With a long career, Michael Douglas certainly knows what it takes to carry oneself as a leading actor. Yet, from the perspective as a sage, 70-year-old, second-generation star, he’s noticed a disturbing trend among the latest generation of American actors, particularly the males, that hinders them from reaching their full potential as performers: obsessive image consciousness.
In an interview with The U.K.’s The Independent, Douglas assails the common attribute of narcissism amongst the new crop of American actors. While it may sound like a time-honored tongue-lashing from an elder against the capricious ways of whippersnappers, the Ant-Man star seems to believe that attitudes have become insidious to not only the masculinity of American male leads, but has detrimentally affected the quality and number of projects that get greenlit. According to Douglas:
There’s a crisis in young American actors right now. Everyone’s much more image conscious than they are about actually playing the part.
Douglas makes a direct (albeit generalizing) comparison of young actors in America with those in Britain, who seem to have a more expressed interest in the art of acting, showing serious commitment to the craft. However, when it comes to young American actors, Douglas believes that the increasing superficiality in American culture, magnified by the habitual practice seeking validation on social media, have created an unfortunate degradation in the not just the quality of performers that the current generation has yielded, but also a decline in larger-than-life masculine personalities. He cites the increasing array of Australian leading men as having filled this gap. As Douglas further explains:
With the Aussies, particularly with the males it’s the masculinity. In the US we have this relatively asexual or unisex area with sensitive young men and we don’t have many Channing Tatums or Chris Pratts, while the Aussies do. It’s a phenomena.
According to Douglas, the widespread insecurities and increasing loss of focus among young American talent have taken their toll at the box office, creating quite a deficit of bankable leading men to take the place of the aging predecessors. Consequently, it is his belief that this continues to turn audiences away from the big screen to focus instead on the small one. With the quality of television probably being the highest it has ever been, with streaming technology making it unprecedentedly accessible, Douglas believes that this continues to shift some of the industry’s best creative talent away from short-sighted film studios to the realm of television. This very idea echoes the recent lament of another iconic actor, Dustin Hoffman, who, in a recent rant, also implies that the film industry is at a creative nadir with momentum shifting to the TV.
Whether or not the actual reasons that Douglas cited are valid, the proverbial passing of the baton from one generation of American-made superstars to the next has, barring a few obvious exceptions, mostly hit a mainstream deficit. It could very well be attributed to the increasing alienation of the general public from the personalities that Hollywood showcases. However, the cause may also lie with American society as a whole, who, as they become more interconnected in the social media age, also tend to withdraw to their interests, creating a cultural myopia that makes it difficult for new stars and properties to penetrate. The sea of sequels and reboots, lucrative as they may be, could very well be a testament to Douglas’ gripe.
In the meantime, you can witness Michael Douglas showing the newbies what’s what when he provides Paul Rudd with some stunning tech and worldly advice in Ant-Man when it hits theaters on July 17.