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Hollywood zombies

Right now, Hollywood is full of zombies. Or, to be more precise, dead movie stars. Stiffs such as Nicole Kidman. And Jennifer Lopez. Tom Cruise and Halle Berry. And Russell Crowe, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone and our own Colin Farrell. To name but a few.

Sure, any of the above can still make the cover of a major magazine, but put their pusses on a movie poster, and cinema-goers invariably stay away in their millions. That's why you'll see so many of these poor, glamorous, jet-setting souls flogging shampoos, beers and perfumes.

In fact, were you to wonder what went wrong with Oscar-winning Nicole Kidman's career, you will find it in those few seconds during the $42m Baz Luhrmann-directed Chanel No5 TV commercial, when the porcelain princess flings herself across a New York rooftop with the immortal line, "I love to donce". As if Nicole Kidman ever 'donces'. And if the woman who treated Cold Mountain as an Oxfam winter-range shoot ever did get the urge to get down and boogie, she no doubt has people who do all her 'doncing' for her.

Others -- such as our beloved Colin -- take the slightly higher road of making small, independent movies until one of those little low-budget arthouse offerings scores them enough box-office to move back up the Premier League.

Only trouble is, Hollywood's Premier League has pretty much been abolished. The last man standing is Will Smith, but even the box-office prince isn't smelling so fresh these days. His last outing, Seven Pounds, was Smith's first major flop in 10 years, while the golfing drama dud The Legend Of Bagger Vance almost derailed his career, coming, as it did, after the hugely unsuccessful Wild Wild West. Next up for Smith? Men In Black 3. Which is an anagram of 'Holy C**p! My Career Is So Screwed Right Now 3'.


In the past, stars came and went; today, they're simply a dying breed. Hollywood recently shifted away from the star vehicle in favour of employing relative unknowns, and spending all that lovely moolah on silly things like scripts, special effects, branding and marketing.

Look at the big movies last year -- Avatar, The Hangover, Star Trek, Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, New Moon, Up, Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel; not too many major stars sucking up the budget there.

That's not to say that some of these leading lights wouldn't be in trouble without Hollywood's new way of thinking.

Jennifer Lopez has long been struggling through bad movie choices, lacklustre albums and a growing reputation for being difficult. Her record label, Sony, recently dropped the artist formerly known as J-Lo (maybe they should release a retrospective, called Jenny On The Chopping Block?), and her most recent cinematic offering, this week's The Back-Up Plan, is every bit as exciting and inviting as 2005's An Unfinished Life. Or 2006's Bordertown. Or her last offering, El Cantante.

Having lived by the tabloids -- especially during her engagement to Ben Affleck -- Jennifer Lopez's career has now died by the hand of the tabloids.

Next week, another fallen box-office angel, Russell Crowe, makes his most concerted effort yet to get back on the horse -- literally and figuratively -- with Robin Hood, the cranky Kiwi reuniting with his Gladiator director, Ridley Scott.

The Oscar-winning grump has now become box-office poison. Worthy, smart movies such as State Of Play, Body Of Lies and A Good Year have all crashed and burned at the box-office -- and, it could be argued, it's Crowe's fault. Sticking to his method guns, in recent years, Crowe has gone from changing his physical appearance to suit each individual role to turning each individual character he's playing into a slovenly, overweight, pigheaded prat. Smart time-saving move.


Tom Cruise is another former box-office champ with a seemingly impossible comeback fight on his hands, Hollywood's one-time leading leading man having become the butt of endless jokes since his couch-surfing, raving heterosexual turn on The Oprah Winfrey Show back in 2005. With one wheel clearly wobbling, and his longtime publicist suddenly fired, Cruise promptly lost control, spouting on about the joys of Scientology, the evils of psychiatry and prescription drugs, and how he's just a regular, motorbikin' guy who loves to do wheelies up red carpets.

The man has had nothing but flops for the past five years, and so there's another Mission: Impossible in the works. Maybe the plot's about his comeback struggles?

All these multi-millionaire losers can take comfort in Sandra Bullock's career resurrection, the double-whammy of The Proposal and her Oscar-winning turn in The Blind Side arriving late in a career that seemed to be well past its sell-by date. I'm guessing she might just miss those innocent, under-the-radar days right now.

Or what about Mickey Rourke's miraculous rebirth, after 15 years in the wilderness, that's got to give them a glimmer of hope.

Just to make that comeback all the more spectacular, I think they should each go for 20 years in the wilderness. Without a phone. Or a publicist. Or a camera crew.

Then we'd be really impressed.

The Back-Up Plan descends upon cinemas today, Robin Hood arrives on May 14