Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 18:39 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 18:39 | SYDNEY

The new economics of Hollywood


Sam Roggeveen


1 May 2012 11:58

Michael Fullilove sends me a piece from The Atlantic listing various rules for making a Hollywood hit. This one piqued my interest:

For fantasy and superhero franchises, a fresh face is ideal—especially if accompanied by a British or Australian accent, which can feel more universal than an American one.

I'm sceptical. No evidence is offered for the proposition that Australian or British accents 'feel' (shouldn't that be 'sound'?) more universal. And anyway, Hollywood's big growth opportunity is in Asia, particularly China, not an obvious market for films starring English-speaking actors, whatever their accent. In fact, another 'rule' suggested in The Atlantic article is 'Dub Animated Movies With Local Actors—or Hire Bilingual Superstars From the Start.' So maybe the future belongs to Chow Yun Fat or whoever inherits Jackie Chan's action-hero mantle, rather than Aussies like Chris Hemsworth.

Speaking of Hemsworth, I caught his work last night in The Avengers, an above-average superhero caper which conforms to several of The Atlantic's rules. For example, other than a brief reference to the 'stars and stripes' on Captain America's uniform, there's no overt American boosterism that might turn off foreign audiences (the article notes that an earlier film in this franchise called 'Captain America: The First Avenger' was renamed simply 'The First Avenger' in some foreign markets).

Also, the villain in the film is safely inter-galactic, thus conforming to rule no.3, 'Don't Offend Billions of Would-Be Viewers' by making someone of their nationality a bad guy. But although it's considered risky in Hollywood to, say, depict the Chinese army over-running America, it seems perfectly OK for villains to have British accents, as is the case in The Avengers. This goes back at least to Alan Rickman's scene-stealing performance in Die Hard, though James Mason did it too in North by Northwest.

Lastly, there's rule 10, 'Take Advantage of Foreign Labor'. The American spelling of 'Labor' could hardly be more apposite, since Hollywood surely has taken advantage of our federal government (and by extension, us taxpayers) in the case of 'The Wolverine'. The makers of this superhero film are getting a one-off $12.9 million subsidy to shoot in Sydney.