Why you should be a movie star

The more I hear about the tough life of movie stars, the more I wonder why so many people dream of having that job. I’ve never done it myself, but as someone who writes about the movies, I’ve met a few people who’ve had this job and said that they loved it (including Heath Ledger, before he left Australia to escape the paparazzi).

Sadly, according to experts, the odds of becoming a movie or TV star are 300,000 to one against. Exactly how those odds were worked out, I’m not sure, but it seems to make perfect sense. Of 300 million Americans, perhaps a thousand can call themselves movie or TV stars, if you include all the weathermen, local anchors, reality-TV contestants, critically acclaimed indie actors, and Corey Feldman. But of the 100,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild, only 50 are considered “stars”.

Don’t let that discourage you. While there are only a few positions available, and plenty of competition, there are many reasons why you might want to become a movie star. Among them:

  1. You can help people: Half of Angelina Jolie’s salary goes to charity. Paul Newman made millions from his pasta sauce, which went to worthy causes. Even more impressively, Kevin Bacon inspired the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, which inspired the field of network science, which led to the capture of Saddam Hussein (by moving through the dictator’s social networks), and will hopefully be used in the future for everything from combating terrorism to curing cancer. Yes, Kevin Bacon might eventually save the world.
  2. Everybody will love you: On her eighth birthday in 1936, Shirley Temple received 135,000 gifts from all over the world. I know what you’re thinking: “That’s ridiculous!” On MY eighth birthday, even some of my best friends give me nothing. (That was the last time they were invited to my party, let me tell you.) But Shirley Temple was the biggest movie star in the world, so it made some kind of sense.
  3. People will notice you: Who needs to post on FourSquare when you can be a film star, with people noticing you whenever you do anything? We all know about it when a movie star goes crazy, gets arrested, or takes too many drugs. This shows what exciting and glamorous lives they lead, and leaves their fans thinking “I wish I took the sorts of drugs that got HER arrested.” But I first noticed just how much attention movie stars get when it was plastered all over the news that… Gwyneth Paltrow had a speeding ticket! This was astonishing. Before that, I’d thought that these people only suffered problems far loftier than any of we mere mortals. But this proved that the media gets excited when they have the same mundane, dull, embarrassing misfortunes as the rest of us. Wouldn’t you love to be that famous?
  4. People listen to your opinions: CampusLIVE paid Lindsay Lohan $3500 for one tweet: “These challenges for college kids on #CampusLIVE are SO addicting!” That’s $875 per word. As a writer, I’d love to be paid that much. But of course, Lindsay at the time had 2.6 million followers (which is more than I do), so this one tweet can be credited with immediately driving 4,500 clicks to the CampusLIVE website. Exactly why people would pay more attention to her opinion than my own inestimable wisdom, I’m not sure, except that she’s a movie star and I’m not.
  5. You get lots of free stuff: This is probably the best reason to be a movie star. Presenters at the Oscars get gift bags with thousands of dollars’ worth of goodies. One year, the bag included a two-week test of a Cadillac XLR, a BlackBerry 8700c (worth $299), a two-night stay at The Carlyle Hotel (room rates start around $500), a day’s training session with Joe Frazier (price not provided, but it couldn’t have been cheap), a Krups XP4050 Premium Pump Espresso Machine ($299.99), a Signature Days Experience Gift Certificate (with white-water rafting, snowboarding lessons, private DJ instruction – private DJ instruction! – and cooking lessons), and dinner with nine friends catered by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. So perhaps the best thing about winning an Oscar is that you get to PRESENT one the next year, and get all those sponsored products. As you will probably be on a large salary anyway, it leaves a question for the rest of us: “How come the people with huge salaries are so often the ones who get all the freebies?”
  6. Oh, and it pays reasonably well: Hollywood actors make an average of $5,000 a year from their acting. Considering how much certain salaries bring up the average, think of how tough it must be for the below-average majority. But the stars… well, they do pretty well. A number of stars make $20 million per film. Is there any profession with such a huge gap between incomes, anywhere in the world – or anywhere in the same city? And you thought that things were bad in Zimbabwe! Lesson: If you must be an actor, be a star.

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