Discuss: Why Are There So Few Reliable Leading Men, And Who Might Yet Become One?

Features
by Oliver Lyttelton
March 20, 2012 4:01 PM
80 Comments
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The box office is up in 2012, but of the ten biggest grossers of the year so far, only one, "Safe House" was sold on the back of an established A-list star, namely Denzel Washington. The rest, for the most part, featured total unknowns, or in the case of "Act of Valor," active Navy SEALs, rather than actors. This is not, it should be said, a new trend. From "Avatar" to "Star Trek," big movies have been shunning established names in the favor of new faces for quite a while. But it is indicative of a problem that Hollywood has been facing lately: a distinct lack of new leading men.

As a New York Times piece pointed out recently, the true A-list movie stars are roughly the same now as they were nine or ten years ago: Washington, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Will Smith, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio. Since then, Robert Downey Jr. has joined them, thanks to the success of the "Iron Man" and "Sherlock Holmes" franchises. Some, like Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler, are able to bring in the crowds, so long as they stick to comedy. But otherwise, few other actors seem to have joined the top level: people who are able to make a movie an event purely by their presence on the cast list.
   
As the grey lady's piece indicated, executives hope that an answer to their quandry lies in Channing Tatum, whose next picture, "21 Jump Street" followed his last, "The Vow" to the top of the box office. And crucially, it's a left-turn: from romantic drama to a film in which he gets to show both comedy and action chops. As Sony boss Amy Pascal says in the story, "Part of his appeal is old-fashioned movie star charisma — that ‘it factor’ that really is a real thing. But it’s more than that. He has now shown that he can hold a gun, kiss a girl and tell a joke. Most actors are lucky if they can believably do one of those.”

Whether Tatum turns out to be the bona-fide A-lister that many hope he'll be remains to be seen. But it seems like a good opportunity to examine stardom in 2012. Why have the current crop of leading men failed to become the giant, reliable stars that Cruise, Smith et al have become? And which of them might finally break through the ceiling and cement their status as A-list leading men? We've examined ten cases below. And rest assured, we'll be back to look at the leading ladies before too long.

Christian Bale

The Potential: Bale has been around for twenty-five years now, but only became a household name thanks to his lead in Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins," and its even bigger sequel "The Dark Knight." An Oscar last year for "The Fighter" confirmed that he's an awards calibre actor too.
The Problem: Bale is really a character actor that happens to look like a leading man, something reinforced by his Oscar win last year, and outside of the Batman series, tends to favor playing well written roles, even if it means playsing second fiddle (see "Terminator Salvation," "Public Enemies," "The Fighter"). He's certainly in demand (he's been talked about for everything from "Oldboy" to "Noah" of late), and is one of the few actors who studio bosses will give a greenlight to. But can he continue to draw audiences once Nolan's Bat-trilogy comes to a close? He's not the warmest screen presence around.
The Future: More arthouse and less multiplex. He turned down films like "A Star Is Born" in order to take a pair of Terrence Malick films, and will topline Scott Cooper's neo-noir "Out Of The Furnace" for his next big test. Taking a comedy to soften his image wouldn't be the worst idea in the world; whoever it was that suggested he should have played Mark Wahlberg's part in "The Other Guys" is a genius.

Daniel Craig

The Potential: A familiar face in the U.K. since the mid-90s, he followed supporting performances in "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" and "Road To Perdition" with the lead in "Layer Cake," a film that led him to one of the most iconic roles around: James Bond.
The Problem: Even outside of Bond, Craig's been franchise happy, and on paper it paid off: "The Golden Compass," "Cowboys & Aliens," "The Adventures of Tintin" and "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" all made between $175m and $375m worldwide. But none are really perceived as hits: all were hugely expensive, and all underperformed domestically. And his more moderately-budgeted vehicles, like "Defiance" and "Dream House," had pretty disastrous box office results, suggesting that Craig isn't necessarily a draw in and of himself.
The Future: All Craig has on his slate at present is the currently-filming 007 entry "Skyfall," although there'll probably be "The Girl Who Played With Fire" on the way in the near future. Both will keep him visible and theoretically bankable until the franchises wrap up, but he needs to have a stand-alone hit for real longevity.

George Clooney

The Potential: Probably the most famous on this list in terms of being tabloid-fodder, Clooney of course got his break on "E.R." and, after a rough start, had hits with "The Perfect Storm" and the "Ocean's" trilogy, as well as winning acclaim as both an actor and a writer/director (seven Oscar nominations in seven years, plus one win).
The Problem: Too much of that damned integrity. After getting burned early with "Batman and Robin," Clooney has since put quality first, and would rather work on smart (often issue-led) scripts with smart directors than lead some action tentpole. He's super-famous, but not actually a huge box-office draw: he can take a comedy-drama like "The Descendants" to $80m domestic, but hasn't had a $100 million hit since "Ocean's Thirteen"
The Future: His next film, "Gravity" is an atypical film: a big effects-driven sci-fi picture. We suspect it's going to be a giant hit, but Clooney only has a supporting role in the film. Otherwise, he's focusing on directing, with "Monuments Men" and "Our Brand Is Crisis" looking like possible next films. But to be honest, if he keeps using his fame for smart pictures, and for political activism like his Sudanese embassy arrest last week, we're fine with him being less of a draw than Will Smith.

Russell Crowe

The Potential: Coming to Hollywood's attention with "Romper Stomper," Crowe broke out with "L.A. Confidential," which landed him the lead in monster hit "Gladiator" for which he went on to win a Best Actor Oscar, then a year later he was nominated for "A Beautiful Mind." "Master and Commander" and "Cinderella Man" both did well too.
The Problem: He's had some modest hits in the recent past: "Robin Hood" did well internationally, "American Gangster" did well everywhere, although it was arguably sold more on Denzel than Crowe. But more common have been the flops -- "A Good Year," "Body Of Lies," "State of Play," "The Next Three Days." Well-documented temper flare-ups gave him a prickly reputation, which may not have helped his public persona.
The Future: Crowe's getting bolder, no longer insisting on leading men parts evidenced by taking turns as Superman's dad in "Man of Steel," the villain in RZA's "The Man With The Golden Fists," singing in "Les Miserables." And mixing it up seems to have worked; he's been courted for "Robocop" and "Harker," and is locked into Darren Aronofsky's "Noah," which has the very real potential to return him to his "Gladiator" glory days.

Matt Damon

The Potential: Along with Ben Affleck, Damon became Hollywood's next big thing after "Good Will Hunting." He was a little slower out of the gates than Affleck, but soon got a monster hit franchise with "The Bourne Identity."
The Problem: Damon is a valuable addition to a starry ensemble -- "Ocean's," "The Departed," "True Grit," "Contagion" -- but on his own, he's actually not much of a draw. Like Clooney, working with interesting directors comes first, but the dice rolls have come out less well, with films like "Invictus," "Green Zone" and "Hereafter" disappointing both critics and studio accountants.
The Future: "We Bought A Zoo" was quietly a modest hit (and is still rolling out in many territories), which suggests Damon could go to the romantic/comedy well more often, and Gus Van Sant's "Promised Land" (originally meant to be Damon's directorial debut) could be in that same sweet spot. "The Adjustment Bureau" was also a decent hit last spring as well. Neill Blomkamp's sci-fi actioner "Elysium" will be a bigger test, though.

Colin Farrell

The Potential: After Farrell broke out in Joel Schumacher's "Tigerland," EVERYBODY wanted to cast him: Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, Terrence Malick, while he turned up in his fare share of commercial fare too, films like "Phone Booth" and "The Recruit."
The Problem: The trouble is, few of those films, bar "S.W.A.T.", made much coin and some, like Stone's "Alexander," were hall-of-fame disasters. And Farrell's own problems with substance abuse got in the way too, although he's now clean and sober again, and impressing with performances like the one in "In Bruges."
The Future: Farrell had a mixed summer last year, "Horrible Bosses" proving a big hit, but "Fright Night" flopping hugely. But Sony is rolling the dice on him again with "Total Recall," and only last week it was revealed that WB wants him for "Arthur & Lancelot." Neither seem like solid prospects, to be honest, so we may be about to see history repeat itself again.

Hugh Jackman

The Potential: A virtual unknown when he was plucked by Bryan Singer from the London stage to play Wolverine when original choice Dougray Scott was held up on "Mission: Impossible II," Hugh Jackman became an instant icon in the "X-Men" movies, and it was clear he had the charisma to do almost anything -- drama, rom-com, musicals.
The Problem: The thing is, outside of his "X-Men" movies, Jackman has never been that reliable of a draw. Generally speaking, his would-be blockbusters or franchises ("Van Helsing," "Australia," "Real Steel") have underperformed, and smaller star vehicles did even worse: "Scoop," "The Fountain" and "Deception" made only $25 million between them. With claws and pointy hair, Jackman's a star, without, we're not so sure.
The Future: If anything could help to cement Jackman on the A-list, it's "Les Miserables," which will let him display his singing skills on the big screen for the first time, as well as giving him material that might well attract awards attention. And if not, he's returning to his trademark role for "The Wolverine" soon afterwards.

Dwayne Johnson

The Potential: One of the more charismatic wrestlers to emerge... well, ever, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson started to look like he could become the next big action star a decade ago, after appearing (mostly as an all-time trough for CGI effects) in "The Mummy Returns." He got his own moderately successful spin-off afterwards, and seemed to be on the track to be the next Arnie, and one who could successfully deliver dialog, no less.
The Problem: For the longest time, none of his films were terribly successful: stuff like "The Rundown," "Walking Tall," "Doom" or "Gridiron Gang" never made much of an impact. He actually gave fun performances in non-action roles, but the movies ("Be Cool" and "Southland Tales") were terrible. Like Vin Diesel, however, he found an audience with kids flicks like "The Game Plan" and "Race To Witch Mountain," and that's opened the door a little wider: he's now had two huge hits in a row in jumping on someone else's franchise, with "Fast Five" and "Journey 2."
The Future: He's hoping to make it three-for-three as franchise Viagra with "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" -- if that film significantly improves on its predecessor, than he'll get a big chunk of the credit. That being said, solo-actioner "Faster" didn't do that well only a year ago -- it's clear that he's not much of a draw in R-rated fare. And he could do with having an original, trademark role to call his own, in the way that Arnie, Sly and Bruce all had.

Ryan Reynolds

The Potential: The Canadian actor broke out as the star of minor teen flick "Van Wilder," but swiftly made an attempt to show his range, thanks to actioner "Blade: Trinity" and scarefest "The Amityville Horror." He continued to leap between rom-com, drama and genre fare until 2009's monster hit "The Proposal," with Sandra Bullock, seemed to put him on the map.
The Problem: The thing is, Reynolds hadn't had many big hits before that film (which was probably based more on Bullock's appeal), films like "Smokin' Aces" and "Definitely Maybe" generally falling flat, and it's been pretty grim afterwards: "Buried," which consisted of nothing else but Reynolds in a box, was a disaster, and he had two blows last summer when both "Green Lantern" and "The Change-Up" tanked. Did people just not want to see him in things?
The Future: February brought a redemption of a sort with "Safe House" -- while the film was sold on Denzel Washington, it performed far better than his films normally do, so Reynolds gets some of the credit. But next summer will be his biggest test, with "Ghostbusters"-style tentpole "R.I.P.D." With only Jeff Bridges to help carry the can, it'll be the clearest indicator yet as to whether Reynolds can bring in the crowds.

Mark Wahlberg

The Potential: The one-time hip hop artist and underwear model moved into acting with "The Basketball Diaries" and "Fear," and soon found critical respect with films like "Boogie Nights" and "Three Kings." His leading man status was assured when he was picked to star in Tim Burton's "Planet of the Apes," which, while critically reviled, remains Wahlberg's biggest hit.
The Problem: Wahlberg doesn't so much have a problem as a window: rather like Denzel Washington (but slightly less so), he's a reliable draw, but only up to a point, his films consistently taking between $40 and $70 million. But he's not had a solo $100 million hit since "The Italian Job" in 2003, although "The Fighter" came very close to the magic number. Can he break through his box office ceiling?
The Future: His next film, the Seth MacFarlane comedy "Ted" has the potential to be a massive hit, and could provide the real breakout that he needs. Otherwise, he seems happy with his place in the world, lining up mostly commercial programmers like "Broken City" (which also features another man on this list, Russell Crowe). If anything has the potential to breakout, it's either Michael Bay's "Pain and Gain" or the action team-up "2 Guns."

Anyone else you think is up to taking on the A-list mantle? Who from the younger generation -- the Goslings and Fassbenders and Hardys and Pines and Gordon-Levitts of the world -- do you think has the stuff to be lasting leading men? Weigh in below.

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80 Comments

  • lop | August 22, 2012 10:41 AMReply

    how was buried a disaster, it made 5 times its budget and won critical acclaim.

  • Gwen Killerby | April 17, 2012 7:32 AMReply

    No Ryan Gosling? Jeffrey Wright should have been the next best thing, Nelsan Ellis etc. It's really sad that's Clooney's integrity is seen as a problem. For my money, Clooney does it everytime, Cruise just isn't a good actor, and not very likeable. And he's WEIRD! So, he's living proof that multiplex actors draw multiplex crowds, and that you can become rich by making shallow movies with lots of things that go boom boom. Does that a good, worthwhile actor make? Nah, don't think so.

  • June Clever | April 6, 2012 2:59 PMReply

    Yeah, where da fuck is Franco on this list?

  • meaghan | March 30, 2012 3:54 PMReply

    Tom Cruise was amazing in both Magnolia and Eyes Wide Shut, I wish he would take more roles like that which better display his acting abilities.

  • Paul M | March 25, 2012 9:33 AMReply

    Give me a break. Tom Cruise ? If he is what other actors need to aspire to then I'll take up knitting instead of going to the movies. Cruise is wooden, stereotyped and always seems to be playing Tom Cruise. I'm yet to immerse myself in any character he has played and still argue that I'm yet to see him in a good movie.
    As for your list, where is Edward Norton ? For mine the top 10 male actors (not necessarily in order) would be Depp, Norton, Damon, DiCaprio, Gosling, Crowe, Bale, Oldman, Penn and Washington. However, Washington together with Tom Hanks are fast approaching the DeNiro, Harrison Ford, Freeman bracket of respected mature age roles only.
    Tom Cruise wouldn't make my Top 50. he'd be pushing to go Top 100.

  • Sarah | March 24, 2012 3:46 PMReply

    Not a regular moviegoer but if Cruise puts out movie I go watch it that weekend and never been disappointed. The potential names you mentioned have never really stood out to me, I'm from California by the way, those of us who work regular shifts don't have much time to learn about some of the celebrities but if they are exceptional on screen then their names are remembered...

  • Connor | March 24, 2012 10:55 AMReply

    To me, Whalberg is the only one that can break out to stardom. Its a shame people like Craig, Jackman and Bale haven't done well box office wise or better because I do think they have the proper ingredients to be major names to remember. Looking at the last piece, Ryan Gosling & Michael Fassbender will like Bale fall into a mixture of Indie & Blockbuster material and do a mixture of both. Chris Pine might break out in a number of years as well as Joseph Gordan Levitt & Tom Hardy.

  • Madison | March 24, 2012 4:00 AMReply

    I think Garrett Hedlund is one of the next actors in Hollywood that could climb onto the A list mantle. He had success with small films like Four Brothers, Friday Night Lights, Troy, Death Sentence and then his big break through role in Tron Legacy, where at least people finally knew his name. A few months later in Country Strong he got better reviews than the critical darling Gwenyth Paltrow did for that film. He spent at least half a year learning to actually sing and play guitar and moved to Nashville and lived in Tim McGraws cabin to become a more authentic actor playing a struggling country singer.
    Next he is going to be in the film adaptation of On The Road based on the classic novel of the same name. A film that Brando and Dean were once destined for. Brad Pitt at one time was also tied to On The Road ( in the early years on his career) but now that it has finally been made Hedlund snagged the role. The film will also have the likes of Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, Tomm Sturridge etc.
    Now Hedlund has been cast in the latest COEN BROTHERS film along side actors like Carey Mulligan and John Goodman for Inside Llewyn Davis.
    Hedlund has worked with everyone from Brad Pitt ( in Troy as is look alike cousin), John GoodmanIn Death Sentence and now the Coens latest film), Mark Wahlberg( in Four Brothers), the dude upon all dudes himself Jeff Bridges ( in Tron Legacy). You could play six degrees of Garrett Hedlund at this point, kind of like Kevin Bacon back in the day ( who he also worked with).
    Hedlund has turned down those "the roles of a life time"( including Twilight and Captain America and other careers enders) for parts he has to earn but also seems to know when to grab the box office movie and run with it. Like Tron Legacy and when he was recently tied to the Akira movie franchise in development.

    After On The Road and the Coen's film Inside Llewyn Davis he will have the acting cred. to be then able to take the pop corn movies and run with them as much or as little as he wants. He reminds me of Brad Pitt,Christian Bale, and even Johnny Depp early in their careers.

  • StephenM | March 24, 2012 2:41 AMReply

    I think somebody needs to mention Shia LaBeouf. Sure, he gets mocked all the time, and it's highly questionable whether he can actually draw people in on his name alone, but look at his record: HOLES (2003): 67 mil, DISTURBIA (2007): 80 mil, SURF'S UP (2007): 58 mil, TRANSFORMERS (2007): 319 mil, INDIANA JONES AND KINGDOM (2008): 317 mil, EAGLE EYE (2008): 101 mil, TRANSFORMERS 2 (2009): 402 mil, WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS (2010): 52 mil, TRANSFORMERS 3 (2011): 352 mil. Whether he's a bona fide star or not, his average is absurdly high, and he's got something like an 8-film streak of winning the weekend box-office wise, which is something I don't think any other actor has.

  • Maryloy | March 23, 2012 5:01 PMReply

    I definitely think the Fassbender is one leading man to watch out for, as well as Gosling and Gordon-Levitt. They've got a lot of angst in them to spew it out (and have it translate well) onto the big screen. I'll put Tom Hardy in there, too! (I'm still working on my Chris Pine love, so far it's not happening)

  • @JOSH | March 23, 2012 10:47 AMReply

    You may be right… It might take a while, though, if we stick to the issue in question, i.e. box office draw. Of course, the process of their becoming genuine A-listers would be speeded up if one or two of them could manage more than two facial expressions.

  • josh | March 23, 2012 7:20 AMReply

    actually think the younger guys you mentioned at the end (Gosling, Fassbender, Hardy, Pine and Gordon-Levitt) all have a much better chance of becoming genuine a-listers over the next few years than the guys in the list.

  • @Lou | March 21, 2012 7:07 PMReply

    How do you explain bad rated movies like The Tourist (starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie) WW 278M and Knight and Day (starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz) WW 261M. Why is that any movie Tom Cruise is leading man in makes 100s of millions worldwide. When he is lead it is promoted as a TC movie (not the case when he's in a supporting role or in ensemble). Even Bollywood was all over Knight and Day (this movie has RT 53%) and is even doing a remake of it -would that be the case if it weren't for the lead? In my opinion bankability is in the actors who can even milk 100s of millions on a mediocre to bad movie.

  • Lou | March 22, 2012 10:28 AM

    Yes, as you say, some actors are indeed very bankable and people flock to see them. Cruise, Depp and Jolie are definitely bankable. But it is undeniable that some of their movies are truly unwatchable, such as the ones you cited, while some others definitely bombed. Also, actors who are bankable today may not be bankable tomorrow, and by tomorrow I mean, literally, 24 hours. If the industry finances films almost exclusively on the basis of the bankability, real or presumed, of actors and the current prevailing type of film, it might be in for huuuge disappointments sooner or later.

  • EileenJ | March 21, 2012 3:41 PMReply

    Perhaps the problem's the lack of solid, well-written films with roles that have substance? It seems that so many films these days are built on action and special effects and the actors are overshadowed and overlooked, rather than allowed to actually display their acting abilities.

    Another possibility is that most of those you mentioned (Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman) are actually really great actors who have the talent to stand out, regardless of anything else, and most of the younger generation of actors isn't.

    One really good possibility that I see is Daniel Radcliffe. Now that Harry Potter is over, he's taking good dramatic roles that allow him to grow and develop as an actor.

  • so | March 21, 2012 7:15 PM

    well-writtien solid films? The Ideas of March starring Clooney and Ryan Gosling has a rating of 85%. It was a solid movie, it made 40M in US.

  • The observer | March 21, 2012 3:24 PMReply

    I agree with Lou that a combination of directors, scripts, and actors make a movie., but you these days you never know, the studios even with all of their knowledge and money cannot bet on what will sell, movies like The Help, Horrible Bosses and Bridesmaid have proved them so wrong. It is the audience that is changes and they think that people will pay to see anything, but with 17 movies comming out every week it is like a buffet.

  • sguppi | March 21, 2012 3:19 PMReply

    I go only to cinema if there is a "Reliable Leading Men" in the movie.
    I love unique human beings, true characters, there must be something special, some charm, good humor and he has to be a likeable guy. For me represents this Robert Downey Jr.!

  • lucy | March 25, 2012 1:07 AM

    well RDJ was not the main lead in the soloist

  • Jake | March 21, 2012 7:09 PM

    so did you go see his movie "The Soloist" (Rating 56%) because it only made 38 million WorldWide....

  • Observer | March 21, 2012 3:03 PMReply

    I am still on the Ryan Reynolds bandwagon. Bradley Cooper is getting traction fast. But the Hangover did not win fans because of Bradley it was the combination of the whole group. They were all unknown before the movie. The dilemma now for movies is the Brand. No actor now has any distingushing traits that gives them an edge. With big movies comming out every week, the focus is not on quality, but quantity. + the audience attention spam is about a minute.

  • Lisa | March 21, 2012 2:59 PMReply

    Ironically, the way young actors break out these days is by being in very girl-targeted movies like Twilight. And in Leo's case, Titanic. Maybe because "girl" movies tend to emphasize character over action stunts.

  • Lisa | March 21, 2012 2:55 PMReply

    I think a lot of the problem is the lack of break-out roles. Studios used to make great coming-of-age movies. Tom Cruise broke out in Risky Business; Johnny Depp in Gilbert Grape. Sean Penn in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. And so on. That type of movie doesn't get made anymore for wide release. Young actors go straight from TV to special effects-driven movies, where they're overshadowed by the spectacle. Audiences figure (rightly or wrongly) that ANYBODY could star in Transformers.

  • Nik Grape | March 21, 2012 3:08 PM

    Rightly.

  • myorderofhope | March 21, 2012 2:11 PMReply

    1. Jame Franco 2. Ryan Gosling 3. Joseph Gordon Levitt 4. Michael Fassbender.

  • MYORDEROFHOPE | March 21, 2012 2:20 PM

    Sorry, it should read James Franco 4 the win!

  • max baird | March 21, 2012 1:35 PMReply

    Act of Valor had active duty Navy Seals, not Marines

  • Lou | March 21, 2012 9:48 AMReply

    Actors alone do not carry financially a movie. The story, the director and, lastly, the actor, all combined and in that order, do. However, there is always room for risk. To illustrate the point: Haywire (Soderbergh/Tatum/Banderas/Douglas/McGregor/Fassbender): >18M Domestically, 29M Worldwide; J. Edgar (Eastwood/DiCaprio/Dench): 37M Dom 79M WW; The Ides of March (Clooney/Gosling/Giamatti/Hoffman/Tomei): >40M Dom, 72M WW; A Dangerous Method (Cronenberg/Fassbender/Mortensen/Knightly): 3M Dom, 12M WW; Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy (Oldman/Firth/Hardy/Hurt/Strong/Hinds): 24M Dom, 80M WW, to name but a few. If we only use the profitability criterion, then we would have the same actors doing all the films, irrespective of whether they ideally fit the role or not. As for the candidate leading men you cite, I thought they all already are, despite the fact that a number of their movies tanked. Tumblr as a reliable thermometer of popularity? I doubt it. Then why not People’s Choice Awards, with more than 200M votes cast? I think that the film industry should invest more in script writers and directors, otherwise we will end up only getting ridiculously expensive, mindless franchises, useless remakes of perfect films or movies for children.

  • @Lou | March 21, 2012 7:00 PM

    How do you explain bad rated movies like The Tourist (starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie) WW 278M and Knight and Day (starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz) WW 261M.

    Why is that any movie Tom Cruise is leading man in makes 100s of millions worldwide. When he is lead it is promoted as a TC movie (not the case when he's in a supporting role or in ensemble).

  • Nik Grape | March 21, 2012 12:39 PM

    Bravo Lou.

  • zatopek | March 21, 2012 6:29 AMReply

    Where's Nic Cage, the Jesus of Cinema?

  • In Cage We Trust | March 21, 2012 8:07 AM

    What's there to discuss regarding him? he is a solid god of film, above the A-list

  • Holly | March 21, 2012 4:56 AMReply

    This article is so behind the times. if you look on sites like Tumblr (which is a great litmus test on who people are fans of) the names in your article dont have a huge followings at all. They are cinema dinosaurs. Yes they keep getting foisted on us in film after film but there is a definite feeling of audience fatigue.These actors manage to keep going because they have long term industry connections to get dead cert projects but when they have to prove themselves with smaller projects that dont have a ready fanbase they fail.

    At the moment on Tumblr its actors like Benedict Cumberbatch that have a huge online following. Whats good to see is that these fans support all of his work (big and small) ensuring stage shows are sold out and even recordings of his theatre work get re released into cinema screenings (Frankenstein). The Victoria and Albert Museum had a special screening of an old theatre play of his at the weekend and they were overwhelmed by the huge crowd that turned up. Somehow I cant see that happening with the actors mentioned on the list. Hollywood needs to let new blood onto the top table - actors that dont fit into some old stereotye of what a leading man is. Stop telling us what we should like and go and find out what we want.

  • Joe | March 21, 2012 7:27 AM

    I think you've fundamentally missed the point. This isn't about who people/online communities like. This is about which actors have names that mass audiences are willing to go see a film for based on that name alone.

  • b.c. | March 21, 2012 4:37 AMReply

    Bradley Cooper?? Action hero on the A-team, Comical in the Hangovers, and a standout figure in a couple chick flix.

  • Dj | March 21, 2012 1:00 AMReply

    I agree with @carsonwells i go to a movie based on the materiel not the actor which if your on this site you probably follow film news and do the same. That said I think that cruise got lucky with ghost protocol it was a familiar franchise but i think if you switched crusie out for someone else than i think you'd still have the same result. I think that the main problem is that there is a major difference between an actor and a movie star. Denzel,dicaprio,cruise are movie stars people whose name you could say and people would probably go see there films, while bale,depp,and even collin farrell are more character/supporting actors that thrive in smaller indie films. If you took out all the pirates films and really looked at depps filmography he was never this main attraction event leading man.Now with the younger genreation you have gosling,franco,gordon-levitt,and fassbender. The problem with ryan gosling is yea he might be the hottest actor that will always have the internet abuzz,but he does mostly smaller movies that people really come out in droves to see even though he's become such a big deal. I still feel like fassbender isn't a name general audiences are familiar with yet,like if you asked ten random people who is this guy and name three of his films i doubt they could name two. Really out of the younger actors I think it's james franco and joseph gordon-levitt both are names people are familiar with epecially gordon-levitt since he was on a tv show for the longest . And with franco you have a name people recognize even though i'd say he does a mix of indie and mainstream,but time will be the only way to know for sure who will up there as an blockbuster/reliable A-lister.

  • Sue L | March 21, 2012 1:27 AM

    WOW got lucky? He's one of the most dedicated and hardworking actors in hollywood! if there is no TC in the mission impossible movies, I will not go see it!!he is MI's soul, no doubt, and I started going to mi movies to watch him.

    To Author, I think Matt Damon has the most potential. I can only comment on Dwayne Johnson after he leads a movie on his own that is not franchise or a kids movie.

  • Carson Wells | March 20, 2012 11:59 PMReply

    Maybe more and more people are becoming like me - they watch movies based on things like the story or the director rather than who stars in them. Or maybe I'm in fantasy land. I mean, really, film stars don't contribute much to the quality of a film. They are well behind the writer and director in terms of determining quality. Replace Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible or Christian Bale in Batman and do you have worse films? Unlikely. I'm not saying good actors aren't required. I just question why well known actors should be required. When I see Tom Cruise in a movie all I see it Tom Cruise. Surely a movie connects more if you aren't familiar with the actor.

  • Amy | March 21, 2012 12:24 AM

    yes, because Tom Cruise IS the MI Franchise and he is the man to carry all 4 movies with his charisma. Those are also action movies and the stunts are also a key part of them, if you've seen MI4, you would understand the difference that him doing his own stunts makes to the sequence. Christian Bale, however, can be replaced as Batman because people know that character as Batman and not Bale. But most certainly in Cruise's case, people know Cruise more and Ethan Hunt less. I think the last case is that because his presence on the screen is so dominant and hypnotic that you are consciously aware that it's Tom Cruise. However, there are roles where you forget due to physical alterations such as his role as Les Grossman, Lestat, etc.

  • boxofficemojo.com | March 20, 2012 11:42 PMReply

    Average Domestic per movie, CURRENTLY BANKABLE: Tom Cruise: $99,375,829; Leonardo DiCaprio: $88,203,435; Adam Sandler: $81,864,417;
    Ben Stiller: $76,349,802; Johnny Depp: $76,348,727; Brad Pitt: $68,372,815; Denzel Washington: $48,999,790; Robert Downey Jr.: $41,898,184; POTENTIAL: Hugh Jackman: $95,434,790; Matt Damon: $74,803,721; Dwayne Johnson: $73,587,647; Mark Wahlberg: $57,397,565; George Clooney: $53,834,172; Christian Bale: $48,638,168; Daniel Craig: $47,910,545; Russell Crowe: $45,333,144; Ryan Reynolds: $41,461,514; Colin Farrell: $32,305,701;

  • Angelica | March 20, 2012 11:27 PMReply

    I will just comment that there are very few names mentioned who are international stars and bankable. The foreign box office has become important and the movie must perform well worldwide.

    RDJ is involved in too many franchises and is trying to get bankability that way where you have Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise (my favorite), Leonardo DiCaprio who have been ruling the box office for decades. There's that desire to see how they perform next or how they act in this certain movie. Although I'm kind of unsure of Depp because of Rum Diary and when DiCaprio was lead in J. Edgar, they did not perform well. I can only safely say that among them Cruise leading a movie guarantees at least 200M worldwide regardless of what the movie is even about. Adam Sandler is also very bankable even if his movies lack quality.

    People on the "potential" list are not quite household names with the exception of Dwayne Johnson because people know him from WWE too.

  • Oogle monster | March 20, 2012 11:04 PMReply

    Can we discuss the women now?

  • Trish | March 20, 2012 11:00 PMReply

    I wholeheartedly agree with RY; Channing Tatum shouldn't have even been mentioned in this list. Tatum does show versatility in his leading roles, but none of his performances were memorable, save Step Up, which was geared more toward teenaged audiences (as are most of his movies). He's just not a very good actor, he even said so himself. Successful, but not good. Just a handsome face.
    '21 Jump Street' was pretty funny though, so sticking to comedy might actually be good
    for him.
    I do vote Tom Hardy, his acting abilities are absolutely spectacular. I'm sure he'll do awonderful job as Bane. Can't wait to see that.
    I would love to see Giovanni Ribisi on a list like this one in the future. He's really underrated. He needs more leading roles.

  • Nik Grape | March 21, 2012 11:46 AM

    He will become more bankable after Bane. And anyway, I'd rather see him do smarter films than mainstream fluff so Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The Wettest County...that's what it's about. He should continue with those.

  • BM | March 20, 2012 11:54 PM

    Bane character will not help him because it will be known as Bane, not Tom Hardy. His recent movie (This Means War) was meant to indicate his bankability and it has flopped.

  • Xavier | March 20, 2012 10:49 PMReply

    Yeah I thought this list would discuss the next generation of leading men. The men listed quite honestly already seem like leading men. But my two cents: Cole Hauser, Ciaran Hinds, Alfred Molina, and Fred Ward. You're welcome.

  • antistar | March 20, 2012 9:19 PMReply

    Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He's a refreshing change from most of these guys.

  • ry | March 20, 2012 7:53 PMReply

    oh aside of Ryan Gosling.....where is Fassenbender, Hardy, and Cooper? Two of the three signed studio deals and the other is wanted for everything Gosling turns down....

  • BOXOFFICEMOJO.COM | March 20, 2012 11:52 PM

    Tom Hardy's recent movie flopped at the box office. He was one of the lead characters. The production company had mistaken him and Pine to have established bankability but that was not the case. The movie is currently in theaters with a 65M budget and 50M domestic after 4.6weeks of release. Fassenbender, Hardy, and Cooper are currently not A-listers.

  • ry | March 20, 2012 7:51 PMReply

    ok, firstly....where is Ryan Gosling? Everyone knows he is the go to guy right now. aside of that, all that you mentioned are A-listers, especially clooney! damon, bale and the rest are major A-listers too. If we are doing this on purely box office success then the only A-listers would be Will Smith, Tom Cruise, and Johnny Depp....but even Depp did Rum Diary and the Libertine (which were great) that no one saw... i think you guys need to use the ol' noggin a little more and not troll with pointless posts....especially when you think of Channing Tatum over Ryan Gosling as the next big star...which is absurd and well...they both are considered A-listers...

  • BOXOFFICEMOJO.COM | March 20, 2012 11:48 PM

    Ryan Gosling average per movie (domestic): $23,978,372, His last two movies could not reach 100M worldwide, His resume has several movies who could not go to "wide release"

  • Dudi | March 20, 2012 7:34 PMReply

    I think you're wrong about Pitt, he has seen the passing of 100 mark, on his own- more then once since SE7EN (THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUtTON; TROY(even thou it was a domestic disappointment, it made around 130 M.) domesticaly this movies were campaign on his name, also INGLORIOUS BASTARDS and Mr. and Mrs. SMITH had him first billed... and Depp also had his BURTON- Colaborations that turned out to be blockbusters (Alice In Wonderland and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory). And you made a good point about those 90's dudes (Willis,Hanks etc etc) they were more of a safe bet then this other dudes on 00's. But now the game has changed... if you make a movie with a 100+ production budget, you surely will have to put another 100 $ on marketing....

  • Gubarletto | March 20, 2012 7:31 PMReply

    Ryan Gosling? Ryan Gosling? Ryan Gosling? Ryan Gosling?

  • Megan | March 20, 2012 7:31 PMReply

    I'm not really sure that this is a problem. What you call "problems" for Bale and Clooney I see as the exact opposite. You're talking about 2 great actors who make smart choices based on what they want to do - they might not always pick blockbusters, but they've had a lot of success going for more thoughtful, character driven pieces. Maybe it's time for Hollywood to stop focusing on multi-million dollar blockbusters and spend more time producing smart character-driven projects that don't break the bank. With a list of reliable actors this big (and potentially longer - I think you're right to bring up Fassbender, Hardy and Gordon-Levitt at the end) we'll potentially have more films to see with great actors! Maybe if character becomes more of the focus we could even add some color to this pasty list.

  • Akim | March 20, 2012 7:18 PMReply

    What about idris Elba??? I think he has a ton of leading man potential. He's about to star in Promethius and he's got a starring role as Nelson Mandela lined up!

  • HG | March 20, 2012 7:08 PMReply

    what about RDJ

    Iron Man - 585 Million WW - 140 Million Budget
    Iron Man 2 - 623 Million WW - 200 Million Budget
    Sherlock Holmes - 524 million WW - 90 Million Budget
    Sherlock Holmes 2 - 528 Million WW - 125 Million Budget
    Due Date - 211 Million WW - 65 Million Budget

    and i am sure The Avengers is gonna do huge business

  • roy | March 20, 2012 7:06 PMReply

    Russell Crowe won an academy award for Gladiator, not A Beautiful Mind. I don't blame you for your mistake because his performance in A Beautiful Mind was terrific and Denzel Washington played Denzel Washington in Training Day. A very upsetting loss.

  • SoulHonky | March 20, 2012 5:35 PMReply

    The idea that this is the same list as ten years ago isn't really true.
    Ten years ago, "experts" were questioning Will Smith's staying power as he was coming off of two bombs in Wild Wild West and The Legend of Bagger Vance, and the underperforming Ali.
    Similarly, Brad Pitt was fresh off Ocean's 11's success but there were questions about whether he could carry a film on his own since he hadn't seen 100 million since Se7en and had a half decade of disappointing earners {Spy Game, The Mexican, Snatch, Fight Club, Meet Joe Black (which actually made more than Fight Club, surprisingly}, Seven Years in Tibet, The Devil's Own, and Sleepers)
    Jack Sparrow hadn't blessed Johnny Depp's box office fortunes yet and while Sleepy Hollow and Chocolat did well, he was hardly seen as a safe bet with From Hell, Blow, The Ninth Gate, and The Astronaut's Wife tanking.
    And I'm sure that in 2002, entertainment writers were wondering why these new guys couldn't deliver like 90's holdovers Tom Hanks, Mel Gibson, and Bruce Willis, who were TRUE leading men.

  • Gian | March 20, 2012 5:34 PMReply

    He may not have the longevity of those already on your list but regardless you're going to have to add Channing Tatum to that list. He's front lined huge hits in action, romance and now well on his way with comedy. Regardless of what anyone may think of his talent, he's choosing a good mix of smart projects and commercial fare and he clearly has resonated with the 'Average American Moviegoer'. In terms of "reliability", he may already have leaped over most of the others mentioned above.

  • bunty | March 20, 2012 5:05 PMReply

    Hmm... I think a number of the guys on here can be classed as A-list. I assumed the article would more about the true next generation - Gosling, Pine, Hemsworth, etc. I think Matt Damon's proved he's a leading man by now.

  • Rainbowjelly | March 20, 2012 7:04 PM

    You hit the nail on the head there Bunty.

    Will be interesting to see if Andrew Garfield will take off when Spiderman comes out - I'm very doubtful, but it could happen! He's had The Social Network and Never Let Me Go, and Spiderman might just send him into the A-league. He does seem to lack a bit of charisma for me, but it will be interesting to see what happens.

    Also, dare I mention the dreaded Daniel Radcliffe - Woman in Black did do extraordinarily well, and his theatre work with Equus and How to Succeed show that he can do more than boring boy wizard.

  • Huffy | March 20, 2012 4:57 PMReply

    A big problem with these guys is that most of them don't have a consistent screen-persona. While a lot of people like to complain about Denzel and Cruise essentially playing variants of themselves in every movie it's hard to argue that it works. It's what made the Golden Age stars so incredibly consistent. With the exception of Brad Pitt every one of those A-listers has a very distinct persona that the public associates with them even if they do change it up every once in a while. Of the guys listed I think Jackman has the potential to be the biggest star as he has charisma to spare. The problem is that he broke out with the wrong role. I think he's very good as Wolverine but now that's all the public thinks of him as, which is unfortunate because I think he could be a huge draw in non-actiony roles.

  • imaslapya | March 20, 2012 4:38 PMReply

    The future for Colin Farrell, i dunno why didn't you mention Seven Psychopaths. Also, Clooney not being a huge box-office draw ? i dont get it, you just said he can take a comedy-drama like "The Descendants" to $80m domestic, thats not a box office draw ? $80m domestic for a fucking indie drama , definitely an a lister !

  • @IMASLAPYA | March 21, 2012 12:11 AM

    False, The Descendants is doing well because of the Oscar Nominations, It's widest release was in 2,038 theaters and it opened to $4,552,943. Before the Oscars the sales had dipped to 500k, then jumped to 3M the next day. It has an 89% Rating on rottemtomatoes.com. His last movie that didn't have that high of a rating was "The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)" with a 52% rating, which only brought 32M domestically. If he was bankable, it would've done better regardless.

  • Denzel | March 20, 2012 6:24 PM

    I agree that they should have mentioned Farrell's upcoming Seven Psychopaths. This site, however, is not a fan of Farrell, so I'm not surprised that they left it out. They've also been very negative about Total Recall. I bet they can't wait to see it and Farrell fail. They're in for a disappointment.

  • a | March 20, 2012 4:34 PMReply

    Here is a list of actors, followed by naming movies they were in that were successful and some that were not.

    hopefully deadline can break some news for you to post.

  • Ray H | March 20, 2012 4:31 PMReply

    Clooney is definitely A-list, he just chooses not to make those big budget films. Nobody watches Leo, Johnny Depp or Robert Downey, Jr. films either unless they're perceived as big, tentpoles.

    Jake Gyllenhaal is another actor that studios keep thinking will break out but never does.

  • amanda | March 20, 2012 4:30 PMReply

    Depp and RDJ are odd ones. RDJ movies only tend to do well if they are Iron man or SH, his others dont do well at the box office. Depp does just does crappy movies that a lot of people see for some reason. When he does a straight drama-ish movie like Rum Diary is does nothing. Depp is pretty consistent with is big money leading man roles making money but I wouldnt put RDJ in a higher position than someone like Damon. The thing I like about Clooney and Damon is that they both could be making big money doing the movies that they have been pigeon holed into but choose to shy away from the easy work/pay day. I would take that career over someone like Depps or Washingtons anyday.

  • Oogle monster | March 20, 2012 5:23 PM

    The Soloist... what do we make of that?

  • bonzob | March 20, 2012 5:16 PM

    Don't forget Tropic Thunder, for which Downey was all over the marketing and got a large share of the acclaim, not to mention an Oscar nom (really rare for a comedic performance). The film wasn't a huge success because they let the budget get too big, but it did do over 100 million domestically if I recall correctly, and a large part of that is due to Downey Jr.

  • Huffy | March 20, 2012 4:46 PM

    "RDJ movies only tend to do well if they are Iron man or SH, his others dont do well at the box office"

    That's because his other movies came out when the public still thought of him as a coke-crazed lunatic. As the author pointed out he's become an A-lister AFTER Iron Man. While it's true he hasn't been in many movies that weren't franchises since then Due Date was a big hit and I think it's safe to say that Downey was the draw and not Zach G, especially at the international box-office.

  • Christian | March 20, 2012 4:22 PMReply

    You got Crowe's Oscar win wrong: He won for Gladiator, not A Beautiful Mind ;) No hard feelings

  • Oogle monster | March 20, 2012 4:20 PMReply

    2 words, one man: BABY GOOSE. Also, Clooney is definitely a leading man and should be on the list alongside Smith, DiCaprio, and Pitt. If you think about it- DiCaprio has really only had 2 solid blockbusters besides "Titantic"- "Shutter Island" and "Inception" (which was probably sold more on "the director of The Dark Knight" and its mind boggling concept/intense secrecy)... I'm not sure how "Catch Me If You Can" did financially but that was also probably semi-sold on Tom Hanks and the Spielberg pedigree. "The Departed" was an ensemble and I'm sure DiCaprio's presence helped tremendously but factor in the likes of Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Jack Nicholson, and Scorsese- and there's a whole lot of allure. Most of DiCaprio's passion projects have performed poorly at the box office i.e. "Revolutionary Road", "Blood Diamond", "The Beach", "J. Edgar" etc.

  • @SEN | March 21, 2012 12:03 AM

    Just pointing out that the worldwide total has to be at least twice the budget to avoid losses. I agree with you on Clooney. His movies have to be exceptionally good to pass 100M worldwide and Ideas of March couldn't even do that with over 80% RT rating. Whereas Cruise sells a Nazi movie with much lower ratings (61% RT) for over 200M world wide.

    @OOGLE MONSTER
    In current Hollywood's BoxOffice crisis, if the leading man can bring in over twice the budget of the movie (speaking couple 100millions), that is successful if he can do so consistently.

  • Oogle monster | March 20, 2012 11:03 PM

    Also Sen, I'm not saying he isn't a leading man or a movie star. He absolutely is... but there's a major inconsistency in how his films perform.

  • Oogle monster | March 20, 2012 11:02 PM

    Making your budget back does not measure a successful leading man. It's good-absolutely but it doesn't make one a box office king. Just because his passion projects made their budget back (eventually), it doesn't deviate from the fact that they were not hits i.e. Body of Lies had a 70+ mil budget, it's domestic gross was less than 40 and it's total gross was barely above 100 mil... Revolutionary Road was made for 35 mil and only made 22ish mil domestically but was able to do better overseas... not terrific but it ended up somewhere in the 75 mil range... point is, a RELIABLE leading man can usually bring in the big dollars and that's someone like Will Smith who can keep a film in the top 10 at the box office consistently. Leo D has had 2 major hits in the past 5 years- Inception and Shutter Island- both sold on his name AND other big factors. He has made 5 movies in the past 5 years. That could be interpreted as an issue. Maybe I'm not looking at it right, but that's my analysis.

  • sen | March 20, 2012 10:10 PM

    um all those movies you listed have made back their budget and more. Dicaprio is probably one of the few leading men in hollywood whose films also perform well. Besides, very few people can say that they starred in a blockbuster like titanic, and let's be real, the success of that film was 50% due to him and the teen girls who saw it repeatedly because of him. Clooney is the one that always has underperforming films.

  • Liz | March 20, 2012 4:19 PMReply

    *ahem* Mark Whalberg was never a member of NKOTB, that was his brother. I think you mean Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.

    That's all I have to contribute.

  • Chris | March 20, 2012 4:19 PMReply

    Mark Wahlberg was NOT a member of the New Kids on the Block. That was his brother Donnie.

    Wahlberg was Marky Mark, as in "Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch."

  • Chris | March 20, 2012 4:21 PM

    Ah, apparently I was wrong. My apologies. Mark WAS originally in NKOTB, but only in the very early years before they had any success. So I stand corrected. (Sort of.)

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