“Destination store” is a marketing term. In retailing it describes a business which doesn’t need to be near other companies or restaurants to succeed. Where most stores need the cumulative value a shopping center provides to bring in customers a destination brings in business on its own.
Think of Ikea. Ikea is the quintessential destination store. It offers a unique assortment of products. Ikea brings more to the table with its services and cafes (and delicious meatballs) than competitors offer. Most importantly, Ikea locates where it wants, and, no matter where that is, customers will flock because what Ikea offers is worth the drive regardless of whatever else is around.
Acting works the same way. At any given time there will always be a select few actors who are so talented and so in control of their craft that moviegoers need to see any movie they are in. The movie’s they make don’t have to be giant blockbusters, but they have to be of consistently high quality.
There’s no detailed blueprint for how to be a destination actor. All that matters is being the best at what you’re doing: drama, comedy, action, or otherwise for an extended period of time. If we look back in time it’s easy to pick out the top destination actors in any given decade.
Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant owned the fifties with legacy making films like Rear Window and North by Northwest respectively. They may have both hitched their careers to Alfred Hitchcock in the fifties, but, don’t doubt for a moment; it was a two way street.
The sixties were ruled by “The King of Cool” Steve McQueen and Sidney Poitier’s uncanny gravitas. The seventies belonged to Al Pacino and his role as the unforgiving Michael Corleone as well as Clint Eastwood’s stare and Jack Nicholson’s neurosis (give and take a year).
Robert De Niro conquered the eighties, period. Tom Cruise might have faired better than a distant second if not for the sin against humanity know as Cocktail.
Tom Hanks did it all in the nineties: from drama (Philadelphia) to romance (Sleepless in Seattle) to war epic (Saving Private Ryan) to kid friendly (Toy Story I and II). His Philadelphia co-star, Denzel Washington, was a force himself with career defining roles in Malcolm X and Crimson Tide.
The most recent decade. The oughts? They had a few destination quality actors to decide between, but the most notable have to be the pair of one time child stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale. DiCaprio for his dominance of the action-drama, and the Caped Crusader himself Christian Bale because he pushed his limits constantly beyond their foreseeable bounds.
We’re far enough into the 2000’s teenage years to start pondering the question: who will the destination actors of this decade be? It’s worth a great deal of consideration. If you plant your flag in the right camp now it’ll mean a decade of ecstasy inducing performances with little to no disappointment in-between.
A top ten list seems in order. The goal? Rank the likely contenders in order to give you, me, and everybody else the best chance to catch lightening in a bottle, at least until 2020 rolls around.
Honorable and Dishonorable mentions
The thing about Ewan McGregor is… he makes a lot of bad movies. His good roles can be excellent and even in his lesser films he shines. The issue is he pumps out a much higher quantity of forgettable films lately than memorable.
In contrast to Ewan McGregor, Brad Pitt rarely makes an out-and-out bad film. The issue for him is seemingly unavoidable though. His fame and charm are on a level above his actual acting. His movies tend to be between enjoyable and really enjoyable but never much more. His most noted recent films (The Tree of Life and Inglourious Basterds) are notable primarily for reasons beyond him. He’s the Swedish meatballs at Ikea: They’re delicious and add to the experience, but they’re rarely a reason to go on their own.
Bankability: The relative perception of an actor’s ability to single handedly make a film profitable. Will Smith is Bankable. He is not a destination actor. Much has been made over the last decade about Smith’s uncanny ability to produce a constant stream of movies which gross over $100 million, but finding the destination actors is all about looking past public perception, and instead focusing in on the actual product an actor is producing.
I’m here to tell you, Will Smith makes bad movies. Men in Black II, Shark Tale, I, Robot, Hitch, The Pursuit of Happiness, I Am Legend, Hancock, and Seven Pounds were his last nine major releases. Of those only four received a majority of positive reviews, and most people wouldn’t describe even the best of this selection with a superlative better than “good.”
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