HOLLYWOOD—It used to be that winning an Oscar would be a stepping stone to a long-term movie career full of perks. These days just like finding a job, it means you have to keep your fingers crossed that your TV show pilot gets picked up. It seems that movie stars, especially the ones of a certain age, have been seeking refuge in TV since the 1950s. So many of the Hollywood elite who have won Hollywood’s greatest honor are now flocking to the small screen. Some actors are recognizing that some of the best material and roles are happening on TV, and it seems that the barrier between TV and movies has been lifted to some degree. The transition from movies to TV doesn’t seem to be a problem these days.
Coming this fall, we could see actor Forest Whitaker, playing the head FBI profiler in “Criminal Minds” for CBS. You may recall that Whitaker won an Oscar for “The Last King of Scotland.” Actress Sissy Spacek, who deservingly won an Oscar for “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” may be the star of John Wells’s not-yet titled medical drama for CBS.
Kathy Bates, who has been guest starring on “The Office” and won an Oscar for “Misery,” has been tapped to play a grumpy former patent lawyer in David E. Kelley’s “Kindreds.” Oscar-winner Diane Keaton who won for “Annie Hall,” is rumored to be getting in on the transition, with a starring role in HBO’s comedy “Tilda,” playing an Internet gossip columnist. Another Oscar- winner, Mary Steenburgen who won for “Howard and Melvin,” will play the matriarch of a family who adult kids return home in the ABC comedy “Southern Discomfort.” Oscar-winner Jon Voight who won for “Coming Home” will star as a Texas oilman in the Fox drama “Midland.”
So why is everyone migrating back to TV? Just like cutbacks, in every industry, studios are not paying actors $20 million dollars anymore, even though they are raking in $200 million blockbusters. The actors aren’t making as much as they were, say three years ago. Studios are hiring actors that don’t command such high salaries; they’re hiring kids off “90210.” The Oscar winners go right to the high end of the TV salary range, some of them make as much as $175,000 a week, or roughly $4 million for six months of work.
Now here is one for the record, even though she has never won an Oscar, actress Betty White at the age of 88, is in the midst of a pop-cultural renaissance that is taking our youth-obsessed society by storm. Betty White is more popular today than she was back in her heyday when she starred in the sitcom “Life with Elizabeth,” for which she won the first of six Emmy Awards in 1952. She made her mark on TV with variety and game shows, but became iconic in her two roles as Sue Ann Nivens in the sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and Rose Nylund of “The Golden Girls.” Bettymania began last summer when Betty turned up as a feisty grandma in “The Proposal” starring Sandra Bullock. Then came her speech at the SAG Awards, where she was honored with a lifetime achievement award. Just like the Icelandic volcano, the buzz really erupted when her commercial for a Snickers ad was seen by a record number of Super Bowl viewers. According to press reports, a viewer instigated the “SNL” Facebook campaign that has drawn 500,000-plus fans and landed her fan-generated debut as host of “Saturday Night Live” on May 8. Since everyone loves Betty, it was expected that the show would earn its highest ratings in 18 months.
Rose’s Scoop: The cover of the June issue of Vanity Fair graces two of the most talented players in the world Drogba and the sexy Cristiano Ronaldo.