I long for the days when Nicholas Cage had his head on straight, that time when Lindsay Lohan took the world by storm in Mean Girls, and when John Travolta wasn’t constantly battling rumors about his private life rather than making quality movies (I mean come on, Road Hogs, John? You were in Grease, for God’s sake). The days of when actors’ private lives didn’t actually overshadow the reasons for which they had their fame to thank (namely their acting) are long gone. Who can honestly say that they’ve seen a Tom Cruise flick more recently than they’ve read an article about his wacky antics on Perez Hilton’s website?
I, too, fall prey to the Hollywood gossip machine. Firefox has an application called “Morning Coffee” that opens up a set of predetermined links every time you click a little image of a coffee cup. My offenses are, indeed, Perez himself, as well as Entertainment Weekly, Oh No They Didn’t (The biggest time suck imaginable, folks. Do not go on unless you’re willing to lose an hour of precious homework time) and Twitter. These sites post spoilers about TV shows, pictures from movie sets (most recently unbecoming images of Andrew Garfield looking like a gangly chicken in his Amazing Spider-man costume) and, of course, Hollywood gossip.
I feel like lately more than ever, thanks to the popularity of these gossip sites, in addition to anonymous social media venues like Tumblr and Twitter, celebrities cannot successfully separate their private lives from their roles as entertainers.
Take, for example, Melissa Leo. I have championed Melissa Leo for a few years now. I loved her in Frozen River, for which she was Oscar nominated, but few people actually saw the movie. When she briefly popped up in the mushy DeNiro vehicle Everybody’s Fine, I cheered in the theater. In December, it seemed like she was finally going to make it big with her gaudy role in The Fighter. Her portrayal of Alice Ward, a no-nonsense mother with a heart made of stone, was phenomenal. She won the Golden Globe, critics heaped praise her way, and now she finds herself on the verge of Oscar glory.
That is, until, she decided to spearhead her own promotional campaign. Now I find myself becoming increasingly less enamored with the actress as she deflects the blame on other parties. In case you missed it, the story goes like this. Ms. Leo took out several ads in trade magazines like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, in which she dressed somewhat skimpily I must say, stares at the camera while a single word is plastered across the page: “Consider.”
Consider what, Melissa Leo? How tacky of a plan this was? Nobody wanted to, or even expected to ever see you draped in luxurious furs while lounging poolside. Did you really think that was the way to win an award?
Here’s where the problem lies: Was Leo actually committing a serious offense by promoting her performance, or was I (among many other startled movie watchers) simply appalled at the once private, now very public life she was opening the door to? I don’t think I imagined her living so garishly in all the years I have seen her in film, and perhaps that was the most startling thing. We live now in a culture where celebrities have a sort of open door policy, inviting People and US Weekly into their homes, showing off their babies, their pools, their new fiances. I suppose it was too much to hold onto the hope that indie starlets might not be so invested in the Hollywood glam culture that dominates the media today.
I still hold out hope, however, that this obsession with stars’ personal lives will fade into the background. In no way does Leo’s campaign lessen the wondrousness of her role in The Fighter, and it’s a shame that it could cost her the trophy. I guess that’s the price to pay for selling your soul to the tabloids.