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Saturday, 16 September 2017

B-Movie Actress Feature Spotlight: Lea Thompson

Celebrity Net Worth: $14 million 


Born in Rochester, Minneapolis in Minnesota, Lea Katherine Thompson is a television producer, director and movie actress & one of 5 children. Best known for playing Marty McFly's mother, Lorraine McFly in the time-travelling sci-fi romp, Back to the Future and its sequels in 1989 and 1990 with Michael J. Fox & Christopher Lloyd, she made her big screen debut in the much-panned Jaws 3-D in 1983. Lea also carved a TV career out of a starring role as the cartoonist, Caroline Duffy in the 30-min sitcom, Caroline in the City. The series, which found moderate success in the US, began in 1995 and ended in 1999 on a cliffhanger with the show being cancelled. After the show ended, Lea took a break from TV acting, raised her daughters and starred in a few plays and productions and later starred in made for TV & straight to DVD, low-budget flicks. Titles include the Jane Doe series and the miscellaneous B-movie Speed equivalent in Exit Speed, Spy School & Rock Slyde alongside Seinfeld's Jason Alexander & Julia Roberts's brother, Eric Roberts. 

In the early 1980s, it looked like Lea was poised for mega-stardom and that lots of blockbuster movie offers would come knocking on her door. Her movie career went through a rough patch after Back to the Future 3 in 1990 and since then, she's been reduced to accepting offers for direct to DVD films, as well as doing stints for TV. She managed to bounce back through her show Caroline In The City where she was star billing for 4 relatively short seasons. So why, despite having worked for 3 decades, do I think she wasn't the huge Hollywood star and who was just as hugely successful as many of her contemporaries? Bad movie choices (and to be truthful, she has appeared and starred in so much dross) and with Hollywood settling for Elizabeth Shue (who co-starred with her on Back to the Future) and upcoming stalwarts in Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock, Michelle Pfieffer, Julia Roberts lurking around the corner and of whom took advantage of their heavyweight mega-stardom, the same couldn't be said with Lea Thompson, who was languishing in bargain bin, straight- to- DVD fare you will find in Target, dollar stores and on Amazon for cheap prices. 

Another mistake was that I do think that Lea's true calling was with comedies and light-hearted movies, & although a couple of them were 'bad', those were the types of films that were ideal for her that she should have received (and far better ones also) and taken advantage of. Not in the comedic actress sense and yet also given her role on Caroline In The City, but she could have easily excelled at those roles. She tried/tries too hard aiming to please and attract audiences for the types of projects outside of her comfort zone. I know actors and actresses get pigeonholed and typecasted for doing the same types of roles and movies over and over and so many of them fall into that elusive trap, but with Lea, as an actress, as good as she can be, one can argue she just doesn't have that extra range that other performers have, acting-wise; plus she can over-emote and overdo it when in her acting she shows concern as her characters, which grates on me sometimes. Thompson struggles valiantly in roles which demand even more out of her, acting-wise, poor material or not and when as her characters that are supposedly layered with depth, on paper at least, she doesn't go far enough to lift or elevate a movie. But in viewing films I have seen of hers & in seeing her in almost every role she plays, it mostly- though not always tends to be the same type of character & same type of performance, which is the sweet, innocent, good gal. And when she branches out to doing action films like Exit Speed (which I thought wasn't too bad as a movie, but her role did demand a bit too much from her) and Final Approach (which wasn't so good) and playing against type as a cunning villainess in The Beverly Hillbillies, she is not so effective and convincing. 

Another deciding factor counting against her was the movies during and right after the release of the Back to the Future trilogy have been marred by some conflict or issue that has ruined and stained the reputation that the movies have had: Howard The Duck was trounced for its absurd premise, Space Camp was marred by the real-life challenger space shuttle tragedy, which mirrored the film's actual story, Casual Sex? was poorly met by critics (according to Box Office Mojo, it ran in U.S theaters for just 3 weeks). It's not just the case of bad movie choices, but bad timing as well. 

So what we have here is an actress, who is not really a method performer who can assimilate into any role, in any movie. We can use that same argument towards Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock - all known for rom-coms, but at least, for me anyway, they possess that extra star quality and charm that makes their fans revisit their movies over and over & that movie producers & casting directors can detect in those performers that certain thing that they have, and not just their beauty. Lea, sadly, on the other hand, falls outside of this jurisdiction and also 90% of her movies aren't that great. She may have also had a sweet, girl-next-door image, much like a certain Julia Roberts, but the lack of genuine and forthright big budget movie roles & hugely successful commercial theatrical hits put paid to all of that for Lea. When and as Meg Ryan, Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock became even bigger and hotter commodities in the 1990s, Lea Thompson's big screen chances dwindled further. Additionally, she has had only one major love scene in a big budget movie in All The Right Moves with Tom Cruise.      

I think all of these things hurt her career and she should have gone on to even bigger and better things on the movie front - instead, she gets overlooked and rejected for bigger box office movies, which as she got older and with Hollywood favouring younger actresses, it didn't help her cause. Cult favourite or not, Howard The Duck was that one single movie which single-handedly and infamously ruined her and it's been a struggle, ever since. & whilst some cite Casual Sex as the career killer for Lea, for me, it is the George Lucas ET-like flop. Although thankfully, her TV based roles have kept her busy. Even with Lea getting dirt thrown at her for that film if Howard the Duck derailed her movie career, then 2014's much-panned quasi-religious disaster flick, Left Behind tops the lot as the worst. 

Dubbed as the less broody and dark Jennifer Jason Leigh (and their similarity in terms of looks is a bit uncanny); that, as well as they both broke out at virtually around the same time as each other, in Lea Thompson, with more successful and better movie roles & choices under her belt, there is no doubt that she would have so easily been up there with Hollywood's movie elite. 


Notable Favourites: Back To The Future trilogy, Exit Speed, Article 99


Notable Non-favourites: Howard The Duck, Casual Sex?, Jaws 3D, Spacecamp, Final Approach, Left Behind, Dennis The Menace, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Dog Lover, Adventures of a Teenage Dragonslayer, The Unknown Cyclist, Fatal Secrets

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