Stars Need To Stop Trashing Their Own Projects

When celebs talk up crappy films, we know they're just paying lip-service. But when they trash them, we slam them for being ungrateful. What's a sellout to do?

The Daily Beast has a gallery today of celebrities trashing their own work. You'll be familiar with a lot of them — Christopher Plummer's famous scorn for what he dubbed The Sound of Mucus; Katherine Heigl's infamous comments on Knocked Up — and a few may come as news. But one thing becomes clear as you read through the list: if it's an established actor looking back on a bad choice in an otherwise distinguished career — think Jamie Lee Curtis, Halle Berry or Michael Caine — it can seem self-deprecating, even charming. But when the film's recent, the sniping seems ungrateful, disloyal.

Back in the days of the studio system, stars were forced not just to make films but to promote them while smiling. Nowadays neither part is true, but the obligation to the studio's still there; a lot of people and a lot of money depends on the face of a movie. Most stars are all too aware of this, hence the relative rarity of Heigel-esque comments, and the outrage when we see them. We should all have such troubles, we mutter. (Yes, for our purposes we're elderly Jews.) I'm guessing a lot of it is simple jealousy — not merely of a star's opportunities, and money, and lifestyle, but of the freedom to do just this. Most of us can't trash our jobs and our bosses — certainly not on national TV — and I think on some level it rankles that others, with all their advantages, can do this, too.

This is the paradox at work with us and stars: we want them, at all times, to pretend to be normal people, while living aspirational lives. They must have the trappings of success, have lives elevated from all normalcy, yet we insist that they think and act just as we imagine ourselves to. That they usually slip up at some point and act oblivious to their privilege — or, at any rate, display that — is all part of the game. (Although really, we should be angrier at a star who lets us get sucked in by the hype machine and waste our money on something they know is crap.)

There's a funny bit in Neil Strauss's new book of collected interviews, in which he (pre-Game) does a Q&A with Orlando Bloom. At the time, Bloom has just wrapped the crusader epic Kingdom of Heaven, but has not yet seen the completed film. Strauss, however, has — and it sucks. Bloom is in the position of being blissfully ignorant, of thinking the vehicle's a star-making Oscar contender, ignorant of the fact that half the movie's on the cutting-room floor and the rest is incoherent. The resulting interview is painful and awkward, but in some ways maybe this is the ideal premise: a star doesn't need to lie and can talk honestly about his part of the project — the acting — ignorant of much else. Maybe that's impractical, but it might save everyone a lot of grief.

Movie Slammers [Daily Beast]