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10 Top Destination Actors

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10 Top Destination Actors Empty 10 Top Destination Actors

Post by Admin on Sat Sep 17, 2011 10:38 pm

10 Top Destination Actors

September 17, 2011 10:35 pm
Phil Aram

“Destination store” is a marketing term. In retailing it describes a business which doesn’t need to be near other companies or restaurants to succeed. Where most stores need the cumulative value a shopping center provides to bring in customers a destination brings in business on its own.

Think of Ikea. Ikea is the quintessential destination store. It offers a unique assortment of products. Ikea brings more to the table with its services and cafes (and delicious meatballs) than competitors offer. Most importantly, Ikea locates where it wants, and, no matter where that is, customers will flock because what Ikea offers is worth the drive regardless of whatever else is around.

Acting works the same way. At any given time there will always be a select few actors who are so talented and so in control of their craft that moviegoers need to see any movie they are in. The movie’s they make don’t have to be giant blockbusters, but they have to be of consistently high quality.

There’s no detailed blueprint for how to be a destination actor. All that matters is being the best at what you’re doing: drama, comedy, action, or otherwise for an extended period of time. If we look back in time it’s easy to pick out the top destination actors in any given decade.

Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant owned the fifties with legacy making films like Rear Window and North by Northwest respectively. They may have both hitched their careers to Alfred Hitchcock in the fifties, but, don’t doubt for a moment; it was a two way street.

The sixties were ruled by “The King of Cool” Steve McQueen and Sidney Poitier’s uncanny gravitas. The seventies belonged to Al Pacino and his role as the unforgiving Michael Corleone as well as Clint Eastwood’s stare and Jack Nicholson’s neurosis (give and take a year).

Robert De Niro conquered the eighties, period. Tom Cruise might have faired better than a distant second if not for the sin against humanity know as Cocktail.

Tom Hanks did it all in the nineties: from drama (Philadelphia) to romance (Sleepless in Seattle) to war epic (Saving Private Ryan) to kid friendly (Toy Story I and II). His Philadelphia co-star, Denzel Washington, was a force himself with career defining roles in Malcolm X and Crimson Tide.

The most recent decade. The oughts? They had a few destination quality actors to decide between, but the most notable have to be the pair of one time child stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale. DiCaprio for his dominance of the action-drama, and the Caped Crusader himself Christian Bale because he pushed his limits constantly beyond their foreseeable bounds.

We’re far enough into the 2000’s teenage years to start pondering the question: who will the destination actors of this decade be? It’s worth a great deal of consideration. If you plant your flag in the right camp now it’ll mean a decade of ecstasy inducing performances with little to no disappointment in-between.

A top ten list seems in order. The goal? Rank the likely contenders in order to give you, me, and everybody else the best chance to catch lightening in a bottle, at least until 2020 rolls around.
Honorable and Dishonorable mentions
Ewan McGregor

The thing about Ewan McGregor is… he makes a lot of bad movies. His good roles can be excellent and even in his lesser films he shines. The issue is he pumps out a much higher quantity of forgettable films lately than memorable.
Brad Pitt

In contrast to Ewan McGregor, Brad Pitt rarely makes an out-and-out bad film. The issue for him is seemingly unavoidable though. His fame and charm are on a level above his actual acting. His movies tend to be between enjoyable and really enjoyable but never much more. His most noted recent films (The Tree of Life and Inglourious Basterds) are notable primarily for reasons beyond him. He’s the Swedish meatballs at Ikea: They’re delicious and add to the experience, but they’re rarely a reason to go on their own.
Will Smith

Bankability: The relative perception of an actor’s ability to single handedly make a film profitable. Will Smith is Bankable. He is not a destination actor. Much has been made over the last decade about Smith’s uncanny ability to produce a constant stream of movies which gross over $100 million, but finding the destination actors is all about looking past public perception, and instead focusing in on the actual product an actor is producing.

I’m here to tell you, Will Smith makes bad movies. Men in Black II, Shark Tale, I, Robot, Hitch, The Pursuit of Happiness, I Am Legend, Hancock, and Seven Pounds were his last nine major releases. Of those only four received a majority of positive reviews, and most people wouldn’t describe even the best of this selection with a superlative better than “good.”
10. Tie: Leonardo Di Caprio, Christian Bale, and George Clooney

In sports they tell you to never discount the reigning champs. DiCaprio, Bale, and Clooney have been great; the are great. History tells us though that fame and success as a destination actor eventually leads to regression. When you’re on top of everything for some long something happens. Maybe the air up there is just thinner, but, whatever it is, judgement seems to slip eventually.

I’m not saying they are selling out or that they won’t make any more quality movies. I’m just observing history, and history says no one can maintain their personal brand at the destination actor level forever. Don’t count these guys out, but approach their new projects cautiously because they might not have done the same.
9. Tom Hardy

I love Tom Hardy. He’s the biggest scene stealer in Hollywood right now, but that’s why it’s tough to put him much higher here. Hardy has all of the tools to be a destination actor, but his career just hasn’t had time to develop yet. He is stealing scenes because nobody has given him the chance to be the lead in a big name movie like Inception.

He can match anyone on this list in talent right now, but to be a destination actor you need more than talent. You need opportunities to shine. Hardy will get those in time, but for now he is a longshot to be a destination actor in the near future. Expect him to be a force for the 2020’s discussion.
8. James Franco

James Franco is a damn fine actor. He wants to be in weighty films. He wants to do meaningful work. He’s even succeeded in being a part of some excellent films, but there seems to be a disconnect between what he wants to make and what he has made.

For all the quality films he has been a part of lately there are too many bad movies holding him back: Flyboys, Eat, Pray, Love, Your Highness, and so on. Not as many bad movies as Ewan McGregor, but if you want to be a destination actor you’ve got to trim the fat from your resume. Until he can hammer out his inconsistency James Franco will continue to be like a destination store with spotty regional management. In the well run stores everything is great, but the few mismanaged stores you’ve been to frustrate the hell out of you and make you unlikely to go out of your way to returning.

By definition a destination actor has to instill confidence in the viewing public. No matter how crazy the movie looks people need to have faith that all will be well because the destination actor has tied his name to it. Everyone’s initial reservations about Rise of the Planet of the Apes showed Franco isn’t there yet and may never be.
7. Paul Rudd

In this sea of acting greatness Paul Rudd looks a bit like the fish out of water. His detractors aren’t without merit. He will be a boom or bust pick for sure, but for the moment he’s the “it guy” in comedy movies. If he leverages his position as a funny-guy-who-can-act and warp himself into an actor-who-can-be-funny we could see something special.

I’m willing to be a realist here. There’s a reason the it guy in comedy never breaks out. When you’re a good comedian people write movies based around your style of funny. People will go to see the movies. You will make lots of money, and eventually the jokes will get old and the typecast stories won’t work as well as they used to. If Paul Rudd follows the all too well traveled road laid out before him you won’t need to strain your eyes to see where his career will head: Ben Stiller, Will Farrel, and Adam Sandler have all been there before.

Even though those comedic actors didn’t protect their brands well enough they all eventually showed us one thing. They can act. Each of them has recently appeared or starred in film where they got to show real range and nuance in a role. It’s always been too little too late to change their career trajectories, but Paul Rudd still has a chance.

What makes him any different? Not much. Each of the actors listed showed equal flashes of brilliance. Most have been bigger names in the public eye. For Rudd, his best chance of avoiding being heavily typecast is a level head and, hopefully, the ability to learn from his peers. Does it seem likely? No. Would I rather him overcome his handicap than James Franco? Yes. Number seven it is.
6. Matt Damon

This is a hard one to gauge. Matt Damon does a lot of acting in a lot of good movies. If he compares to any other destination actor’s career it’s probably Cary Grant’s. A lot of success over an extended period of time. So much success, in fact, it becomes difficult to mark a real golden age. With Grant the sixties stood out because of the density of classics. Similarly, Damon has been a fringe destination actor since the late nineties, but he is yet to put together a period of success as dense with quality performances as the destination actors.

The 2000’s were filled with enjoyable Damon features which included one of the better action series in many years in the Bourne Trilogy. Outside of being Jason Bourne though his other top films like the Ocean’s Eleven series, The Departed, and True Grit see him only as part of the ensemble, not the star. If he’s got any of Cary Grant’s magic in him this is the time to put the spotlight squarely on himself an let it show.
5. Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr. only has one flaw right now, and it’s his marketability. The guy is to damn marketable. He is the most effortlessly talented, funny, good looking, and charismatic actor in the business today. Every producer wants him in their movie and they’re willing to pay top dollar to get him. It’s difficult to turn those flashy roles down even if they often end up more style and fan service than substance.

For a guy who more or less destroyed his entire career and everything that went along with it once already with drugs and alcohol; a second chance at fame and fortune is something he probably doesn’t take for granite. That said, he’s not on this list for his recent efforts. All they have shown is his top dog status right now. He gets to pick whatever project he wants, and RDJ has chosen underwhelmingly so far. He’s in the top five because of his pure talent which can carry almost any movie, even Iron Man 2, and because if he can manage to trip his way into a few solid scripts over the next ten years it will be impossible consider him anything other than a destination.
4. James McAvoy

He’s young, experienced, talented, and popular. It’s a grand recipe for success. He’s put in an early portfolio not altogether dissimilar from Tom Hanks’ early years. They don’t make the same style of movies, but the trajectory is the same. Moderate success theatrically and rapidly growing popularity with audiences. Hanks then and McAvoy now have only been held back by underwhelming scripts or directing, but a pair of fantastic movies in Atonement and The Last King of Scotland under his belt and a mainstream hit in the new X-Men movie McAvoy looks poised to step up.

If I was a smarter man I might think to place him higher. He is a crowd favorite which never hurts, but his gravitation towards the adoring masses has me worried. X-Men: First Class and Wanted (albeit to a lesser degree) are good movies, but they are the kind of roles that make you into Hugh Jackman not Christian Bale.
3. Colin Firth

What do Sidney Poitier, Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, and Tom Hanks all have in common beyond being destination actors? Each of them won a best acting Academy Award in the first half of their destination actor period. Colin Firth is coming off of back-to-back nominations with the later nomination for his part in The King’s Speech ending with him taking home an Oscar. With his award show buzz he’s in one of the best positions of any actor to get good roles sent his way in the foreseeable future.

Firth could also be in the Tom Hanks. Even more so than James McAvoy. In this first part of Firth’s career he specialized in light romantic comedies. The kind which generally saw him shining in an otherwise dim room. For Hanks Philadelphia was what elevated him away from being locked into the same old comedic roles for the rest of his career. It provided him the credibility to branch out into the more challenging work he was denied early on. Firth approaches Hanks both in terms of charisma – the driver of his popularity – and talent.

This seems as good a time as any to clarify the destination actor concept. This isn’t Highlander. There can be (and usually is) more than one destination actor, and for where his career is right now Colin Firth might be the safest bet of anyone to be a destination actor for this decade…
2. Michael Fassbender

But everyone already knows Firth is a star. He will be hard to miss if his potential pays off. This list is here to guide savvy moviegoers who don’t want to miss the next big thing happening right now. For you savvy folks out there you need only know one name – Michael Fassbender. Michael Fassbender is going to be big, BIG big. Anyone who has seen him can tell he will be a forced to be reckoned with in acting for years to come.

From his unflinching portrayal of hunger striking IRA activist in Steve McQueen III’s impressive debut film Hunger to this years standout performance as the young Magneto in X-Men: First Class Fassbender has been impressing anyone and everyone who has stopped to take the time to admire his fantastic name, but what holds the ultra-talented Michael Fassbender back from the first spot on this list is every person’s worst enemy, time.

Fassbender has been nothing short of fantastic in his limited screen time. We know he is bound for great things, but with only a handful of movies under his belt and relatively little public recognition up to this point it’s difficult to imagine him receiving the same amount of opportunities everyone else on this list will certainly garner.

But even limited opportunities won’t be able to slow the surely meteoric rise of Mr. Fassbender’s. He has been so good in everything he’s appeared in so far; His next movie could be directed by M. Night Shyamalan and I’d still go see it in a theater. Well, on second thought, maybe I’d just rent it, or, better yet, wait to catch it on cable.

The lesson here isn’t that Michael Fassbender has limitations; it’s that no one can save M. Night Shyamalan from himself, not even Michael Fassbender, but for any other project expect nothing short of Midas’ touch. Fassbender is gold.
1. Ryan Gosling

One movie has caused people to underestimate Ryan Gosling for almost a decade, The Notebook. It was sentimental and cliche’d. Women loved it. Men hated it. Everyone joked about it, but since its release Gosling has been on the grind – working on his craft.

His film career has many parallels to Leonardo DiCaprio. Leo did Titanic back in the nineties. It made him hugely famous with one of the biggest movie going crowd – the teens and twenty-somethings. However, he hated how it affected his career. For five years he barely acted because the only roles he was offered were emotional romances in the same vein as the James Cameron directed mega-blockbuster. The few movies he took were minor and not altogether favorable.

He remained selective though and refused to accept typecasting. When the 2000’s hit he got the opportunities he had been waiting for with Catch Me If You Can and Gangs of New York. DiCaprio never looked back. Gosling is doing the same thing today.

The last two years have marked a precipitous rise for Gosling. He’s proved himself on the indie circuit since The Notebook, and now it’s beginning to pay dividends. Last year he had Oscar buzz for his part in the powerfully emotional Blue Valentine. This week his already acclaimed art house action movie, Drive, begins rolling into an ever wider release. Gosling may not have the most dialogue in it, but he has drawn comparisons to the likes of Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen for his gripping portrayal of a nameless stunt driver.

Later year the real test will come. We only have previews and a limited number of reviews to go off of, but The Ides of March will undoubtedly be the tipping point for Ryan Gosling one way or the other. On the one hand, Ides could be underwhelming. A stand out performance might be lost in an otherwise underwhelming film, or (and I don’t see this happening) his acting could not stand out, and he could end up just another ensemble cog in the films Rolex watch of a cast.

On the other hand, if the movie is a success we could see him emerge as the surprise high point of an award season darling. A performance that manages to surpasses the impressive ensemble cast and all the hype behind a second writer/director/acting effort by George Clooney would be quite the coup. Most importantly it would open doors for Gosling. The kinds of doors which lead to the Raging Bulls, Saving Private Ryans, and Inceptions of the near future. Ryan Gosling is the man to watch right now – even if you didn’t know it.

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