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The difference between movie stars and actors

Leonardo DiCaprio in "Inception"

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Is there a difference between “movie stars” and actors? Both of them act, obviously, but one of them does it as an art form and the other does it – how does one say this? — for the adulation and the box office. There has been endless speculation about psychological motivations. Why would someone need to act on the big screen? Why would someone feel the need to be known by so many people? Did their mothers give them enough love when they were children? Movie stars occasionally do off Broadway – for the craft, for the prestige — but generally they pick their roles not so much for an Oscar or a Screen Actors Guild award so much as for winning the weekend. Tom Cruise, to put it plainly, is a movie star; Willem Dafoe is a – capital “A” — actor. There is a difference.

Recently choleric super-producer Harvey Weinstein – whose muses have, over the years, included Gwyneth Paltrow and Penelope Cruz – was spotted publicly pitching woo at Katy Perry to star in the Paul Potts biopic. From Page Six: “The mogul behind ‘The Artist’ spoke to Perry about playing the wife of Potts — the English mobile-phone salesman who became a singing sensation after winning Simon Cowell’s ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ in 2007. Weinstein was spotted chatting with Perry, who responded, ‘I love a challenge,’ at his pre-Oscar party at Soho House.”

Swell and lovely, Katy. But does loving a challenge make Katy Perry an actress or someone who sometimes acts? Her performance in the “Firework” video notwithstanding, Weinstein was not looking for someone dedicated to the craft for this role. Katy has a fan base; Katy is interesting; Katy sings; Katy can get butts in seats. Katy Perry could conceivably become a movie star. Being a “movie star means being pretty and/or interesting on screen. But the public, to be sure, is fickle.

The pendulum swings. The box office magic doesn’t last. Julia Roberts and Harrison Ford were once stars of such a magnitude as to be in another cosmos altogether. Neither of them is that now. Holding the attention of the public is not easy. What prevailed in the 80s doesn’t hold twenty years later. It is almost like we are in a relationship with movie stars – and all celebrities, really. A one-sided relationship. And when we have had enough of them, when we are no longer interested, we break up. We have essentially fallen out of love with Harrison and Julia. But can we still be friends?

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. Brad Pitt is both an actor and a movie star and so are Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. All are interesting and beautiful and can get people into theaters when they star in the leading role but they also tend to favor serious and complex stories. Angelina Jolie can play Lara Croft in a kick ass role, but she also is also not averse to telling a difficult story about Bosnia or playing the wife of a Wall Street Journal reporter murdered by terrorists. Neither of those films was made to get the maximum number of asses into theater seats. Shia LaBeouf – God bless his heart — would never make such an altruistic calculation. Shia is all about the bottom line – entertaining people with big, shiny movies.

Leo DiCaprio is another example of an actor and a movie star. It is hard to imagine Leo doing an action film or even a slapstick comedy – not that there is anything wrong with that. There is a place for Iron Man and there is a place for J. Edgar in this world. But the stories that Leo wants to tell, the stories that Leo wants to be a part of, involve complicated people in serious situations. And though life has its funny moments and though we love our fantasies, this is what Leo wants to represent.

Capital A – as in art — Actors are not quite in it for the money or the fame. But if you are an actor in the movies you are, ipso facto, famous and rich. It is obviously a complicated relationship; as complicated, really, as an independent film. Obviously an actor could stick to stage work, doing Ibsen off Broadway. But if you are going out an auditioning for films in Los Angeles, fame and/or money are clearly a motivating factor. Not the number one factor, but a big factor nonetheless. So there is clearly a difference between capital a Actors and movie stars. But the difference is not as great as we would like to think.

Who are your favorite movie stars and Actors? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.


Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…