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How To Craft A Cult Film Star

Last Friday the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced that the legendary Mark Hamill is to be honoured with his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, forty years after appearing in the first episode of Star Wars as Luke Skywalker.

2018 will beckon in a whole horde of celebrities who have yet to be acknowledged by the chamber for their contributions to film and television, with Hamill joining the likes of Zoe Saldana, Jennifer Lawrence and Kirsten Dunst. It may come as somewhat of a surprise to fans of the Star Wars franchise that it’s taken so long for Hamill’s name to become immortalised on the Californian sidewalk but he’s only the third from the franchise yet to make the cut – alongside Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams.

Taking into consideration the lengthy and convoluted process it takes for celebrities to achieve their own star on the Walk of Fame, it’s no surprise that it took this long for our favourite Jedi farm boy’s lengthy career to be celebrated and immortalised forever – especially if you account for his status as a cult star.

While the term ‘cult’ is hard to define in reference to film and television, it’s generally accepted that cult entertainment probably had a subpar original release but have since managed to garner a dedicated fanbase who celebrate their existence and subsequent culture vehemently. For a fair few cases, these are films which have found fame long after their premieres – going on to become classics in their genre, or amongst a small audience.

Take a look at any film which is regarded as being cult – or carrying with it some kind of correlative fandom – and you’ll generally find it laying under a blanket of violence, gore, sexual innuendo or a combination of cultural taboo. This leads such films to becoming censored or, in some cases, banned which only serves to further fuel their small but dedicated following. Cult films and, in turn, cult stars are made so by their audience rather than their content or blockbuster prowess.

The first film considered to be a cult film, Nosferatu, had an extremely rocky start following its release – with the widow of Bram Stoker calling for law suit and eventually driving the production company into bankruptcy. Only kept alive by the circulation of illegal bootlegs, Nosferatu found fame due to its incredibly unique visual style and creepy subject matter.

Actors who dabble, or dedicate their lives to, cult films are often far more dedicated to their craft than their A-list counterparts, who get paid inflated amounts to appear in Hollywood blockbusters. It takes a certain level of confidence in your job insecurity to keep coming back to low-budget experimental films, even when Hollywood is calling your name – as was the case for Sigourney Weaver.

A huge name, of course, but Weaver’s most famous role is one which cast a huge spotlight over a genre which had been almost criminally overlooked at the time. The success of Alien, released in 1979, came a year after the opening of Star Wars A New Hope which shares a similarly cult-like status. Bringing the nerdiest side of fiction to the mainstream has become entirely synonymous with the cult genre – films like The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Star Trek and even Harry Potter being some of the most glorious examples.

Cult film stars should be regarded as the most tiresome labourers of Hollywood, with most delivering consistently excellent performances with little monetary payoff, inciting an impassioned work ethic. The stars of bizarre, counter-culture films are well deserving of the intense celebration we see every year at events like Comic-Con but the introduction of more mainstream channels like stars on the Walk of Fame to the sub-culture ensures that their work gains the validation it deserves.

Get Volume #19 here.

Words by Joseph Coupe

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