Streep, Clooney … Cruise? Why no one is ‘too big for TV’ any more

Hollywood stars used to turn their noses up at television, but now Meryl Streep and George Clooney are stealing the show in your living room. Who might join them next?

There have been plenty of surprises concerning Meryl Streep joining Big Little Lies. First, there was the Streep Scream, an earth-shattering howl that launched 1,000 memes. Second, there has been her performance as a whole: sometimes Deirdre Barlow channelling Willy Wonka; sometimes a less considered Mrs Doubtfire. Yet for many watchers, the main surprise remains that were seeing Streep on TV at all.


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With her three Oscars, Streep is the queen of Hollywoods old guard, the kind of film icon who at one time would never have done telly. She did appear in HBOs Angels in America, but that was hardly normal TV more theatre looking down its nose at a camera. Her appearance in Big Little Lies, a big, silly, schlocky TV series, signifies something else. Heres a film legend accepting that, in order to stay big, the pictures have to get a little smaller.

Streeps not alone. George Clooney, who fought so hard to shrug off his role as hunky Dr Ross in ER, is back on TV in Catch-22. Sean Penn, has already starred in one series, astronaut drama The First, and will soon star in another, American Lion. Julianne Moore will head up Liseys Story, produced by Apple TV, hot on the heels of Julia Roberts in Amazons Homecoming, and Amy Adams tackling HBOs Sharp Objects last year.

Its no surprise that movie stars are now doffing their caps to the growing cultural and financial might of TV and its associated streaming services. With Hollywood seeming ever staler, patriarchal and stuck in the same formats, TV is leading the way in writing and representation. It wasnt exactly an abasement when Thandie Newton tackled Westworld and Line of Duty, and no one thought their auras were tarnished when Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson tried True Detective.

Ten years after ER George Clooney in Catch-22. Photograph: Philipe Antonello/Hulu

None of this has been a sudden collapse of the defences, more a crumbling after a long siege. Its likely Streep is appearing in Big Little Lies because season one starred Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and Reese Witherspoon, who also produced the show. The fact that Hollywood has long struggled to provide decent roles for women over 40 has tipped many towards a medium that will engage with its large female audience.

All these talented women playing wives and girlfriends, I just had enough, said Witherspoon in 2017. If this didnt necessarily apply to the very top tier, it is the ecosystem above which they had been hovering anxiously. Kidmans much-vaunted career renaissance over the last few years is, in part, due to her realising she could get even better opportunities when not working in just one medium.

Whats more, the success of Big Little Lies is a reminder of the collapse of a certain type of similar mid-budget film, the classy drama on which many of these A-listers have built their reputations. There is a strong sense that todays movies cater to the either blockbuster crowd the Avengers, Pokmon or the arthouse. Roberts, for instance, bagged her Oscar in 2001 for Steven Soderberghs Erin Brockovich, but would it be a film today? Surely it would be a prestigious five-parter on Netflix.

It is worth bearing in mind, though, that Roberts wont reappear in Homecoming, and the True Detective cast changes every season nothing is more ageing, after all, than doing the same role season after season. Other, younger film stars, such as Jennifer Lawrence, are holding back from TV, too, which is strange when you consider how bumpy her recent movie career has been. Indeed, its tempting to think that something like her recent Red Sparrow would be much more at home on the Netflix navigation bar. Sitting next to Rene Zellwegers What/If, it could even have looked reasonably sane.


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Glaring absentee Tom Cruise with Vanessa Kirby in Mission: Impossible Fallout. Photograph: Chiabella James/AP

Right now, a one-off TV appearance gives you zeitgeist cachet and a younger audience. TV is where the conversation is and youd have to be pretty hidebound, or rich, not to care about staying relevant. Streeps scream could be turned into memes and gifs in minutes. Would the same scream, in a cinema, create that cultural moment?

Yet some stars are still resolutely holding out, among them Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks and Johnny Depp. The most glaring absentee, though, is Tom Cruise. The big daddy of Tinseltown sticks to the big screen and his Top Gun and Mission Impossible reboots. Is the small screen too small for Cruise? Given that his stardom has been worked at as assiduously as his acting, perhaps he cannot countenance being shrunk by these newer media (although younger fans are watching his movies on mobile phones).

Pitt has helped produce some prestige telly (executive producer on The OA and Barry Jenkinss forthcoming series The Underground Railroad) but hasnt appeared on TV yet, unless you count his recurring small turn as a weatherman on his favourite comedy, The Jim Jefferies Show. This is a very old-school approach to television, treating it like a place to lark about. In 2019, to make only a cameo looks patronising. What will lure Pitt in? Surely something soon. Hes probably at a table at the Chateau Marmont right now, pondering a witty, woke six-parter on Hulu that would bump up his credibility with the kids. And if he needs a co-star, Liam Neeson doesnt seem to be doing any telly, either.

Original Article : HERE ; Curated & posted using : RealSpecific

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