Thanks to a shout out from 2Blowhards, the post several days ago on “stealing movies” is getting some attention online. (The question was, “Who has stolen the most movie with the smallest part?”)
I am grateful for this attention, and it occurs to me that the comments for the piece open up the opportunity for further comment.
Here’s is the whole list, grouping suggestions from the post with suggestions from the comments.
Holly Hunter in Time Code
Steve Zahn in Out of Sight
Selma Blair in Cruel Intentions
Siobhan Fallon in Men in Black
Brad Pit in Thelma & Louise (Rick Liebling)
Brad Pit in True Romance (Keven Lofty)
Joan Cusack in Grosse Pointe Blank (Keven Lofty)
Mickey Rourke in Body Heat (Communicatrix)
Chris Rock in I’m Going to Git You Sucka (Communicatrix)
Meryl Streep in Manhattan (Communicatrix)
Bill Murray in Tootsie (Mike Madison)
Madeline Kahn in Blazing Saddles (Mike Madison)
Joan Cusack in Working Girl (Mike Madison)
Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross (Bryan)
R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket (Bryan)
J.K. Simmons in Spider-Man (Bryan)
Don Cheadle in Devil with a Blue Dress on (MHB)
Sharon Stone in Total Recall (SRP)
Steve Buscemi in Miller’s Crossing (Virtual Memories)
Steve Buscemi in Billy Madison (James)
Brad Pitt in True Romance (JewishAtheist)
If we squint our eyes (essential to all acts of analysis) and ask ourselves what these movies have in common, one answer is this: they are all good movies.
This suggests the possibility that it is easier to steal a good movie than a bad one. And this implies that a movie stealer is well served when he or she is working with other great actors in the larger parts.
(Let’s assume that there is no selection process at work here, one that says we don’t look at bad movies for issues of this kind.)
I think the sensible assumption is that it should be easy to steal bad movies. Less competition. But it may be that the bad actors who staff the big parts in bad movies will not let this happen. They watch great performances with envy, suffer a terrible insecurity, and prevail upon the director to fire the offending player.
Great actors are bigger than this. They believe, perhaps, that brilliant performances in small parts do not diminish their contributions but instead augment the movie’s hope of success. All boat rise with the tide, as it were.
This would mean that the Don Cheadles and Steve Zahns and Siobhan Fallons of the world do not steal movies after all. Which forces to ask what we meant when we talked about “stealing” movies in the first place. Do they belong to the stars? Is this a zero sum enterprise? What goes to one actor must come from another. Is every movie a quiet competition for that very scarce thing called attention (and admiration)? All of these sound like old economy assumptions to me. And then the question becomes whether we must dispense with the idea of movie larceny altogether. Just wondering.
McCracken, Grant. 2008. Grand Larcenty, Hollywood Style. This Blog Sits at the Intersection of Anthropology and Economics. April 17, 2008. here.
Blowhard, Michael. 2008 Post for April 23. here.