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  #1  
Old 05-26-2001, 04:53 PM
sjc sjc is offline
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This is something that I've wondered about for years but never really investigated: Why is it that on movie Posters the names of the actors frequently appear above the head of the wrong actors? I think this is a pretty common practice, although it may be that I am only noticing the times when it happens and ignoring the other times.

I'm not sure I asked that question very clearly so I'll provide an example. Say a movie has Danny Devito and Julia Roberts in it. Say that they both appear prominantly on the Poster. Typically their names will appear at the top of th poster but inexplicably the name "Julia Roberts" will appear above Danny Devito and the name "Danny Devito" will appear above the head of Julia Roberts. I've even seen this happen when there are three or four people on the poster, all of them with the wrong name above their heads. I mentioned this once to my sister and her friend who works at a movie theater. My sister had never noticed this buther friend who worked at a movie theater had noticed it.

I believe I have seen at least one poster with the right names over the actors' heads but I have seen plenty of posters with incorrect names.

Has anyone else noticed this? Is this some sort of policy of the movie business? Is it a consequence of another policy such as negotiations of who gets billing? Is it just because of mis-communication between those who create the images and those who create the text? Or is it some sort of conspiracy designed to confuse us?
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  #2  
Old 05-26-2001, 04:59 PM
MrDeath MrDeath is offline
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You're getting Julia Roberts and Danny DeVito confused? Time to visit your optometrist. Waaaaaaaay past time, in fact.
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  #3  
Old 05-26-2001, 05:24 PM
mongrel_8 mongrel_8 is offline
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sjc, yeah I have seen this too, but I can't offer any reason why it is like that.
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  #4  
Old 05-26-2001, 05:25 PM
dodge_this dodge_this is offline
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I've noticed this too. I'm not in the movie business but I always had the impression that it's probably stated in the star's contract if he/she gets first billing - on posters, in the opening credits etc.

So following this, you would have your order of names first, then your art department would have to go find a still-shot for the promo art. If the faces don't match the names, then I suppose a) they couldn't find a still to match the order b) they didn't think it would annoy anyone that much if the names didn't match and went ahead with whatever shot they liked.

I'm sure someone on this board would have a more accurate answer...
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  #5  
Old 05-26-2001, 05:28 PM
sjc sjc is offline
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Julia Roberts is the short, bald one right?

Seriously though, has anyone else noticed that they put the wrong name above the actors on movie posters? Why would they do this? What if the actors are all unknowns? It seems like it would make sense to put the name on top of the correct person so that an ill-informed movie-goer wouldn't make mistakes.
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  #6  
Old 05-26-2001, 05:33 PM
sjc sjc is offline
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Hey, someone actually replied with a useful comment on this question while I was typing out a plea for it to be taken seriously!

Thanks for the reply. This was kind of what I was thinking myself, but would like to know for sure if this is the reason or if everyone agrees that no one knows for sure.
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  #7  
Old 05-26-2001, 05:37 PM
Achernar Achernar is offline
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Are you talking about something like this: The Matrix movie poster (For the ill-informed out there, Laurence Fishburne is the taller bald one, and Keanu Reeves is the taller one with hair.) I don't think that the proximity of the names with the heads is supposed to imply who's who. I think you should just get used to the fact that: they usually put the name of the actor who plays the bigger character first, and the graphic is designed to look good, not tell you the names of the actors. With that in mind, you could probably guess, for instance, in The Matrix poster there, since the skinny younger guy in the middle dominates the shot, he's probably got top billing, so he's probably Keanu Reeves. The next-most-important-looking character is just over Keanu's right shoulder, so that's probably Laurence Fishburne!
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  #8  
Old 05-26-2001, 05:40 PM
aseymayo aseymayo is offline
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I'm sure the matter of who gets top billing is part of it, but I'm willing to believe there's also a subtle psychological element to it - like those little experiments performed by psych students on college campuses everywhere that prove people pay more attention to a sign if it's hung upside down or sideways or something. You walk by the poster, see Julia with Danny's name overhead and you pause for a closer look, giving the poster more attention than if it had the correct order of names and faces.
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  #9  
Old 05-26-2001, 06:37 PM
RAWisSYDNEY RAWisSYDNEY is offline
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I also noticed this with goood will hunting.

I thinkk maybe they do it to show that none of the main stars is better than the others??
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  #10  
Old 05-26-2001, 06:38 PM
RAWisSYDNEY RAWisSYDNEY is offline
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by the way...
http://www.allposters.com/items/34/152765.asp
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  #11  
Old 05-26-2001, 07:09 PM
Achernar Achernar is offline
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Oh, I don't know about that. Check out the DVD cover. It looks like they wanted Robin Williams to get top billing, even though they mention on the cover that Williams won an Academy Award for best supporting actor. Weird.
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  #12  
Old 05-27-2001, 03:12 AM
silent_rob silent_rob is offline
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I'm pretty sure it has to do with who gets top billing for the movie. Many times, as has been pointed out, actors have their billing worked into their contract (in Se7en, Kevin Spacey wasn't billed at all). Often times, this includes being billed last with big stars in smaller movies (I do believe Mel Gibson had in his contract for The Million Dollar Hotel that he be billed last).

But the main thing is that the art department works separately from that legal department. For the most part, the artwork is done first and then the names are added later. A poster might not even have all of the cast on it, or if it does, they might not all be lined up on the poster. It's just easier to do the art and add the names afterwards. Then it gets down to who gets the billing and in what order, and that's the order put at the top (or wherever).

On posters, you can usually double-check this. The billing order is the order of the cast in the credits at the bottom of the poster (production company Presents, etc...). On all of the movie posters that I own that have actors' names at the top, it matches the billing at the bottom.
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  #13  
Old 05-27-2001, 09:37 AM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is online now
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It is indeed a matter of billing, which is spelled out quite specifically in a star's contract. Best place is at the top left and actors often fight to get that. The classic example was in "The Towering Inferno," where Paul Newman and Steve McQueen (or rather, their agents) fought over who got top billing. The original poster displayed them like this:

PAUL
NEWMAN
STEVE
McQUEEN

Newman was the top, McQueen at the left.

Of course, this brings up the question (it doesn't "beg the question") -- why don't the photographers keep the billing in mind when composing the photo. It may be possible that the position in the photo is also determined by contract (someone might be willing to have their name be listed in the middle if they're on the left of the photo), or it may just be that the photographer doesn't pay attention to such things.
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  #14  
Old 05-27-2001, 11:03 AM
dodge_this dodge_this is offline
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I hate to hijack a good thread but I've been thinking - Following the logic that a star's billing is stated in his/her contract, does that include whether the name appears before the title (or in some instances, the opening credits)?

I'm guessing if a star has crowd-pulling power, it makes sense. For example, Robert DeNiro or Harrison Ford. I totally agree with. But I was looking at Ben Affleck's name on top of all the 'Pearl Harbour' promo art and started feeling, 'Hey, that doesn't look right.'

Maybe I'm just biased. Sorry, end of hijack.
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  #15  
Old 05-27-2001, 11:13 AM
MovieMogul MovieMogul is offline
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Quote:
I'm guessing if a star has crowd-pulling power, it makes sense. For example, Robert DeNiro or Harrison Ford. I totally agree with. But I was looking at Ben Affleck's name on top of all the 'Pearl Harbour' promo art and started feeling, 'Hey, that doesn't look right.'
Well, compared to Kate Beckinsale and Josh Hartnett, Affleck is the big name in the film (especially since Gooding & Baldwin have only a fraction of his screen time reportedly--haven't seen the film). It is kind of sad though...

Yes, though, an actor's contract can often stipulate if his/her name is above/before the title. Another interesting example in name placement is the opening credit of Cheers--since neither Ted Danson nor Shelley Long wanted to have what appeared to be second billing, one's name is above the other's, but also farther to the right, so the TV frame's balanced and, presumably, one credit doesn't stand out more than the other.
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  #16  
Old 05-27-2001, 03:07 PM
pesch pesch is offline
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Yes! That type of neutral placement (Star one at top right-hand corner, Star two down and to the left) is the way to handle stars of equal power. This way, they're both getting top billing.

And not only does placement of credit get worked into the contracts, but also the font size, such as "Star's name will be displayed in the same point size as the Movie Title." When it comes to asserting egoboos down to the nths degree, theologians arguing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin don't come close to the modern Hollywood contract.
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  #17  
Old 05-27-2001, 05:37 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is online now
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The billing is very important to the stars, since the studios pay them according to their billing in other films. Some actors don't like taking a small part -- even if they want to -- because the next time the negotiate, the studio will say "you didn't star in your last film, so you don't get a star's salary in ours."
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  #18  
Old 05-27-2001, 07:30 PM
sjc sjc is offline
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Well, it seems everyone agrees as to why this is. I'd like to know if any of you can back this up beyond "I'm guessing this is why..." It's fine if you can't, but I'll be more convinced if someone said "I'm in the movie business and I have seen this happen."
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  #19  
Old 05-27-2001, 10:35 PM
Cartooniverse Cartooniverse is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by pesch
And not only does placement of credit get worked into the contracts, but also the font size, such as "Star's name will be displayed in the same point size as the Movie Title."
Boy, you can say that again. ( yeah yeah, I know- and thanks to the wonder of the Internet, you COULD say it again. Don't. ).

Here's a great point to support your point. Julia Phillips was the first female to win an Oscar as Producer of the Best Picture. It was for "The Sting".

Her contract specified that her name appear as the same SIZE as the other two producer's names in the film's credits. Didn't say squat about how THICK each letter was to appear. That's right, her name was tall but oooooh so thin up there on the screen.

She won the Big Guy anyway Went on to write a great tell-all book on Hollywood in the '70's and '80's called " You'll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again".

Live and learn, huh?

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