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.

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Documentary Now! Robert Evans Mansion

The Reel Deal

Everything You Need To Know About “Mr. Runner Up” Inspiration Robert Evans

Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was written, produced, directed and narrated by Robert Evans. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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