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Friday, 27 July 2012

No, not what you're thinking. And by the way, how dare you?

He's not different because he's black. He's not different because he's British. He's not different because he wears glasses. He's not different because he has big hair. (Speaking as a fellow Big Hair, I sympathize.)

Richard Ayoade is different from these others because he's not famous.

Were there not clearly four main stars of this film, but maybe seven or eight guys who qualify, the poster would probably just advertise the existence of Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill. (In that order, I guess, though you could argue that Hill is currently the most successful.) But since The Watch offers up a main foursome of funnymen, that guy from the IT Crowd with a hard-to-pronounce last name gets billed alongside the household names.

They have made sure that his name and body are both pushed all the way to the right. At least they've done that.

Of course, I don't endorse some kind of exclusionary club where only actors whose movies have grossed x number of dollars at the box office are welcome. I merely think it's interesting to note how the understandable need to follow a certain advertising structure that's true to the movie can cause an up-and-comer to be promoted from the minor leagues.

In some ways it gives off the impression that the studio is trying to "make Richard Ayoade happen." Casting him in this role alongside the other heavyweights is actually what's trying to make him happen, not the advertising. But it might make the casual viewer ask "Richard Coyote? Am I supposed to know who that is?"

I know who he is, of course. Not only was he in the IT Crowd -- a show I've seen bits of here and there, and should have seen more because I actually work in IT -- but he directed a film that was pretty well-liked last year called Submarine. (Not necessarily well-liked by me -- although it showed a lot of talent, I found it a bit too derivative of a film like Rushmore.) Stiller was a producer on Submarine, so Ayoade's appearance in this film is not too surprising. Ayoade also had a bit part in a movie I recently saw and really enjoyed called Bunny and the Bull, but this would certainly qualify as the least-known of his credits.

So the reason I was probably inspired to write this post at all is because we don't usually see a relative unknown thrust into such a position of poster prominence. There's only so much real estate on a movie poster, and it's usually reserved for people whose name is going to help sell the movie to prospective viewers.

If I were being very cynical, I'd say the studio didn't care so much about Richard Ayoade's name as his face. The casting of a token minority among a group of white dudes, primarily to sell tickets to minority demographics, has a long history in Hollywood, certainly before Ernie Hudson showed up as Winston Zeddmore, a.k.a. the fourth Ghostbuster. Although I say I'm being cynical in attributing these motivations, I'm actually in favor of this kind of thing in general. I mean, every time I watch a movie that features only white people, my political correctness alarms start going off all over the place and I feel a little icky.

So I guess I'm glad Fox didn't take the "this guy's not famous, let's leave him off the poster" approach. That decision might have ended up sticking out more than including him, especially once people had seen the movie and realized he shares an equal amount of screen time with the Big Three. (I'm guessing he does, anyway -- from the ads, it appears that these four are inseparable throughout.)

And I suspect we're going to be glad that someone's "making Ayoade happen." From what I've seen of him, he seems like a pretty appealing comic presence. In fact, he may soon start steadily shifting to the left in poster group shots featuring three or more people.

So for the record: It's pronounced "eye-oh-WA-dee," according to IMDB.


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