Geek of the Day
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by Noel Wood
If there's one subject that's always a good one to poke fun at in the world of movies and entertainment, it's chronicling the antics of Young Hollywood. For ages, one of moviegoers' favorite pasttimes has been speculating who's gonna succeed in the biz, and who's gonna crash and burn. Child Actors are the most cliched of the bunch, resulting in movies like DICKIE ROBERTS: FORMER CHILD STAR, shows like The Surreal Life, and diminuitive sitcom stars running for Governor of California. But more interesting to me is watching the "bright young stars" in their early 20s as they try to meet the mountains of hype that's dumped on them as they try to make it in Hollywood.
We all know the Brat Pack. This group consisted of a dozen or so twentysomethings who appeared in some of the biggest hits in the early-to-mid 1980's, who have since moved on to varying degrees of success. The Pack, despite what some people believe, were not an official organization or club, but was a label haphazardly placed on any number of young stars from the era. Generally, folks such as Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Andrew McCarthy, Judd Nelson, Demi Moore, Anthony Michael-Hall, and Robert Downey Jr. are classified as Brat Pack members, but the label was tossed at performers such as Charlie Sheen, Mare Winningham, James Spader, and even Tom Cruise. Today, we've seen that the longterm success-to-failure ratio is pretty low for these folks.
In the years since, young actors have come and go. Christian Slater stuffed his nose and was an afterthought within a few years of HEATHERS and PUMP UP THE VOLUME. Alicia Silverstone was expected to become the next Meg Ryan, but she dropped off the planet for five years and is just now returning to TV. Ryan Phillippe made some mistakes and found himself picking up the pieces. Freddie Prinze Jr. was the hottest thing in the world four years ago, but now he's just remembered as the son of Chico.
In the year 2003, we have a whole new crop of actors within the prime "Brat-Pack" age bracket, and of course, there's a whole mound of expectation that each one of them will have to live up to to not be a footnote by the time they reach thirty. I've decided to take a look at some of the hottest of the young actors (ages 18-25) in my often-wrong crystal ball to see just exactly how they fare in the long run. I'll also give a crash and burn rating, based on a scale of one to ten, on how likely we are to see these kids
Kutcher probably has the most interesting tie-in to all of the old Brat-Packers: he's currently dating one of the more successful members of that bunch (and one old enough to be his mother,) the much older Demi Moore. Kutcher, a former model, got his first gig on That 70's Show, and after starring roles in DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAR and JUST MARRIED, he's become a hot prospect in Hollywood. With a half-dozen films yet to come out and talk that he may wind up as Superman in a future feature, his future looks bright. He's also the producer of his own ripoff of a ripoff of a ripoff of Candid Camera, MTV's Punk'd. However, his "dumb guy" charm and limited acting chops are bound to keep him typecast, and as soon as Demi is done with him, I expect to see him appearing in a flood of straight-to-video movies. Crash and Burn Rating: 8/10
25-year-old Hartnett seems like one of the more humble of the current crop of youngsters, keeping his nose fairly clean while landing some big Hollywood roles in films like PEARL HARBOR, BLACKHAWK DOWN, and HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE. He's worked with veterans such as Robert Rodriguez, Ridley Scott, and Harrison Ford. He cut his teeth on some smaller roles, and seems to actually be a pretty smart guy. These elements are a rarity in Young Hollywood, but aren't a guaranteed success formula. Still, I'd say Hartnett's chance of longterm success is far greater than most of the others in his age range. Crash and Burn Rating: 3/10
The star of the WB's 7th Heaven raised a lot of eyebrows and ticked off producer Aaron Spelling when she appeared nearly-nude in Gear magazine at age seventeen. She blamed her good-girl image from the show for her losing work in big Hollywood films, such as AMERICAN BEAUTY. After leaving the show, she pursued her film career, which has yielded less-than stellar results. She romanced Freddie Prinze, Jr. in SUMMER CATCH, landed a small role as the slutty friend in RULES OF ATTRACTION, and is featured in the upcoming remake of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Some might even suggest that she's already peaked and is on her way downhill, but she's being hyped now more than ever as a future household name. Personally, I think it's all downhill from here. Crash and Burn Rating: 6/10
Hayden may have a dozen or so movie roles under his belt, but he will always have one giant cross to bear: He's friggin' Anakin Skywalker in STAR WARS episodes two and three. And if history has shown us anything in the case of Mark Hamill, young hot actors thrust into the leading role of a STAR WARS movie are bound to spiral into a flaming freefall. Hayden's a better actor than Hamill, but not by much. The Canadian actor got his start primarily in television roles, and previous to his STAR WARS casting was best known in Canada for the TV series "Higher Ground". Based on precedence, we can only expect that the post-Episode-three years aren't going to be kind to poor Hayden. Crash and Burn Rating: 6/10
Elijah has an advantage over most of the actors in this bunch, in that he's already survived those child actor years. He managed this partly due to the fact that he was never thrust at you in huge annoying lead performances, but rather in smaller supporting roles where he sharpened his acting skills. He also didn't suffer from the fate of His biggest coup so far has been landing the lead role of Frodo in the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. He's probably one of the most talented in the bunch, and for the most part, has been pretty smart with his choice of roles. He does hang out with those doomed-to-crash Osbourne kids, but hopefully will outgrow them in the coming years. With a variety of work under his belt and a ton of experience at the young age of 22, I would not be suprised to see him around for a long time to come. Crash and Burn Rating: 2/10
A few years ago, Mandy Moore was one of about a half-dozen blonde Britney Spears clones clogging the airwaves. Now, after a dye job and shorn locks, she's one of about five dozen young actresses trying to get out of the gate in Hollywood. So far, she's had a couple of modest romantic turns in A WALK TO REMEMBER and HOW TO DEAL, with a handful of films yet to be released. She's also been playing it smart, attending college and limiting her roles to avoid overexposure. It's rare that an actor or actress cam become a success in both the music and movie kingdoms, so it'd be a wise move for her to drop the singing if she wants to avoid becoming a joke in one or the other medium. Crash and Burn Rating: 5/10
This Australian import got his break in the Taming of the Shrew update 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU alongside another highly-hyped young actress, Julia Stiles. While Stiles has since faced a slump, Ledger has steadily climbed in the ranks of Hollywood's players, appearing alongside Mel Gibson in THE PATRIOT as well as in starring roles in A KNIGHT'S TALE and NED KELLY. He's currently appearing in THE ORDER, a religious thriller which is being predicted as a breakout role for him. The fact that he's been avoiding "Teen" flicks seems to indicate that Ledger is smarter than the average Prinze as far as long-term goals go. I'd guess that Ledger has a better shot than most of his peers at remaining in the spotlight for some time to come. Crash and Burn Rating: 3/10
The last of the Young Hollywood stars I'll look at today also has survived being a child actor, and more importantly, has risen from the ashes of his older brother Macaulay's child-star burnout to actually become a viable star in his own right. While Macaulay was being shoved down everyone's throats in big roles, Kieran appeared in small roles, growing into his teen years gracefully. He turned heads with actual performances im films like THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, DANGEROUS LIVES OF ALTAR BOYS, and in the highly underrated IGBY GOES DOWN. On top of that, he's opted to slow down his movie career while sharpening his acting skills working on stage in London. In response to the flaming car wreck his brother's career became in regards to his own, Kieran was quoted as saying "It's easy to cash out and make a lot of bad movies. I'd rather be dirt-poor on the streets and have done good films." Crash and Burn Rating: 2/10
The names above are a mixed bag. Some look like they've got promising futures, while some of their careers seem destined to land in the shitter. For all we know, there could be a future Tom Cruise or Mel Gibson among their ranks. Of course, just remember that any one of them is just one KUFFS away from being an afterthought in the big picture as well.
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