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 …

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Charting the rise and fall of 90s hollywood action stars

A few weeks ago I used Nicolas Cage as a framing device to explain the Cannes Marche du Film.  Towards the end of the article I presented a chart showing the inflation-adjusted budgets for films starring Nicolas Cage.  The chart showed that we reached “Peak Cage” in 2004, which was when the average budgets for his movies reached their all-time high.  From 2005 onward, Nicolas Cage’s movies got smaller.

The idea of “Peak Cage” seems to have piqued the interest of a number of readers and I have received some follow-up questions, both in Cannes and via email.  So, in the spirit of fun, I thought I’d have a look and see if it also applied to other male movie stars who were big in …

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Cannes film festival mysteries explained (via Nicolas Cage)

Cannes is full of curiosities and so, in an effort to prepare you for the Croisette, here are the answers to Cannes’ most curious questions, explained using the medium of Nicolas Cage.

Sorry, bad choice of words, I’m not suggesting that Nicolas Cage is a psychic medium (even if he did play one in his 2007 classic ‘Next‘) I mean to say that Nicolas Cage will be my inspiration (as Meg Ryan was to him in City of Angels).

His next film will be playing at the Cannes Film Festival 2016 within the Director’s Fortnight programme. In the past, Nicolas Cage has starred in four films that were shortlisted in Cannes, two of which won major awards – Birdy won the Jury Grand Prix in 1985 and Wild At Heart won Palme d’Or …

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Are heroes in action movies getting older?

Last week there was a long and well-written piece in The Guardian commenting on the recent trend of stars in action movies getting older.  It covers a number of topics but its main thrust is that action stars are getting older because we want different things from our action heroes than we once did.  The author, Adam Mars-Jones, posits that increasingly the most important attribute for an action heroes is ‘gravitas’. He writes…

Gravitas is the indispensable element in this context: the moral stature that can complement physical power and even make it irrelevant, which seems to be viewed culturally as a male preserve. This quality is hard to define, though, even as it applies to men. Perhaps it is simplest …

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Are men in romantic movies older than their female co-stars?

Last week, Oscar-nominated actress Maggie Gyllenhaal was widely quoted as saying that (by Hollywood standards) she is already “too old” to play the on-screen love interest of a 55-year-old man in romantic movies.  She’s 37.  Following this, I have been asked by a few regular readers to crunch the numbers and look at whether there has historically been an age gap between male and female actors in romantic films.

So I built up a dataset of 422 romantic films (“rom coms” and romantic dramas) that grossed over $1m at the US box office and were released between 1984 and 2014.  I then determined which two actors were the main heterosexual on-screen couple (details of the methodology is at the bottom of the article) and looked …

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The Actors’ Survey – UK acting by numbers

As a frivolous pre-Christmas treat, here are some strange nuggets about UK actors.

I used publicly available data from a number of actors’ websites to draw data on almost 30,000 actors in the UK, based on their self-declared vital statistics.  I have written a number of (major) caveats at the bottom of this article, which should be read before anyone decides to start or end an acting career based on these results.

In summary…

  • The percentage of white actors is similar to that of the UK population
  • Asians make up 7% of the UK population but only 2.7% of actors
  • Female actors are slimmer, blonder and much better dancers than male actors
  • Female actors with blonde hair are on average slimmer than those of other hair …
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