How do you recall the leading men in Hollywood? Is it the blockbuster Hollywood movies? Most people if asked would answer the same way, the leading character or “the face”. However, many leading men have become memorable due to starring roles in franchise movies. The concept of the Hollywood franchise really took hold with James Bond which today is still #2 top grossing franchise worldwide. Hollywood experimented with other franchises like The Godfather Trilogy in the 70’s to wild success. Star Wars and Rocky started in the late 70’s and of course all of these are still iconic. It seems that the faces of the lead characters in all these franchises are what we recall instantly and without hesitation and they were all lead by men. The faces in the top 30 franchises are a list of who’s who with the box office sales all in the +$1 bill. The actors that the top franchise list includes some young new faces like Daniel Radcliffe, Robert Pattinson, Shia LeBeouf and Toby McGuire. Along side those who we know by just the mention of their names like Arnold, Stallone, Johnny, Cruise.
In the top 30 franchise list one could argue the two who stand out. First Harrison Ford, the face of StarWars, Indiana Jones and Jack Ryan. Right behind him is Sylvester Stallone the face of two franchises, Rocky and Rambo. However there are no other actors who have made the leap to embody more than one franchise besides these two! Telling? Maybe. There is no doubt the concept of a multi-picture story and franchise is lucrative to the movie industry. In reviewing the numbers to see return on investment these franchises standout. Some eye-popping numbers!
- Twilight with 1,083%
- Harry Potter 499%
- Transformers 328%
- Jason Bourne 243%.
In fact, Robert Downey Jr’s career reboot has been wildly successful in his portrayal of IronMan. Two pictures down, IronMan is #16 on the top franchise list1. (Note that none of the numbers are adjusted for inflation, just total sales figures).
It is also interesting to look at all the actors who are the faces of these top 30 franchises to see what their other work consisted of and how becoming the face of the franchise propelled their careers forward when standalone movies seemed to just make money on their name alone.
In researching this article, one actor who has consistently made money sticking with the complex characters is Leonardo DiCaprio. While he is not the face of any particular franchise, the wave of success from Titantic and his own acting abilities have propelled him much further in box-office draw than any of his contemporaries. Call that his pairings with Martin Scorcese and Steven Spielberg and having the ability to pick fabulous stories, Leo seems to be doing it without becoming a franchise face. His box office totals 24 movies and $4.7 billion later seem to stand out when compared with Stallone 40 movies and $4 billion later.
It seems Hollywood can’t get enough of finding a leading man to become the face of a franchise because they are proven money makers. With financing hard to come by due to the economic environment, Hollywood needs something more than a gamble, they need proven winners and franchises have built in audiences and box office draw they can count on. Actors may be unwilling to sign on to franchise movies in fear of being typecast. However the dollars prove that Stallone was able to pull off stories he wrote and directed, which gave him control over his own career. Would it be too much to ask in today’s economy? I think that having the money to finance your own projects provides some power to control the path of your career. If Stallone could do it recently with The Expendables, I think it can still be done. What are your thoughts? Are there any other actors that can take on multiple franchises?