As the year draws to a close, it’s the perfect time to take a look at which British movie stars make the Top Five Winners and Losers List for 2011. No one actually takes these lists seriously (and no one should), but they are fun to devise and offer yet another way to sum up the twelve months just gone by.
Our criteria? Most of it is subjective, but the key questions that decide who belongs on which list boil down to: Who scored with audiences and critics? And who stunk up the megaplex? Artistic merit has little to do with the decisions; greater weight is given to whether a star’s movie scored at the box office because, in Hollywood, that’s all that really matters. We’re not saying it’s right, it’s just the way it is.
There’s an argument to be made for putting Colin Firth on this year’s list of winners – heck, we’d put him on every year if we could – for earning an Oscar for his performance in The King’s Speech last February, but the movie opened in 2010 so it doesn’t qualify. If you object, holler away in the comments section.
Now that we have that out of the way, here’s the list:
• Daniel Radcliffe and his Harry Potter mates. The eighth and final film of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, was the No. 1 movie for 2011, grossing $1.3 billion worldwide (which buys a lot of wands).
The 22-year-old actor also proved a potent draw on Broadway, where he has been singing and dancing up a storm since late in February in the lead role in a successful revival of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Up next: He stars in The Woman in Black, a ghost story opening Feb. 3.
• Michael Fassbender. The handsome Irish-German actor – he studied drama in and lives in London – was the year’s biggest breakout star, with leading roles in four major movies: Jane Eyre, X-Men: First Class, A Dangerous Method and Shame. From major action roles to demanding indie anti-heroes, he showed that he could do it all. Up next: he plays a suave professional assassin in Haywire, a crime thriller by director Steven Soderbergh which opens Jan. 20.
• Kate Winslet. The Oscar-winning star proved her versatility by triumphing in a five-part HBO miniseries version of Mildred Pierce. Winslet brilliantly played the title role of a self-sacrificing single mother and waitress, a part that had earned Joan Crawford a Best Actress Oscar for the 1945 movie version. Earlier this month, Winslet received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance, as well as one for her comic turn in the new movie Carnage. Additionally, the busy Winslet played a physician investigating a pandemic in Contagion, director Steven Soderbergh’s ensemble drama that opened in last fall and has so far grossed $135 million worldwide. Next up: An appearance in Movie 43, an all-star comedy featuring multiple short films.
• Kenneth Branagh. The British director-actor-writer came roaring back into the limelight in 2011 with both directing and acting accomplishments. He directed Thor, one of the summer’s comic book films (it grossed an impressive $450 million worldwide), successfully launching the franchise. More recently, he offered a knowing turn as Laurence Olivier in the British movie, My Week With Marilyn, for which he has received a Golden Globe nomination as Best Supporting Actor. Next up: a third season of Wallander, his BBC TV series – it airs stateside on PBS – about a Swedish cop.
• Henry Cavill. The studly star of The Tudors (now airing on BBC America) won the much sought-after role of Superman (aka Clark Kent when out of spandex) in a reboot of the Man of Steel franchise. That movie, currently filming, isn’t due until 2013, but Cavill showed off his steely pecs and abs this year while dressed in a toga and swinging a sword in Immortals, a silly, 3-D action epic set in ancient Greece. Up next: The Cold Light of Day, a thriller costarring Bruce Willis that’s due April 6.
And now, the list on which no one wants to appear…
• Daniel Craig. No reflection of his acting talents, but the James Bond star couldn’t get a break at the box office this year. His high-concept, big summer western, Cowboys & Aliens, tanked embarrassingly, taking in $175 million worldwide, which was only a few million more than it cost to make. His psychological horror thriller, Dream House, barely opened, and his big holiday season film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is already considered to be underperforming from expectations. He’s also in another Christmas-time release, The Adventures of Tin Tin, which has done fine overseas but is showing scant drawing power with American audiences. Still, it was a good year for Craig: he wed fellow British movie star Rachel Weisz in June. Up next: He’s busy filming his third 007 movie, Skyfall, due later this year.
• Russell Brand. The worst of it came today, on the penultimate day of the year, with the news that Brand is filing for divorce from his pop star wife Katy Perry. This was the year that the British comic was supposed to cross over as a full-fledged American movie star. Didn’t happen. The vehicle that was supposed to make him into a leading man: a remake of Arthur, the comedy about a sozzled millionaire. It opened last spring to jeers from critics and giant yawns from moviegoers, managing to attract only $45 million worldwide. Up next: He costars with Tom Cruise in Rock of Ages, a musical due June 1.
• Rowan Atkinson. Mr. Bean got beaned by U.S. audiences for Johnny English Reborn, a sequel to his earlier 2003 spy spoof, Johnny English. The film eked out a dismal $8.3 million at American movie theaters, a pitiful showing compared with the $150 million it grossed overseas. Up next: Johnny English Reborn comes out on DVD on Feb. 28.
• David Tennant. Love him. The former Doctor Who star was scathingly funny as a liquor-guzzling, narcissistic, Las Vegas magician in the 3-D remake of the vampire film Fright Night (a role played in the 1985 original by Roddy McDowall). The problem? The movie failed to sink its fangs into viewers, grossing only $37 million worldwide, barely more than its production costs. Up next: The Decoy Bride, a comedy set in Scotland that has yet to announce an opening date.
• William Shakespeare. Okay, so he’s not a movie star. But hundreds of movies have been made based on his plays, or using him as a character. The latest, a period thriller called Anonymous, dissed him horribly. It posited that the Bard of Avon hadn’t really written any of his plays and portrayed him (as played by Rafe Spall) as a vain buffoon and an illiterate. To add insult to injury, the movie then proceeded to collapse at the box office, attracting only $14.8 million worldwide, less than half of what it cost to make. As the ghost in Hamlet says, “O, horrible, O, horrible, most horrible!”
Who would you put on the Best or Worst List?