking in money, and the press and the studios love her. Quite rightly so, and that's why they want her associated with the film, if she's in the lead there's an automatic perception of the film, the advertising will increase, the exposure will rocket, there is so much more free advertising it's ridiculous, and all because of the actress, because of the name.
Would that be the same for some of these other actresses? Would it be the same for the names I think would do the role justice? It's clear that it wouldn't for the studio, for they seem intent on gaining Jolie for the role, and if they can't get her then what are they going to do? Halt the film?
To me that seems insane when there are so many other actresses out there that are more than capable, but it's all about that big name star, and to think it's something that the studios, the media and we can create from actors and actresses, it's about that Hollywood persona that they carry and the one that builds in the press and we pay up for.
Notice now that I've talked about nothing but the lead actress and we're not even examining the story, the writer, the director, the co-stars, with the leading co-star a huge Hollywood name himself. All we're concentrating on is the leading actress, and if a studio are going to decide the fate of a project on the one name, is that really the right thing to do for cinema, for the audience?
Could we going to loose out on a a great story because the one Hollywood star said no to the project? I have no doubt it will go ahead, but what strikes me about all this is the reliance on that “Hollywood star power” and next to nothing seemingly on the other huge talent and potential in the project already, we only have to look at the director to see the quality of films behind him, where's the reliance on him, on the script?
Should a film rely on a big name Hollywood star like this? Clearly in an existing franchise there may be no choice, but this is a brand new, stand alone film. Imagine the great films we could be losing because studios are too focused on the star power of the lead and not enough on the writer, the director and the story itself.