Which famous actors have a worse career than Al Pacino?

In an interview last week, Al Pacino revealed that he enjoys starring in bad movies as he views it as a challenge to improve them to the point of mediocrity.

As Al put it…

Sometimes they offer you money to do something that’s not adequate. And you talk yourself into it. And somewhere within you, you know that this thing is gonna be a lemon. But then, when it comes full circle, and you see it, you say, “Oh, no. I’m gonna make this better.” And you spend a lot of time and you’re doing all these things, and you say, “If I can just get this to be a mediocre film,” and you get excited by that. It’s an impulse that …

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Do you need a famous actor to get your film into cinemas?

A common belief among sales and distribution professionals is that “names sell”.  As in, films starring famous actors (“names”) are more marketable than films without any famous names. But how true is this?

Bruce Nash and I teamed up to find out in the latest of our research projects for the American Film Market.

Studying all US-produced movies shot in 2017 we looked to see if having a well-known actor in a leading role helped get a film into cinemas. We focused on films made in 2017 to ensure that they have had time to either find a theatrical release or not. For example, a few of the films shot in 2017 have only recently been released, up to two and a …

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How do actors compare to the general population?

Acting is a strange profession, with many contradictions.

  • The job officially requires no qualifications but actors are expected to train to a high level in a wide variety of skills.
  • Good actors convince audiences that they are the character (rather than an actor pretending) and yet top actors have loyal fanbases keen to see the specific actor who’s doing the pretending.
  • It’s nominally a meritocratic industry but most successful actors are coincidentally thin and attractive with great hair.

As regular readers will know, I have recently built a dataset of all working actors in the UK using data these performers have published about themselves in their professional profiles. Today, I thought it would be interesting to look at how the pool of professional UK actors compares …

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What percentage of actors are willing to perform nude?

On-screen nudity has always been a contentious topic for new actors.

Many movies and television shows have small roles for actors who are willing to bare their bodies, meaning that if an up-and-coming actor disrobes on-screen, they can potentially give their CV a boost.

On the other hand, doing so means that there will forever be video clips of them naked online: something that would make the vast majority of people uncomfortable.

We cannot get inside the head of every actor facing this choice, but we are able to measure what actors mark on their professional profile in relation to their willingness to perform nude. The data for today’s piece comes from my database of every working actor in the UK who has a public …

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Is acting a profession dominated by the young?

I have been asked a number of times over the years to study actors and the acting profession.

The interested parties tend to fall into one of two camps:

  • Young, fresh-faced up-and-coming actors looking to understand how they can best succeed in their exciting new career of acting.
  • Working professional actors asking why the industry is so biased, unfair and looking for evidence as to whether they should quit or battle through for another year.
  • It’s tricky to do a small amount of research on the topics at hand.  To properly study the profession, I would need to build a huge database of every actor working in the UK, at all levels, along with all manner of details about them, including their level of …

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    Which actors most frequently appear in excellent / awful movies?

    In a previous article, I have looked at the ‘brands’ of top actors by studying the genres they most frequently appear in.

    Today, I am going to look at another facet of an actor’s brand: what their presence in a movie signals to the audience about the movie’s quality.

    Quality is obviously a subjective term and so rather than trying to figure this out myself, I’m going to use two proxies:

    • Metascore, which is a weighted average of the ratings given by top film critics, as calculated by Metacritic.
    • IMDb audience rating, which is the score given by IMDb users.

    I’ll be looking at both measures as these two constituencies – critics and audiences – don’t always agree.  Critics tend to favour high-brow, dramatic content …

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    To what degree do actors stick to just one genre?

    When the public first hears of a new movie, they don’t have much information to judge it on.  This is before they can get a steer on the quality of the film (i.e. no reviews, no word of mouth) so they have only scant information with which to form an opinion on whether or not to see it.

    The company behind it is rarely a factor (with the possible exception of Disney and their sub-brands Pixar and Marvel).  Not many directors have a strong commercial public brand and almost no producers or writers do.  So what is the public using to form their snap judgement?  It normally comes down to:

    • The genre(s)
    • The poster elements (i.e. name, visual style and logline)
    • The main actor(s)

    This …

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    How common are actor-directors?

    Last week, I was chatting with NYU professor Paul Thompson and he asked me about the predominance of actor-directors.

    In the past, I have looked at the writer-director hybrid, as well as other facets of directing (including age, gender, career path and hardest working), but never the actor-director. It’s certainly a relevant topic, as actor Bradley Cooper’s directing debut, A Star Is Born, is receiving rave reviews and an impressive box office haul.

    To get a sense of how many actors are directing (and vice versa) I looked at all movies released in US cinemas between 1988 and 2017 (11,841 movies) and zeroed in on the directors who’ve also received acting credits.

    How many directors have also received an acting credit?

    This topic is slightly more complicated than it at …

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    Measuring actors’ brands via facial recognition

    Last week I shared my research into movie posters, in which I used facial recognition to track the emotions displayed on the faces of the lead actors. Today I thought I would follow another thread made possible by this method and look at the brands of some major Hollywood actors.  

    When deciding what movie to watch, we as audience members don’t actually have much information to go on.  I know it can sometimes feel as if the studios are bombarding us with loads of trailers, clips and adverts but take a step back and look at what information they’re actually conveying.  In most cases, all of the ‘stuff’ they’re throwing at us is on the same theme and aiming to convey one simple message, …

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    How does the average age of actors differ between genres?

    Age is a touchy subject for many actors, and last September actors in California have won the right to have their date of birth removed from IMDb. IMDb claims that a date of birth is just a piece of biographical data (therefore fair game for publication) whereas the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) claim that it can be used against an actor – it’s not their true age that should matter but their ‘playing age’.

    In the past I have studied how Hollywood treats cast and crew of different ages.  I started by looking at how much older male romantic comedy actors are compared with their female co-stars (answer: 4.5 years older) and whether male action stars are getting older (answer: yes they are).  …

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