If we look closely into the career paths of Hollywood’s top-tier actors, while trying to protect ourselves from the blinding glow of their glorified existence, we might find out that this excessive radiance is also meant to conceal some instances of their reckless lifestyles, questionable career choices dictated only by fame or fortune, or even the fear of missing out on their ultimate breakthrough.
It is no wonder that many actors today are slowly drifting away from their agents’ offices in search of their managers’ approval – booking the first gig available is no longer their priority. In today’s scenario, the competition within the independent circuit is so high that if a new talent gets discovered, an established one might lose their seat at the Academy Awards ceremony. That’s why talent managers are crucial pawns on this chess board: they make time to understand and meet their clients’ needs, determine what their strengths are, and, most importantly, what their weaknesses are.
However, when in a massive star, the good, old pressure drops low enough due to the above-mentioned causes, gravity suddenly takes over and the star collapses in just seconds. These collapses are frequent in Hollywood and, specifically for Hollywood stars, their thirst for redemption is triggered. So, let’s explore this phenomenon and see how these powerful explosions can create new possibilities in a primal environment – the independent circuit.
Tracking the Trajectories
Shia LeBeouf in ‘Honey Boy’
Shia poured his past into a fierce, personal screenplay, where a subtle melancholy coexisted with a different kind of violence. The one that needs to be pieced together from isolated moments of someone’s life, the one made of stern looks, words full of contempt, and unfillable voids. Written in a rehab center, Honey Boy (2019) was inspired by the story of his tormented relationship with his father Jeffrey, drug addict and alcoholic himself.
Shia got to that point in the worst physical and psychological conditions, even though he previously met fame and glory in commercially successful projects such as Disturbia (2007), Transformers (2007-2011), and Fury (2014). As a consequence of this self-healing endeavor, Honey Boy went on to win the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Vision and Craft at Sundance in 2019. In addition, Shia has recently wrapped up Abel Ferrara’s Padre Pio, and we can tell that through his strong willpower, religious faith, and massive talent, the gifted actor just might be back on his feet.
Robert Pattinson in ‘Good Time’
In this list, Robert Pattinson is certainly the one who’s most distinctively marked by his breakthrough role as the fascinating vampire Edward Cullen in the Twilight saga (2008 – 2012). Through the years, even though this franchise garnered a massive fanbase, Robert has repeatedly admitted to not be one of them. While many actors try to be diplomatic about their previous experiences, Pattinson has never been afraid to express his disappointment on himself for joining this project.
In fact, this infamous stigma of being just a heartthrob stayed with him up until he approached the Safdie brothers in 2015. The brothers had just made a name for themselves in the indie circuit with Heaven Knows What (2014), so Robert asked them for a chance to redefine his career without the pressure of a huge Hollywood paycheck – just passionate artists doing their thing. That’s how the brothers came out with Good Time (2017), a bleak caper film that gave Robert a chance to find redemption. His character is just a worthless scumbag who moves along a restless storyline that seems to punish him at every corner. The film is a phenomenal gem and it won Robert a ticket to star in Roger Eggert’s The Lighthouse (2019), Christopher Nolan’s Tenet (2020), and Matt Reeves’ The Batman (2022).
Mickey Rourke in ‘The Wrestler’
Industry insiders wondered if Rourke became the wrestler in Darren Aronofsky’s film of the same name, or if, in ways that are both direct and indirect, he actually is the character he interprets. Aronofsky has always liked to explore the psychological deviation of the human mind – obsession, madness, alienation are all recurring themes of his filmography. However, in this particular instance, he had found an interpreter that embodied all of that, and more – Rourke was already victim of his own fame, riches and other spoils of success at that point.
Despite a turbulent life off the screen, his alleged drug-abuse problems, his affiliation with biker gangs, and his friendship with hip-hop icon Tupac Shakur, in 2008 he managed to return to the screen as a niche performer in love with the craft and in search of redemption. Aronofsky gave him the role of a marginalized anti-hero, with a rough and solitary character. The Wrestler was his chance to be great again, and it won him the Best Actor award at the 2008 Independent Spirits Award.
Adam Sandler in ‘Punch Drunk Love’
If Robert Pattinson is the one who’s mostly scarred by a single role, Adam Sandler is the quintessential single-genre actor – seemingly, someone who cannot survive without getting a laugh from his audience. Even in the ’90s, the period of his highest popularity, he couldn’t count on much more than his usual brand of wacky, madcap performances on comedic films such as Billy Madison (1995), Happy Gilmore (1996), and Big Daddy (1999).
It took a millennium bug for him to find his chance for redemption, when in 2002 Paul Thomas Anderson gave him a chance to show his value as a dramatic actor in Punch Drunk Love. Sandler simply shocked the audiences with this grounded depiction of a lonely guy who finds love in a hapless place – the San Fernando Valley. The film won the Best Director Award at Cannes and was nominated for the Palme d’Or as well.
Once You Find Your Center
The above-mentioned films are all difficult stories to watch, and yet they are beautiful to observe and comprehend. They can be ugly and painful, yet mesmerizing. Behind these creative endeavors, there are difficult stories that originated from traumas, past mistakes, and uncertainty. They are not just mere opportunities for these artists to find their center again, but they are also capable of displaying the power of this engrossing craft that is cinema as it connects performers, directors and audience on a humanistic level.
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.