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Hollywood Hype Machine / Examples on the Fence

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  • A rather sad example is Anna May Wong, who is recognised as the first Asian-American movie star in Hollywood. After a few years working as an extra, she made a bang with her first leading role in The Toll of the Sea - and the Hype Machine got behind her. The only problem? Hollywood had no idea what to do with her - reluctant to give leading roles to an actress with Chinese ancestry. For most of her Hollywood career, she was stuck playing Dragon Lady roles, while white actresses in Yellowface were given the meatier parts that she wanted. There was considerable hype when an adaptation of The Good Earth was produced - and the press cited her as a perfect choice for the lead O-Lan. But The Hays Code prevented her from playing the love interest to a white actor (even if he was in Yellowface). She ended up going to Europe and Asia, where she was able to play non-stereotypical roles - and managed to do so in a few American B-movies too. So while she never became the Bette Davis or Mary Pickford level leading lady that was predicted, she is at least recognised as a significant contributing factor to humanising Asian-Americans to American audiences.
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  • Sharon Tate was being hyped up as a potential new star throughout the 1960s. She was notably kept in small roles in film and television before her supporting part in Eye of the Devil. It was the successes of The Fearless Vampire Killers and Valley of the Dolls that marked her official breakout. However more attention was given to her beauty and willingness to do nudity, paralleling her character in Valley of the Dolls. She resented the beach film Don't Make Waves marketing her as a Ms. Fanservice (mockingly calling the ad campaign of her in a bikini as "sexy little me"), and expressed an interest to go into comedy. Her final film was The Wrecking Crew - before she was tragically and horrifically murdered by the Manson Family in 1969. Since her death, her films were re-evaluated, and people have pointed to potential she may have tapped into had she lived longer. She is sadly probably more associated with her tragic death than what she accomplished in life.
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  • Olivia Hussey became a worldwide sensation for her role in Romeo and Juliet (1968) at the age of sixteen. She's been known to joke about how she was never that good at managing her career - as she ended up turning down roles in Anne of the Thousand Days and True Grit through youthful nervesnote  and she did take a few years off acting because of her agoraphobia. That being said, she still managed to have notable roles in respected projects like Death on the Nile, Jesus of Nazareth, The Bastard, Mother Theresa of Calcutta and Cult Classics like Black Christmas (1974) and It (1990). So while she is probably best known as Juliet, she doesn't seem to mind, and her filmography is still quite varied (she also became a voice actress for the DC animated universe and Star Wars video games).
  • The entire cast of Friends were given countless movie roles the second that show became a sensation. The results have been mixed.
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    • Courteney Cox and Matthew Perry have gone back to TV. The former had a flop with Dirt, and while Cougar Town was initially a hit, declining ratings led to it being put on hiatus in the middle of S2, held for mid-season in S3, and pushed from ABC to TBS for S4. The latter was 0 for 3 with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Mr. Sunshine and Go On, though critics like his recurring appearances on The Good Wife and he finally landed a series that didn't get cancelled after one season with The Odd Couple.
    • Matt Le Blanc made a series of hellacious bombs: he did Ed, a movie with a baseball-playing chimp, and Lost in Space... and then there was Joey. He's currently starring in the low-rated but critically successful Showtime comedy series Episodes (playing himself, no less). After Episodes finished production, he was immediately announced as one of the new hosts of Top Gear and simultaneously had a network TV hit with the three-camera Man with a Plan.
    • David Schwimmer started directing, where he seems happy. Although, as of late, he has been trying to do more dramatic television roles, such as playing Robert Kardashian in American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson.
    • Lisa Kudrow went for indie cred, partially to avoid being typecast.
    • Jennifer Aniston has fared the best so far — while she didn't headline a $100 million hit until 2011's Horrible Bosses (which arguably was helped out by the other heavyweights like Jason Bateman and Kevin Spacey in the film — she's never had a starring role do that well until We're the Millers in 2013, and is mostly known for Romantic Comedies), she was fortunate enough not to have a major flop during the time in between, and at the very least she's treated like a major star by most of Hollywood.
  • Chris Rock got his start as a Saturday Night Live cast member, then his career exploded in the mid 90's with the HBO stand-up special Bring the Pain, which made him a network favorite for the rest of the decade. He soon got film roles for a number of comedy films including Dogma, Beverly Hills Ninja and Down to Earth. Unfortunately, most of his films were mediocre at best, and didn't draw many audiences to the theaters. He eventually took a break from starring in films in the mid 2000's and went to voice work, notably voicing Marty in the Madagascar series, and eventually ventured into television production with the highly successful sitcom Everybody Hates Chris, which ran for four seasons. He's also hosted two Oscar ceremonies to wit, so he's still kicking for the time being.
  • Uma Thurman was victimized by this. After notable roles in the late '80s with films like Dangerous Liaisons and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, she became an "It Girl" with Pulp Fiction. This push ultimately faltered within three years after subsequent films, particularly Batman & Robin and The Avengers (1998), did poorly, and she vanished from the limelight (rumour has it she took time off to concentrate on motherhood, which might have killed buzz even further) before Kill Bill reignited her career in 2003. Since then it's partially faltered again (her film Motherhood set a British record by only selling eleven tickets in its opening weekend), but most people like her acting no matter how the film itself does.
  • Louis C.K. started out as a struggling hack comedian with a few unsuccessful projects under his belt like Pootie Tang, which he wrote and directed, and his HBO show Lucky Louie which only lasted one season. Eventually he revised his comedy act using George Carlin's method of writing new material every year and scrapping his old material, since then he has become one of the most popular stand up comedians in the world. He parlayed his success with stand-up into other forms of entertainment, giving well received performances in films like American Hustle and Blue Jasmine. He also created and starred in Louie, a semi-autobiographical TV show that became popular with both audiences and critics. He also had a leading role in hugely successful animated film The Secret Life of Pets.
    And then that wave of success came to a screeching halt in late 2017 when he was accused of sexually harassing various women, and unlike other men being accused of sexual misconduct around that time (most famously Harvey Weinstein), CK immediately admitted that the allegations were true and apologized. Netflix, FX, and various other companies that were in business with him immediately cut ties. There was a small chance that his honesty would save his career, only for that to fail when his attempts at a comeback ran into controversy with his bashing of LGBTQ people and the Parkland shooting victims.
  • Disney has started creating an alarming number of Kid Coms in recent years, starting with the success of Lizzie McGuire and Hilary Duff. With Duff, they managed to create a crossover starlet (with movies, TV shows, albums, and clothing lines coming out) of high repute. They immediately created a formula with this, spawning Hannah Montana and others, with all their myriad starlets being built up the exact same way. Most of them (although there are exceptions) have only received minor hype after their Disney shows' runs were finished, and have mostly failed to find real stardom outside of their original shows.
  • Ryan Gosling became a star with The Notebook and a critical darling with Half Nelson, and Hollywood seems intent on selling the idea that he is sexier than sex. It's debatable whether there's widespread audience agreement. His movies have done fairly well financially, but a lot of that could be the result of high-profile co-stars like George Clooney and Steve Carell. Critics still love him, but he has yet to headline a real blockbuster, and given that he tends to choose small-scale dramas over special-effects spectacles, he might never become another Tom Cruise or Will Smith. (It's possible or even probable that he prefers it that way, though.) It should be also noted that he's somewhat becoming typecast after Drive, with all his following roles being bend on giving him similar roles of tough guys in very violent (read: R-rated) actionesque flicks. However, he earned a lot of praise for being a funny guy in The Nice Guys and his musical performance in La La Land won him a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
  • In a tragic example of this trope, Aaliyah was never able to prove whether or not she deserved all the hype she was given. After being the female lead in the surprise 2000 hit Romeo Must Die, it was widely predicted that she would be able to translate her highly successful R&B career into being a Hollywood leading lady, resulting in her getting the title role in Queen of the Damned, along with a major part in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Unfortunately, right after finishing principal photography on Queen of the Damned, she was killed in a plane crash, and the rock performance-heavy nature of the film meant it was extremely reliant on ADR dubbing, which she never had the chance to do before her death, meaning that nearly all her character's dialogue in the finished film was recorded by a sound-alike (her part in the Matrix sequels was subsequently recast with Nona Gaye). If nothing else however, the enduring success of her music well over a decade later shows that the hype around her R&B career was entirely justified.
  • Much was expected of Rachel McAdams after her roles in Mean Girls and The Notebook, and she was immediately hailed as Hollywood's new it girl. With the successes of Wedding Crashers and Red Eye, the hype appeared to be justified. But then she took a break from 2006 to 2007, halting her career in its tracks, and admitted that she had never wanted to be a big movie star. She did eventually make a return, with high points including The Time Traveler's Wife, Midnight in Paris, Doctor Strange (2016), and the Sherlock Holmes franchise, but her films have been hit or miss outside of that. Her career appears to be thriving, but she could have been as A-list as anybody given the chance.
  • James Franco had a slower climb to the top than most, with noted roles in the short-lived Freaks and Geeks and the Spider-Man Trilogy. His push didn't come until 127 Hours and being named the Sexiest Man Living in 2009. For the next three or so years, he headlined a lot of big films - some did well and others less so. He took a step back from acting to focus on his education, and has leaned more towards becoming a producer and director in addition to acting. Things seemed to be going well for him when he won a Golden Globe for his role as Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist, but almost immediately afterwards, he started getting sexual assault allegations thrown at him, which probably contributed to him not getting Oscars for the film. Only time will tell if his career can recover from those allegations.
  • Alyssa Milano got fame as a child star in the 80s with Who's the Boss? and got a huge Japanese following - enough to sign her to a five album recording contract over there. As she entered her twenties, she suffered the age-old Contractual Purity that dogs many child stars. She finally succeeded in breaking out of her nice girl image with erotic films that became cult classics. Magazine covers and cosmetic endorsements followed, as did a Ms. Fanservice push in Melrose Place and Charmed. The latter lasted a shocking eight seasons and it was predicted she would become a breakout star from it. Film offers came but she never had a notable hit. In The New '10s, she settled comfortably into the host of Project Runway: All Stars. It's not the career it could have been, but she doesn't seem stuck for work. However in the late 2010s, she became well-known for her progressive political activism during the Donald Trump presidency; in particular, her feminist activism in the wake of the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein by kickstarting the #MeToo movement and supporting the Time's Up movement.
  • The cast of Band of Brothers undoubtedly got this - the most prominent of which included Damian Lewis and Ron Livingston. Lewis's attempts in films didn't amount to much - with bombs like Dreamcatcher, Stormbreaker and Your Highness. But on television, he fared much better with the worldwide success that was Homeland. After he left that, he successfully transitioned to another headlining role in Billions. Livingston already had fame from Office Space but remained in below-the-radar projects, the most high profile of which was The Conjuring. The men in the cast who became stars - Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Tom Hardy and Simon Pegg - had minor roles, with Fassbender the only one who appeared in more than two episodes. Donnie Wahlberg maintained a steady career of supporting roles, including the Saw series, before getting the lead in Blue Bloods. Neal McDonough, Ross McCall, Michael Cudlitz, and Richard Speight Jr. became TV regulars, while Frank John Hughes transitioned to screen writing and Dexter Fletcher became a highly successful director. Scott Grimes's attempt at joining a franchise - Ridley Scott's Robin Hood (2010) - was unsuccessful, but he enjoyed more success in voice acting and music. A lot of the rest were doomed to type casting or else retired from acting altogether.
  • Diane Kruger debuted with a memorable bang in Troy as Helen and got lots of work in America as a result, most notably in the National Treasure films. She also won lots of critical acclaim for Inglorious Basterds. But she rarely found herself getting work outside of roles that catered to her beauty, and her momentum seemed to dry up in The New '10s. She's still modelling and working away though, so she's not completely gone.
  • The actors who played James Bond had some hits and misses in their careers particularly after their tenure in playing the character:
  • Scarlett Johansson. An indie darling in the late '90s, she was crowned the new "It Girl" in 2003 on the back of her two acclaimed performances in Lost in Translation and Girl with a Pearl Earring. Her failure to secure an Oscar nomination for either film did a lot to stall her momentum, and her follow-ups were not nearly so well received. Luckily for her, Woody Allen declared her his latest muse and they made three films together, including one of his most popular latter-day films, Match Point. This kept her career on life support until she made a stab at a mainstream comeback with Iron Man 2 and The Avengers (2012). She followed this up with acclaimed turns in Her and with Lucy being her biggest hit outside the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and her first film as a solo lead to pass $100 million). However, Under the Skin, albeit a smashing success with critics, flopped at the box office. Ironic, as she was brought into that film because a star with a big draw was needed. Her next solo movie, Ghost in the Shell, was also a Box Office Bomb after being hit with the controversial Race Lift casting, costing Paramount more than 60 million. Rough Night landed with a thud with both critics and audiences as well. Though she still had other movies, it remains uncertain if she can still have a leading role. And then she caused upset regarding her comments about whitewashing in Hollywood and that she supports and is still willing to work with Woody Allen. She manages to bounce back a bit after she received praise for her role in A Marriage Story earning her critical acclaim and award nominations for Best Actress in major award circuits.
  • Much like his Red Eye co-star Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy is a case who deliberately didn't want to live up too much to the hype. His role as Jim in 28 Days Later was the first major exposure he got to American audiences, and then he hit the big-time in 2005 with Batman Begins, Red Eye, and Breakfast on Pluto (the last of which earned him a Golden Globe nomination), and several entertainment outlets touted him as the "next big star". However, between his discomfort with the Hollywood system and celebrity culture and annoyance with being Type Cast as a "villain actor" because of his performances in Batman and Red Eye, he's deliberately gone out of his way to stay out of the spotlight. He's still steadily working and earning rave reviews for his performances, especially in Peaky Blinders, but he could have been as A-list as anybody if he'd wanted to be.
  • Annabelle Wallis was receiving lots of notable roles in the 2010s, mostly on television (Peaky Blinders) or in the horror genre (Annabelle. In 2017 she was in two high profile Box Office Bombs - King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (though she just had a supporting role and was one of the few things to be well-received about it) and The Mummy (2017). The latter was meant to kick off Universal's Dark Universe franchise based off the movie monsters, but its failure killed her chances at joining a franchise. She has however kept on working and has three films set for release in 2020, so time will tell.

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