I don’t care if you’re a student at Juilliard or Joe Bob’s Acting School in Swamp Town, Louisiana: No one can teach you how to deal with fame. Celebrity is a beast that everyone handles differently.
I remember the first time one of my clients hit it big. The guy landed a series regular role on a one-hour drama that became a high-profile success. It was the kind of show that gets a lot of love at venues like Comic-Con.
Fame hit him like a brick in the face when we met for lunch one day and people kept coming over to take pictures. When we were finally done eating, I gave my ticket to the valet and my client took off because he had parked a few blocks away. That was a mistake. As I pulled out, I noticed he was surrounded by a horde of fans. As a professional talent agent, I’m obligated to act in these kind of situations, so I pulled over and rescued him. After that, the guy started wearing shades and baseball caps when he was out in public.
It’s been my experience that the best part of being famous is all the stuff that comes with it. I’m talking about money, freedom, invitations, gifts, and, best of all, the ability to open doors that have always been closed. But fame itself? That beast can be a blessing and a burden. Going out with friends gets tricky because you are now the center of attention. Running a simple errand is no longer simple. And everything you do or say in public will be judged harshly by people who don’t know you.
The other downside is what happens to your brain when all that fame is gone. Comedian Karl Dane enjoyed quite a bit of success during the silent film era. The man wasn’t on the same level as Chaplin or Keaton, but his movies were popular and profitable. Unfortunately, Dane wasn’t able to make the transition to talkies because of his thick Danish accent. The former star was forced to make a living by selling hot dogs outside the gates of MGM. Nine years after his biggest hit, Karl Dane spread his reviews and magazine articles all over the floor of his tiny apartment and blew his brains out.
Now, here’s the thing. I don’t have any golden nuggets about the best way to deal with fame or how to act when it’s gone. Everyone responds differently. But I do believe you can prepare yourself by understanding the realities in advance. And after speaking to a few stars, I also believe you must surround yourself with friends and family who were there during the dawn of your career. Those are the folks who genuinely care about you and they will help you keep it real.
Do you know Justine Bateman? She grew up in the public eye as one of the stars of the ’80s sitcom “Family Ties.” Her brother was played by Michael J. Fox. I mention Bateman because she just wrote a fabulous book called “Fame: The Hijacking of Reality.” I strongly suggest you pick up a copy. The woman is an excellent writer who speaks from experience. And no, she’s not my client.
Ready to get to work? Check out Backstage’s Los Angeles audition listings!