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Can a Good Talent Be Over-Exposed?

Jeremy Renner is having a good year. Recently confirmed to take over from Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, offered the job of taking over from Matt Damon in the Bourne series, playing Hawkeye in both Thor and The Avengers, and starring in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, it seems that Renner is on the cusp of being huge. And, for those of us who have noted Renner’s performances in films like The Town and The Hurt Locker, it’s surely well-deserved. However, can Renner be over-exposed?

It’s a sentiment I’ve heard quite a bit over the internet in the last little while, with a lot people observing (and it’s hard to argue) that Renner seems to be the new “it” guy:

As someone who recognized Renner’s star potential back in 2003 with his bad-guy role in S.W.A.T., it’s a bit gratifying to see others finally recognizing his talent. And there’s something to be said for waiting your turn. Hell, even guys like Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe weren’t given their own starring vehicles until they were offered their Oscar-winning roles.

Those are at least three big franchise opportunities up there, and there’s even talk of a Hawkeye solo movie after Whedon takes the hero to the big screen next year (I am not holding my breath, though). That’s a lot of clout, right there.

It’s worth noting that none of these associations seem to be the standard “in negotiation” Hollywood PR mumbo jumbo, it looks like he has the roles in question. Very often, a “star in waiting” will find their name associated to every project ever (remember when Chris Pine was going to be Captain America and the Flash?), but nothing really comes of it. It seems Renner is quite far along in each particular process, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see three of the four come to pass at least (Hawkeye is a given, seen as he’s already been in a movie).

However, can an actor like that ever be over-exposed?

Some people are quick to suggest that Renner may well wear out his welcome with movie audiences:

Right now all of this sounds great to moviegoers who saw Renner in The Town and The Hurt Locker and want to know what that intense guy is gonna do next. Right now we’re not sick of Jeremy Renner– but we’re practically guaranteed to be after these four films are released within eight months of each other. Jeremy Renner will go almost instantly from “Hey, I’ll see that guy in anything” to “Dear God, I’m sick of seeing that guy in everything.” And he’ll be partially to blame for taking the roles, sure, but also victim of a system that auditions countless actors for roles, then casts the same 5 guys who seem the most “marketable.”

It’s certainly a fair point. Renner has yet to win an Oscar, but two nominations on two consecutive years (in the Leading and Supporting categories) carry a lot of weight. We’ve seen the pattern before, where an actor seeks to capitalise on the publicity and name recognition accrued from an Oscar nomination/win, and then slowly (or quickly) grinds their career into the dirt – in pursuit of a little extra money.

I won’t pretend that after years of unrecognised hard work these actors should turn down the opportunity to take jobs that offer financial security, but it is definitely a trend. The last time I saw Cuba Gooding Jr., Oscar-winner for Jerry Maguire, the actor was a lead in a direct-to-video film called HardWired. And I like Cuba Gooding – he’s actually not a terrible actor, he just makes terrible films. Halle Berry did pretty much the same thing, with Catwoman putting a significant dent in her career as she populated her filmography with trash like Gothika or Robots or The Things We Lost in the Fire. Helen Mirren looks to be doing the same sort of thing following her Oscar-winning role in The Queen (passing Cuba Gooding in her ascent in the dire Shadowboxing). However, Mirren does still try to balance films like Arthur and RED with classy fare like The Last Station and artsy stuff like The Tempest.

It’s a dangerous game for hot properties flirting with the studio system, to the point where it seems ability doesn’t really come into it. I love Colin Farrell, but big-budget efforts like Alexander and S.W.A.T. didn’t necessarily play to his strengths. It seems that Farrell is pushing himself through something of a career resurrection with a variety of smaller films at the moment – including the absolutely brilliant In Bruges, the mediocre London Boulevard and upcoming efforts like Fright Night. Still, there was a while where it seemed Farrell was everywhere, and there’s no denying his career paid the price for it.

I think it is possible to exhaust an audience on an actor, event a talented one. Some of it is down to the fact that not all actors work especially well in different types of films, it might be hard to transition the skills that made an actor a respected lead in indies to big budget hits (I think Ben Affleck is perhaps the best example of this – his career highpoint remains Chasing Amy, and he was not “the bomb in Phantoms, he was in the bomb Phantoms). I actually think Renner has a charm that will transition well these sorts of big budget action and adventure films, as he has demonstrated he’s able to craft a strong emotional connection with the audience.

Still, I might suggest that he be careful. I don’t want to have to wait five years for the “Jeremy Renner renaissance” to see him make critically acclaimed movies again.

6 Responses

  1. For me personally, I don’t care if an actor is overexposed. I either like them or I don’t. If Paul Rudd starred in 5 judd apatow produced movies a year, I’d watch every single one happily. That being said, audiences are a lot more fickle than I am.

    This why I am feel sad for Michael Cera. He’s been consistently funny and endearing in every single one of his movies (I’ll even defend the mediocre Year One based on his performance). But I guess people are tired of him.

    • I think Cera has a slightly different problem, and one that’s hardly fair. I think. from talking to others, people are very quick to assume he plays the same adorkable character in each of the films. There are obviously more than a few films where there’s overlap in characterisation (but not more than any number of relatively typecast actors), but he’s done some distinct stuff too. I really thing he just needs something hugely against type to knock the audience for a loop.

      And, generally, people who don’t like Michael Cera haven’t seen Arrested Development.

  2. To answer the obvious: yes, an actor can be overexposed.

    There’s a very fine line between being a recognizeable presence to being someone who wears out his/her welcome very fast. Of course, publicity of any kind is good (at least, in theory) for an actor, but a lot of actors took career nosedives because people just got sick of seeing them in EVERYTHING. It’s worse if you’re a one-trick pony (Michael Cera) who can’t even throw something difference at the audience once and a while (and if he did, nobody saw it or cared).

    So, basically, yes, an actor can be overexposed. People will want to see you in movies – up to a point. After that, they get tired of seeing you everywhere and become numb to your presence.

    • Yep. That’s why I always appreciated George Clooney, for example. The man does his own indie thing once or so a year and occasionally surfaces to headline an Ocean’s film. Sort of like a nice pallet cleanser (though I think he might be due another big blockbuster).

  3. Renner will definitely become overexposed considering his plate of projects. They are all action/blockbusters with two of the biggest films (Bourne and Mission Impossible) being the same genre.

    • That’s it, I’m surprised he was offered Bourne after getting Mission: Impossible. It isn’t even like Ryan “Deadpool and Green Lantern” Reynolds, because they are both definitely getting made. (As opposed to Deadpool, which is crawling towards production.)

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