Thursday, June 21, 2012

The New Movie Stars

As I brought up in one of my previous posts, there are very few movie stars left. Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Harrison Ford have fading stars. Even the consistently solid Tom Cruise and Adam Sandler had bad weekends with each premiering a movie that hit the box office with a thud.

Why is this?

Part of it, I think, is the squandering of good will. Mel Gibson used to be a bankable investment, but his personal life and horrible statements have damned him in many eyes. Similarly, Sean Penn alienates some audience members with his outspoken political views. Most Americans go to movies to be entertained. If they get the sense that they are being lectured to, the enjoyment is sapped out of the experience. Movies are escapist. We fork over our hard earned money and sit in a darkened theatre with friends and strangers so that we can experience something new and wonderful together. But as ticket prices go up and cheaper alternatives like Netflix and Redbox become more popular, actors cannot waste even a single ounce of appeal they offer their audience.

Another reason for this is that some of the traditional stars are choosing projects poorly. Hanks and Roberts couldn't muster any interest for Larry Crowne. As I wrote in post about Taylor Kitsch, choosing the right movie is critical. Missteps can be killer.

So are there any movie stars left?

I think that there are. I've compiled a list of actors who I believe are the new movie stars. I've collected data from regarding the revenue their films have generated. In addition, I tried to find the ones who inspire in me a desire to see their movie because of their ability to choose quality films.

Amy Adams:

Lifetime Gross Total (17): $1,139,782,738
Average: $67,046,043
Opening Gross Average (11): $23,846,221 (Wide Releases Only)

If The Man of Steel is a hit, then her star will only continue to rise. She has two hits under which she has top billing: Enchanted and Julie and Julia. She can become the new Meg Ryan if she plays her cards right.

Vince Vaughn:

Lifetime Gross Total (27): $1,595,862,435
Average: $59,106,016
Opening Gross Average (17): $25,930,808 (Wide Releases Only)

Even if his movies are mediocre, I enjoy the heck out of all of his performances. His dramas failed to deliver at the box office, but he showed he has quality talent. He tends to play the same character in all of his comedies, but I think audiences like going into a Vince Vaughn movie with the expectation of spending time with that comedic persona.

Liam Neeson:

Lifetime Gross Total (50): $2,114,917,555
Average: $42,298,351
Opening Gross Average (29): $16,394,126 (Wide Releases Only)

From Oscar Schindler to Qui-Gon Jinn, Neeson has participated in some of the biggest and best films of all time. But it is only in the last few years that he has become a new kind of action man. He is less testosterone-filled as he is righteously raged.

Robert Downey Jr.:

Lifetime Gross Total (48): $2,559,570,402
Average: $53,324,383
Opening Gross Average (30): $25,294,267 (Wide Releases Only)

Everyone loves a good comeback story, and Downey Jr.'s is one of the best. The studios did not want him for Iron Man. He and John Favrau had to fight. But now he has 3 franchises to juggle (Iron Man, Avengers, and Sherlock Holmes) while earning tons of good will with his self-effacing charm and charitable nature (e.g. premiering Tropic Thunder for troops overseas or dedicating Avengers to the 9/11 first responders). I don't know anyone who doesn't like him.

Emma Stone

Lifetime Gross Total (9): $619,424,742
Average: $68,824,971
Opening Gross Average (8): $19,156,210 (Wide Releases Only)

Young, but self-possessed, Emma Stone has proven she can handle lead roles in comedies (Easy A), dramas (The Help) and everything in between (Zombieland). She projects and intelligence and dignity that seems to be missing from a lot of younger actresses. While a supporting role in The Amazing Spider-Man should only heighten her profile, I would like to see her take the lead in a more serious drama.

Daniel Craig

Lifetime Gross Total (22): $1,054,054,270
Average: $47,911,558
Opening Gross Average (12): $23,508,106 (Wide Releases Only)

Right now he is synonymous with James Bond. But Cowboys and Aliens generated a lot of buzz in no small part due to him. I know that he was one of the reasons I couldn't wait to see it. But lukewarm reception from critics and audiences may slow Craig's assent. And his other attempted franchise starter, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, did not go anywhere. We'll have to see how Skyfall does, but also how his next non-Bond movie fares as well.

Hugh Jackman

Lifetime Gross Total (16): $1,526,956,632
Average: $95,434,790
Opening Gross Average (15): $36,054,624 (Wide Releases Only)

He's had hits and misses, but he is a huge part of why we still have an X-Men franchise. I would even venture to say that without the success of the original X-Men we would not have modern day superhero movies. And that success falls a great deal of Jackman's shoulders. Even Real Steel was a fun crowd pleaser partly because of the heart of Jackman's performance. He has a real chance to garner a critical acclaim with the upcoming Les Miserables production.

Steve Carell:

Lifetime Gross Total (14): $1,602,470,460
Average: $114,462,176
Opening Gross Average (13): $31,642,780 (Wide Releases Only)

A good portion of his box office success is from his animated movies which could arguably be indifferent to his star power. But he can still draw people in with movies like Get Smart, Date Night, and Crazy, Stupid Love. He tends to bounce from big comedies to smaller films like Dan in Real Life and Little Miss Sunshine. But I believe it is his name more than anything that brought audiences to those smaller films.


Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Lifetime Gross Total (24): $743,289,110
Average: $30,970,380
Opening Gross Average (11): $17,283,880 (Wide Releases Only)

He has garnered a significant fan base with his roles in 500 Days of Summer and Inception. He also had the best performance of any actor last year with 50/50. But as of right now, his staring vehicles have not made a big dent. But he still has The Dark Knight Rises, Premium Rush, and Looper on the horizon.

Jennifer Lawrence

Lifetime Gross Total (7): $559,721,847
Average: $79,960,264
Opening Gross Average (2): $103,818,676 (Wide Releases Only)

The numbers on her are as high as they are because of the phenomenon that is the Hunger Games. But she deserves a lot of credit for meeting fan expectations. I can say that one of the reasons I wanted to see the movie was because I was familiar with her outstanding work in Winter's Bone, for which she garnered an Oscar nomination. She has 2 franchises: Hunger Games and X-Men First Class and, like Emma Stone, carries herself with dignity in her films.

Anna Kendrick

Lifetime Gross Total (6): $190,327,166
Average: $31,721,194
Opening Gross Average (3): $9,933,653 (Wide Releases Only)

This may be the most controversial one of this list because I'm taking this one more on faith than anything.  These numbers are also a little askew because of her small role in the Twilight phenomenon. But I believe that she has a brighter future ahead of her than star Kristen Stewart (who also has decent box office potential ala Snow White and the Huntsman). Her Oscar nomination for Up in the Air opened up many roles, and she has shined in all of them. She was the best part of What to Expect When You're Expecting and she finally has a staring role in the upcoming comedy Pitch Perfect. So far, she has not proven herself to be bankable, but I believe she can do it.

So, dear reader, what do you think?  Is there anyone I missed who should be on this list?  About whom do you say, "Oh I can't wait to see the new (film in the name)'s movie?


  1. One person I think who is on his way to becoming a box office name, if not already, is Jeremy Renner...possible grooming into the MI franchise, plus Avengers and Bourne franchise...he's Built up a good reputation factor thus far..and that's before Bourne comes out.

  2. While I agree with most of your list, I think its a little early to say Tom Cruise is a fading star. The last Mission Impossible was his highest grossing movie ever (700 million I think) and that was just 6 months ago.