There’s an old joke; “I just signed a six-picture deal with Universal. Now, I’m waiting for them to sign.”
That old adage is pretty much right on the money when it comes to %99.9 of actors in Hollywood these days.
It’s not news that it’s hard to get work as an actor, but the way the biz has been going lately — studios releasing fewer and fewer films, with the overwhelming majority being the mega-franchise, kid-focused, take-the-money-and-run kind of drivel most of us over the age of twelve lament each time we’re forced to watch yet another preview of “unlikely hero saves the world from certain destruction” — it’s gotten to the point where the same 20 actors are doing 90% of the work.
It’s this type of environment that led the folks at Entertainment Weekly to get some of Hollywood’s most well-(un)known character actors together with the objective of sending a little tongue-in-cheek message to the powers that be. That message is–
“Hey, Hollywood! Instead of using the same actors over and over in your tentpoles, why not use one of us?”
Actually, according to EW’s website, the ‘character actors’ piece was meant to be a semi-serious response to the recent New York Times article focusing on the myriad of unknown muscle-heads waiting to be the next Dwayne Johnson or Vin Diesel.
Not to be outdone, a group of “out-of-work” actors, headed by Sean Kenin, a New York-based voice-over artist who’s talents can be heard everywhere from Family Guy to The Smurfs franchise, decided to take it a step further.
They’ve released a response to EW’s response that basically implores Hollywood, for everyone’s benefit, to “Break the cycle of conformity” while also telling the character actors, “Be grateful you’re working as often as you are.” The grass is always greener…
According to Kenin, while he appreciates the talent of every guy in the EW piece, he was a bit surprised to see it contained only one black actor and no women. “That got me thinking,” he says. So, he got a few of his friends together and they shot their own Message to the Actors Who Sent a Message to Hollywood. (note: EW said the piece was a spur-of-the-moment idea at Comic-con and they were limited to the actors who volunteered to participate.)
However amusing these clips may be, we need to keep two very important things in mind:
1. The movie business is driven by 12 year-old girls who want to see young, beautiful princes and princesses, and 12 year-old boys who want to watch the mega-hero with an eight-pack take down the evil villain. Pre-pubes drive the all-important box office, and, sadly, they have no interest in watching their parents on screen.
2. Like every other big business, Hollywood is a town based on one thing: “F-E-A-R.”
The movie business – probably more than any other industry – is run by a select group of men and women whose main goal is simply to keep their job another day.
As romantic a notion as it is, at present, most executives with the power to greenlight a film have zero interest in taking a chance on an unknown, because it could mean their jobs. This is why Hollywood, as well as the record business, never sets trends. They simply respond to what’s already happening.
Whether its a break-dancing craze that eventually turns the country into “Electric Boogaloo-Land,” or a mob of teenage vampires that wind up taking over your books, your television, and your movie theaters, none of these trends were started -or supported -by the big studios until they were on the verge of becoming parodies of themselves. And they most likely will never be.
Thus, while a group of musicians may get together and suggest the record biz put $1 million into promoting 100 artists, instead of the usual $100 million into just 1, or out of work actors recommend to the suits at Warner Bros. they cast an unknown, semi-working, Off B’way actor in their next Avengers installment, unless you’re 22, stand 6′ 3″ and have an “eight-pack,” you should probably turn off the alarm, as you’re obviously dreaming.