Tom Hardy, Channing Tatum and the Hollywood “Star” System
August 15, 2012 § 11 Comments
Don’t ask me how or why certain articles prompt me to write a response, but sometimes they just do. As a person that is not only passionate about movies, but about “how Hollywood works,” this new article on The Hollywood Reporter is forcing my hand to write a rebuttal based on one statement that is untrue:
That Channing Tatum is a major star and that Tom Hardy is not. That’s simply bullshit.
Now, the article cites “top studio executives” and “one mega-agent” rather than make the bold statement on it’s own, but THR still has to back up any claim that they put on their own site and magazine. I would:
A) Ask that they tell me what qualifies as a “mega-agent” because it sounds more like a lesser-known Marvel sidekick. and…
B) Tell me why Tatum’s career has ballooned to the level of a “Tom Cruise” and Hardy’s has not.
It pains me to even go down this road because I’ve been a Tatum fan for years. Before Ryan Gosling stole my man-crushed heart, Tatum was one of the first guys that I had to come out for and say, “Yes, I am a straight man and I like Channing Tatum and acknowledge that women should find him attractive.” That’s about as hetero as I can say it. But THR blatantly glosses over Tatum’s failures with… “weathered a bunch of flops.”
Did he? Did he really just “weather a bunch of flops”? How do we fine weathering that storm? Because we should really take a closer look at the flops.
I first recognized that Tatum might actually have some talent in A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, but it was the Step-Up franchise that got him noticed on a “this guy might be a blockbuster sell” to Hollywood and the box office. So he starred in a movie that had the “concept” to be a box office or critical success, and it was neither.
Remember “Fighting”? No? That’s probably because you are a human and Fighting was a fairly crappy and forgettable movie (5.3 on Imdb) that didn’t make money ($23 million worldwide.) Do we blame the Terrence Howard sinking ship on that one?
Well, Tatum got his guaranteed franchise success that year with GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra. The film pulled in $302 million worldwide, BUT… Cost $175 million to make, is based on one of the most generational hits of the last 50 years, and was not very good (5.7 on Imdb.) With or without Tatum, it makes some money and gets a sequel.
Next, Tatum uses the looks to get into a Nicholas Sparks movie,
The Vow Dear John, and it pulls in $80 million on a $25 million budget, but the critical success is still lacking. Again, could the movie have not made $80 million on simply the sell of “Nicholas Sparks”? Some girls and guys needed a good cry, and so they spent $40 on a date night.
He does a supporting turn in The Dilemma and that doesn’t help keep the Vince Vaughn/Kevin James movie from becoming a major flop. ($48 million on a $70 million budget.)
He does the low-key film The Son of No One with Al Pacino. A real opportunity to get critical success, if not box office success, and it doesn’t get either: 5.1 on imdb and 18 on metacritic.
His supporting turn in Haywire also doesn’t keep it from becoming a box office and critical flop. It was only last year that The Eagle was released in theaters, and it scored slightly better with critics (55/100 metascore) but makes $27 million on a $25 million budget. Lucky that they didn’t spend John Carter money on it, otherwise Tatum’s career could have been over, but he still kept getting chances.
It’s good that he did because that’s when the three movies that THR mentions come out: The Vow, 21 Jump Street, and Magic Mike. Yes, Tatum has starred in three hits in 2012 and his star has never shown brighter. The Vow made $125 million on $30 million. 21 Jump Street made $201 million on $42 million and could be the funniest movie of the year. Magic Mike was the real surprise, hitting $111 million on only $7 million.
The total value of his year: $437 million on $79 million budgets. That’s about as solid of a year as you can get and I can understand why “mega-agents” and “top studio executives” are locking their doors and closing the shades while they think about what it would be like to work with Tatum right now.
But that doesn’t change the fact that THR contradicts itself so obviously:
“The era is long past when a star like Tom Cruise could launch a career with Risky Business and Top Gun, then stay in the stratosphere for decades.”
Tatum had flops from 2009-2011. He’s had three hits. Why is his career now so different even though THR itself says that you’re only as good as your last hit? What if you had asked “mega-agent” this question six months ago? What about a year from now if GI Joe: Retaliation disappoints? If nobody cares for The Bitter Pill (starring Tatum, directed by Steven Soderbergh.)?
And if Tatum is going to collect $10 million to star in the Roland Emmerich movie White House Down, how much money is it going to have to make in order to keep Tatum on the A-List? Because if what THR says is true, then it can flop and he’ll still be getting more chances, because that’s what A-List stars do. They don’t get blamed for flops as much as a director or a studio or an unforeseen disaster. You can still put $100 million or more into a movie based on the name recognition of a Christian Bale or a Leonardo Dicaprio. Are we saying that Tatum is now at that level?
And that Tom Hardy is not?
I’ve already said it, though I think as of now it seems like I feel the opposite of this, but I really like Channing Tatum. I was excited to see his comedy chops in 21 Jump Street and I think he killed it. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t refute a claim that Tatum is “A-List” and Hardy is not. Especially since Hardy is just a better actor.
That’s not to say that Tatum is a bad one, it’s only that Hardy is one of the best actors to gain fame in the last 20 years. Watch The Take, Bronson, Layer Cake, Inception, or Warrior and tell me that he’s not one of the most pleasing actors to watch on film. Hardy is an excellent mix of “just crazy enough” to seem like the type of person that’s going to push himself to take on roles that will challenge people’s perception of him, even if it makes him uglier. Or fatter. Or crazy.
It reminds me of some of the same things we’ve seen over the years from Bale, Dicaprio, Gosling or Heath Ledger. Challenged to be “heart throbs” and then crapping all over that notion by maybe losing 60 pounds for one role and then covering yourself in makeup for the next. Of course, they also take on the “box office” roles, as long as they appeal to what they want to do. Not just for the money or because they want to be on “The A-List.”
Of course, that is going to hurt Hardy in a “challenge” such as this, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t take on any role he wants, even if the budget were for $200 million. This Means War was indeed a failure, but Hardy has already starred or co-starred in several of the top rated movies on imdb:
Inception, Dark Knight Rises, and Warrior are all on the Imdb Top 250. The early reviews on Lawless are very positive, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy had critical success. Not to mention the highly underrated movies Bronson and The Take, which you should go watch on Netflix before you finish this sentence. It helps when directors like Christopher Nolan want to work with you, but it also says something when directors like Christopher Nolan want to work with you.
Right now, everything could be riding on Mad Max: Fury Road, which comes out next year and is currently set on a budget of $100 million with Hardy as the new Mad Max. Making $200 million worldwide would probably be considered a failure. But if it makes $500 million worldwide, is that now going to be enough to consider Hardy on the “A-List”? Based on a box office receipt?
If you looked just at Tatum’s box office pull for 2012 and nothing else, it would be easy to see why he’s considered the hottest actor in Hollywood. Which is why his schedule over the next three years is full. He’s booked solid. Tom Hardy isn’t. It gives Tatum a lot of chances to succeed, but also a lot of chances to fail. The book on Hardy will come after he’s finished with Mad Max, and then maybe he’ll choose a low-key move or maybe he’ll pick a big budget thriller. According to Imdb, he’s got nothing going on after Mad Max, and I couldn’t tell you exactly why that is.
Maybe Imdb just doesn’t know some things. Maybe Hardy doesn’t want to talk business until he’s done filming Mad Max. Maybe he gets shitty cell phone service in Australia. But it’s not because he’s not talented. It’s not because he’s unqualified. It’s not because the top directors don’t want to work with him.
It’s certainly not because Hardy isn’t on some “A-List” because I think if you were choosing between the two, the decision would be pretty easy if you wanted to make the best movie possible or needed to sell either “HARDY” or “TATUM” on a movie poster.
I don’t know why I took it upon myself today to defend Tom Hardy or to question Channing Tatum, but I did. Both are good. Hardy is better.