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The Irish Times - Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Why Johnny Depp must be capped
SMALL PRINT: BY NOW it’s probably far too late in the day to write up an obituary for the movie star. It has, after all, been an ugly, protracted demise. For more than a century, we thought such people were essential to the medium; the star had star clout, put bottoms on seats and was probably married to either Ava Gardner or Richard Burton.
But not too far into the 21st century, as such great blockbuster dinosaurs as Stallone and Schwarzenegger fell by the wayside, the movie star was eclipsed by the lesser, nimbler, celebrities of reality TV and the internet. It hardly mattered that these new mutations had the longevity of a mayfly; they had vastly superior numbers and thrived on the oxygen of publicity.
And so we arrive at a strange paradox. The movie star no longer has anything to do with movies per se. George Clooney, though a capable director and influential producer, has spent most of his on-screen career making Tinseltown’s accountants cry. We think of George as a movie star but his box office receipts tell a very different story.
With this is mind, pundits were particularly excited when The Tourist – an old-fashioned caper starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie – promised a welcome return for the star vehicle. Unhappily, even the two biggest movie stars on the planet can no longer be relied upon to attract decent business. This Molotov of silver screen gorgeousness took a modest €128,357 off 57 Irish box offices and placed a lacklustre third at the national box office last weekend. The global tallies were equally uninspiring.
It gets worse. The Tourist adds further credence to the theory that contemporary audiences no longer have any time for Johnny Depp without a hat. The sums are simply indisputable. For years, Depp and director Tim Burton have toiled on such imaginative collaborations as Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow ; it was only when the filmmaker thought to bring Mr Depp round the milliner’s for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland that the duo started to rake in the big bucks.
Does it speak of superficiality or a crazed lust for headgear that Johnny Depp made hardly any impact on theatrical totals when he concerned himself with smaller, quality projects like Cry Baby and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? Yet stick him in a bandana for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and our movie-mad nation will gladly part with €3,373,000. All is not lost; Pirates 4 sets sail next May. The movie star, like Mr Depp, may yet survive as long as it learns to glimmer from beneath the shade of a big old disguise. Expect headlining pay cuts.
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