So I was recently looking through some IMDB filmographies and I got to thinking about what it is that makes actors and actresses end up in the movies they do. I decided it would be best to categorize them and see if I could make sense of it all. Here is what I came up with.
Here is a category that is pretty cut and dry. These are the folks who just never made it big for whatever reason, but make their living starring in movies that are made for television, or straight to DVD. There is certainly nothing to be ashamed of there, and these films are making a living doing what they love. But let’s be honest here. These movies are not good. People watch them though, so I guess there is a market there. I just hope that the folks in this market don’t ever realize that there are actually good movies out there, because if they do there will be a lot of out of work actors and actresses.
Some examples would be “The OC’s” Mischa Barton, “Saved by the Bell’s” Mark-Paul Gosselaar, the entire male portion of the cast of Dawson’s Creek.
The “Had Their Moment in the Sun”
You see a lot of this these days. Actors who had a spell early in their careers where they starred in some great movies, or cult classics and lived off of that fame for a while before coming back down to earth. Some of them are able to sneak their way into some good films every now and again, while some of them aren’t. Take a look at a guy who is a figurehead for this category, Christian Slater. Early in his career he starred in films like “True Romance,” “Interview with a Vampire” and “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.” Now he stars in gems like “Dawn Rider” and “Playback.”
Another PRIME example here is Cuba Gooding Jr. who once starred in films like “Men of Honor” and “Radio.” The man even won an Oscar for his role in “Jerry McGuire.” Now he is racking up role after role in some historically horrible films like “The Hit List” and “The Devil’s Tomb” (this one almost killed me it was so bad, I mean that.) From living the high life as a professional athlete alongside Tom Cruise, to killing bad makeup wearing zombies alongside Ron Perlman. Things really went south, Cuba.
Also known as ‘The Typecast,’ here we have the folks who essentially play the same role over and over, just in different films. This is not necessarily a positive or negative, it really depends on the situation. However it can get a little frustrating and in some cases it makes one question the versatility of an actor or actress. Then again, in some cases it doesn’t.
I hate to say this, because he is one of the best actors in the business, without question. But let’s take Denzel Washington as an example.
D-Wash, all I need from you is Coach Boone, but this time your son needs a new heart, ASAP.
Okay Denzel, give me that same thing you did for Man on Fire, but now we are in Post-Apocalyptic America.
Ok, Mr. Washington. Do you think you could give me the Training Day thing, but this time I need you to be an organized crime boss. You know what, we can just go ahead and do the next one too, just send Ryan Reynolds on a crazy chase around the world this time.
Okay Dee, this is a cake walk. We are going to make Pelham 123, then we will just go ahead and make the same movie again with Chris Pine and we are making bank. Oh speaking of banks, Clive Owen is going to rob one, and you’re going to try and catch him. Nope, don’t need to change your character. You will have a different name though. That ok?
Get the picture? I do love Denzel though. Dude is the man.
Another fantastic example is Jason Statham. The guy literally makes the same movie over and over. I really mean, literally, the same movie, with a different name. I’ve never seen anything like it. The funny thing is though, they are quite often pretty decent and he has a crazy knack for making them entertaining even though he really isn’t a very good actor. Good for him. The dude just kicks people’s ass with random props, saves little kids and women, and bangs hot women to keep himself alive. Can’t hate on that.
Then there’s someone like Ray Liotta. He is fantastic, but unfortunately he can only do one role, and even more unfortunate is that there are a select few movies where that role exists, that are actually any good. He does manage to land the role in those good films when they come around, but he also has to spend his time doing the bad ones too. He has definitely gotten to kill a lot of cronies, gamblers, drug addicts and innocent people in his movie career though.
The “Dude, you’re loaded, why are you making these movies?”
Okay, this is the category that honestly sparked the idea to write this article for me. I ask myself all the time, why certain actors end up in movies that are just completely unnecessary for them to be in. These are those movies that are usually straight to DVD, very bad, poorly written, cliché and predictable films which will get some attention at movie rental stores, but little else. Fair enough – nothing wrong with that at all. Not every movie can be a blockbuster, or beautifully written indie masterpiece. Nor does every film need to be. There can be bad movies that are entertaining to a certain crowd. That’s fine. But tell me this. Why do they have the ninth highest grossing actor of all time, Bruce Willis in them? Or one of the greatest actors of all time and Oscar Award winner Robert DeNiro ? What are these guys doing in these movies? I just don’t understand the logic behind it?
Look at Bruce Willis, star of Die Hard, The Sixth Sense, Looper, Moonrise Kingdom, Armageddon and many others. Also the star of such masterpieces as The Setup with 50 Cent, or Fire With Fire. Then there’s DeNiro. He has literally acted in like ten of the greatest films ever made, from The Godfather Part 2, to Raging Bull to most recently the fantastic Silver Linings Playbook. But what on earth is he doing in Freelancers, or 15 Minutes.
Now, I guess everyone makes mistakes. Also, let’s be clear that early in their career this wasn’t the case but part of the mystery is why they feel the need to be in these films, when they’ve done so much. Do they owe someone a favor? Are they just bored? I’ll never get it.
The Quality over Quantity
These folks tend to be the stars of stars. These are the actors and actresses who rarely, if ever, take on a project that is anything less than high quality. Many times they tend to be artists themselves, who end up directing or producing movies of their own. This isn’t always the case, but you see it a lot of it. They scoff at the thought of a shameless comedy or a quick buck. Not that they don’t get the bucks though. They get the big bucks and they also get the respect, in the form of accolades, professional admiration from their peers, and first dibs on some of the best roles.
A prime example is Leonardo DiCaprio. The man has been in nothing but quality movies for such a long time now. The Aviator, The Departed, Blood Diamond, Shutter Island, Revolutionary Road, Catch Me If You Can, Django Unchained. You will only see him in two movies a year at the very most, and quite often less than that. He has been a model of consistency, and essentially if he is in the movie you know you should see it.
The “Anything and Everything”
These are my favorite actors and actresses, and many of them are the young up and comers who haven’t established a niche, which is a good thing, and they feel like they can do anything with any role. Guys like Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and McConaughey. Ladies like Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain. They can do any genre, any period, and role. They do them all in fantastic style. Look at Gosling this past couple years. Crazy Stupid Love, Drive, Blue Valentine. Then Jessica Chastain, with Take Shelter, Tree of Life, The Help, Zero Dark Thirty. Such a range of roles, but all great.
So this is what I see in the world of acting – what categories would you add? Would love to hear the funniest, craziest most insightful thoughts you guys have.