The “X-factor” is very, very real, despite the lack of success Simon Cowell’s show of the same name has experienced. How else can you explain that one talented, handsome, young actor can carry an action franchise — and another cannot?
This “X-factor” seems to be something the actor Armie Hammer — who can check off being talented, handsome and young — unfortunately lacks. Considering the small handful of movie credits to his name, it may seem a little hasty to make that judgment but then again, Hammer is the leading man in one of the biggest (if not the top) box-office flop of 2013: Disney’s The Lone Ranger, which could end up as a $150 million loss for the House of Mouse, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
This, despite the fact that The Lone Ranger reunites the three primary creative forces behind the wildly popular “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise: super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Gore Verbinski and of course eccentric superstar Johnny Depp. But even those three couldn’t save the film from being labeled as representing “everything that’s wrong with Hollywood blockbusters” by Vulture.
Plain and simple, no matter how much money was spent on The Lone Ranger (and that number is huge, considering the $250 million production budget, not to mention roughly $175 million more on marketing the film), no matter the star power, the flick just plain sucks. The film has an abysmal 25% rating with film critics on Rotten Tomatoes, though mass audiences seem to be kinder.
Now, that isn’t Hammer’s fault by any means, but it begs the question: Can The Social Network star, who then earned a Screen Actors Guild nomination for his role in J. Edgar, ever really carry a film on his own, let alone an action franchise? The answer may be no.
A model for why not may already exist. Like Hammer, Taylor Kitsch had a strong string of roles (Friday Night Lights, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) before he was placed in the starring role of not one, but two blockbuster films in 2012 that could have become action franchises: John Carter and Battleship.
Both, however, imploded at the box office, and for the time being it looks like Kitsch may not be receiving the roles that would indicate he is the type of star actor capable of carrying a movie.
When you look at actors who do have the “X-factor” — that intangible something that goes beyond looks and talent — you realize they possess a certain on-screen presence, an undeniable charisma that wins audiences over and can help overcome a weak plot or iffy script. Like the athlete who puts a mediocre team on his back and pushes them to success, they by their sheer presence make the movie better. Think Depp in the Pirates movies (although he wasn’t really that young at the time) or Ryan Gosling in Drive — an admittedly very good movie that he made great.
Part of the problem is that Hammer may be too good looking (if that is a thing). In a world where male stars are usually jacked like The Rock or Vin Diesel in The Fast & The Furious 6 or ruggedly handsome like Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 3, Hammer’s pretty boy looks seem like they belong more on a European runway than the silver screen. Could that be turning off audiences?
Handsome, talented young actors are a dime a dozen in Hollywood. Success is as much projection selection, picking the right movie to participate in, as it is being in the right place at the right time. In that sense, it is more important what you do off the screen than what you do on it when it comes to being a Hollywood leading man.
Unfortunately for Armie, it remains to be seen if it ever will be Hammer time.