By Amy Ryan
Updated July 05, 2005 at 07:50 PM EDT
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Newsweek film critic David Ansen wonders, ”Is Anybody Making Movies We’ll Actually Watch in 50 Years?” Actually, he’s really asking which stars are creating lasting work. He notes, for instance, that actors like Brad Pitt and Nicole Kidman have become big stars without having big hit movies, or even a large body of work that critics and fans will remember fondly. (He could have mentioned Angelina Jolie in this regard as well.) He also says that modern-day leading men like Johnny Depp remain so boyish and quirkily contemporary that it’s hard to imagine them maturing into stars like Clark Gable or William Holden, men with the maturity and gravitas that give their movies staying power. Ansen’s top pick for a star who will last, though, is an actor with a spotty box office track record and a reputation for quirkiness that rivals Depp’s: Nicolas Cage (left, in Adaptation).

My two cents: The stars who have lasted have each had a consistent persona. Despite slight variations from film to film, Gable was always the brash man of action, Cary Grant the charming rogue, Katharine Hepburn the take-charge woman, John Wayne the tall-in-the-saddle cowboy. Conventional wisdom has it that the stars who took over during the screen revolution of the late 1960s and early ’70s, actors who were more obviously ethnic and less typically Hollywood-looking, didn’t stick to playing types, but for the most part, I’d say they did. Al Pacino was often the firebrand, Barbra Streisand the self-made striver, and Robert De Niro the intense psychopath. Today’s stars (or their agents) may call it ”branding,” but it’s the same thing. Tom Cruise is the callow hotshot, Russell Crowe the brooding brawler, Julia Roberts the spunky upstart. Critics may love actors with versatility, like Cage or Kidman or Sean Penn, but audiences like to know what they’re getting in advance.

Which stars of today do you think will last? Which of their movies will hold up? What qualities does a star need in order to be remembered?

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