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Hollywood Hype Machine / Examples That Did Hold Up

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  • Meryl Streep burst onto the scene very quickly in the 1970s with a One-Scene Wonder role in Julia that led to Robert De Niro recommending her for The Deer Hunter - which got her an Oscar nomination. Her second - for Kramer vs. Kramer - she won. Another Oscar came for Sophie's Choice but Hype Backlash set in during the '90s. Meryl herself grew tired of Oscar Bait roles and longed to go against type and do more comedies - which had varying degrees of success. But she came back to prominence with The Bridges of Madison County, confirming that she was here to stay. Fans and critics alike view Mamma Mia! as a real turning point for her as well; when it grossed over $600 million worldwide, they remarked that "the greatest American actress has now become a movie star". Throughout the years she has alternated between critic-pleasing dramas and various other genres, continuing to prove her versatility. These days she's essentially the standard against which all young actresses are measured.
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  • Angelina Jolie. Years of indie-cred roles in Gia, Hackers, and other films paid off with a big push from Girl, Interrupted in 1999, which won her the Best Supporting Actress Oscar and resulted in a near-endless push that got her big roles in such films as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005). When the latter got her together with Brad Pitt, the "Brangelina" media juggernaut was born. Clearly a major success story for everyone involved, as her films do generally well (though she stopped making them so quickly and focused on her home life and activist work), and the magazines get to make money off of her image (proof that being tabloid-bait isn't always a bad thing — only if that's all you're known for). Ironically, Jolie has stated on several occasions that she wants to give up acting for her growing family.
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  • Tom Cruise got a big push in The '80s, and tons of film roles. Virtually every one proved to be a success. Obviously, he kept on being famous and having huge box office smashes until he royally screwed up and went crazy in the mid-2000s, with the infamous couch-jumping incident on The Oprah Winfrey Show being the telltale sign of his downfall. Twenty years? A pretty good run. Currently, he and the Hype Machine are going into overdrive to re-make him as a successful A-Lister, as he pokes fun at himself with humorous roles, and tries to fit back into the "romantic Action Hero" archetype once again, with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol coming out to rave reviews and Oblivion (2013), Edge of Tomorrow and Jack Reacher also being modest hits. With the continued success of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation solidifying both the franchise's continued bankability and Cruise's return to stardom, the future is looking bright, as in spite of missteps such as The Mummy (2017) Cruise still scores big hits such as Mission: Impossible – Fallout.
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  • Nicole Kidman received a big push after earning critical praise for her role in To Die For, and her career has held up pretty well since then. Though her career didn't really take off until Tom Cruise dumped her and she won an Oscar for her role in The Hours.
  • Hulk Hogan: Began this way in late 1980/early 1981 as an extension of his arrogant heel character in the WWF, when he bragged endlessly on TV about being the "next big thing" in movies and wrestling. In an era before Entertainment Tonight and the Internet ( wasn't even a twinkle in anyone's eye, for instance), it was possible for on-screen announcers to roll their eyes and be skeptical about Hogan's "supposed" connections with Sylvester Stallone and that he had been cast as a professional wrestler named "Thunderlips" in Rocky III, and successfully pull off their skepticism that he was actually going to be in the movie and be the next big thing because of it. Of course, that all did come to pass, Rocky III was a huge box-office success (in part because of Hogan) ... and although Hogan's acting career wasn't exactly a major success, his wrestling career would become legendary.
  • Heath Ledger started out as this in a big way, to the point where they even made a joke about it in Josie and the Pussycats. However, the reclusive Ledger went back to having a low profile until Brokeback Mountain established him as an actor to truly be taken seriously. Sadly, he then experienced the greatest career surge of all — a premature death. The Dark Knight helped establish his legacy, and at the very least, he will be more remembered for his latest work than for being a Teen Idol.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio did some very well-received work in indie films (notably the retarded brother in What's Eating Gilbert Grape alongside Johnny Depp) before being cast as the romantic, Bishōnen male lead in Titanic. Starring in the highest-grossing film (before inflation) of the 20th century will turn anyone into a star. Even when Titanic wound up getting hit hard with Hype Backlash, DiCaprio's career and reputation managed to come out completely intact, thanks to his work with Martin Scorsese, winning an Oscar for Best Actor in The Revenant, and ability to take on different roles.
  • Kate Winslet got her big break in Titanic too and thus attracted the hype machine. Luckily she already had some cred before Titanic - with an Oscar nomination for Sense and Sensibility. She chose her projects well over the years, making her a critical darling and netting Oscar nominations for Little Children, Iris, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Steve Jobs and The Reader (which she won for). She opted to stay away from big-budget studio releases save for Contagion and the Divergent franchise, and these days is considered one of the best actresses of her generation.
  • Sandra Bullock got her big push from Speed much like Keanu Reeves did. However, she has had much better luck channeling that into a long-lasting career. There was initial worry as the "Chick Flick" movement slowed down in the late '90s and she vanished for a while, but with a long string of more recent hit movies running through the Turn of the Millennium, including the two biggest hits of her career (one of which won her an Oscar) in 2009, there's no doubt about her place on the A-List.
  • Julia Roberts got her huge push with Pretty Woman in 1990, and Hollywood got behind her as they rarely ever do for a female star not known for nudity. Twenty years later, she's still a bankable A-list star, though with less "legit" cred as she sticks to more mainstream, pedestrian "chick flicks" than serious films. Still, movies like Erin Brockovich gave her some critical acclaim (and in Erin's case, a Best Actress Oscar).
  • Cameron Diaz got tons of publicity after The Mask became a Top 10 box-office hit and for several years after she was in many critically and/or commercially successful films such as My Best Friend's Wedding, Gangs of New York, There's Something About Mary, and Being John Malkovich. She is the second actress to earn $20 million for a film, after Julia Roberts. Also branched out into voice work and struck gold with the Shrek film series. In 2017, years after her last in Annie (2014), Diaz formally announced her retirement from acting.
  • Gwyneth Paltrow got a huge amount of hype right from around Se7en and several high-profile romances with major Hollywood hunks (including Brad Pitt and Ben Affleck). Unlike most flash-in-the-pan hotties with famous boyfriends, she proved her acting chops and won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love, had several hits (enough to offset the occasional bombs — and she was in her fair share, enough to derail almost any career), and has managed to become a legitimate star in her own right. Her movies are rarely blockbusters (Iron Man notwithstanding), but she has artistic cred and enough of a name to get almost any role (it's unlikely anyone regrets her being on Glee, especially after she won an Emmy). Although it should be noted that she is now more famous for her infamous "lifestyle brand" website "Goop" than she is for her acting roles.
  • Reese Witherspoon certainly worked out well. After being a fairly run-of-the-mill actress in the early '90s, she all of a sudden got this massive push, first with the critically acclaimed Election and then commercial success with the Legally Blonde series and various Chick Flicks. She effectively became the next Julia Roberts, and even got an Oscar for her trouble (for Walk the Line).
  • Madonna. Coinciding with a huge breakout in the early to mid-1980s music scene, she soon sought to capitalize in film as well, and it seemed to work at first, with her first starring role in Desperately Seeking Susan proving very well with critics and audiences. Although her acting career quickly fell flat with Shanghai Surprise (which would cost her her marriage with future mega-star Sean Penn), her music career got even stronger, and she would become the biggest-selling female music artist of all time.
  • Robert Downey Jr. has been a Zig Zag with the Hype Machine. Starting off as a member of the Brat Pack in the '80s, Downey got his big break in the late '80s - early '90s which culminated with him getting an Oscar nomination for his role as Charlie Chaplin in the biopic Chaplin. Unfortunately he had a real-life downward spiral that led to drug abuses and arrests. After gaining sobriety in the mid-2000s, Downey returned to acting in the indie scene. He ended up making his Career Resurrection in 2008 with his starring role in Iron Man and has since then taken off and hasn't looked back since.
  • Ben Affleck is an example of both failure and success in the Hype Machine. After Good Will Hunting and Armageddon, there was a period from 1998 through 2003 in which he was the biggest star in Hollywood. Then came Daredevil, Gigli, and the entire Bennifer saga, which derailed his career so badly that he wouldn't do any movies at all in 2005. He became a Hollywood punchline in the mid-'00s. However, he was able to quickly bounce back with "legit cred" in 2006 and after, not only as an actor in films like Hollywoodland and State of Play, but also as a director with the critically acclaimed crime dramas Gone Baby Gone and The Town. He was comfortably married with kids to Jennifer Garner, and he mostly stays out of the tabloid limelight. In 2012 he topped himself by directing and starring in Argo, which went over big with critics and audiences and won three Academy Awards - although he wasn't nominated either for acting or directing, he still received one for Best Picture (this Oscar is awarded to a film's producers, which in this case included Affleck himself). In recent years, his acting career has also improved with turns in his own work, being cast in David Fincher's Gone Girl and, most notably, being cast as Batman in the hotly anticipated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
  • In recent years, Melissa McCarthy has become a seemingly unstoppable draw for audiences in television and movies alike. For a while, she was usually known for various supporting roles (such as her character Sookie on Gilmore Girls), but after garnering an Academy Award nomination for her much-lauded role in Bridesmaids, she continued her streak of box-office successes with Identity Thief and The Heat. Her proverbial Midas touch hasn't been lost in her television work, either. She won an Emmy for her role on Mike & Molly, and she's been Emmy-nominated for guest-hosting Saturday Night Live not once, but twice. Having starred in hits such as Spy and gotten praise (plus another Oscar nom) for a dramatic turn in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, it's safe to say that she'll be around to stay for quite some time.
  • In Matthew McConaughey's case when A Time to Kill and Lone Star came out in 1996, he was called the "next Brad Pitt" and given a ton of new major roles. People covers soon followed, and he was expected to become the next A-list star. What ended up happening was a major string of box-office disappointments and minor roles over the course of the '00s, and he became instead known for appearing shirtless in "Celebrity Beach Body" specials, showing up in Direct to Video indie films, and being the romantic male lead in Chick Flicks. Not quite what was expected. It was only in the early '10s when he had a Career Resurrection as a "mature" leading man, with his acclaimed performances in The Lincoln Lawyer, Killer Joe, Magic Mike, Mud and Dallas Buyers Club. And with winning an Oscar for Best Actor for the latter film and starring in Christopher Nolan's film, Interstellar, there's a good chance that he's going back in the limelight.
  • Will Smith had a huge one. Starting out as a comedic rap star, of all things, he had a pretty funny sitcom for years with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and had a decently-sized box office hit with the buddy-cop action movie Bad Boys. Then, starting with Independence Day and never stopping, he was showing up in one guaranteed A-List movie every other year. His comedies and action/explosion movies all make huge money (even his bombs make $100 million), and he has earned legit cred from his more artistic or serious movies. His career has slowed in recent years, with no movies at all from 2009 to 2011 (presumably his own choice), but he did have a hit with Men in Black 3 in 2012 and only really stumbled with After Earth, but he's nevertheless still high in demand and could easily come back. His role as Deadshot for 2016 DC Extended Universe film, Suicide Squad (2016), still have some bumps (most of the good things about the film is Margot Robbie's performance as Harley Quinn) but earned more money despite the negative reviews, and his take on the Genie in Aladdin (2019) was well-received no matter if Robin Williams' shadow loomed large over the role.
  • Tom Hanks has had a blockbuster career right from the start, spending much the '80s starring in well-received comedy hits such as Splash and Big, as well as cult classics Bachelor Party, Nothing in Common and The 'Burbs. Although he initially preferred to stick to comedy fare during those years, he got into more serious subject matter just a decade later, which ended up pushing his career to heights he would have never imagined in the '80s. He ended up scoring two Academy Awards for Best Actor in a row for his performances in Philadelphia and Forrest Gump, as well as a nomination for his performance in Saving Private Ryan. Since then, he's mostly stuck to dramatic fare and away from comedic roles, and most of his performances during those years have been accused of being Oscar Bait, but despite that and a few slip-ups here and there, his career or reputation hasn't faded one bit.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch was not well-known outside of the UK until he played the titular character in BBC's Sherlock which earned him a lot of praise and fans (most of them are girls) and a few years later, he won an Emmy. Because of this, he appeared in several critically acclaimed films such as Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, 12 Years a Slave and The Imitation Game (which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor) and three franchises (The Hobbit, Star Trek Into Darkness and the Marvel Cinematic Universe where he took the title role of Doctor Strange). And since he's listed in Time magazine's "Most Influential People in the World" in 2014, he will be around for a long time.
  • Will Ferrell. After a stint with The Groundlings for several years, he first got his big break as a cast member of Saturday Night Live in 1995. There, he performed many of the most memorable impressions of the show's history, namely that of Robert Goulet, George W. Bush and Alex Trebek, and became one of Saturday Night Live's most beloved cast members. During Ferrell's final season at SNL in 2001, he performed as the antagonist in the Cult Classic Zoolander, and two years later had his first starring film role post-SNL in the moderately-received Old School. But his career soon got a huge push later that year, when he was cast as Buddy in the Christmas comedy film Elf, which was highly successful critically and commercially and solidified Ferrell's status as an A-list comedy superstar. He followed the film up a year later with Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, which became a pop-culture touchstone throughout the mid-2000s. Despite a slip-up in 2005 with The Producers '05, Kicking & Screaming and Curious George, he soon bounced back with Stranger Than Fiction and Blades of Glory. Since then, his films continue to draw critical praise and large crowds (with the critically-panned Box Office Bomb Holmes & Watson being a rare exception), and even though he's also balanced his major work with less-known indie fare, he's likely going to be a big name in Hollywood for a long, long time.
  • Cate Blanchett. In a big way. After her Star-Making Role in Elizabeth earned her widespread critical praise, numerous high profile magazine covers (such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, etc) and an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, she was tipped for very big things. Immediately following that she was cast as Galadriel in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy which went on to become the most financially successful movie trilogy of all time, as well as one of the most popular and critically acclaimed. Since then she's barely put a foot wrong in the eyes of, well, near enough everyone. She won her first Oscar (Best Supporting Actress) in 2005 for her role as Katharine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese's The Aviator (making her the only actor in history to win an Oscar for playing another Oscar-winning actor), and has since gone on to receive five more Oscar nominations for Notes on a Scandal, I'm Not There, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Blue Jasmine and Carol. She won her second Oscar (this time for Best Actress) for Blue Jasmine, and in fact achieved the largest awards sweep for a single movie performance of all time, earning an astonishing 46 individual industry awards for her performance. These days, as one of Hollywood's most acclaimed and profitable actresses (not to mention, "the greatest actress of her generation", as the media is constantly calling her), she is in the very enviable position of being able to pick and choose her movie roles, fitting them around her work in the theatre (her first love) and her role as the mother of four children. Whereas, in her earlier career, she was often called 'the next Meryl Streep', the young up and coming actresses of this generation sometimes have the honor of being called 'the next Cate Blanchett'.
  • Keira Knightley was predicted as a possible new star with highly praised roles in Pirates of the Caribbean. A lot of the blockbusters she headlined were hit and miss, but she became a critical darling with an Oscar nomination for Pride & Prejudice (2005). She tried to resist typecasting in period films at first, but eventually embraced it and delivered very well-received performances in Atonement, Anna Karenina, The Duchess, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and eventually a second Oscar nomination for The Imitation Game. She has also successfully made the transition to the stage, with praised appearances on the West End and Broadway.
  • Amy Adams labored for years in small parts on TV shows, direct-to-video films, and other projects. When she was cast in Catch Me If You Can, Steven Spielberg hoped it would be her breakout role and he was devastated when she didn't work for a full year afterwards. But a Best Supporting Actress nomination for the film Junebug got the ball rolling, and she achieved worldwide fame with the blockbuster success of Disney's Enchanted. For a while there was worry that she'd been typecast as Genki Girls and Manic Pixie Dream Girls but she did stay in critics' good graces with projects like Sunshine Cleaning, Julie & Julia and the adaptation of Doubt. Working with David O Russell helped show her range, allowing her to go against type in The Fighter and American Hustle - as well as her drastically villainous turn in The Master and playing Lois Lane in the DC Extended Universe. With five Oscar nominations to her name, Amy Adams is now considered one of the best actresses working in Hollywood.
  • 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 2010 when she nabbed the role of Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow in Iron Man 2. The commercial success of this film parlayed over into a multi-picture deal with Marvel Studios, with Johansson reprising the role starting with The Avengers (2012). She would follow this up with critically acclaimed turns in Her and Under the Skin, and another blockbuster smash with Lucy becoming her biggest hit outside the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and her first film as a solo lead to pass $100 million). While she has had missteps (Ghost in the Shell was a critical disaster and a Box Office Bomb after being hit with the controversial Race Lift casting, costing Paramount more than 60 million, while Rough Night came and went with little fanfare from both critics and audiences), she has for the most part swiftly leapt back up. 2019 was a landmark year for Johansson; after reprising her role as Black Widow in Avengers: Endgame, which became her (and the) highest-grossing film of all time, she received tons of critical acclaim for her roles in Jojo Rabbit and Marriage Story. She received much attention in major award circuits, including two Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress, respectively.


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