Emma Kiely ponders the implications reputation can have when it comes to filmmaking.
Everyone knows the importance of reputation, just ask Taylor Swift. In Hollywood, we have seen that an actor or director’s reputation can either limit or maximise their artistry. When a reputable actor or director makes the transition from one genre to another, it can be a pleasant surprise or a shocking disaster. There are plenty of examples of both.
When a reputable actor or director makes the transition from one genre to another, it can be a pleasant surprise or a shocking disaster.
The new film everyone is talking about is the latest Marvel film Thor: Ragnarok. With a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 93%, it is the highest rated Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film. This is arguably because of its direction by New Zealander Taika Wahititi, mostly known as an indie film-maker. Wahititi’s other films include the mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows and the coming-of-age comedy-drama Boy. Wahititi was able to defy all the assumptions people have made of him and took on what could be considered one of the most ambitious projects of the year and did so gloriously.
English director Paul Greengrass made a similar transition. He went from making low-budget political dramas about the Bloody Sunday massacre and the Omagh bombings to making the monumentally successful Bourne series with one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, Matt Damon. These examples show that reputations can be successfully defied. However, some aren’t so lucky.
Scarlett Johansson is one of the highest-earning actors in the world and rightly so. She is a central character in the MCU and stars in other action-dramas such as Ghost in the Shell and Lucy. You hardly see her with her feet on the ground, she seems to be jumping slowly mid-air all the time. However, this year we saw the release of Rough Night a comedy with some of the best actors in the genre such as Kate McKinnon from Saturday Night Live and Ilana Glazer from Broad City.
We got to see Johannson swap her latex for a lighter more comedic role, and it was a mess. With jokes stolen from internet memes, a ridiculous sub-plot and no wit, I would honestly rather watch Latin Mass. As much as I love her, Scarlett’s attempt at being funny is as painful to watch as Melania Trump trying to sound intelligent. Sometimes, you really should stick to what you know. Now give her that solo film, Marvel!
A lot of comedic actors out there have transitioned to the more dramatic end of the spectrum and the champion of them is undoubtedly Jim Carrey.
A lot of comedic actors out there have transitioned to the more dramatic end of the spectrum and the champion of them is undoubtedly Jim Carrey. Dismiss his personal life for a second and just relish his talent. If you’re a 90s baby then you probably grew up quoting his comedies: Ace Ventura, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber (ignoring the sequel). He was one of the very few who dared to continue the dying art of slapstick comedy which almost everyone can reluctantly admit they love every so often. However, in 2004, we saw a completely different side to the actor in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a film considered by many to be a masterpiece. Carrey gives us one of the most real, authentic, and human performances of the decade and in the blink of an eye, he eradicated his ‘comedy only’ typecast.
The reputations of actors are the biggest marketing tool used to entice movie-goers. We think that a huge Hollywood star means a great film but there have been thousands of films that prove this isn’t true. Michael Fassbender recently starred in The Snowman, a murder mystery that several people only went to see for Fassbender, one of the most likeable actors of the moment. However, ten minutes in, audience members could be looking for their money back. The film is painfully slow for the first hour and a half and then shoves an hours’ worth of action into thirty minutes. The audience feels fooled by producers because they dangled a shiny name and you took the bait.
In recent years, movie-goers have been bombarded with celebrity friendship team-ups.
In recent years, film-goers have been bombarded with celebrity friendship team-ups. Matt Damon and George Clooney, Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller, and Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg being the obvious examples. Sometimes, film roles can just be a favour given from one friend to another. Most recently, the upcoming George Clooney-directed Suburbicon stars the ill-fitted Matt Damon, which is just lazy casting. Films are part of a business that costs millions of dollars. To just hand your friend the lead role without considering their fit for the film can end catastrophically. Its 26% rating on Rotten Tomatoes testifies to this.
Reputation in Hollywood can really cloud the judgement of both filmmakers and film-goers. We care more about whether they’ve won an Oscar rather than their actual talent. Taking away the awards, famous names, and likeable reputations, you could be surprised by who you’d rather watch on the big screen.