The lure of children’s movies
What’s up with these oldtime, A-List stars popping up in teen films? Earlier in the year, Oscar winner Kate Winslet played a supporting role in sci-fi Divergent.
Before that, Sir Ben Kingsley and Harrison Ford played grownups in the sci- fi mind melter, Ender’s Game.
And this week the Queen of American cinema, Meryl Streep, turns up in the weirdest young adult adaptation to date, The Giver.
Sadly, The Giver doesn’t live up to its exceptional cast, never really landing the emotional punches it aims for.
But thanks to Streep, who plays the ice-cold Chief Elder of utopia built on principles of conformity, it’s not without its moments.
In one scene, she delivers such a beautifully nuanced and rational argument for continuing to medicate away all emotion, you almost agree with her.
Big-name and big-talent stars give high-concept films the weight they need to help them connect with the audience.
Who better to lend your controversial sci-fi credibility than Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford? And while you’re at it, whack someone with a knighthood in there, too.
But that still doesn’t explain what the stars, who may be jeopardising elevated statuses by slumming it in teeny- bopper adaptations, are getting out of it.
Look at The Hunger Games, which managed to lure legends Donald Sutherland and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
Those films came with a readymade audience – fans of the book – and the fact it’s a series meant a steady, very fat, pay packet for those jobbing actors.
It also meant a big profile bump to a new generation of film-goers.
Availability must factor into it, too. Winslet was able to participate in Divergent because the production set its shooting schedule around her availability.
But we’d have to go back even further, to the Harry Potter films, for the reason that resonates with me most.
The late, great Richard Harris, who played Dumbledore in the first two films, before his death in 2002, was reluctant to take part in a children’s fantasy film. According to Empire magazine, Harris finally accepted the role after pressure from an unlikely source.
‘‘It was my granddaughter, Ella, who’s 11, and whom I worship with all my life,’’ Harris said.
‘‘She said, ‘Papa, I hear you’re not going to be in the Harry Potter movie’, and she said, ‘If you don’t play Dumbledore then I will never speak to you again’.’’
Golden age: A-List star Meryl Streep slums it in teen novel adaptation, The Giver.