Movie Stars: Self Images and Subjective Perceptions

What are the subjective attitudes of screen players toward their profession and their status as stars.  These subjective definitions have not been unanimous. They have ranged from total emracement and ownership of public success and commercial popularity to ambivalence to cynicism and to downright rejection of stardom.  Many stars don’t trust their publics, claiming that their tastes are fickle. 

Woody Allen

For example, director-writer-actor Woody Allen observed, “The other day a man came up to me and kept saying, ‘you’re a star, you’re a star.’  I thought: ‘this year I’m a star, but what will I be next year–a black hole?’ 

Other stars are most ambivalent about their status and rewards as screen actors. Dustin Hoffman, for instance, has said that he prefers to work in the theater, where he can exercise more control over his performances than in movies.  “One of the main things about being successful,” Hoffman is reported to have said, “is that I stopped being afraid of dying….I couldn’t understand why that was for a long time, and finally I realized it’s because when you’re a movie star, you’re already dead, you’re embalmed.” 


Steve McQueen, a big commercial star in the 1960s and 1970s, also resented Hollywood: “I only come back and make a movie when I need the money.”  


Robert Redford stated in similar vein, “I look upon going to Hollywood as a mission behind enemy lines.  You parachute in, set up the explosion, then fly out before it goes off.” 


How genuine have these attitudes been?  What are their cultural sources?  Why have American male stars felt a need to defend (even apologize) for their career choice?          

Interviews help us understand the subjective perceptions of their roles as actors and as stars? 

Do they feel any obligation to their publics, without whose support they could not have become stars? 

How do they perceive their duties as movie stars? 

What is the price of achieving commercial popularity and success?