This summer was magical one. That’s because Harry Potter and his fellow wizard pals reigned supreme at the box office. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the final installment of the eight-chapter film series, grossed nearly $1.3 billion worldwide at the box office, making it the No. 1 movie for the year.
With Labor Day fast approaching, it’s time to take a look back at how other British films and stars did during the summer season. Which movies and actors were winners and, on the flip side, which were the big losers?
Going as far back as May, the kickoff of the summer movie season, here are the winners:
• Kenneth Branagh, for directing Thor, which grossed $448 million worldwide and is considered the successful cinematic launch of yet another Marvel superhero. Aussie Chris Hemsworth played the hammer-wielding hunk, while Sir Anthony Hopkins portrayed his royal father.
• Michael Sheen, who memorably played an unctuous academic in Midnight in Paris, the art house comedy hit that has become director Woody Allen’s highest grossing film ever at $92 million worldwide.
• Director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake) and stars James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender (okay, he’s Irish) for X-Men: First Class. The mutant vs. mutant prequel grossed $352 million worldwide and goosed new life into the series.
• Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Jason Isaacs and Eddie Izzard all lent their voices to Pixar’s Cars 2, the animated sequel which vroomed to $452 million globally. Critics may have labeled this one a backfiring jalopy, but the target audience, kids and their parents, showed up in droves.
• Irishman Colin Farrell, sporting a paunch and a comb over, popped up to potent comic effect in Horrible Bosses, an R-rated comedy that took in $158 million worldwide. Welsh-born Ioan Gruffudd also earned laughs in the movie, showing up for a “peequant” – he played a man who’s paid to urinate on others for their sexual pleasure – cameo.
• Dominic Cooper scored in two of the summer’s successful films: Captain America, in which he played the dapper father of Iron Man in a supporting role, and The Devil’s Double, a breakout star turn, in which he shined in dual roles as Saddam Hussein’s psycho son and his lookalike body double.
• Comedian Joe Cornish made a promising debut as a writer-director with Attack the Block, an alien invasion comedy that made up with laughs and smarts what it lacked in budget.
• The always-entertaining Scotsman, Alan Cumming, provided the voice for Gutsy Smurf in The Smurfs, a kiddie film that surprised everyone by grossing $331 million worldwide. You can bet there’s already a sequel in the works.
Not everyone landed in the winner’s column. Here is this summer’s list of Brit losers:
• Submarine sadly remained submerged at the box office, grossing under a half million dollars in the U.S. (and $2.4 million elsewhere). The appealing indie comedy, written and directed by The IT Crowd‘s Richard Ayoade, was a coming of age story and featured Craig Roberts as its teen hero and Sally Hawkins as his mother.
• Playing Sinestro, Mark Strong made a strong impression in Green Lantern, but the superhero movie proved a weakling at the box office, grossing under $200 million worldwide. At Lantern‘s end, Strong was tipped as the villain in a sequel, but it’s now questionable whether that follow-up will ever be made.
• Daniel Craig, trying to move beyond his James Bond niche, stumbled big time when the genre-bending sci-fi western, Cowboys & Aliens. One of the summer’s major bombs, it has grossed only $110 million worldwide since its July 29 opening.
• Jim Sturgess is still a star waiting to happen. His copious charm wasn’t enough to lure audiences to One Day, a romantic drama based on English author David Nicholl’s bestselling novel. It didn’t help that American-born costar Anne Hathaway‘s Northern accent came in for a drubbing from British critics.
• Inexplicably, the combined appeal of Colin Farrell and Doctor Who‘s David Tennant failed to attract crowds to their enjoyable 3-D remake of Fright Night, a vampire film. Though the movie earned respectable reviews, audiences stayed away, plunking down only $10.5 million for Fright in the U.S. on its opening weekend.
Do you have other nominations for British winners or losers?