Why Does Hollywood...?

Does an actor accept roles based on their looks and persona, or do roles find these actors on their own? – Heidi C.

NOTE: The pictures needed to illustrate this answer were so specific that I submitted to our robot overlords and got the A.I. DALL-E 2 to craft these images. Below are the occasionally unsettling results.

Apparently, Dall-E 2 thinks Jack Nicholson is the ideal movie star.

A role has to be attractive enough for a movie star to accept. Conversely, while a writer usually doesn’t have a specific star in mind when writing a role, they’ll at least have a type in mind. A celebrity will let their management team know what kind of roles they’re looking for while a screenwriter will get a producer excited enough about their idea to “shop” the screenplay to management teams. The team meets with the producer, and, if everything goes well, the deal is on.



Then comes development. If the film is made through a studio, their executives will tailor the screenplay to meet a programming need. The movie star’s team will hire a writer to make the celebrity’s voice consistent with what audiences expect. The production team (along with the screenwriter, if the screenwriter hasn’t freaked out about this process yet) stand firm with the elements of the story they’re “married to,” yet they bend to demands from the studio and celebrity teams, tweaking the script countless times.


Must... not... look... at fingers!


Did you know? Spiderman puts chest hair on the outside of his suit!

Once this process is done, everyone is happy, and schedules are aligned, the project enters the production phase of the process, which holds a litany of tweaks and polishes for the writer. By the time an audience sees the finished product, the role that the movie star accepted and the role portrayed on screen are about a 50% match. Of course, there are notable examples of writers not giving an inch as well as stories being rewritten completely, but these cases are on opposite ends of a bell curve.


Keen-eyed readers will note that I’ve not yet used the term “actor” in this article. That’s because actors audition for roles, then do their best to faithfully execute the written material. A movie star uses each film project as a brand extension in order to keep their name in the zeitgeist. This explains why the majority of Dwayne Johnson movies have him playing… Dwayne Johnson. Half a century before him, John Wayne made two dozen memorable films playing John Wayne. There’s nothing wrong with this (frequent readers know that I love Mission:Impossible), it’s just the century-old, tried-and-true way that studios have gotten butts into seats.

Don't lie; you'd TOTALLY watch this movie.


Amy Adams is LONG past due for a "get Leo an Oscar" kind of campaign.

Lest I be accused of snobbery, many movie stars are actors and many actors make plays for stardom. Sandra Bullock is an excellent example; she’s a bankable, mainstream comedy star but has also delivered praiseworthy, artistic performances. Lord help me–Adam Sandler is another good example. His mischievous idiot persona propelled him to stardom in Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison (along with a dozen misfires), yet he is unrecognizable in Uncut Gems. Genre plays little part in the difference, either. Rachel McAdams plays Regina George completely different from her character in Spotlight. Amy Adams’ performance in Enchanted is nothing like the lead in Nocturnal Animals. In real life, neither woman behaves like any of the characters mentioned.


Perhaps that’s where fans get confused. A role that a movie star accepts is likely a heightened version of that person in real life. A character that an actor portrays may not be. Aaron Paul, for example, likely doesn’t call people “bitch” going about his day-to-day business, but near everyone who stops him on the street requests he refer to them as such. Everyday Arnold Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, likely also refers to a “helicopter” as “da choppa!” This confusion from fans is part and parcel of the role both great actors and great movie stars accept: fame.

I think Dall-E 2 took "Jesse Pinkman" too literally...

Now for some of Dall-E 2's failed attempts...

How Russian movies were made in the 1920's?
Cool producers at Coolsville Studios?
An early 90's CD-ROM game?
Aaron Paul training for a poorly conceived Bruce Lee biopic?


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