The Dilemma of Selling Out

The recent inclusion of Jennifer Connelly in Hollywood crap-fest, The Dilemma, got me wondering. Here is an actress who, in 2002, won an Oscar as John Nash’s put-upon wife in A Beautiful Mind. She is an Amnesty ambassador who seems to prefer issues films: Blood Diamond, Creation. Her husband is successful actor Paul Bettany: both work a lot, and withstanding any Nigerian bank fraud, you would think they had enough money to pick films based on artistic merit.

So why sell out?

Answer One) It’s easy.

Examples: Philip Seymour Hoffman (Mission Impossible III), All of them (Couple’s Retreat)

As a rule of thumb, the shorter the shoot, the shittier the film. Zyzzyx Road, starring Katherine Heigl and Tom Sizemore, is the lowest grossing film of all time ($30) and it was made in eighteen days – not even half the length one of Sizemore’s rehab visits. Bill Murray was in Charlie’s Angels for about ten minutes, which must’ve taken a week of shooting at the very most. Angelina Jolie in particular has spoken out about taking films depending on the schools nearby for her children – possibly explaining the dismal The Tourist. Whether you’re lazy, you’d rather be at home with your kids, or Hawaii just sounds like a nice holiday, selling out for ease isn’t too dastardly.

Answer Two) You were conned into it.

Examples: Al Pacino (Ocean’s Thirteen), Bill Murray (Charlie’s Angels), John Travolta (Old Dogs)

Let’s be honest, some films sound kerr-azy. I don’t blame Will Smith for reading the script of The Matrix and thinking, nah, not my cup of tea. Yet, with a team of over-excited writers, producers and director, you can imagine how All About Steve could be touted as the next Citizen Kane. Maybe that’s a bad example, but I’m saying that Hollywood minds are like bellybutton fluff: easily moulded. And grey. Sigourney Weaver in Avatar might be a controversial pick, but all the shinyshiny talk from CGI failed to conceal that Avatar is effectively Dances with Wolves with smurfs instead of Indians.

People avoid these kinds of movies mostly by using that tired old dog of a phrase, ‘creative differences.’ Bill Murray claimed it as the reason for his surprise replacement by Bernie Mac in Charlie’s Angels 2, later saying director McG: “should be pierced with a lance.” Some actors don’t even start the project. Stuart Townsend left Thor, presumably because Queen of the Damned was so good he doesn’t need to work again. Joe Carnahan and David Fincher dropped out of directing Mission Impossible III and Tommy Lee Jones left as both actor and director in The Lincoln Lawyer, which must have been a bit of a blow to the producer who got stuck with Matthew bongos McGonaughey. You can escape a stinker, as it turns out: just cite creative differences and run.

Answer Three) Moneymoneymoneymoney

Examples: Michael Caine (Jaws: The Revenge), Julie Andrews (The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement), Sandra Bullock (Speed 2: Cruise Control)

Moolah. Green. Wonga. Whatever irritating slang you use, it’s a truism that money makes the world go round. It’s why Georgina Chapman is with Harvey Weinstein, and seems to have been the over-riding factor in the decision to make Little Fockers. And you know what? I understand it, I really do. You’ve got bills to pay- those toilet seats won’t crystallize themselves – mouths of various charming illegitimate children to feed, mistresses and drug dealers to pay off. When the quirky indie just isn’t going to stop the bailiffs, what can one do but sign on to whatever bat dropping of a blockbuster being ballyhooed around Hollywood by executives?

Take Julia Roberts. In what she called a ‘favour’ to Gary Marshall, she appeared in Valentine’s Day, an absurd production that managed to trick Kathy Bates of Misery into its bull-crap. For approximately six minutes of gurning, she walked out $3 million richer.

As 50 cent so accurately puts it: ‘I get money. I get money. [repeat]’

What’s the conclusion?

Japanese adverts. Seriously. You too can be like Sean Connery in that Japanese whisky advert where he slowly drinks for about a minute and a half (the one on which Bill Murray’s character in Lost in Translation is based) No acting, no line memorizing, just a strong liver and no artistic compass.

Unlike George Clooney in those lame Nepresso adverts, your mistakes are only going to be seen by the population of Japan, which admittedly is quite large, but on the whole quietly accepting, if you’ll excuse my casual stereotype. In-fact, it’s surprising that more actors haven’t gone down this route. John Travolta, take note – when your films start getting reviewed like this:

Old Dogs is so singularly dreadful it halts time, folds space and plays havoc with the very notion of the self,”
Tim Robey of The Telegraph

then it’s time to head East.

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