Author and film critic Ty Burr talks to Terry Gross about how our understanding and treatment of movie stars has changed with the advent of the internet:
Movie stars as we understand in the classic movie stars are, in a way, on the wane. I don’t think the main stream … American film industry sells us stars the way they used to and they don’t sell movies with stars. They sell movies based on franchises: popular book franchises like Twilight or Harry Potter, on special effects, on comic book heroes. Those are what audiences pay to see. They don’t necessarily go to see [a movie] because Tom Cruise … or Ryan Gosling is in it. … I think the whole culture has changed in the sense that we almost don’t need classic movie stars in the way we used to because the Internet allows us to manufacture our own personas in many, many different ways. … So what happens to the classic movie star in this scenario? They become lesser in value. They become mocked. The famous Tom Cruise-Oprah couch scene is still playing at a YouTube channel near you. I mean, it will be there forever. Twenty years ago it would have been fodder for a week of late night jokes and forgotten, but now it’s proof that we have a certain power over these people that used to have power over us.
Image of the Harry Potter Potion Room at the Harry Potter Studio Tour by Mark Lynham
Another thing she requested was a pineapple milkshake, so Max brought one from Emack and Bolio’s, made from fresh pineapple. But as far as my mother was concerned, a milkshake is one thing that’s actually better with crushed pineapple. Dole.
“When I get out of the hospital, I’m going to go home and I’m going to make a pineapple milkshake with crushed pineapple, pineapple juice and vanilla ice cream, and I’m going to drink it and I’m going to die,” she said, savoring the last word. “It’s going to be great.”
On this day, I told her some things. After she moved to her bed, I said that sometimes, I thought of the possibility of her not being around and wondered if I’d ever be able to write again. If I’d even want to. And she told me that I would, that I would find it within me, and that whatever happened, she hoped my brother and I would lead the kind of lives where we did stuff big enough to occasionally say, “Wow, I wish Mom was around for this.”
We stared out at the 59th Street Bridge and tried to remember all the others that connect Manhattan to the rest of the world. The Brooklyn Bridge. The Williamsburg Bridge, the Queensboro Bridge, the Triboro Bridge. We got about halfway before she began to doze off.
One weekend last October, Robert Iger, chief executive officer of Walt Disney, sat through all six Star Wars films. He’d seen them before, of course. This time, he took notes. Disney was in secret negotiations to acquire Lucasfilm, the company founded by Star Wars creator George Lucas, and Iger needed to do some due diligence.
The movies reacquainted Iger with Luke Skywalker, the questing Jedi Knight, and his nemesis Darth Vader, the Sith Lord who turns out to be (three-decade-old spoiler alert) his father. Beyond the movies, Iger needed to know Lucasfilm had a stockpile of similarly rich material—aka intellectual property—for more Star Wars installments. As any serious aficionado knows, there were always supposed to be nine. But how would Disney assess the value of an imaginary galaxy? What, for example, was its population?
As it turned out, Lucas had already done the cataloging. His company maintained a database called the Holocron, named after a crystal cube powered by the Force. The real-world Holocron lists 17,000 characters in the Star Wars universe inhabiting several thousand planets over a span of more than 20,000 years. It was quite a bit for Disney to process. So Lucas also provided the company with a guide, Pablo Hidalgo. A founding member of the Star Wars Fan Boy Association, Hidalgo is now a “brand communication manager” at Lucasfilm. “The Holocron can be a little overwhelming,” says Hidalgo, who obsesses over canonical matters such as the correct spelling of Wookiee and the definitive list of individuals who met with Yoda while he was hiding in the swamps of Dagobah.
The producers at Waterman Entertainment, known for big-screen blockbusters like the “Stuart Little” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks” films, got a lesson in contemporary feline star power over the last few weeks as they set out to cast supporting roles in their planned “Heathcliff” movie.
Grumpy Cat has a great movie scowl, like Al Pacino in “Scarface” only furrier, for instance. But his representative, Ben Lashes, was busy with a cat client’s toy deal and a pop-up store in Times Square, and could barely squeeze in a call.
“I thought I was talking to a guy who would be just thrilled that we wanted him,” said Tucker Waterman, who is a managing partner of Waterman Entertainment, along with his brother Cooper and father, Steve. “I found out I was 25th on the list.”
So an appearance by Grumpy Cat or a rights deal for Keyboard Cat — a piano-playing feline — also managed by Mr. Lashes, are still up in the air. Mr. Waterman has also been talking with an agent about Maru, a Japanese-owned prankster cat who is only a little funnier than Seth Rogen.
But Maru, noted Mr. Waterman, is possibly the most famous cat on the Internet, having been viewed some 160 million times. Deal terms remain to be settled.“I’m waiting to be asked, ‘How many scenes is he going to be in? What about his trailer?’” said Mr. Waterman.
Donors willing to give $71,600 per couple will receive the “Platinum Package”, which entitles them to two seats at the Democrats’ five-event local 2012 speaker series, entry to a Jan. 31 reception for First Lady Michelle Obama with a photo opportunity and a February dinner with the president at a private home.
For $35,800 per person — plus a $9,200 contribution to the Swing State Victory Fund — Obama supporters can get the “Gold Package”, which includes one seat for speaker series, the reception and photo op with Michelle Obama and one seat at the dinner for the President.
The budget-priced “Silver Package” costs only $15,000 per person, which gets the donor a seat for the series, general admission to a February fund-raising event with the President, the reception and photo op with Michelle and a Feb. 1 luncheon plus photo op, again with the First Lady.
When it comes to the current crop of Republican presidential candidates, if Eastwood is enthusiastic about anyone, it’s Herman Cain. “I love Cain’s story,” he says. “He’s a guy who came from nowhere and did well, obviously against heavy odds. He’s a doer and a straight-talker, which I don’t see enough of from either party.”
He’s not as bullish on Mitt Romney. As a film icon, Eastwood has been fiercely protective of his image, but he’s not especially enamored by that attitude in a politician. When Eastwood was in Massachusetts in 2002, filming “Mystic River,” Romney was running for governor there. “I saw a lot of him and you have to admit — he looks like a president,” Eastwood recalled with a tone that you’d have to describe as being slyly sarcastic. “I mean, if you were casting a movie where you needed someone to play president, you’d definitely pick him.”
He sounded equally skeptical about Rick Perry. When I suggested that Perry, as a rugged, gun-toting Texan, would probably crave a photo op with Eastwood even more than with Donald Trump, Eastwood said with a shrug, “If he wanted to meet me, he might be a little disappointed.”