Monday, August 20, 2012

The curse of 'Diner'

I just read that Daniel Stern is playing The Old Man, the father of teenaged Ralphie, in the sequel to "A Christmas Story." That's wrong for an infinite number of reasons -- the phrase "teenaged Ralphie" is enough -- but hearing about "A Christmas Story 2" made me think about the curse of "Diner," working as strongly as ever on the 30th anniversary of that great film.

The movie put debut director Barry Levinson on the map; he earned an Oscar-nomination for his original screenplay about Baltimore guys in 1959 who don't understand themselves, their women or the world. It provided high-profile roles for Stern, Kevin Bacon, Steve Guttenberg, Mickey Rourke, Tim Daly, Paul Reiser and Ellen Barkin.

Yet 30 years later, they barely register on Hollywood's radar. Some got lost in the wasteland of TV sitcoms. Other burned themselves out or acted like prima donnas, burning directors out. Bacon became best known as the guy in "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," a game that showed how prolific he was, but he has had one significant film role in the last nine years: the Nazi maniac in the "X-Men" prequel.

Levinson himself had a terrific decade from 1982 through 1991: he won an Oscar for directing "Rain Man," was nominated for writing "Avalon" and was nominated for directing and producing "Bugsy." Then came the excruciating "Toys," the dumb "Jimmy Hollywood," the pulpy "Disclosure" and a career littered with the likes of "Bandits" and "What Just Happened." His next project, "The Bay" (about an ecological disaster in Maryland), isn't likely to give him a boost at 70.

All of these folks still work steadily somewhere, of course. Nobody has ended up on Skid Row or requires our pity. But they remind us that the people we thought we'd become when we were 25 or 30 are seldom the ones we see in the mirror three decades later.


Anonymous said...

I think it is more of an indication of how hard it is to have a career for 30 years. The fact that two of that cast -- Mickey Rourke and Kevin Bacon -- can still get lead roles in major productions, is a great sign.

At various times in the last three decades, Guttenberg, Stern, Barkin and Reiser were all considered hot properties in Hollywood. (OK, maybe a stretch for Daniel Stern, but he did star in Home Alone and was the lead in a few other comedies.) If a curse is that you ONLY get to be a star in Hollywood for 30 years -- Bacon -- then that is a great curse.