2012 could be best remembered as the year when Hollywood got cold feet and backed away from its newest stars-in-the-making. To wit: While the Internet and the movie-blog industry loves Tom Hardy, The Weinstein Company knows the signal-to-noise ratio just doesn’t match and they bumped “The Wettest County” (a prohibition drama that Hardy stars in) in the release schedule until after “The Dark Knight Rises” (Hardy is the main villain), hoping the immense popularity of that picture will only help the awareness of the limited release drama centering on three brothers who run an illegal moonshine operation.
Another star to be, Nicholas Hoult, had a bad year too. After a promising turn in “X-Men: First Class,” he was cast as the young star of the fairy tale film, “Jack the Giant Killer,” but when Warner Bros. realized no one yet knew who Hoult was and the awareness for the film wasn’t high after a medicore first trailer, they pulled the film from summer 2012 to the less important March 2013 season. Seeing their tentpole-esque awareness-helping meal ticket back up and move out, Summit Entertainment, the company behind Hoult’s zombie-romance picture, “Warm Bodies,” also retreated, pulling their film from summer 2012 to February 2013. Even the Jeremy Renner-starring “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” pulled the same move (Paramount wants that picture to hit after “The Bourne Legacy,” which presumably will make him a bonafide star).
There’s more examples to be sure, but the point is, that buzz and the awareness don’t always match and when release date time starts to roll around, when that ratio doesn’t change, studios get nervous. However, the one studio sticking to their guns is 20th Century Fox. The lead of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is an even bigger unknown in Broadway actor Benjamin Walker who starred in a similar presidential-redefining story called, “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” (that president as an emo rock star). Outside of that Broadway appearance, Walker is perhaps best known as almost appearing in “X-Men: First Class” (he landed the role, but it was recast, ironically to the aforementioned Hoult).
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov (“Wanted”) and produced by Tim Burton, Fox has practically done the opposite of the other studios. Shown multiple trailers and clips and unveiled several photos months in advance of its June 22, 2012 release date. They’re moving full steam ahead and showing a lot of confidence, but the question remains, will audiences flock to a movie where a young Abraham Lincoln discovers vampires are planning to take over the United States and makes it his mission to eliminate them if there’s no star in the movie? And rememeber: other cast members like Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Rufus Sewell, Alan Tudyk and Mary Elizabeth Winstead aren’t household names yet either.
Well, the answer in this case might be yes. Fox obviously already had massive success with a unknown (Sam Worthington) leading a huge tentpole in James Cameron‘s “Avatar,” but arguably that film would have been a huge hit with anyone in the lead role as it was all about the spectacle, effects and the Cameron-pedigree — this was the director’s first film since “Titanic,” which also starred relative unknowns at the time. The point is, the subjects and contents are the stars here (vampires in a period-piece setting), not the actors. And while Hollywood still gets nervous when there isn’t a true A-lister in the leading role (more on that subject soon), there’s always an exception to every rule.