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Shining in Shadows

Movie Stars of the 2000s

Edited by Murray Pomerance

Publication Year: 2011

In the 2000s, new technologies transformed the experiences of movie-going and movie-making, giving us the first generation of stars to be just as famous on the computer screen as on the silver screen.Movie Stars of the 2000s examines a wide range of Hollywood icons from a turbulent decade for the film industry and for America itself. Perhaps reflecting our own cultural fragmentation and uncertainty, Hollywood’s star personas sent mixed messages about Americans’ identities and ideals. Disheveled men-children like Will Ferrell and Jack Black shared the multiplex with debonair old-Hollywood standbys like George Clooney and Morgan Freeman. Iconic roles for women ranged from Renee Zellweger’s dithering romantics to Tina Fey’s neurotic professionals to Hilary Swank’s vulnerable boyish characters. And in this age of reality TV and TMZ, stars like Jennifer Aniston and “Brangelina” became more famous for their real-life romantic dramas—at the same time that former tabloid fixtures like Johnny Depp and Robert Downey Jr. reinvented themselves as dependable leading men. With a multigenerational, international cast of stars, this collection presents a fascinating composite portrait of Hollywood stardom today.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Series: Star Decades: American Culture/American

Title Page, Series Information, Copyright

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p. ix-ix

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Introduction - Stardom in the 2000s

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pp. 1-11

These pages contain discussions of twenty-five stars of Hollywood cinema who flourished, all to a distinctive degree in the international eye, in the decade between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2009. Although these stars were as bright as stars have ever been in Hollywood, producing a kind of illumination that had staying power and global effect, the book itself is called Shining in Shadows because all of them shone within...

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1 - Wonder Boys—Matt Damon, Johnny Depp, and Robert Downey Jr.

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pp. 12-31

In the decade from 2000 to 2010, cinemagoers witnessed the ascension to superstardom of Matt Damon, Johnny Depp, and Robert Downey Jr. All three are intense, to varying degrees; disarmingly handsome, to differing effects; and talented, in various modes and rhythms. Additionally, in many of their best and most memorable roles all three pulse...

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2 - Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman—Million-Dollar Seniors

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pp. 32-49

Shortly before Clint Eastwood received an award from the Museum of the Moving Image, the Hollywood Reporter dubbed him “The Elder Statesman” (30 November 2009). Soon afterward he was on the cover of AARP Modern Maturity, in which he told an interviewer, “You get to a certain age and you go, ‘I’m the last man standing.’” Hearing that his friend...

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3 - Jennifer Aniston and Tina Fey—Girls with Glasses

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pp. 50-69

As figures who initially rose to prominence on television in the mid-1990s, Jennifer Aniston and Tina Fey starred in top box-office features in the 2000s, each receiving prestigious industry awards, serving as a high-profile spokesperson, driving magazine sales records, and being hailed as, respectively, “the one woman who we find most compelling”...

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4 - Puerile Pillars of the Frat Pack—Jack Black, Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, and Ben Stiller

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pp. 70-89

In June 2004, USA Today gifted a group of comedic actors with a name and bankable identity, the Frat Pack. Comprising a set of primarily television-turned-movie actors, including Jack Black, Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, and Ben Stiller, the “Frat Pack” gained its currency from starring in a series of films that largely deploy fraternity-type puerile humor...

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5 - Javier Bardem and Benicio Del Toro—Beyond Machismo

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pp. 90-107

When Benicio Del Toro was awarded the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2001 for his role as Mexican police officer Javier Rodriguez in Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic (2000), he dedicated his award to the people of Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Mexico. (The sister cities, divided by the U.S.-Mexico border, provided locations for the production of Traffic, a crime...

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6 - Philip Seymour Hoffman—Jesus of Uncool

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pp. 108-127

“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool,” declares music critic Lester Bangs, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, in Almost Famous (2000). I am, by Bangs’s rather unforgiving standards, uncool. And if you’re reading this, it’s a good bet that you are, too. Critics, after all, are inclined to be spectators, perched on the sidelines...

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7 - A Postfeminist Primer—Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hilary Swank, and Renée Zellweger

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pp. 128-146

The 2000s were good to Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hilary Swank, and Renée Zellweger. Three of the most active and acclaimed actresses of their generation, they worked continually over the course of the decade, and, in turn, each was richly rewarded for her efforts, be it with largely laudatory reviews, copious attention, or at least one (Gyllenhaal) and as many as three...

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8 - Heath Ledger—I’m Not There

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pp. 147-165

At the time of his death, Heath Ledger was twenty-eight years old, with the looks that Lasse Hallström once summed up as “that physicality” perfectly intact (Belinda Luscombe, “Heath Turns It Around,” Time, 28 November 2005, 68). He had recently wrapped the role that sent the “rugged” and “mischievous” dimension of his star image into overdrive, but at this moment he lost the tenuous control...

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9 - Leonardo DiCaprio and Sean Penn—Acting Authentic

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pp. 166-181

The star personae of Sean Penn and Leonardo DiCaprio are built around a publicly celebrated ability to act. Each established early in his career performances that were remarked upon as revealing a character while concealing the actor. They are consistently described in the press as disappearing into their roles. Both are also connected, although in different...

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10 - Kate Winslet and Cate Blanchett—The Performance Is the Star

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pp. 182-199

In a decade that saw the potency of stars challenged, as franchises and action films seemed to monopolize the attentions of both studio executives and audiences, who would believe that the career of a female star who concentrates on serious drama could thrive throughout a ten-year stretch? Yet the examples of Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet proved that...

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11 - Brangelina—Celebrity, Credibility, andthe Composite Überstar

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pp. 200-219

There is a stratum of stardom so elevated that it needs only the simplicity of the given name. There is no other Elvis or Arnold or Britney of any real significance. This is paradoxical: the more stratospherically remote a star gets, the more familiar their popular moniker—tabloids and celebrity media deal such names to us as if we were personal friends. Some stars are...

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12 - George Clooney—The Issues Guy

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pp. 220-237

George Clooney has the looks of a classic Hollywood star, somewhere between Gary Cooper and Cary Grant, and his most memorable roles—the eponymous Michael Clayton and Danny Ocean, for instance— take full advantage of the fact. Yet his most significant contribution to American cinema comes less from his appearances in crowd-pleasing entertainments like The Perfect Storm (2000) and Ocean’s Eleven (2001)...

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In the Wings

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pp. 238-242

In the last days of 1919, the star of “Fatty” Arbuckle was most spectacularly on the ascendant, and his legion fans were hardly in a position to suspect that before another two years were out his fame would collapse almost overnight in the harsh glare of the Rappé scandal. A somewhat similar fate befell Errol Flynn in the 1950s, the early (and as yet unreconstructed) career of Rob Lowe late in the 1980s...

Works Cited

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pp. 243-246


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pp. 247-249


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pp. 251-268

E-ISBN-13: 9780813552163
E-ISBN-10: 0813552168
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813551470

Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 64 photographs
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Star Decades: American Culture/American