Thursday, June 19, 2003

When do actors jump the shark?

After reading a comment by Woodge yesterday, I had a comment for him, which was this:

There is no such thing as a bad on-screen catfight. I think we can call this Josh's First Law of Cinema.

Because even a bad catfight is better than no catfight.

But this led us into a brief discussion about good catfights. Woodge cited "Two Days in the Valley" as a film with a great catfight. We then turned the conversation somehow to Charlize Theron. I commented that she's a better actress than you'd expect out of someone with a twinkie image (and the looks to match).

Woodge than told me she was going to appear in a biopic about executed serial killer Aileen Wuornos.

This is when I realized that her career is over as we know it.

Here's why - and we can call this Josh's Second Law of Cinema:

Eventually, every twinkie actor gets the idea that they are a Serious Actor. When they do, they get one real shot at the role. And it's a no-win situation for them. Even if they fail, they raise expectations. If they succeed, all their future roles will be looked at through the same lens.

Here's two obvious examples:

Jim Carrey. Terrific comic actor, then he made "The Cable Guy". Since then, he's made a biopic about Andy Kaufman, "The Majestic", "The Truman Show", and now "Bruce Almighty". For the most part, he has yet to get his comic groove back.

Mel Gibson. Action hero, sometimes serious. Now he's making a Jesus movie. In Aramaic. His career is over.

So Josh's Second Law of Cinema distills to: Sooner or later, most actors overreach, and their career is very rarely the same or better afterwards.

An addendum: Sometimes an actor gets away with it. Adam Sandler, for instance, appears to have helped his career with "Punch-Drunk Love".

Directing a film doesn't generally count - only acting. An actor may direct an utterly useless film once in a while and it won't hurt them. But a truly horrible film will crush your career like a bug. For those who doubt me, I have two words:

Vincent Gallo.

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