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Joe Roth: We Should Nurture a New Generation of Movie Stars

This column is part of Variety’s Broken Hollywood feature. For more execs and their opinions on the state of Hollywood, click here.

I think maybe Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio are the last versions of movie stars. Put them in a movie, and people want to come see them. What we have now is what I call “conditional movie stars,” because they have not been given broader roles. The only time they are stars is when they are in a situation where the audience knows how they are going to behave. Stars are important because nobody is going to take a risk on an expensive movie if the actor doesn’t have the right pedigree.

There’s a difference between a celebrity and a star. People don’t go to see celebrities in movies. They go to see stars. On one hand, it’s a reflection of the culture. But I don’t think the actors themselves are doing a good enough job of protecting their privacy. This generation of actors doesn’t understand privacy. The more available you make yourself, the less mystique there is. Stay out of social media, because that’s not going to help your movie career. Julia Roberts stays out of it. Angelina Jolie stays out of it. She makes a movie, and she goes away. You find out about her again when she promotes the next movie.

And be very careful of the parts you choose. If you’re a young actor coming up, you should look at the career of people like Dustin Hoffman, who developed his best parts himself.

Hollywood is reluctant to take a risk on somebody it doesn’t know in a major role. There is no nurturing of stars anymore. Everything is a one-off. It takes Angelina Jolie as a director to get Jack O’Connell to be the lead of “Unbroken.”

Why is there such an aversion to risk? The movie business is no longer a central business to conglomerates. It’s only a fraction of what these companies generate. There’s no reason to take a risk on an area that generates only 8% of revenue, which I think is completely the wrong way of thinking. It’s only 8% of revenue when all you do is low-risk and obvious. When a “Frozen” happens, it’s a hell of a lot more than 8%, and it drives all kinds of business. The hits come from the fringes.

When I came into the film business in the early ’70s, it was more about show and less about business. The show people are sitting on the bottom of the see-saw, and the business people are now on top. It’ll change back again.

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