“Where have you been all my life?”: When Movie Stars Transcend Their Own Image

I have often found myself lying in bed at night pondering the difference between an actor and a movie star (I know, let’s all try to move on from how cool I am). I’ve heard it said that an actor is able to completely disappear into a role (see Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Capote) while a movie star is never able to completely shed their celebrity image (see George Clooney in anything other than O Brother, Where Art Thou?).

I’m robbing this casino as handsomely as I can, goddammit!

Now this isn’t a comment on which one is better, it’s just a fact of the business. These categories are, as most things tend to be, fluid: actors can become movie stars fairly easily. However, with a few notable exceptions, it’s odd to see a fully-fledged movie star go back to disappear into a role so completely you forget who you’re watching.

You might have noticed that I mentioned a few notable exceptions. The first one that comes to mind is Jim Carrey. Now let me be the first to tell you that I think Jim Carrey’s career is immensely disappointing.

Hi, would Oscar be there please? No? Nevermind, I’ll go do Mr. Popper’s Penguins. THEN YOU’LL NOTICE ME

Movies like Ace Ventura and Liar Liar are just so broad and stupid that I was ready to write off his entire professional body of work. I was, of course completely wrong. I had no idea what kind of performance the man could give. Then, I just happened upon Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Yeah, I know: this isn’t a film one just “happens” on. I’d had it recommended to me countless times, but I always put it off because Jim Carrey was in it. For some reason, I decided to give it a chance, and boy was I glad I did.

I was completely floored by how raw and emotional the future Mr. Popper could be. It actually made my opinion of him worse though: why was he debasing his talent with such tripe all the time? Of course the answer is the paycheck, but it still didn’t sit right with me. As long as I could keep thinking of Eternal Sunshine, I would know that there was good in the world.


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