Two weeks ago, Sandra Bullock won the Critic’s Choice Award for Best Actress for her work in The Blind Side. I wasn’t too happy, but I managed. This past weekend, Bullock won the Golden Globe for Best Actress, and once again, I was less than pleased. You see, with every award that Sandra Bullock racks up, her chances to win the Oscar for Best Actress improve, and that, my friends, is a big problem. The way I see it, the Best Actress Oscar is cursed. For the past decade, every woman that has won that award has been reduced to nothing more than box office poison, and Sandra Bullock is far from box office poison! In fact, the Quigley Publishing Company ranked Bullock as the top box office draw of 2009! Audiences connect with her down-to-earth attitude, accessible personality, and comedic chops, and she is one of the few stars whose star power alone can open a movie. With The Proposal having just earned $165 million in 2009 and The Blind Side pushing $230 million, Sandra Bullock is at the top of her game, and I fear that if she wins the Academy Award for Best Actress, her box office viability will quickly deteriorate. It’s happened to hordes of actresses already, and I can only assume the trend will continue this year. Look no further than the career trajectories of the last ten Best Actress winners for my reasoning why Bullock should not win the Oscar:
Since her famous gender-bending role, Swank has hardly been box office gold. Her biggest hit since her 1999 Oscar came from her 2004 Oscar-winning performance in Million Dollar Baby, which earned $100 million. Swank has starred in movies like Insomnia ($67 million) and P.S. I Love You ($53 million) that weren’t total failures, but other than that, with movies like The Affair Of The Necklace ($471,210), The Core ($31 million), The Black Dahlia ($21 million), The Reaping ($25 million), and Amelia ($14 million), her resume isn’t particularly impressive.
Roberts had a banner year in 2001, following her Oscar win. The Mexican earned $66 million, America’s Sweethearts found $93 million, and Oceans Eleven grossed $183 million, but of those films, really only America’s Sweethearts was opened on Julia Roberts’ star power. Since then, her performances in Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind ($16 million), Mona Lisa Smile ($63 million), Closer ($34 million), Charlie Wilson’s War ($66 million against a $75 million budget), and Duplicity ($40 million) haven’t justified the actress’ $20 million salary demands.
Sure, Halle Berry has had a few hits since her brilliant performance in 2001’s Monster’s Ball, but they were all in action franchises. The success of Die Another Day ($161 million), X2: X-Men United ($215 million), and X-Men: The Last Stand ($235 million) had more to do with the famous characters of James Bond and the X-Men than the actors playing them. Mostly, Berry has just made poor decisions about which films to star in. Gothika ($59 million), Catwoman ($40 million), Perfect Stranger ($24 million), and Things We Lost In The Fire ($3 million) all not only under-performed at the box office, they were also all just bad movies.
Studios, if you would like to lose money on a major investment, then by all means, have Nicole Kidman star in your motion picture! She’s proven box office poison! She can help expensive sitcom film adaptations like Bewitched earn just $63 million! She can encourage just $14 million worth of ticket buyers to see Invasion, which cost $80 million! Even more impressive, she can turn a $180 million blockbuster like The Golden Compass into a sad $70 million earner, or a $130 million epic like Australia into a small $49 million picture! Truly, there is no box office poison quite as potent as the fair-skinned Ms. Kidman!
In the six years that have passed since 2003, Charlize Theron has just one successful movie under her belt, and that’s Hancock, which earned $228 million. It was no small secret, though, that Sony completely hid her character in the advertising, instead focusing exclusively on Will Smith and his drawing power. Indeed, I don’t blame them! With meager grosses from films like The Road ($7 million), North Country ($18 million), In The Valley Of Elah ($6.7 million), and The Burning Plain ($200,730), Theron’s biggest hit that was opened on her appeal comes from the laughably bad Aeon Flux, which only earned $25 million.
See 1999 above.
Immediately following her beloved performance as June Carter Cash, Witherspoon starred in two remarkably unsuccessful movies: Rendition ($9.7 million) and Penelope ($10 million). When she got back to doing what she does best in the 2008 comedy Four Christmases ($120 million), her audience returned. I can only hope that if Sandra Bullock is unfortunate enough to win Best Actress at the Oscars, she also will remember that audiences like her for her comedic chops, and no amount of Academy Awards will change that.
To be fair, a woman in her sixties can’t be expected to be a major box office draw, but the reality around Mirren, as well as the next two actresses on this list, is that she’s always been a critical darling, but not a box office heavyweight. National Treasure: Book Of Secrets grossed a great $220 million, but again, the action sequel was its own draw, not the supporting actors. Her other recent films include Inkheart ($17 million) and State Of Play ($37 million), both of which disappointed.
Starred in the pretty well-performing Public Enemies ($97 million), a film marketed solely on Johnny Depp and Christian Bale’s appeal, but she also starred in Nine ($18 million), which has disappointed in every sense of the word.
Ironically, the woman who starred in the biggest (soon to be second biggest) movie of all time, Titanic, has a wholly unremarkable box office record. She hasn’t starred in anything since The Reader, but a quick look at her 2000s movies reveals ample evidence. With movies like Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind ($34 million), Little Children ($5 million), and Revolutionary Road ($23 million), it’s clear that Winslet chooses material that can be hard to market, but there’s just no excuse for the mega-flop of All The King’s Men, which only found $7.2 million, despite a star-studded cast.
Sandra Bullock has infinitely more box office appeal than these actresses, for she can actually open a movie on her star power alone! Hollywood mistakenly believes that because the above women have Oscars, it makes sense to pay them ridiculously high salaries, but from a box office analysis standpoint, they provide very little bang for your buck! Bullock deserves a high salary because of her wide appeal, and I’d hate to see her fall prey to the curse of the Best Actress Oscar- It’s a career killer!