14th Mar2018

Culture Dump #28: Foiled By Fame

by Simon Bland

Red-Sparrow-img1

What does it take to ensure a film’s success? These days, you’d be forgiven for thinking that having a big name star to focus all your movie-marketing around is a no-brainer when it comes to box office gold. After all, the majority of today’s film media spends so much time talking to (and about) famous faces that audiences may even feel as though they know them well enough to consider them friends. When it comes to spearheading a new feature (an original feature, that is – not an adaptation or a reboot), slapping their face onto an unknown story surely greatly increases their chances of success, right?

Not always. Especially if the underwhelming release of Jennifer Lawrence-shaped spy thriller Red Sparrow is anything to go by. This in itself raises an interesting problem. If a star as ubiquitous as Lawrence can’t guarantee a hit film in 2018, then just who can? Could it be that star over-exposure has reached its peak? Unlike audiences before us, the cinema-goers of today find themselves in the unique position of being able to (in some cases) pick up their phone and literally speak directly to actors. Barriers have clearly been broken down but has it had an impact on the ways in which viewers digest new stories featuring their favourite famous faces?

It’s not just social media, either. A quick Google search of some of the top names of today reveal the varied ins-and-outs of their private lives and hot topic opinions before serving us examples of their on-screen work. Perhaps this transparency – or awareness of every single nook and cranny of an actor’s private life – has actually made it harder for us to suspend our disbelief and invest in a performance of a character that’s not already familiar to us. That’s certainly what the facts and figures show in the case of Red Sparrow. Present us Lawrence as Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen and we’ll bite your hand off. Give us the exact same star in an unfamiliar hard sell? No, thanks.

Compare the same circumstance to those who lead more private lives and the reverse appears to be true. Other than his humanitarian and environmental efforts, little seems to be known about the everyday life of Leo DiCaprio. As far as audiences are concerned he’s pretty much a blank canvas. Could this be why we buy him as a wheeling-dealing wall street hot shot just as easily as we buy him as a revenge-ridden revenant? It’s an interesting thought. For many seeking a career in the industry, fame and fortune are unwanted guests that hitch a ride along with your emerging success. However if this idea proves anything, it’s that they’re worth keeping an eye on. Sometimes being too famous can do more harm than good.

Is being too famous a bad thing? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!

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