Theater stars

Did you know that an Australian film star, who was in all three Lord of the

Rings films as well as loads of critically-acclaimed features, is starring in

Hedda Gabler

at BAM? Well yes, we all know that Cate Blanchett is in town: BAM has been plastering

her noble profile all over the place. I was actually talking about Hugo


Weaving is a very accomplished actor with many great films to his name and

at least as much name recognition as Blanchett, thanks to the Matrix films.

Both Blanchett and Weaving are real theatrical actors, rather than film stars

going on stage for a laugh. Yet BAM seems to understand on a gut level that

people will pay to see Blanchett, but won’t pay to see Weaving (although his

performance, which I saw last night, is fantastic). I’m not sure why this is:

I don’t think it’s Blanchett’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Aviator.

And I don’t think it’s simply sex appeal, either: While Blanchett is certainly

very beautiful, I can think of other film stars who are much uglier who would

get the same treatment over Weaving. Rather, I think it’s some kind of inchoate

star quality, which Blanchett has and Weaving doesn’t.

Do people really go to the theater to see stars? I guess they do. In this case,

they’ll be well rewarded. But most of the time, the presence of a big-name film

star in a Broadway production is a good indication that the play might well

be worth missing.

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3 Responses to Theater stars

  1. 99 says:

    Whereas I think your comment about Blachett is spot on, I don’t think your generalization can hold — unless of course you parse the notion of ‘big-name film star’ since some of them were theater actors first. Regardless, I think quickly and easily of Long Day’s Journey Into Night, True West (of course, you might say that wasn’t big name), Moon for the Misbegotten, 12 Angry Men, The Pajama Game, last year’s Hurlyburly and Glengarry Geln Ross revivals, Aunt Dan and Lemon (which, to be fair, wasn’t a Broadway production), and, based on what many have said (I didn’t see it), The Producers. There are plenty of exceptions (really, these days, just about everything bad or good has some attempt a star juice), but I don’t think your thesis is a good rule of thumb for theater goers.

    Did you see that The New Yorker pretty roundly panned the production? I was thinking of going, having seen the NYTW production last year (my first time seen Ibsen staged), and if I recall, it was not much liked either (though I enjoyed it).

  2. Felix says:

    Wow, you’re right, Hilton Als it, although he reserves most of his spite for the translation and the director, rather than the actors. At one point, hilariously, he even says that Blanchett’s “dramatic physical gestures are intended to cover up the holes in Upton’s adaptation,” as though she were somehow forced into a translation she must naturally abhor.

  3. bafc23 says:

    I had a very pleasant time getting to know Hugo Weaving a little during the seven years I worked on The Matrix films- he’s a truely gifted individual with a lot of warmth and depth. I hope more people recognize his contributions to stage and screen. Despite my lowly status on the ladder of production, he always had a kind word, an occasional invitation to dinner and a good laugh when we’d pass each other on the street during days off. I came to respect his approach, balancing character interpretation with his rich family life away from set. Many actors are said to be ‘regular folk’ off camera. In general I find this to be BS, but with Weaving, I’d say it’s true.

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