So, I ponder this question because of two recent items I saw.
First, I saw a blurb on a movie site suggesting I check out the upcoming film 12 Years a Slave “starring Brad Pitt.” Having read about this film a few weeks ago, I was flabbergasted by that description, as there is no way the film could possibly “star” Brad Pitt. I’m sure he is in it, but unless they’ve drastically adapted the book it is based on ( the memoir of an African-American slave who lived during the 1800s), Brad Pitt just can’t be the “star.”
Because Brad Pitt has such a huge fan base, I’m sure the site hoped to tap into that and get those people to go check it out. But, it felt entirely false, because if you say a movie stars an actor, you’re implying that actor is the main guy (especially if you don’t list anyone else along with it). Now this ad was on a movie news site, not the film company’s site. When you go to www.12yearsaslave.com, Brad Pitt is listed eighth or ninth among people in the cast, which includes Chiwetel Ejiofor (the star), Michael Fassbender and Benedict Cumberbatch. So, this was clearly overzealousness on the part of an independent site.
The second thing that made me wonder about the importance of a big name was the reveal that JK Rowling (of the Harry Potter empire) penned a detective novel under a pseudonym. The book got wonderful reviews, but only sold about 1,500 copies prior to Rowling being revealed as the author. After that, sales skyrocketed, making the book number one on several book-selling sites.
Good reviews and no name equaled mediocre sales. Once the big name was revealed, it was a runaway success.
It’s interesting how important a big name can be (in Rowling’s case), as well as how important people think it is (in the suggestion that Brad Pitt was the star of a film about a slave).
I suppose, ultimately, big names don’t mean anything if people aren’t interested in the product that has been put out. I think Johnny Depp and Arnie Hammer (Lone Ranger) or even Will Smith (After Earth) could you tell you something about that.