Oscar-winning actors Michael Caine and Emma Thompson are blaming major Hollywood studios for what they say is a damaging new trend — namely, an increase in the hiring of young actors and actresses based solely on the size of their social media following, rather than on any actual acting ability.
“We’re casting actors who have big [social media] followings so the studios can use their followings to sell their movie,” two-time Oscar-winner Thompson told the Telegraph. “The actors are becoming attached in the sort of business way to their social media profiles, and I think that’s a disaster.”
Fellow two-time Oscar-winner and British screen icon Michael Caine seconded the sentiment, telling the paper: “These days, they just say, ‘I’m going to be an actor because I want to be rich and famous.’ And then they do a little part on television and everyone knows who they are.”
“They can’t really act,” Caine said.
According to at least one high-powered social media strategist, Hollywood has indeed spent the last several years snapping up social media-savvy talent to help sell its product to an audience that is tweeting, Instagram-ing and Facebook-ing more than ever before.
“Social is a quantifiable way to know whether or not someone has a large audience,” LaQuishe Wright, founder of Houston, Texas-based Q Social Media, told Fortune magazine in 2014. “It is now part of those casting conversations, not only from a film perspective but for branding deals,” Wright said.
Wright’s client list includes in-demand actors like Zac Efron and major studios including Universal and Sony Pictures.
The trend hasn’t gone entirely unnoticed. Articles like “13 Big-Deal Vine Stars Who Broke Free from Social Media and Onto Television” and “How Hollywood Actors’ Twitter Followings Have Become as Important as Talent” have popped up in recent months.
Last year, a report in Variety highlighted the significant development — more casting directors and talent agencies have abandoned traditional open casting calls and are instead sifting through several different Twitter, Vine, and YouTube accounts in search of Hollywood’s next big-screen star.
Caine believes this method of casting is antithetical to what it means to be an actor in the first place.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be rich, I knew I wasn’t going to be famous,” he told the Telegraph. “I knew I wasn’t going to be a movie star, I just wanted to be a good actor, that’s all.”
Caine began his acting career in the mid-50s with bit parts in several television series before going on to win two career Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor in both Hannah and Her Sisters in 1987 and in The Cider House Rules in 2000. In 2011, he was awarded Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government for his contribution to cinema.
Thompson has also earned two Oscars: Best Actress in 1992’s Howard’s End and Best Adapted Screenplay for 1995’s Sense and Sensibility.
Both actors’ fame and fortune predated the widespread use of social media.