Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Vanity Fair's Hollywood ~ Episode 9 (2003)

Missed previous episodes? See: 1995 , 1996, 1997, 1998 , 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005

In April 2003 Vanity Fair brought us only the second all male lineup in their nine years of this special issue. The idea here was the "Alpha List" and here they were...

Obviously, when VF isn't speculating about who might be hugely famous someday there's less to discuss in terms of what happened to their careers. But it can be thrilling to see so many megawatt stars in the same room together when VF goes "classic". Unlike many group photoshoots these "Hollywood" events rarely seemed to be the product of Adobe Photoshop. In other words, the oxygen is believably shared.

Tom Hanks, about to hit 47, was fresh off another hit (Catch Me If You Can) but his career was slowing down. His two Oscars and the occasional blockbuster (DaVinci Code) can warm him if he isn't feeling the warmth of mass adoration quite as much anymore. Here's my quibble: for someone who enjoyed favorable comparisons to the great Jimmy Stewart for so long, where are Hanks' late career stretches? Stewart was doing his best work ever in his late 40s and 50s. Has Hanks challenged himself at all since Cast Away which he made when was 44?

Tom Cruise, turning 41, was still Hollywood's Top Gun/Dog. His ex-wife had just barely won the Oscar that had always eluded him despite three nominations. He was readying The Last Samurai (note the longer locks) and dating Penélope Cruz. He was approximately one year away from firing his longtime publicist, setting off a series of bizarre media events which would damage his reputation and possibly his legacy.

Harrison Ford, turning 61, a longtime powerhouse draw, was slowing down and had famously turned down a role in the Oscar hit Traffic (2000) indicating to some that he wasn't really eager to stretch as he entered his golden years. He had moved to a one film every two years schedule. Michelle Pfeiffer had rightfully gotten much of the credit for his last big hit What Lies Beneath (2000) and when this cover debuted his only recent film K-19: The Widowmaker (2002) had been an uncharacteristic flop. Like Cruise -- only to a much smaller degree -- he was starting to have publicity problems. In 1998 he had added that solitary earring that people like to joke about, his second marriage began to dissolve in 2000 and his engagement to Calista Flockhart, who was just entering her difficult post-Ally McBeal period, was fresh at the time of this shoot. They haven't yet married.

Jack Nicholson, 66, who has been in pictures since '58 had just lost the Oscar Best Actor race for About Schmidt (his 12th and last Oscar nom to date) to upstart Adrien Brody for The Pianist. But with three Oscars already, what more could he want? How about two more huge hits this very year (Anger Management and Something's Gotta Give). '03 was the last the screen would see of Jack until The Departed (2006). That's an uncharacteristically long break for this prolific actor but he's now in his 70s so we'll let it slide.

Brad Pitt, 39, was still married to Jennifer Aniston and had just put a brief period of media swiping about his bankability behind him. The Oceans franchise and his resultant enormous payday ($30 million -- just for the first one) settled that one. More hits would soon follow and then... Angelina Jolie.

Edward Norton's career was going up up up at the age of 33. The previous year had brought ubiquity (four movies and Salma Hayek as girlfriend) and he was about to help deliver The Italian Job. Things got strangely quiet thereafter and he continues to have problems with a "difficult" reputation. Recent highlights include the underappreciated The Painted Veil and another hit, The Incredible Hulk.

Jude Law, 30, had officially and unarguably arrived in his late 20s with his portrayal of a callow golden boy in The Talented Mr Ripley (1999). Ever afterwards he was expected to become a major lead star even though he'd continued with the riveting supporting parts rather than going straight for the franchises or headlining work. Unfortunately the box office didn't cooperate so much on the intermittent lead gigs that he did take. Cold Mountain, hyped to be an Oscar frontrunner long before its debut (it failed to get a Best Picture nom), was on the way. Unfortunately the latter remains his last true hit, grossing nearly $100 million.

Samuel L Jackson, 54, often in enormous hits even if he's not exactly responsible for their success, had just added another billion dollar franchise to his resume with his turn as Mace Windu in the Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones. Is he a household name more for his ubiquity than for his performances? His career is rather like that of Michael Caine and Gene Hackman before him: a sprinkling of blazingly good work here and there keeps the reputation intact despite the filmography also containing huge swaths of disposable filler. He can't say no! Jackson began to find steady employment as an actor in 1987. He's amassed a frankly astounding number of credits since then in everything from features, tv, to DVD fare, 108 of them in fact. Seven more films coming our way in the next two years. He's not going to be ignored. He's stalking us.

Don Cheadle, 38, was at this point a highly valued supporting actor, beloved by other thesps. He hadn't yet been rubber stamped with an Oscar nod or a lot of fame but he'd turned in vivid work in many good films: Oceans 11, Boogie Nights, and The Devil in a Blue Dress among them. He was soon to graduate to lead roles. Hotel Rwanda and his first Oscar nom would soon follow.

Hugh Grant on his way to 43, had recently delivered another semi-hit (Two Weeks Notice) and a critical success featuring his best work (About a Boy). The king of romantic comedy was beginning to threaten retirement in interviews but he didn't quit. Instead he made the Bridget Jones sequel for 2004. Oops! He doesn't work too often now but his next film is, you guessed it, another romantic comedy with a much younger woman.

Dennis Quaid, 49, was suddenly experiencing a real comeback -- not just the hyped kind. The late 90s had been bumpy for his star status and the breakup with Meg Ryan at the turn of the decade had been messy for both, public relations-wise. But in 2002 he had carried the crowd pleaser The Rookie with a winning star turn and almost won an Oscar nomination for his performance stretch in Far From Heaven. By the time of this cover, he was suddenly in demand again though it would take a couple of years before new movies started hitting theaters.

Ewan McGregor, 32, was soaring. The success of Moulin Rouge! (2001) and the Star Wars prequels had lifted him from well regarded daring British thespian to star. He had two movies coming out: Down with Love was a welcome change of pace as far as romantic comedies go but not something the public was interested in, Big Fish another serio-comic fantasy for Tim Burton performed reasonably well but seemed to fade quickly from public consciousness. It's been semi-rough since, with flops for which he was unjustly blamed (The Island) and strange choices (second fiddle to Renee Zellweger for Miss Potter?) piling up and a distinct lack of the edgier roles that made him a rising star in the first place. It's easy to imagine a resurgence, though: Eight new films coming your way in the next two years.

Matt Damon, 32, had just struck gold with The Bourne Identity (2002) and that franchise, together with smart choices for follow-ups (goofy cameos for friends, stretching for auteurs, working on smarter-than-usual mainstream projects) has served him exceedingly well. Until the Bourne franchise he was always connected to his best friend Ben Affleck, a bigger star (at the time). Nobody would argue that he's not a movie star on his own now. Five movies are on their way including a fourth trip into Bourne territory.

PLEASE NOTE: If you'd like to read more about any of these stars, click the names on the labels below.

median age: 43. Jude was the baby boy @ 30 and Jack the papa @ 66.
noticeably absent: Since VF tagged this the "alpha list" it's hard not to notice missing heavy hitters like Denzel, Johnny, Clint, Russell or Leo (see, you didn't even need their last names) ... though obviously you can't fit all A listers on one cover.
collective Oscar noms before this cover:
26 nominations and 5 wins for acting (Hanks & Nicholson share that trophy count. Damon has an Oscar but it's for screenwriting Good Will Hunting)
collective Oscar noms after this cover: Only two nominations followed: Jude Law for Cold Mountain (2003) and Don Cheadle for Hotel Rwanda (2004). Both of them lost. Grant, Quaid and McGregor have all been snubbed by Oscar voters on more than one occasion. What a shame.
fame levels in 2008, according to famousr, from most to least: Cruise, Pitt, Hanks, Nicholson, Ford, Damon, Grant, Law, Quaid, Norton and Cheadle. Neither Samuel L Jackson nor Ewan McGregor are listed on the famousr site.
previous episodes of 'VFH': 1995 ,1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005.


Anonymous said...

Has Hanks challenged himself at all since Cast Away which he made when was 44?

Yes, in Ladykillers. I know I am in minority for loving his performance therein, but you can't argue he wasn't trying something very different than usual.

Apart from this one part, I hafta agree.

Chris Na Taraja said...

Obviously Ed didn't get the memo about wearing dark colors. But no one realized that his coat would match the background since everyone of them was shot in a private studio and them spliced onto this fake set.

Isn't Hanks getting intothe production side more. Wasn't he involved in that huge discovery thing about space and the award emmy award winning Adams thing on HBO


you don't think annie gets them into the same room?

I mean i've seen many a photo where you can tell stars weren't. But VF nearly always convinces.

Me at least ;) or am I just gullible?

Deborah said...

Has Hanks challenged himself at all since Cast Away which he made when was 44?

Do you forget how shocked everyone was by his choice of roles in Road to Perdition?

Also, I agree about Ladykillers. Not because it's a great movie, but because pushing himself towards nasty comedy instead of riding his Serious Nice Guy™ choo-choo is interesting.

I love Hanks without reservation and will forgive him all sorts of bad work.

Anonymous said...

I didn't even know my dear Edward Norton was featured on one of Vanity Fair's Hollywood Issues! I LOVE him. He is my favorite actor.

Michael B. said...

I also thought that they were all shot together. Its Annie freaking Leibowitz. If she can get all those celebs to the Vanity Fair Oscar issue with the nominees, she can get all these actors together. And the picture doesn't look like its edited.

Oh and I saw Happy Go Luck last night. Sally Hawkins is fantastic. The movie is good, but Leigh does it again with his lead actress. Oh man! She's gonna give Hathaway a run for her GG. Both deserve Oscar noms tho...

Anonymous said...

Maaaaaaaaaaaaaattttttt Dammmmmmmmmmoooonnnnn

OleNelson said...

I just want to jump in and say how much I've enjoyed this series, Nathaniel. It's entertaining AND interesting, actually. Kudos. And thanks.


thank you olenelson. i always wonder about this series because it doesn't generally spur lots of comments. but people keep saying they like it -- hence the continuation ;)


so kamila... did you like when he was angry?

notluke i shall confess: i haven't seen LADYKILLERS. the reviews scared me away.

Chris Na Taraja said...

Ok, maybe she got them all together at once.

But then, how did she get Tom Cruise to be in front of Jacks cigar smoke?

Why is there a hot spot of light on Hugh Grants head that is not on anyone else?

The light is also different on the three guys to the left.

And finally, only Tom Hanks and Samuel Jackson have the ability to cast shadows.

I've assisted photographers, and seen some pretty amazing things. Maybe I'm wrong, but it's unusal to be able to get that many people to look good in one shot, even if they were on the set altogether.

I thinkthat at least Hugh and Ed were put in after the fact.

Glenn said...

Chris makes some good points. The Quaid/McGregor/Damon section looks a bit fake, although maybe it's just doctored.

Does anybody believe Brad Pitt deserved $30mil for ANYTHING, let alone Ocean's 11. If they gave him that much then how much did that entire film cost? Yikes.

I wonder who would make this cover today? Surely Will Smith, George Clooney and Denzel Washington would be on it now, probably in place of Grant and McGregor, although the places of Law, Quaid and Norton wouldn't be safe, nor would Cruise in his post-insanity riddled career. I reckon they'd throw Christian Bale in there too for international flavour.

Anonymous said...

I know for a fact they were not all in one shot together. They do a supplementary piece where they have behind the scenes pics from the shoots, and in them are the three distinct groups of the actors albeit separately e.g. you never see tom hanks with ewan mcgregor together since they're on different sides of the pictures as they were photgraphed at different times.

Janice said...

It occured to me that if was redone Will Smith would definitely be on there (and wasn't he "big" enough at the time? He's really one of the few real male "stars" we have anymore. Everything he touches turns to gold, and he's tried his hand at just about every genre.)

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel, I liked Edward when he was angry. "The Incredible Hulk" is entertaining and better than the Ang Lee movie.

Anyway, I love him even with that ridiculous mustache for "The Italian Job" or when Edward is wearing that Smoochy's costume in "Death to Smoochy". :-)