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The Greatest Showman – Chapter 63

Chapter 63 – Distinct Preferences

Roy had to take a deep breath and adjust his thoughts before he started explaining with great emphasis, “‘Thor’ is a top-notch production. Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures have full confidence in this work and have given it a budget of 150 million dollars! 150 million dollars, that’s the average investment level for top Hollywood productions today.”

As an official agent of the American Actors’ Union, Roy mostly handles independent productions invitations because every agent knows that 95% audition invitations for the big-budget projects with investments of over 100 million dollars are in the hands of top agents from the five major agencies. Other agents cannot even get close to these kinds of resources, let alone a top project with the investment of 150 million dollars – and this is also for the filming of the hottest comic book adaptation project in the past two years!

“If you can pass the audition, you’ll be the male lead in a top production. You know, 99% of male actors in Hollywood are willing to strip naked and climb onto the producer’s bed for such an audition opportunity, and they wouldn’t even care if the producer is a man or a woman!” Roy’s vivid metaphor made Renly smile, which made Roy speechless.

“No, even if it’s just an opportunity for an audition, that is enough to spread your name in the industry.” Roy emphasized that strongly. For Hollywood, opportunities are a delicate thing, and sometimes just a chance to audition for a top agent, a top producer, or an audition opportunity for a top production can be enough to turn an actor’s future upside down.

Renly didn’t interrupt Roy prematurely, instead he listened to him with a smile on his face, making sure Roy was finished before he spoke, “I know all this. But I also know what it means if the audition ends up being successful.” Renly paused. “It means at least five or even six movie contracts; it means fully cooperating with Marvel for promotion, with almost no room for personal development; it means the label of a commercial actor will stay attached to me forever.”

The most representative example is Chris Evans. Before he became famous, he was active in youth school comedies, relying on showing off his muscles and silly humor to sustain his acting career. Later, he was discovered by Disney, which had completed the acquisition of Marvel Entertainment, and he ended up acting as Captain America.

At that time, Chris signed six movie contracts at once, getting a measly salary of only 300,000 US dollars per movie. Later, when the movies became popular, Robert Downey Jr., who played Iron Man, had a salary of up to 40 million, so Disney symbolically raised Chris’s salary and gave him the power to get share in box office earnings, but compared to Robert, it was like night and day.

Of course, more importantly, “Captain America” became Chris’s label, and it shackled him for the next six to seven years, and his performing career was almost entirely mired in the mud, not only because his on-screen image was fixed after the success of the movies but also because Marvel’s contract required actors to maintain a relatively positive image to coordinate with promotions. In other words, both in and outside of the movies and in their personal lives, they were all restricted.

In fact, not just Chris, almost all the main actors in the Marvel series and movies faced the same problem. Even Robert Downey Jr. was no exception, after his other works outside of Marvel failed one after another, he focused his heart and soul on exploring the potential of the “Sherlock Holmes” series, hoping to expand his career.

Marvel giveth, as well as Marvel taketh away.

Roy didn’t speak immediately, instead he stayed silent and thought carefully for a while. “You’re not interested in commercial movies?” This was the only explanation Roy could think of.

From his solid acting in the “The Pacific” to his folk song “Cleopatra”, and to his honing of acting skills in Broadway – from these details one can guess that Renly is an actor who pursues art and is bound to seek more breakthroughs in acting. Therefore, it is not surprising that he refused an audition offer for a commercial film.

For Hollywood, the nature of actors is very important. To put it bluntly, there are artistic actors and commercial actors. The former mainly work in independent art films, making their way in Hollywood with solid acting skills, while the latter mainly focuses on commercial movies, and their box office appeal and audience affinity are their tools to reach the top.

Although commercial actors often appear in some artistic films to gain favor, and vice versa, crossing over and achieving success is extremely difficult. This is one of the reason why Steven Spielberg’s status in the industry is so special, and likewise one of the important factors why Meryl Streep’s status in the industry is so lofty.

As an example, we can mention two actors, one is George Clooney, who entered the movie industry from the field of television dramas. After the disastrous failure of “Batman and Robin,” Warner Bros. put the Batman character on hold for a decade, causing George to stay away from commercial films, and he focused solely on making artistic films. Although he had a small success with the “Ocean’s Eleven” series, the disastrous failure of “Tomorrowland” in 2015 brought him back to square one.

The other example is Scarlett Johansson, whose works such as “Lost in Translation,” “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” and “Match Point” showcased her immense potential as a rising star. After playing Black Widow in “Iron Man 2,” she achieved unparalleled success in the commercial field. However, from that point she has not been able to win the favor of the Academy with her artistic works.

This is where the importance of an agent can be seen. An agent has a clear plan for the actor’s future, including when to take on artistic films, when to appear in commercial films to increase exposure, how to choose commercial films, and whether to focus on networking with directors and producers for artistic films, or simply to take on a role based on the script.

This is all very particular, and it is also a bargaining chip for top agents to get 10% of the film’s box office earnings.

“If that’s the case, then you should definitely do this audition,” Roy suggested in a professional manner. “Not necessarily to succeed in the audition, but to increase your exposure. Only then will you have enough freedom to choose your future works. Otherwise, as a newcomer, nobody knows you, and you may not even get a shot for another audition, so what’s the point of talking about future positioning?”

This is a common problem among new actors that aim too high.

“First of all, if I audition for a role, I naturally have to do my best to try to get the role, don’t I?” Renly’s confident attitude made Roy pause, unable to refute and in the end, Roy couldn’t help but laugh, “Secondly, I’m interested in commercial films. In fact, I think appearing in commercial films should be a wonderful experience. If given the opportunity, I will definitely try my best to get the role.”

Renly was telling the truth. Commercial movies are indeed different. Although they do not test the actors’ skills to a great extent, Renly always believed that the charm and depth that actors give to their roles have nothing to do with the subject matter itself. Matt Damon’s solid performance in “The Bourne Identity” was impressive, not to mention Heath Ledger’s iconic performance in “The Dark Knight”.

Moreover, the rewards of acting in commercial movies are completely different. Imagine being immersed in the magical world of “The Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter,” or the spy world of “007,” or in the grand universe of “Star Wars.” These are things that cannot be experienced in real life. Participating in them as an actor is bound to be very interesting.

Being able to experience different tastes of life is also the reason why Renly has always been passionate about the acting profession. Therefore, Renly not only does not reject it, but is also very eager to try it.

However, Marvel movies are not suitable for him currently, or at least not the lead roles. Because Renly knows very well that once he appears in one, he probably won’t be able to get rid of that label. But if he could play a villain in a Marvel movie, in his opinion that would be a better idea.

“I’m just not interested in Thor. If it was Loki, I would give it a try.” Renly’s answer almost made Roy’s eyes pop out – giving up the lead role and instead choosing a supporting role? If he was a top actor, that would be understandable, but Renly is just a newcomer? This… this is simply a fairy tale.

Roy swallowed his saliva and suddenly didn’t know what to say. Renly refused to appear in this commercial film as a lead role but was willing to audition for the role of Loki. “You know, you don’t have the bargaining capital.”

Renly shrugged his shoulders with a smile. “So, I just chose to decline.” Renly knew that such opportunities were indeed rare, but it wasn’t what he wanted. “But I’m really not interested in playing a superhero. I don’t think I have the temperament of a superhero.” After saying that, Renly also laughed at himself, with a relaxed and contented demeanor.

Roy finally realized that it wasn’t that Renly was too stupid or too arrogant, on the contrary, it was because Renly was too wise and mature. He knew what he wanted, with clear goals and distinct preferences. He will not compromise easily, as well as he will not give up easily. Such a person entering Hollywood might encounter some twists and turns at first, but as long as he is given a chance, he would firmly grasp it and shine brilliantly.

Suddenly, Roy realized, could “The Pacific” be such an opportunity? The audition invitation for “Thor” might be the first indication.

“Phew…” Roy took a deep breath, reorganized his thoughts, and said, “I brought the script with me, take it back and take a look.” Seeing that Renly also wanted to say something, Roy stopped him this time and continued, “If you find the script interesting and plan to audition for the role, then this is also going to be an opportunity for you. At least you can go to the producers and say you want to play the role of Loki.”

Renly couldn’t help but chuckle.

“If you find it uninteresting, just give me a call later, and I’ll handle all the details with Marvel.” The role of the bad guy should be handled by the agent, otherwise if the production company has a bad impression of the actor, it will be difficult to reverse it.

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3 thoughts on “The Greatest Showman – Chapter 63”

  1. Lol, for a person that re-life the past after experiencing the future, my guess is Renly liked the script, but he won’t accept being Thor cause he prefer more versatile role than one track minded Thor role.
    Also I remember that one audition video of Tom Hiddleston auditioning as Thor with hammer poses but end up as more fun (role) as Loki instead. XD

    1. Welp some typo, i meant ‘Renly as a person that re-life the past after experiencing the future…’

  2. This novel really does show the inner workings of Hollywood and movies, actors etc. using real life examples. How an image can stick to an actor, etc. the author has really done well.

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