Friday, April 24, 2009

Contracts make everything ridiculous again.

Long before shooting ever begins on movies, agents haggle out "billing" for their clients. This basically means that whenever there's promotional material of any kind that mention the actor's name (posters, trailers, opening title sequences, etc.), the actors have to be listen in a certain order. Getting "top billing" on a movie means that you're listed first, regardless - and this is important - regardless of whether or not that's an advisable option. And that's how we get stuff like this:

This is especially funny when you consider what we know about what teams Rodriguez and Diesel play for. You have to wonder why the photographer and designer didn't say to themselves "y'know, I bet Diesel has top billing in this movie, so we should probably put them in order from left to right." Speaking of the photographer, is it just me, or is Michelle Rodriguez rather cross-eyed in this picture?

I tried to find other examples of this online, certain that there'd be a website devoted to this phenomenon, but couldn't find much. If anyone finds one, let me know, please. Here's a couple examples I did find, though, since it happens more often in ensemble casts with big egos:

And sometimes even in ensemble casts with big egos and almost no talent at all. To be fair, though, other than Seth Green being considerably shorter, who can really tell these guys apart?

And, finally, this similarly-postered and extremely well-titled Showtime series.

In the olden days, who got top billing made a huge difference in terms of the poster. In The Towering Inferno, Steve McQueen, William Holden, and Paul Newman were all battling over top billing. The studio decided that Holden wasn't a big enough star anymore to get top billing, so it was between McQueen and Newman (this wouldn't be the last time the issue would emerge between them - McQueen would later drop out of Butch Cassidy since he wasn't going to get top billing over Newman in the movie). The studio compromised by putting McQueen on the lower left and Newman on the upper right, so depending on whether you read it from the top down or from left to right, there was a different star with "top billing."

It wasn't until much later that the name on the far left was considered to have "top billing." It remains remarkable to me that movie stars would pull out of movies over such nonsense. Say what you will about actors now, more often than not you see examples going the other way - Kevin Spacey deliberately pulled his name out of all promotion for Se7en so that his appearance at the end of the movie would remain a surprise. Ditto for Gene Hackman in The Mexican. (Apologies if I spoiled the end of Se7en for you. No apologies if I spoiled The Mexican) And David Hyde Pierce refused credit for being the voice of Abe Sapian in Hellboy since he felt the actor who had emodied the fishlike suit (a clearly non-claustrophobic Doug Jones) had created the character far more than he had.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go see what Vin Diesel really looks like in Fast and Furious.

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At April 27, 2009 8:44 PM, Blogger veela-valoom said...

I find this funny, especially since I don't like Michelle Rodriguez (seriously, is it because Ana Lucia or that whole drunk driving in Hawaii thing? I'm uncertain)

And she does look cross-eyed.

(And yes I know I randomly show up on your blog without rhyme or reason. I get bored & curious sometimes)


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