This year was the year of the reality-based movie. Three contributing factors are leading to this movie trend: success of fact-based hits like, “The Social Network” and “The Fighter,” the shrinking influence of A-list actors on box office and the rise of the celebrity director.
Who could have guessed that a movie based on the genesis of a social networking site could possibly be a box office success? In fact, Aaron Sorkin’s script for “The Social Network” languished on Hollywood’s notorious Black List of the best unproduced screenplays in 2009 before it was finally distributed by Columbia Pictures. 2011 saw other success stories by films that were based on true events including “The Fighter,” “The King’s Speech” and “Unstoppable.” Even though Danny Boyle (“28 Days Later,” “Slumdog Millionaire”) hasn’t struck box office gold with “127 Hours” yet, the film is garnering plenty of award buzz and will probably have a strong second life with dvd.
This year, studios realized that celebrities have less pull at the box office than ever. Just look at some of the huge box office flops toplined by A-list actors that dragged 2010 box office numbers down. “The Tourist” boasted two of the biggest celebrities in the world, Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, together in an exotic setting. The movie landed with a critical and box office thud grossing just $77 million dollars worldwide. Other notable flops with big name stars include: “Edge of Darkness” starring Mel Gibson, “Robin Hood” starring Russell Crowe, “Knight and Day” with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” starring Nicholas Cage.
2010 was the year of the director. When Christopher Nolan was casting for the sci-fi thriller, “Inception,” he employed a technique only possible in the new era of the celebrity director. According to Kim Masters of KCRW’s “The Business,” Nolan called A-list stars and offered them the lead role, then gave them 48 hours to accept. He began with Wil Smith. When Smith failed to respond within the 48 hour deadline, he called Brad Pitt and so on until Leonardo DiCaprio accepted his offer. That film has so far grossed nearly $850 million dollars in worldwide box office receipts. Christopher Nolan is known for being the edgy, cool director that resurrected the Batman franchise. As the director on the film, he was perhaps the biggest box office draw.