Wednesday, September 9, 2009

5 Actors/Actresses Who Need a New Agent (Badly!)

When I recently reviewed Adventureland I noted that the big surprise of the movie for me was the performance of Kristen Stewart. It was the kind of perfectly written part any young actress would dream to play and she hit it out of the park. Those who know Stewart only from THAT OTHER THING she starred in will be equally surprised. Unfortunately for her, due to said choice, her reputation as an actress is pretty much shattered and she'll now have to work about a million times harder to prove herself. This got me thinking. When the right actor or actress meets the right role magic can happen, but more often then not that's like hitting the lottery. And to be able to build on that momentum and sustain a consistently successful career is nearly impossible. The fact is many of these actors probably have agents who don't have a clue what they're doing and the ones that do might not listen because their egos are too big. Angelina Jolie doesn't have an agent. Neither does Bill Murray. And they've done just fine.

The actors/actresses on the list below don't have careers that are in dire straits, nor do they necessarily need a "comeback" (that's a different list entirely) since they're still planted firmly in the public's conciousness, but if things keep going in the direction they are, it won't be long before they do. Yes, they're all making money but they could be making MORE MONEY and MAKING GOOD MOVIES also. In a perfect world, they go hand in hand. The good news is that the situations of these five (with the exception of one) could be considered "fixable" and don't have problems a simple change in representation or a dose of reality couldn't quickly solve. At one time or another I was fan of all of them and if anything they should take it as a compliment they were singled out because it means I think they're talented and still have a lot left to offer. If I didn't I just wouldn't have wasted my time. This list could easily be expanded but I've chosen to narrow the focus only on these five because their careers are most worth salvaging. Two of these sting because I was a huge fan of theirs, but only one makes me furious with disappointment (it'll be obvious who). This person has been torturing us with her shitty choices for nearly a decade and it's time for an intervention. As a special gift I'll be giving all of them some free advice as to how they can turn things around. They'd be wise to take it.
5. Nicolas Cage-Okay, so he lucked out with Knowing which, thanks to a good director, turned out to be successful despite on paper carrying the hallmarks of his embarrassing blockbuster action choices over the past decade (frequently featuring him with crazy hair). That minor success aside, things haven't been great creatively for Cage, who basically traded in his Oscar for cash. He's an action star, not an actor, which would be fine if the movies he made weren't Ghost Rider, Next and Bangkok Dangerous. Things don't look good for the upcoming Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Seeing his name on the marquee is practically a dead give away that the film is going to blow. Only The Weather Man and Lord of War stand out as anything worth writing home about in the past few years.

I think it's great that he used the Oscar to leverage for bigger paydays in action movies, but I wish they were good movies and that he mixed it up occasionally with dramatic roles (like his brilliant turn in Adaptation) that remind us he is a very talented actor. Compared to others on this list he isn't in such bad shape because the public actually likes him and wants to see him do well. All he needs to do is pick better scripts and work with better directors and he's set. Easily solvable. 

4. Sandra Bullock-Anyone who thinks that the moderate success of The Proposal in any way signifies some kind of return to form for Sandra is kidding themselves, especially considering that her latest, All About Steve, is sitting at 0% (!) on the Rotten Tomato Meter. Everyone (well, at least the ladies) saw The Proposal because of Ryan Reynolds, who probably could have co-starred with a corpse and still opened it huge. But the good news is that no one stayed away because she was in it and the public will always like her.

It's now just a matter of finding the right projects, which is difficult because of how Hollywood tosses actresses aside when they hit 40. A select few like Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep have been able to overcome this but they have more talent and versatility than she does. Bullock is more similar to Meg Ryan in that while she's a solid actress, she was popular throughout the 1990's primarily on the basis of her cuteness and likability. What Sandy should do is the opposite of Cage. Take a huge blockbuster type role in a mindless action franchise to get audiences accustomed to seeing her as a big deal again. Playing an ordinary woman thrown into extraordinary circumstances is what drew audiences to her to begin with so there's no reason to think it can't happen again. Four words: SPEED 3 JASON STATHAM. Then after that she can attempt to stretch a little dramatically (which she once did to awesome effect in 2005's Crash).

3. Harrison Ford-It seems these days the only way you're going to see Ford in a good movie is if he's being referenced in a sight gag or used as a punchline [like in Fanboys and (500) Days of Summer]. Who can forget his "accent" in K-19: The Widowmaker or his unfortunate turns in Hollywood Homicide and Firewall? No matter how much money Indy 4 raked in it didn't do anything for him as far as a career resurgence. The film being awful likely contributed to that.

What he needs to do is stop taking silly comedies (he isn't funny) and cool it on the action roles. Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone can still get away with it at their age. He can't. Not because he isn't believable but because he's a different kind of actor than they are. He's a lot quieter and more low-key, making him difficult to cast. The answer at this stage is to take more gritty, independent character driven parts, even if they're supporting roles. He needs to take a page out of Stallone's book and pull a Cop Land (but of even higher quality). Ford is lucky in that he's a big star and age isn't nearly as much of a factor for actors as it is for actresses. It's really perplexing that he's struggled this much. 

2. Katie Holmes- Katie, Katie, Katie. When The Dark Knight opened last summer, one of the biggest surprises to come out of it were the amount of Holmes fans coming out of the woodwork claiming they actually preferred her take on Rachel to Maggie Gylennhaal's. I disagree, but it was a much closer call than expected. While she was definitely the weak link in Batman Begins, looking back the performance couldn't have been as bad as everyone originally thought if Maggie just barely managed to top it and no one can claim the sequel would have been any worse off had Katie chosen to return. That's cause enough for her to celebrate. What isn't is that she backed out of one of the most critically and commercially successful movies of all-time so she could co-star in Mad Money, which is cause for alarm any way you look at it. But the public's lukewarm reception (misplaced or not) to Gylenhaal in the role proves moviegoers may finally be willing to put concerns over Katie's personal life aside to give her a chance again.

Many forget that she was really on a roll for a while and could have possibly achieved the fame she has now through her work if things had continued down the path they were going. Make all the jokes you want about Dawson's Creek but she was amazing on it and there would have been no show without her. She had small but memorable turns in The Ice Storm, Go, Wonder Boys, Phone Booth, Abandon and The Singing Detective. And of course an appearance in Sam Raimi's The Gift that's legendary for reasons completely unrelated to her acting. Her career high point came in 2003's Pieces of April, where as the title character she delivered her best performance to date. She may have been woefully miscast in Thank You for Smoking but at least she had the foresight to work with a future Oscar nominated director. What's interesting is that the parts weren't showy or huge, just great fits for her. Her agent deserved a raise, a new house and a yacht. Instead, she got her walking papers when YOU KNOW WHAT happened in 2005.

Taking a couple of years off and keeping a relatively low profile may have been the best possible thing she could have done in terms of her public perception. The timing feels right now for a comeback. I'd start with really good supporting roles and then work my way up. If under a good director she can find a part that somehow combines the girl next door we originally fell for with her new mature persona it would be a solid first step. Even though she cheated a little, her name alone is now big enough to open a movie whereas just a few years ago it wasn't. That's an opportunity she can't pass up.

1. Kate Hudson-

2002- The Four Feathers
2003- Le Divorce, Alex & Emma, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
2004- Raising Helen
2005- The Skeleton Key
2006- You, Me and Dupree (I actually liked this one but it was still an unquestionable flop)
2008-Fool's Gold, My Best Friend's Girl
2009- Bride Wars

I don't even know what to say about her anymore. If we combined all the pitiful choices of everyone else on this list it wouldn't equal an eighth of the damage Hudson has done to her career in the past five to ten years. Most frightening of all is how someone so young could have amassed a filmography of such garbage. Even if I refuse to believe she's Goldie Hawn's biological daughter until I see a birth certificate, she's insisted on taking roles her mother would of played 20 or 30 years ago. The difference: Her mom was funny.

I guess this finally settles the debate as to whether Kate was just "playing herself" in Almost Famous. She wasn't. Penny Lane would have never been dumb enough to sign on to those movies listed above. Nothing she's done can erase the magic of that performance but you can't say she hasn't been trying. Would it be wrong if my advice was to quit acting? Yes, it would. Which is why I'd tell her to just take a little break and then give Cameron Crowe a call. On the bright side, a lot of moviegoers like me still refuse to forget how unbelievable she was in that role and would be happy to welcome her back.

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