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The Channing Tatum America Didn't Know It Needed
February 24, 2013 9:54 AM   Subscribe

Performers who project relatability but have nothing elusive about them do better as network-television stars, or maybe morning-show anchormen. (Exception: Hanks.) On the other hand, if all you're capable of projecting is mystery and you're a quart low on relatability, you are probably a douchebag. (Exception: Fassbender.)
Just in time for the Oscars, GQ ruminates on what makes a leading man today.
posted by psoas (82 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm sort of wondering how you can write an article about leading men in Hollywood today without even mentioning that compulsory casting choice of the money men, Leonardo DiCaprio. Having learned all the wrong lessons from Titanic, in an an unusually stupid case of post hoc ergo propter hoc even for Hollywood (he was the lead and it made shit-tons of money, therefore...), there's been no escaping him for a decade and a half.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:07 AM on February 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


The article describes this sort of "post-movie-star movie star"—competent, handsome, and untroublesome to the corporation bankrolling your franchise.

This seems about right, and true for actresses, too. The needs of the corporation sometimes outstrip the needs of the movie viewer, who typically will drift over to other things to pay attention to (special effects, action scenes).
posted by argybarg at 10:23 AM on February 24, 2013


Matt Damon is another one of these actors who seems to jump nicely between the franchise (Bourne, to a lesser extent Ocean's) and the little/arty movie. Or maybe movies for 18-25 and movies for everybody else? (I enjoy a lot of franchise films but am not in the demographic, but I'm not under the illusion that I'm the demographic they cast for.)

Also, I would love to read this article about women, specifically as it relates to women and action films, which is a changing landscape right now.
posted by immlass at 10:32 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having learned all the wrong lessons from Titanic, in an an unusually stupid case of post hoc ergo propter hoc even for Hollywood (he was the lead and it made shit-tons of money, therefore...), there's been no escaping him for a decade and a half.

The Man in the Iron Mask was certainly a case of post hoc ergo propter hoc thinking, but aside from that era of his career, he's been consistently excellent. He figured out that he doesn't do "lovable" well, so he's doubled-down on being somewhat mysterious and inscrutable, if not downright villainous. I am thoroughly okay with this development.

Besides, he produced the movie Orphan, which already makes him some kind of demigod in the Land Of WTF Movies.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:40 AM on February 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


I thought DiCaprio was meh in Inception, but absolutely loved him in Shutter Island.
posted by Pendragon at 10:46 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


but aside from that era of his career, he's been consistently excellent.

I wouldn't go that far with Mr. DiCaprio, but he's definitely been more excellent than most. I believe it was Dirty Harry who said, "A man must know his limitations." DiCaprio seems to have grasped this lesson better than most in the massively-inflated-EGO game that is Hollywood Stardom.

I felt he was particularly strong in Revolution Road.
posted by philip-random at 10:54 AM on February 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


DiCaprio gets cast because of his almost operatic ability to go all emotional, which I think we may have gotten a little used to by now, but, when he was a young actor, was breathtaking. His commitment to a performance is absolute, and most of the films he is in give him an opportunity to get really, really emotional. I was thinking earlier this summer about the fact that he has had a lot of film roles, but none that I really think of as iconic -- whereas Travolta, who is a balmier but less demonstrative actor -- has had Grease, Saturday Night Fever, and Pulp Fiction, even Babarino, where the roles can instantly be communicated with just a few lines, like a caricature. (You can do Babarino just by saying "Wha?" in the right way.)

I think DiCaprio has his iconic role now with Candie in Djando Unchained. Sometimes its not enough to be emotionally committed to a role -- there has to be a dash of memorable eccentricity to it as well.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:58 AM on February 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


Tatum spent the past five years serving as the most ingratiating element of unmemorable movies like G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

It's not on purpose, but the only thing I've seen Tatum in is G.I. Joe and I thought he was the worst element in what was otherwise a goofily fun action adventure movie. He was just so bland and uncharismatic. I guess I'll have to watch his Soderbergh films if nothing else, just to get a sense of what I'm missing.
posted by brundlefly at 11:04 AM on February 24, 2013


I assumed they meant Rainer Werner Fassbender there for a minute, and I was thinking "a quart low on reliability, yes, but mystery?"
posted by Frowner at 11:04 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am not a fan of DiCaprio (but liked him in DU), I think the argument about him and post hoc ergo propter hoc thinking also holds with his then replacement as the favourite of the under-25 crowd, Orlando Bloom. Another star on the back of a big success, LotR, and one perhaps even less responsible for that success. Maintained his profile with more twaddle, but notably, hasn't been able to repeat DiCapirio's parlaying of his fame into artistic credibility and it is difficult to see him delivering anything interesting now.

Frowner: They are talking about relatability not reliability.
posted by biffa at 11:17 AM on February 24, 2013


I'm sort of wondering how you can write an article about leading men in Hollywood today without even mentioning that compulsory casting choice of the money men, Leonardo DiCaprio.

I don't recall ever thinking, "Oh, I want to see that new Leonardo DiCaprio movie, what's it called again...", which to me is the true mark of a movie star. It's always "Oh, Leonardo DiCaprio is in that new Tarantino/Nolan/Scorsese movie, what's it called again...".
posted by Etrigan at 11:26 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ryan Gosling seems like he has everything he's going to need to be the next Clooney, and his perfect age is right around the corner
posted by the theory of revolution at 11:50 AM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought DiCaprio was meh in Inception, but absolutely loved him in Shutter Island.

Odd, considering these are the exact same movies.
posted by spicynuts at 11:56 AM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dicaprio has consistently made interesting choices. He also has never gone for a quick franchise buck. I don't always enjoy his films, but I respect his career
posted by leotrotsky at 11:58 AM on February 24, 2013


No mention about being white? Hm
posted by helot at 12:11 PM on February 24, 2013


I wish people would stop putting Tom Cruise in things.
posted by Artw at 12:16 PM on February 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


I wish people would stop putting Tom Cruise in things.

Yes to this - with one exception. Collateral. That's the one Tom Cruise performance that I truly can't imagine another actor topping. Interesting that it's both A. a particularly charming yet vicious villain, B. the last movie he made before his whole public profile started going bonkers.
posted by philip-random at 12:21 PM on February 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I miss Heath Ledger.
posted by bq at 12:23 PM on February 24, 2013 [18 favorites]


Tom Cruise in Collateral ...
posted by philip-random at 12:32 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


... and Jaimie Foxx.
posted by philip-random at 12:33 PM on February 24, 2013


Plus Ryan Gosling saves young English reporters from being hit by Taxi cabs.

And Chris Evans' mom had to show him how to use twitter via twitter.

I find it totally odd that people on the cover of like, Teen Vogue have easy to find high school YouTube vlogs. I knew Ian Mckellan keeping an online diary as part of LOTR filming back in 2000 was kinda big but I had know how it would shakeout.

( BTW ever been to McKellan's personal site? It's so full of nice information for young actors! Or like, Jeff Bridges personal site which strongly makes you think he designed it himself. )
posted by The Whelk at 12:37 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I thought Tom Cruise was very good in Collateral. He's not a terrible actor, he just got stuck doing the whole Tom Cruise thing for too long.
posted by Justinian at 12:42 PM on February 24, 2013


Hey Girl,
Could someone explain Channing Tatum to me? I don't get him.
posted by Dr. Zira at 12:48 PM on February 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


He looks like he would be dumb but he doesn't seem to be dumb. Also has like, comic timing (hey 21 Jump Street why are you so surprisingly watchable as a comedy?). We don't expect guys who got their start in dance movies to be talented beyond needing to be able to dance so it's part of his media narrative that it's surprising that he can actually do things that are not dancing.

See also Rock, The.
posted by The Whelk at 12:53 PM on February 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


Tom Cruise was also amazing in Tropic Thunder. And that was after his public profile went bonkers.
posted by subdee at 1:00 PM on February 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


DiCaprio made a ton of money in Titanic, and then wasn't cast in a good role in a good movie for literally another 5 years. Attributing all of his career success to Titanic is absurd.
posted by leopard at 1:03 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


So are my expectations that a leading man be able to convey some sort of inner life a bit too unrealistic? Because I saw Ides of March and don't see why anyone would cast Channing Tatum when there's a perfectly good Ryan Gosling in the world.
posted by Dr. Zira at 1:05 PM on February 24, 2013


The illustrator Beardsley started his career as basically "The William Morris you can reasonably afford."
posted by The Whelk at 1:07 PM on February 24, 2013


Surprised that Gosling merits only a quick mention in this piece, since he is the closest we have come to "Willis," "Cruise," etc., in the last 10 years or so. No way in hell Tatum piques that level of interest across demographics (to various degrees) merely by his presence in a film.

This seems to me to be the result of a combination of looks, charisma, talent, and shrewd project selection. Looking through his filmography, reasonable minds could differ on some of the movies, but you have to go back quite a ways to find something widely considered a stinker. Murder By Numbers, maybe?
posted by eugenen at 1:26 PM on February 24, 2013


The Ides Of March is a *very* good movie.
posted by The Whelk at 1:28 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


DiCaprio was amazing in Django Unchained, but he felt less like a movie star in that than Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz did. I don't dislike DiCaprio but I'm not sure how he became Scorcese's favorite.

I've probably been brainwashed by the local press but it feels like Hugh Jackman should be in there.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:33 PM on February 24, 2013


I don't think the GQ article spends enough time discussing the importance of intelligence. Dumb just isn't sexy. I think that's the quality that makes Fassbender and Gosling and Cooper explode my ovaries.
posted by Dr. Zira at 1:39 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wish people would stop putting Tom Cruise in things.

That would make quite a good TV series, though, Putting Tom Cruise In Things - this week we watched Tom being put in a tank full of orange juice and an eighteenth century footlocker. Join us next week, when we'll be putting Tom in a range of IKEA wardrobes and the boot of a 1973 Ford Cortina.
posted by Grangousier at 1:46 PM on February 24, 2013 [39 favorites]


Surprised that Gosling merits only a quick mention in this piece, since he is the closest we have come to "Willis," "Cruise," etc., in the last 10 years or so. No way in hell Tatum piques that level of interest across demographics (to various degrees) merely by his presence in a film.

Here in the blue that might be true but Gosling does not have nearly the same profitability as Tatum, who has a strong track record of making money which goes to both his popularity with those making films but is also, regardless of quality, also indicative of his comparative stature with the film watching public. Magic Mike, returned $113M on a $7M budget. Step Up better than trebled its $20M budget, as did 21 Jump Street on it $42M budget. Some shit called The Vow (which I had never even heard of) but starring Tatum had a return of $125M on a $30M budget. This surely reflects Gosling's artier (and better quality) output, but it does not put him in Willis or Cruise territory.

Dr Zira: Dumb just isn't sexy.

Your time studying at Ape U may mark you as atypical in terms of monkey business.
posted by biffa at 2:03 PM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


biffa: "Your time studying at Ape U may mark you as atypical in terms of monkey business."

Heston v. Franciscus.
Rest. My. Case.
posted by Dr. Zira at 2:10 PM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Dr. Zira, I must caution you. Experimental brain surgery on these creatures is one thing, and I'm all in favor of it. But your behavior studies are another matter.
posted by biffa at 2:24 PM on February 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


That would make quite a good TV series, though, Putting Tom Cruise In Things.

It could be underwritten by the Royal Society for Putting Things On Top Of Other Things.
posted by Strange Interlude at 2:25 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


the theory of revolution: "Ryan Gosling seems like he has everything he's going to need to be the next Clooney, and his perfect age is right around the corner"

Really? I've only seen him in Drive but thought that he was terrible. That might be the fault of the direction but he just seemed stiff and inexpressive.
posted by octothorpe at 2:28 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Gosling seems to have the movie star buzz, and everyone seems to love him. I nominate Karl Urban's chin from Dredd.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:33 PM on February 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


You people knocking Tom Cruise?

Collateral
Magnolia
Jerry Maguire
Born on the Fourth of July
Rain Man
The Color of Money

That'd be Michael Mann, Paul Thomas Anderson, Cameron Crowe, Oliver Stone, Barry Levinson and Martin Scorsese directing him in six superior performances.

Who am I forgetting? Oh right: Spielberg (twice), Kubrick, Redford, Bird, DePalma, Singer, Woo, Abrams, Pollack, Reiner, Howard, Scott (Ridley and Tony)...

I'd add Francis Ford Coppola, but it almost doesn't count.

Look, there's a reason he works with top directors. He's really fucking good at this.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:33 PM on February 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


But Cocktail!
posted by Dr. Zira at 2:35 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


You people knocking Tom Cruise?
...


Even if you accept that those were "superior performances" (and I'd argue with at least half of them), I'm not sure I'd agree with the idea that good performances at the hands of great directors means that he's necessarily a great actor.

What he is inarguably "really fucking good at" is getting people into theaters, which is what makes him a movie star. But there's a reason that he's won more Razzies in this century than awards anyone has heard of.
posted by Etrigan at 2:45 PM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


What octothorpe terms "stiff an inexpressive," I see as being as affectless as a shark when the role demanded it. Never until I saw Drive had I seen an actor I thought could play Valentine Michael Smith.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:45 PM on February 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


But there's a reason that he's won more Razzies in this century than awards anyone has heard of.

The Razzies Are Total Shit For People Who Hate Movies

Even if you don't read that, just remember that The Shining won a bunch of Razzies
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:49 PM on February 24, 2013


Dances With Wolves won a bunch of Oscars. Doesn't mean they're not at least slightly useful for gauging whether someone is "really fucking good at this."
posted by Etrigan at 2:54 PM on February 24, 2013


I still do not understand why Jerry Maguire was well received. A turd of a film with cringeworthy characters and dialogue.
posted by biffa at 3:10 PM on February 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


That would make quite a good TV series, though, Putting Tom Cruise In Things.

It could be underwritten by the Royal Society for Putting Things On Top Of Other Things.


I believe they were permanently adjourned quite a while ago.
posted by philip-random at 3:11 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was on board until this:

You can even, if the movie and the moment are right, expand America's definition of sex appeal to include you, the way Cagney did, the way Bogart did, the way Dustin Hoffman did. But you've got to have something.

Have they seen Jimmy Cagney in his 30s? Gorgeous! A smile and some dance steps, and wow!
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 3:13 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, there are plenty of examples of actors being seriously wack-ass loopy but still good actors. Hell, there are probably more examples than counterexamples. Count me among those who thinks pretty well of Tom Cruise as an actor, despite not really wanting to.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:21 PM on February 24, 2013


This just in: Mr. Tatum has appeared upon the red carpet for his audience with Seacrest, escorted by someone whom he has impregnated.
posted by Dr. Zira at 3:33 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've always respected Leonardo DiCaprio for not taking the easy and probably most financially obvious route following the success of Titanic and starring in a series of romantic comedies or taking the lead in a superhero franchise. Instead, DiCaprio's post-Titanic resume is filled mostly with one high-quality, critically acclaimed project after another.

I understand that making gutsy artistic choices does not automatically correlate to being a good actor, however I think DiCaprio fits this description as well. To me, he's at his best when playing roles where his good looks and charm are integral to the role, as opposed to the elephant in the room, such as "Catch Me if You Can" or "Revolutionary Road" (in my opinion, his best performance to date). He was also the best part of "The Departed", high praise considering the level of acting talent involved in that film.

Really? I've only seen him (Ryan Gosling) in Drive but thought that he was terrible. That might be the fault of the direction but he just seemed stiff and inexpressive.

Start with Half Nelson
posted by The Gooch at 3:43 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ryan Gosling is an actor who I know is good but who I don't like watching because his qualities as an actor seem to all be centered around making everything about him at the expense of everything else. As I don't find him particularly charming or interesting, his bare charisma is just a chore for me. Yes, I'm watching you, yes, I recognize that you did that. Yes you're very good. I don't care.

And that's not the mark of a movie star, for me. I shouldn't resent the fact that you're holding my attention.

And Tom Cruise is certainly very good at a very limited range of things. For that matter, so is Clooney, but I'd watch Clooney in anything before choosing to watch Cruise or Gosling in anything.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:13 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dragging Gosling into this seems to miss the point. He's never been A Movie Star Leading Man, neither in the types ( or budgets ) of roles he plays or the types of movies he does or in the media narrative that gets created around him. The article says pretty much upfront that actors with big personalities or cult followings or tumblr memes about them stay in lower budget fare while the previouslyly heavily jocked for Leading Man Movie Star Place seems cursory empty these days and when you break it down into a media narrative, only a few like Tatum seem to fit the old roles and I think with the Rules Of The Game FPP from before, we're seeing more and more actors take more direct charge of thier image and how they interact with fandoms. Which seems to follow the trend of the " rather than 15 mins of fame you are famous to 1,500 pepole." idea.
posted by The Whelk at 4:32 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well it's more like that if you're a leading man today in the sense that films are being sold (and tickets actually purchased) based upon your appeal above all else than you're a comic actor. Will Farrell, Steve Carrell, Zach Galifianakis even. Others, like Channing Tatum*, are as described above basically warm bodies to fill a role. Because the non-comedies are all being sold on the basis of their properties. They are all adaptations and sequels. Every one of them, if we're talking about blockbuster releases. So there are no real up-and-coming dramatic leading men because there is no call for them right now.

*I totally understand the draw of Channing Tatum for straight women and gay men, and can't imagine why anyone in the other half of the population would even notice him or care about him at all.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:47 PM on February 24, 2013


I don't particularly see the draw of Channing Tatum for straight women, and I am one! He's a decent actor, and can dance, but for the most part the movies he's in are terrible.
posted by peppermind at 5:26 PM on February 24, 2013


Channing Tatum always seems a little inert to me in his performances. When I'm watching him, I get the same sensation I get when watching Kevin Costner and Keanu Reeves: okay eye candy, but jeez, shallow emotional connection and overall pretty bland.
posted by darkstar at 5:40 PM on February 24, 2013


All I know is that Jennifer Lawrence just dropped an s-bomb on the red carpet. Hah hah.
posted by Justinian at 5:48 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's Eating Gilbert Grape is an underrated treasure.
posted by docpops at 6:00 PM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


The appeal of Channing Tatum: he looks like he should be Dumb Frat Boy, but he quickly shows intelligence and/or a level of caring that you would not expect given his looks. There's a sense that he understands women and can empathize with them. Also, that boy can move. My partner was a big fan of Mr. Tatum and I just didn't get it. Then I saw Magic Mike and 21 Jump Street (a movie I only started watching because I was on a 13 hour flight, and that was so funny that I'd gladly watch it again) and I got it.

It's worth noting that Magic Mike, the above-mentioned hyperprofitable film he made this summer, is a film he produced and came up with the story for as well as starred in. It was mocked, everyone predicted it would flop, and it did the opposite of flopping. It also didn't laugh behind its hand at women, which frankly a lot of films allegedly targeted at women do. The fact that he chose to make that movie and worked so hard to get it made shows a particular understanding of what women want that the maker of many alleged rom-coms just don't understand.
posted by rednikki at 8:21 PM on February 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


And - for the record - my other half is a straight man and spotted Tatum's charms long before I did.
posted by rednikki at 8:21 PM on February 24, 2013


This was a fantastic article.

I'm a fan of Channing Tatum after seeing him in 21 Jump Street. Have not seen Magic Mike yet, but definitely will.
posted by flippant at 8:39 PM on February 24, 2013


Really? I've only seen him in Drive but thought that he was terrible. That might be the fault of the direction but he just seemed stiff and inexpressive.

His character was written to be stiff and expressive, and then very, very violent, because it was only his hyper-controlled and distant nature keeping his ruthless and murderous side contained.

I'll agree Gosling isn't yet an enormous draw, but I will bet he is a solid capital-S Star within three more movies.
posted by zippy at 8:49 PM on February 24, 2013


He needs to learn a second facial expression first.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:33 PM on February 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have no idea who Channing Tatum even is. To be honest, whenever I hear the name (which is happening more often every day), I think of some bizarre hybrid of Carol Channing and Tatum O'Neal. A movie star, sure, but not exactly 'leading man.'
posted by Sys Rq at 9:58 PM on February 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


That'd be Michael Mann, Paul Thomas Anderson, Cameron Crowe, Oliver Stone, Barry Levinson and Martin Scorsese directing him in six superior performances.

Strongly disagree that those were "superior" performances. Rain Man was probably his best one, but he was just a good foil for Hoffman.
posted by sweetkid at 10:02 PM on February 24, 2013


The appeal of Channing Tatum: he looks like he should be Dumb Frat Boy, but he quickly shows intelligence and/or a level of caring that you would not expect given his looks.

You took the words out of my mouth. I just saw photos of the guy and thought "ewww, some dumb jock who lucked out in Hollywood because he has nice abs." Then I saw him in Haywire, in a fairly minor role, and he was great in that.

And speaking of Tom Cruise, I mentioned this in another mefi thread a few weeks ago, but Channing Tatum would've been perfect casting for Jack Reacher. Like the character, he's big, dumb-looking-but-actually-smart, and even has some good comic timing. Tom Cruise cast as Jack Reacher was the worst casting since...well, Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai.
posted by zardoz at 10:07 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Haywire is kind of amazing. Seriously. It's like the New Wave James Bond movie that never existed. It's plot structure is a perfect figure 8.

It also has Fassbender doing the only actual realistic depiction of what secret agenting entails I've seen in a movie based on my years of reading CIA memoirs.
posted by The Whelk at 10:30 PM on February 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Interesting link about the Razzies, thanks Charlemagne in Sweatpants. Defining a 'worst movie' is always going to be a mess as long as you don't have a clear idea of what films should aspire to be. If you think they have an ideal, then give 'bad' awards to films that militate against that ideal the worst, but a 'pot shot that'll be heard around the globe' is just going to invite the lowest kind of snarkers, and snark is the cargo cult of critical thinking.

Tom Cruise is interesting. He's one of those actors who has a very strong and distinctive screen presence, and I think he's been cast differently according to changing values. He always had a nervy, nasty edge to him - he may be a big pussycat in private life, of course, but that that's his screen presence - and in the eighties this wasn't considered incompatible with the Risky Business/Cocktail type of hero: they were kind of nasty films, in which it's acknowledged that the hero is entitled and shallow and takes advantage of people and is much more sexist than he realises, but this is all seen as a foible of youth rather than a serious character flaw.

I think a lot of antagonism towards him was because people could feel that edge but the films set him up as sympathetic - so roles like Collateral and Magnolia that brought that edge out were a brilliant move. They placed front and centre something that had been nagging at everyone's subconscious for years, so combined with the interest of seeing a well-cast and well-performed role, there was a general sense of revelation - an 'AHA!' moment when you finally see your nagging doubts played out across the screen. It made him look clever, and it also made the audience feel clever, which for an actor's career is pure gold.

I think Cruise was often felt to be a bit of a stupid actor, or an actor in stupid films, in his early career. But I don't think it was actually stupidity: it was questionable framing. We were expected to sympathise with him in an uncomplicated way when he wasn't uncomplicatedly sympathetic, which meant audiences often felt that either we were being treated as stupid or watching work by stupid people. Actually I think it was less about intelligence and more about eighties values: there was a problem there, and Cruise had an ambiguity that brought it out. Crude films, his early star vehicles, but there's a kind of subtlety in that.
posted by Kit W at 2:06 AM on February 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Hmm no mention of Will Smith?
posted by quosimosaur at 7:18 AM on February 25, 2013


Smith, for all his charms and bankability, has not had a hit for a while.

That being said he has but the Leading Man role in the past pretty perfectly .
posted by The Whelk at 7:23 AM on February 25, 2013


I was going to respond to that with I Am Legend, but apparently it came out six years ago, and I am old.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:39 AM on February 25, 2013


Actually, Men in Black 3 did pretty well internationally, but it's not quite the unqualified hit that Independence Day was (17 years ago!).
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:41 AM on February 25, 2013


Now that I think about it, Will Smith has many movie star qualities, but a crucial missing piece is the ability to surprise us. He always takes the safe option. IIRC he has purposefully constructed his career around the concept of bankability, or at least the illusion of it, careful never to pick a role in a movie that has the chance of failing at the box office. The article argues this is not how Hollywood works anymore.
posted by quosimosaur at 8:12 AM on February 25, 2013


Remember Will Smith, the man made of Good Carrer Choices, turned down the lead role in The Matrix to star in ...Wild Wild West.
posted by The Whelk at 8:17 AM on February 25, 2013


Oops, I meant to say that's not how Hollywood stardom works anymore.

Will Smith turning down lead role in The Matrix was a good choice, at least, for those of us with a massive soft spot for the movie. I'm no big fan of Reeves, but I can't imagine anybody else as Neo. His blankness just works.
posted by quosimosaur at 8:28 AM on February 25, 2013


Is Will Smith doing his serious actor thing still, or was MiB a break from that?
posted by Artw at 8:33 AM on February 25, 2013


All his upcoming films listed are all upcoming action-movie roles in established francises. So No serious, dramatic, non robot or vampire related projects. Can't fail stuff.
posted by The Whelk at 8:54 AM on February 25, 2013


He'll be back, Scientologists rule that shit.
posted by Artw at 8:56 AM on February 25, 2013


and After Earth looks like the marriage of Smiths's actiony-fighty roles and his more romantic-leading-man-with-a-kid roles.
posted by The Whelk at 9:08 AM on February 25, 2013


If you want a break from the Gosling Schtick, try Lars and The Real Girl.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:40 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Will Smith has many movie star qualities, but a crucial missing piece is the ability to surprise us. He always takes the safe option.

There is that apocryphal story about Denzel Washington telling him not to take the role in Six Degrees of Separation, which at the time was kind of a daring choice (and which I liked at the time, but suspect that it may not have aged well).
posted by psoas at 9:57 AM on February 25, 2013


Tarantino talked to him about Django Unchained.
posted by Artw at 10:15 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


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