Smokewood Entertainment

I just saw a clip for the movie Tennessee with Mariah Carey. SHE WAS BAD. How many chances do these people get? Her, Dane Cook, Jessica Simpson—anyone famous for things other than acting.
—Cristina, Fort Collins, Colo.

Hate to break this to you, but the movie business has never been about talent or quality. Seriously. Not even The Lord of the Rings. It's about money.

Casting big-name twits like Jessica Simpson or Dane Cook is about capturing a certain young demographic, turning it upside down en masse, and shaking out any cash it has in its collective Dickies.

So it doesn't matter, at all—ever—whether Mariah Carey has mastered the Method, or whether Justin Timberlake can cry on cue, as long as their fans pay enough money for a studio to turn a profit. In the case of Tennessee, which premieres this week at the Tribeca Film Festival, at least one group of producers is expecting just that and nothing more.

"It's an answer based on economics and popularity," says casting director Jane Jenkins, who is currently working on Angels and Demons, you know, The Da Vinci Code prequel starring Tom Hanks. "If a film can be made at a reasonable cost, and the fan base is reasonably expected to cover that, then the celebrity gets a chance."

And another chance, and another, into eternity, even, as long as there is money to be made. Simpson can't read a line without wagging her neck like a chicken. Yet she continues to get movie roles, because some of her projects, including—yes—Dukes of Hazzard, were profitable, and because she still has fans that will watch her in anything. The same can't be said for an unknown.

And, per IMDb, Simpson only charges about $1 million, give or take, which, seriously, in this business, isn't that much for a brand-name celebrity. And like it or not, that's just what Simpson is: An established brand name. Like Chicken of the Sea.

Got a question about Hollywood? ASK IT!

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