Playing a superhero in a big-budget spectacular has never been a free pass to Hollywood's A-list. Just ask Eric Bana or Chris O'Donnell. But Watchmen, with its multiple heroes, at least has numbers in its favor.
Director Zack Snyder cast an accomplished yet eclectic crew of actors -- rather than famous faces -- and several of them might be poised to take advantage of the spotlight. New York Magazine seems to think that Patrick Wilson will be the movie's breakout star. The Tony-nominated actor plays Nite Owl, the soft-around-the-middle crusader who regains his mojo after a fling with the Silk Spectre. Why Wilson isn't already a star is perplexing to anyone who saw 2006's Little Children, but I'm not certain his passive superhero will win over anyone on the fence about his magnetism. I put him the same category as Billy Crudup, Watchmen's omnipotent Doctor Manhattan. If Crudup's marvelous performance in Cameron Crowe's 2000 rock film, Almost Famous, didn't make him a star, maybe it's not meant to be. As fans of both, I hope I'm wrong. Jackie Earle Haley plays Rorschach, the film's conscience, but the Oscar-nominated character actor isn't a leading man. After a long exile from Hollywood, Haley will never again want for work, but he's more Harry Dean Stanton than Harrison Ford. Ditto Matthew Goode, who plays the brilliant Ozymandias. Goode disappears so well into diverse roles (see 2007's The Lookout) that Hollywood stardom might continue to be elusive.
That leaves Malin Akerman and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Akerman is gorgeous, and her Silk Spectre is dangerously sexy in an Uma Thurman/Kill Bill kind of way. But it's Morgan who I have my eye on. Hollywood likes rogues, and Morgan revels in the dark morass of the Comedian's amorality. The former Grey's Anatomy actor has four more films slated for this year, so don't be surprised if studios start re-cutting trailers to emphasize his involvement after Watchmen's opening weekend.
But what do you think? Do you expect any of the Watchmen to emerge as superstars, a la Christian Bale? Will Morgan be the one? And why aren't Patrick Wilson and Billy Crudup household names by now, anyway?