Why Gambon isn't big enough for States over 3 deckys hy

Equity rules: Producer condemns eccentric decision as leading actor fails to land Broadway role because he lacks `star status'

Michael Gambon has been refused permission to recreate a West End role on Broadway because Americans do not consider him a big enough star, it emerged yesterday.

The National Theatre had hoped to transfer Robert Fox's production of David Hare's play Skylight, about an affair between a restaurateur and a radical young teacher, to New York with Gambon in the lead role.

But, following talks, American Equity has refused to let Gambon perform, arguing that the actor who played the lead in Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective is of insufficient "star status".

Its prohibition was confirmed by a spokeswoman at the National Theatre, where Gambon played the part of Tom Sergeant when Skylight opened last year. American Equity, the American actors' union, to comment on the decision described by Mr Fox as "eccentric".

Complicated rules presided over by the actors' union mean it can be extremely difficult for British actors to play in America if, like Gambon, they are not passed under the star status rule.

Producers are then obliged to prove that there is no American actor who can replace him or her in the part in question by carrying out auditions throughout the country.

The only alternative is for an actor to go to America under the exchange scheme, which allows an American actor of similar status to play in Britain in a straight swap.

Those who have previously fallen foul of Equity's perception of their star status (or otherwise) in America include Juliet Stevenson, who could not take her lead role in Death and the Maiden to New York, and Billie Whitelaw - despite her unique position as Beckett's muse.

Michael Pennington was also not deemed a big enough star, and missed the chance to act in Shaffer's Gift of the Gorgon on Broadway. Meanwhile, those who have been allowed include Elaine Paige, Tom Courtenay, and Vanessa Redgrave.

Such decisions raise the controversial question of what exactly is a star. Equity in Britain, which applies the same rule in reverse to American actors, admits it has never written a definition.

"It's impossible to say," admits Peter Finch, who heads Equity's theatre department. "It's often obvious, but if there's an element of doubt we would apply criteria such as what work that person has done, whether they have played in more than one country: and if so, which countries, and which theatre companies."

Jeff Kaye, European bureau chief of the entertainment industry paper the Hollywood Reporter, notes that British actors and actresses have been inhibited by traditionally being stereotyped into certain roles: the upper- class twit (a la Hugh Grant), the suave gentleman (Sean Connery's James Bond) or the evil villain (Alan Rickman).

"Michael Gambon rated 22 out of 100 in our star power list of the most bankable actors and actresses for last year," he added. "That's pretty low. Other Brits did far better. Kenneth Branagh was at 74, Sean Connery was at 94, and Hugh Grant was 81."

Stardom also differs in the worlds of theatre and film. Hollywood is about looks; the stage puts ability further up the pecking order.

"Theatre is much more about the quality of the actor because that's part of the experience of going to the theatre," said Nick James, deputy editor of the film magazine Sight and Sound. "In cinema it's to do with glamour rather than talent.

"Gambon rose to prominence in the English theatre as a marvellous stage performer, and that's enough on the English stage. But in the States he gets seen in movies where he plays parts more to do with hack-work - like Julia Roberts' father in the film Mary Reilly."

The problem is that any definition of what makes a star cannot include the imponderable quality which lifts a lead actor into a household name. That is an elusive mix of track record, personality, marketing, looks, enviability quotient, bankability and love life.

Emma Thompson, for example, seems to lack the enviability quotient, partly a result of her jolly-hockey-sticks looks. Daniel Day-Lewis, however, has a broodingly tragic appearance which fits the bill. The jury is still out on Kate Winslet: her looks and films so far are a plus, but her youth and naivete may prove a problem.

Of course, early death always helps in the quest for entertainment's holy grail. The ultimate star remains Marilyn Monroe, who combined a mysterious demise with an affair with the President, breathtaking looks and a tragic childhood.

US welcome...

Vanessa Redgrave in Orpheus Descending was accepted in the US because both Equities (UK and US) accept such "star'' performers without demur.

American Equity denied Billie Whitelaw star status, even though she was acting in plays Samuel Beckett wrote for her.

Sir Peter Hall's revival of Ibsen's Master Builder recently met the same fate. Alan Bates, who played Solness, was acceptable to Equity but Victoria Hamilton, who played Hilde, was a brilliant newcomer and thus taboo.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone