A movie star (cinema star or film star) is a celebrity or well known as who are well-known, or famous, for his or her starring, or leading, roles in motion pictures. The term may also apply to an actor or actress who is recognized as a marketable commodity and whose name is used to promote a film in trailers and posters. The most widely-known, prominent or successful actors are sometimes called "superstars" by writers and journalists.
In the early days of silent movies the names of the actors and actresses appearing in movies were not publicized or credited as they are now. Some of these performers had to help build the sets, clean up and other chores around the film studio. As the movie-going public became more interested in the performers who attracted their attention, however, the curiosity to know more about them made the movie studios and producers rethink their policy. As the demand increased, they began publicizing the names of their leading women and men, and bill them in the credits of their movies, such as Florence Lawrence, referred to as "the first movie star," who was previously known only as the "Biograph Girl" because she worked for Biograph Studios, and Mary Pickford, who was previously known as "Little Mary." By 1909, the silent film companies began promoting "picture personalities" by releasing stories about these actors to fan magazines and newspapers, as part of a strategy to build “brand loyalty” for their company’s actors and films. By the 1920s, Hollywood film company promoters had developed a “massive industrial enterprise” that “... peddled a new intangible—fame.”
Hollywood “image makers” and promotional agents planted rumours, selectively released real or fictitious biographical information to the press, and used other "gimmicks" to create personas for actors. Then they “...worked [to] reinforce that persona [and] manage the publicity.” Publicists thus "created" the "enduring images" and public perceptions of screen legends such as Rock Hudson,Marilyn Monroe,and Grace Kelley. The development of this “star system” made “fame... something that could be fabricated purposely, by the masters of the new ‘machinery of glory.’” However, regardless of how “... strenuously the star and their media handlers and press agents may ... try to "monitor" and "shape" it, the media and the public always play a substantial part in the image-making process.”According to Madow, “fame is a "relational" phenomenon, something that is conferred by others. A person can, within the limits of his natural talents, make himself strong or swift or learned. But he cannot, in this same sense, make himself famous, any more than he can make himself loved.”
Madow goes on to point out that “fame is often conferred or withheld, just as love is, for reasons and on grounds other than "merit." According to Sofia Johansson the "canonical texts on stardom" include articles by Boorstin (1971), Alberoni (1972) and Dyer (1979) that examined the "representations of stars and on aspects of the Hollywood star system." Johansson notes that "more recent analyses within media and cultural studies (e.g. Gamson 1994; Marshall 1997; Giles 2000; Turner, Marshall and Bonner 2000; Rojek 2001; Turner 2004) have instead dealt with the idea of a pervasive, contemporary, ‘celebrity culture’." In the analysis of the 'celebrity culture,' "fame and its constituencies are conceived of as a broader social process, connected to widespread economic, political, technological and cultural developments.
In the 1980s and 90s, entertainment companies began using stars for a range of publicity tactics including press releases, movie "junkets, and community activities. These promotional efforts are targeted and designed using market research, "to increase the predictability of success of their media ventures.” In some cases, publicity agents may create “provocative advertisements” or make an outrageous public statement to “trigger public controversy and thereby generate "free" news coverage.” Movie studios employed performers under long-term contracts. They developed a star system as a means of promoting and selling their movies. "Star vehicles" were filmed to display the particular talents and appeal of the most popular movie stars of the studio.
Usually, a star receives the most earnings when they agree to forgo part of their usual payment in exchange for a certain percentage of the gross takings of a particularly successful film), because in this fashion they are sharing the potential risks and rewards with the production company and other financial backers. An example of this concession is the $185 million paycheck Keanu Reeves received for his participation in the Matrix sequels (The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions). Reeves accepted an upfront salary of $20 million for the project, plus an additional 15% of the movies' gross revenue. Furthermore, a movie star's popularity can allow for more artistic accommodation such as personal projects or supporting collaborators or friends that otherwise would not have support from the studios.
Movie stars also receive what is known as "celebrity swag" when attending award ceremonies, winning an award and presenting awards. This "swag" comes in the form of gift bags or baskets containing items worth thousands of dollars, ranging from designer sunglasses and expensive perfume to high-end electronics. Companies provide the movie stars with these gifts in the hopes they will receive free publicity for their products, either from the actor wearing or using the gift in public, or thanking the company in an interview.
However, a movie star's personal privacy is often substantially reduced. Stars can rarely appear in public for long without being surrounded and often harassed by strangers and aggressive tabloid photographers that are nicknamed paparazzi. While some film stars only experience this type of harassment during film awards, the most popular actors, such as Brad Pitt are photographed every week as they go about their private lives, in order to feed the huge public demand for tabloid coverage of the star's private lives. Movie stars often are required by movie producers to appear on TV, in newspapers, in magazines, to publicize their movies. Some stars stipulate they will not talk about their private lives (e.g., their relationships or family), but only about acting and movies, particularly the projects they are working on.