'I know I'm not some matinée, but I think we're sold this bill of goods by the media, which says that only the most beautiful and dashing people can become movie stars. So when someone like me sneaks in, they have to redo the calculations.'
John C. Reilly
A term to describe film or theatre stars who are adored to the point of adulation by their fans.
Matinée Idol may be an old fashion term, but then again so is movie star. Today, film stars seem to all want to be called 'actors,' even though many don't really have the qualifications to earn that title or term. 'Matinée Idols' or movie stars, to me describe those actors, bigger than life. Suave and sexy, with ability to attract the attention and lust from both women and men alike. They are put in heroic situations and big romances that led audiences to be swept up in not just the stories, not just their roles, but the appearance and the mystic that surrounded the individual actors lives.
This years Academy Award nominee's are all worthy, great actors in great roles. Steve Carell, Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne, nor Bradley Cooper or Benedict Cumberbatch could be called a Matinée Idol. Their roles and stories are not ones that swept us up nor had us dreaming or fantasizing. They all put in skilled and thoughtful performances, four of which based on real stories of real men. Their roles and these films are not ones that an audience would use to escape into the land of make believe on a rainy Saturday afternoon at movie at their local Cineplex.
Actors don't seem to be allowed to be frivolous any longer. They could at one time, they could have fun, they could snarl, grin and almost wink at the camera, at their audience. Frivolity seems today reserved for reality and soap opera stars. On the big screen, except for the odd comedy, one must be stoic and serious. I am not sure we will ever see another Matinée Idol, not like we have known, any hint of it seems to be squashed and frowned upon. Channing Tatum might have been a good candidate, but even Magic Mike, a film that should have been a great popcorn movie, was bogged down with serious elements that were shoved into what should have been a fun, light and sexy movie.
Tom Cruise was a Matinée Idol, one of the last and has in many ways paid the price for it. Although his career had a few serious roles, particularly early on, his fame is now being delicately held together by big budget, yet unsatisfying and quickly forgettable action films. This combined with his personal life have made it pretty much impossible to see Cruise on film as anything but Tom Cruise. Character, or any actual acting abilities have become pretty much irrelevant. Instead, high concept ideas, big openings, special effects and foreign box office are at the core of the career he is holding tightly on to.
Brad Pitt however remains one of the last actors to earn, and maintain the title of Matinée Idols. Pitt is both a movie star and a respected actor. Pitt has had a slew of movies from Legends Of The Fall through Troy that have swept us up, he has had huge romances on screen, and even bigger ones off all while holding our interest and keeping us wanting to see his films.
Beginning in the late 80's on tv shows like Dallas and Growing Pains, Pitt was quickly swooped into the movies in small films and small roles until one, Thelma and Louise made him an instant movie star.
Below: On Dallas with Shalane McCall (1988)
Pitt is the rare modern idol, who is respected for all he gives on screen, and off with his passion to support and help others. His choices as not just an actor, but as a producer as well. Although, unlike Cruise, Pitt can take a role in a serious film ,like last years Fury (below) he maintains that matinée idol aura, one that doesn't overcome or overshadow his performances the way so many other actors who had the title allowed it to do.
Thelma & Lousie (1991)
In addition to his talent, and incredible good looks, Pitt maintains a certain mystic that alludes so many other actors. Forr the most part, he keeps his private life private. No Youtube couch jumping clips of Pitt. Although stories of his romances with Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie have sold millions of magazines, Pitt himself has said very little about his private life, keeping a distance from the talk and entertainment shows that pedal private lives for profit.
Legends Of The Fall (1994)
There could be others matinée idols to come in the future, but I think the 80's and early 90's was the beginning of the end of the movie star and the death of the Matinée Idol. Brad Pitt was a great closing act for the genre and it will be interesting to see who if anyone, might resurrect the title in the future.