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Do big name actors matter in blockbusters?


#1

To frame this there’s 4 types of blockbuster.

  • Live action movies
  • Comedies
  • Kids animated
  • Drama & Romance

For comedies I think who’s cast is critical and to get any sort of attention you need a famous comedian. A whole bunch of them actually. I think if you try with some unknowns it feels like a TV show at the movies and you don’t want to pay for that. Name actors dominate this space.

For kids animated I’ve never thought who does the voices matters, you hire big names for PR and media marketing purposes. Name actors if you want to make big bucks.

For Drama & Romance you need talented actors. I think big names are actually a problem in these kinds of movies, so they work better with up and coming types. Unknowns are the best option here.

But the place where I think it gets interesting is live action movies. There’s 2 types:

  • Adaptations of existing works
  • Original ideas

I think for original ideas you need names to help sell the property. Otherwise the project just feels like a indie movie. However, for adaptations I think it gets very muddy. When it comes to Superhero movies in particular we’re always thinking about who to cast and going through our Rolodex of famous names. But maybe the best choice is to pick someone who embodies the fictional character - to the extent that it’s more important than being a name who can sell tickets. Both Marvel and DC have gone with a mix of names and relative unknowns, and it’s interesting to see who’s worked out better.

Chris Evans - relatively unknown
Chris Hemsworth - unknown
RDJ - name
Scarlett Johansson - name
Sam Jackson - name
Mark Ruffalo - relatively unknown
Jeremy Renner - relatively unknown
Clark Gregg - unknown
Tom Hiddleston - unknown
Christian Bale - name
Henry Cavill - unknown
Gal Gadot - unknown
Charlie Cox - unknown
Krysten Ritter - relatively unknown
Mike Colter - unknown
Finn Jones - unknown
Ryan Reynolds - name
Suicide Squad - a big old mix.
Guardians - another big old mix.

Even with Mark’s movies all were led with unknown actors (at that time). So when casting for an adaptation is the right move to take a new actor and make them a star?

And in turn can you do the same with the villains, or do villains have to be big names so there’s someone famous ready to sell tickets?


#2

I think a lot will depend on the work itself. If the characters are supposed to be young, you may have no choice to go with unknowns or at least those with a niche following. If the characters are all in their 30s-40s or older, that opens the possibilities within the the constraints of the budget and what the studio expectations are.

A few years back, Cracked did the following article:
http://www.cracked.com/quick-fixes/4-cliche-things-every-dystopian-young-adult-movie-does/

Relevant to the discussion is Item #2. They Each Add in an Older Award-Winning Actor :smiley:

I think it really comes down to budget and how the studio expects the movie to perform. In the case of adaptations, does the source material have a strong following or heat to it?


#3

I’d put Brie Larson down as a “name” too. She’s never done anything on the Captain Marvel scale, but she just won an Oscar. Tom Holland’s an unknown, though one people marked for stardom years ago after The Impossible.

For comedies, lead actors are usually people who had breakout supporting performances in other movies, like Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids, Kevin Hart in Think Like A Man, Zach G in The Hangover etc.


#4

We are in the age where IP is much more famous then the actors themselves unfortunately.