Call Winston Wolfe: Let’s Clean Up Steve Martin’s Career

The Projector
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Steve Martin is an unusual choice for our Winston Wolfe column. Unlike a lot of the stars we advise, he's not somebody whose career is based on big box office. Sure, he's been in his share of hits, but Martin is almost above hits. He's Steve Martin, Professional Entertainer. Nothing wrong with that -- that's one of the reasons we love him, actually -- but with the recent dismal box office performance of "The Big Year," we thought it appropriate to look under the hood and see if the guy could use a tuneup. And, sure enough, we think his career needs some tweaking. Let's call in Winston Wolfe.

He's Winston Wolfe. He solves problems. He's here to help.

Here's what we've got for you, Mr. Martin.

1. Don't sweat "The Big Year." We highly doubt you'll do this, but the worst thing you could "learn" from the commercial failure of "The Big Year" is that it means you need a hit. You don't have any projects lined up at the moment, and you needn't be concerned about jumping on the next big franchise to prove your marquee worth. You're Steve Martin. You're bigger than movies. Everyone else will forget all about "The Big Year" soon enough; you might as well, too.

2. Write more. In 1987, very deep into your career, you proved that you weren't "just" the funny guy with "Roxanne," a sensitive romantic comedy that you wrote. Even better were your scripts for "L.A. Story" and "Bowfinger." (We never saw "A Simple Twist of Fate," but we remember liking the script as well.) You've been writing most of your professional life -- you've done plays, novels, bluegrass albums, and a (really, really good) memoir -- but you haven't had a produced screenplay that wasn't a "Pink Panther" movie in a while. We miss that side of you.

3. Hold off on the family films. Movies aimed at kids have been your bread-and-butter for a bit now -- "Cheaper by the Dozen," "Pink Panther" -- but we'd like to ask that you curb it for a bit. We understand that these are your hits that keep you in the industry game, but four of your last eight movies have been in that genre -- five, if you count, "The Big Year," which is something of a family film. It's easily the least exciting aspect of your career right now, but it's the one we seem to see you in the most lately.

4. Get serious. Though you didn't ask us, two of our favorite performances you've ever given were in "The Spanish Prisoner" and "Shopgirl" (based on your book). Without trying too hard to be "serious," you were fantastic as well-heeled guys who couldn't have been more different: calculating in "Spanish Prisoner;" melancholy in "Shopgirl." In fact, it made us notice a pattern, which is that about every seven years you deliver a really terrific performance. "Grand Canyon" was 1991, "The Spanish Prisoner" was 1998, and "Shopgirl" was 2005. That means the next one would be 2012. You're due, sir.

5. Enough with the Baldwin bromance. We've touched on this before, but since we have your attention we'll bring it up again. We're happy if you decide to host the Oscars again -- actually, we'd love that -- but we think this Martin/Baldwin (or "Marwin") comedy-duo thing needs to end. That project you guys may do together? Give that another thought. What we've always loved about you is how you carry yourself as being free of the petty ego and silliness that makes up so much of Hollywood. You're like this cool being who beams in on occasion to see how things in showbiz are going and then takes off again. Being part of a duo works against that image. You're your own man, sir. We love Baldwin, too, but don't start getting too cozy with the man. It's not you.

There you go, Mr. Martin. That should do it. Thanks for a moment of your time.