As the luster of older icons fades, showbizzers and the electorate are both in need of fresh star power.
TELLURIDE, Colo. — Most film festivals heap their honors on stars or star directors, but Telluride’s cinefiles last weekend pinned their medallion on a casting director — that’s right, someone who can spot talent.
Harrison Ford and George Lucas were among those who took the stage to praise shy, silver-haired Fred Roos, whose shrewd eye helped pick the leads for films like “American Graffiti,” “The Godfather” and “Star Wars.”
The anointment of Roos comes at an interesting moment, since a generational change is taking place in the celestial sphere of Hollywood stardom.
The DeNiro-Redford-Beatty generation has reached senior status and even Tom Cruise, at 42, no longer qualifies as the flashy kid action hero. There’s a growing concern among filmmakers that the young wannabe stars are deficient both in terms of charisma and training.
Casting mavens like Roos remember that both Brando and James Dean came of age in Omaha, Neb., and migrated to New York for substantial tours of duty on stage. So inevitably some are wondering, who’s coming out of Omaha these days? The answer: No one with that special spark.
And just as studio chiefs are looking to the star-hunting talents of a Roos, so should those running the political process. If movies are dependent on stars, so are elections.
Yet, we are presently in the midst of a presidential campaign built around two candidates who would normally not meet the standards of Roos and his fraternity. Even John Kerry loyalists are starting to agree that their candidate lacks key elements on the stardom scale.
“It’s all in the eyes,” Roos would tell you, and Kerry’s eyes seem hooded, his stare brooding, his demeanor often bordering on the morose. Whereas a John Kennedy seemed accessible, Kerry seems remote.
Hollywood would normally cast a Kerry as a skilled corporate marauder or perhaps a sage academic. He is doubtless a good man; he is not star material.
Nor is George W. Bush, whose entire presentation suggests (ironically) that of an actor struggling to play a role. His swagger (he insists it’s simply a “walk” in Texas) seems self-taught. His faux drawl suggests a Yalie who decided that Texan talk would land him a role in a Hollywood western. His eyes are flinty, his gaze fleeting.
The far-right media have taken to calling him “Rambo.” Stallone should sue.
Roos (Jack Nicholson likes to call him “Rooster”) was renowned for his willingness to sift through hundreds of candidates to find the ideal player.
“I like to get them talking,” he explained at Telluride. “I want to see if they’re interesting, if they have that spark. Besides, I like actors.”
“Fred is a very loyal man,” said the taciturn Ford. “Once he believes in you, he is unrelenting. He kept putting me up for parts and I kept getting rejected. Finally things worked out.”
I’m glad they worked out for Ford, who is a very gracious man. I’m also glad they worked out for George Lucas, who is now a billionaire with grandiose plans for global expansion.
But now that Roos and his friends are happy, I wish they would turn their attention to politics.
After all, politicians are likeable, too — well, some of them. There have to be some potential stars out there — candidates who register both intelligence and integrity, and have good eyes to boot.
Has anyone looked in Omaha, lately?