I recently suffered through a god-awful, on-demand movie called 'Hope Springs.' It starred Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell. The flick was laughably bad, and took the word formulaic to a new, all-time low. But, the film also got me thinking about Ms. Streep. Why would one of the great actresses of her era appear in one horrific movie after another? Diane Keaton is another superb actress who has prostituted her craft by appearing in a rash of mindless B-movies.
Pulling a Streep isn’t limited to great actresses, mind you. I’d argue that Robert DeNiro has completely obliterated his legacy with a spate of rubbish that spans at least two decades. And, Dustin Hoffman isn’t far behind Bobby. Luckily, though, for each Streep and DeNiro, there’s a Dame Judi Dench or Al Pacino, who stays true to the art form that is acting.
My wife argues that legendary actors pull a Streep for one of two reasons:
- There simply aren’t that many great roles available to actors and actresses ‘of a certain age’
- They want to keep active with new, and fun, projects.
To which I politely respond, bunk!
If Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty or Al Pacino wants a leading role in an upcoming flick, they’ll get one. Period. Ditto for a Barbra Streisand (ugh) or Sally Field. As for wanting to keep busy, these actors could easily hone their craft by playing regional theatre, say, in Waterville, Maine.
All of this is relevant to you, dear reader, because I’ve seen quite a few legendary PR demi-gods pulling a Streep. I’ve winced as some wizened wise men have droned on endlessly at industry conferences. And, I’ve watched as one in particular dozed off in the middle of a critical briefing from an A-level client to whom we were each providing counsel. I remember pulling our account manager aside afterwards, and asking him to let me know if I’m even coming close to approaching Streep-time.
I think great actors and actresses such as Keaton and Hoffman take ersatz roles for two reasons:
- They need to believe they’re still relevant
- They need to know that today’s audiences still love them.
While none of us will ever achieve the Olympian heights of a Meryl Streep or Robert DeNiro, we will reach a certain level of success. It’s critical that each, and every, one of us knows when to say when (and exit stage left in a graceful manner).
That’s why, after just being named Crain’s BEST Workplace in NYC, I’m thinking about offing myself. I don’t want anyone saying, ‘Man, that guy Steve Cody is sure pulling a Streep, isn’t he?”