Where Did All The Movie Stars Go?

There used to be a time, round about ten years ago or so, when we had royalty in this country. That royalty was a group of seven or eight people who were admired by all. People from all across the land would flock to them, worshipping at their silver altar. They were the alpha and the omega for all that was important and right with what moved us. They were irreproachable (and unapproachable). They were indestructible. They were light.

… They were movie stars.

We used to have them. And at some point, I’m not even sure when, we lost them. They didn’t go anywhere, but we couldn’t see them. They became lost in a sea of mortality. At one time Gods and Goddesses amongst men, reduced now to just a recognizable face in the crowd.

They gave to us over and over again. The laughter, the tears, the heartbreak, the ecstasy… and they did it with class. It was all possible. We had it all and we fucked it up. And now we are here. And we have no one to turn to.

Where did all the movie stars go?

Cruise. Hanks. Roberts. Gibson. Ford. These names used to be untouchable. Beyond reproach. Audiences just not could not get enough. We ate them up, and eventually, one by one, we spit them out. Harrison can’t be bothered to leave his ranch. Mel went psycho religious. Tom just went psycho. Julia is bored of it all, and too busy Mom-ing it up to be our sole, true female movie star. And Tom Hanks, well, he’s more than a little miscast in The DaVinci Code.

Their fall from grace has soiled me on the idolatry of celebrity. People always ask me why I spend so much time snarking on celebrities. It’s not because I’m a mean person. It’s because celebrities disappoint me. I always hope to be dazzled and awed. And it never happens. One by one they all fall down. They make mistakes; they become addicts, or drunks, or party floozies, or they make ridiculously bad career choices. So then, who do I have to admire?

The problem is that we have no system for developing real, honest to god movie stars. No way to validate, or to nourish, or to workshop. Actors these days, the promising ones, are given quick unearned shots, and inevitable squander the chance. This is because no one has taught them how to be the part. Will Smith became WILL SMITH only through years of entertaining audiences. It took him six or seven gigantic movies before we gave him carte blanche. He has applied, and we have concurred. He’s in. But Will Smith could not become WILL SMITH now. He’d become Taye Diggs, a talented actor who can’t carry a movie because he wasn’t given the time to develop a tangible relationship with moviegoers.

Orlando Bloom. Jessica Biel. Jessica Alba. Lindsay Lohan. Paul Walker. Ashton Kutcher. Kate Hudson. Scarlett Johansson. These people aren’t movie stars. They’re popular actors. And in some cases, just popular people who happen to act (Yes you Walker, yeah, go do some more sit-ups and phone in another movie. Ass.). This is what we are given now. Sub-par talent, pretty faces, and tabloid fodder.

Ah, the tabloids… the reason for all of this. Let me ask you all something, because I really need some help. Why do we feel the need to tear all the good ones down? Moreover, why do we need to find fault? I don’t need to see pictures of Halle Berry coming out of the grocery store without make-up on. I don’t need to see Dennis Quaid drunk, coming out of a club at 2 a.m. I don’t need to see these people I’m supposed to care about, in compromising or humiliating positions. Can’t we have mystery? Can’t we have illusion anymore?

You wanna know why movies suck now, I’ll tell you. It has nothing to do with the quality of the films themselves. It has to do with two things: 1. The stars now are not stars, they’re Us Magazine cover holders, and 2. The real stars have had all their secrets dragged across the pages of countless cheap supermarket rags so now they carry too much baggage into each movie. There was once a time when we didn’t know what a celebrity did on a Tuesday. Now, those days are gone, baby gone.

We need to be able to look up to movie stars. We need to marvel at their grace, their humility, their flawlessness; we need to wonder what they are doing when they’re not on the screen, and imagine it’s something ultra-glamorous. Being a movie star is a job now, but there was a time when it was a privilege. And it should be, you know? It should be a privilege to entertain people. And it shouldn’t be taken lightly. It shouldn’t be exploited just to release a perfume, or a clothing line, or launch a fucking music career. It should be about the movies, about the work.

Only movies can truly shake the world. A movie can rattle sabers, can launch a thousand dreams, and can rock you to the core. Movies are art. So movie stars should be artists. They should know and respect the history of their profession, and the legacy left behind by the ones that blazed the trail before them. Paul Walker should realize that Paul Newman came before him. Lindsay Lohan needs to remember that there was once a movie star named Michelle Pfeiffer, and that that means something. Every one of those wanna be actors that the Hollywood Press Machine throws at us need to remember that it is an honor to be were they are, and that if they can’t make good on the promise we let them make, then we’ll find someone else who can.

I got in this business for the same reason that we all do, I want to be famous. I know what it means to be famous, and the opportunity that lay within. I could care less about In Touch Weekly. I could give a shit about red carpet fame. I don’t need to win. I just want affect something. Emotion, if I do things right. Change, if I’m lucky. I want to inspire. I want to unearth. I want to live up to expectations. I want to prove to the world that being a movie star is not a right, it’s a privilege and an honor, and that if given the chance to be one, that I would not let them down. I wouldn’t screw it up with drugs or alcohol or stupid sex scandals. I wouldn’t be caught trashed at a club. I wouldn’t shout at a salesperson, or throw my phone at a hotel worker. I would merely do my job. I would make movies that are good, and I would be good in those movies. And I would do it until the day I die. And all that I would ask in return is that they try not to rip me from limb to limb, just because you all said yes to me.

Maybe we can’t have movie stars anymore. Maybe Catherine Zeta-Jones and Russell Crowe and George Clooney and Kate Winslet are just the last gasps of an old way of life. Maybe this is what we have to look forward to, a reality where anyone and everyone get their shot at being famous and no one person becomes beloved; a world where movies lose their allure because there are no more pure souls. After all, how can I believe Scarlet Johansson as a pure young thing, when I know she banged Benicio Del Toro in an elevator a week after the Oscars. God…

Why do I know that? There is nothing in me that wants to know that information. But I am inundated with it. Do I lap it up? Sure. It’s fun and it’s there. But do I wish I could give it all up and instead have a reality where a movie star lives a private life of glitz and glam, and the only time we see them in real life is when they walk down the red carpets of their lavish movie premieres? Oh, you bet I do. I long for those days. I miss that golden group of seven. We will never have that again. We can’t. The paparazzi and the tabloids and the internet cranks would never allow it. No, that apex of stardom has now become unattainable. And I’ll tell you this, I’m not gonna be the one to tell Rachel McAdams that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t be there when she finds out.

So we do just live with it? Just live with a world full of mean, jealous people who can’t stand to see someone gain success based on true merit? Do we have to discredit the idea of merit, because it has no value anymore? I refuse. I won’t do it. I’ll figure out a way to bring them back. If it takes me until the end of my career, I will find a way to bring back true movie stars. I will save us from a world of Orlando’s and Ashton’s and Hillary’s and Paris’s. I will find us the next Jack Nicholson, the next Meryl Streep, the next Rachel McAdams. I’ll do it because it needs to get done. I’ll do it because it means too much to me not to.

I need to know I live in a world filled with movie stars. I need to have our American royalty again. And I will find them, and crown them, one talented actor at a time.

I don’t know where the movie stars went, but mark my words, I will find them. I will bring them back. Just try and stop me.

Bangarang, Fallen Movie Stars!

About Jason Matthews

Jason Matthews is the head writer for TheJay.com. The site has been nominated for two Weblog Awards (Best Culture Blog, 2006 & 2007), and has been featured on more than 100 websites, including the IMDB, Defamer, College Humor, USA Today’s Pop Candy (Written by Whitney Matheson), Entertainment Weekly’s PopWatch, BestWeekEver.tv, Gorilla Mask and eBaum’s World. Jason is also an accomplished playwright. He is currently the Writer-in-Residence at the Ruskin Group Theatre, where through their showcase “Café Plays”, he has written and produced forty-five one-act plays, and premiered his full-length debut comedy ‘Four Night Stand’ to a sold out six-week run in Spring 2010. In addition to his work online and in theatre, Jason was the host of PopLoad on NowLive.com from January – May 2007, and was the Editor-in-Chief of the popular Santa Barbara-based arts magazine CampusPOINT from June 2000 – June 2002. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Film Studies from UC Santa Barbara, and an intense love for Ben Affleck and Keanu Reeves. Find Jason Matthews on Twitter @ www.Twitter.com/jasonamatthews
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5 Responses to Where Did All The Movie Stars Go?

  1. D says:

    I have one word to describe this fantastic piece of writing… “OOO-rah.”

  2. Marie says:

    You’ve made me sad!

    But it’s tragically true…I remember Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, and Harrison Ford…I remember Julia Roberts sparkling (as she always has)and other stars.

    But now all we get is wannabes,I can’t think of any other way to say it. But that’s what it is…and people out to make a career out of one piece of work or no work at all.

    Your article makes me long for my childhood of dreaming that maybe one day I would get to partcipate in making films (as an actress similar to Julia or Rachel McAdams, whom I adore)or even direct movies and then get to be a part of that Hollywood.

    But natch, that’s gone…gone with all the talented, dreamy men and genuinely glamorous women,too.

    I agree with you on many if not all fronts and I think we should kick the phonies out!

    Jay, thanks for telling it like it is!!

    I’m going to go and get some kleenex now (sniffle, sniffle)

    With admiration,

  3. Beau says:

    Well said. I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels this way.

  4. gfgfdg says:

    You TOTALLY forgot to mention Brangelina.

  5. gfgfdg says:

    And George Clooney is truly admired by all, just as the movie stars you’ve listed have been.

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