'It really sucks being famous right now.' Or so claimed Nicholas Cage at SXSW 2014 this week, where he was attending a screening of his new film Joe (and with one single quote, doing one hell of a job promoting it).
'I started acting because I wanted to be James Dean,' he explained, apparently in all seriousness. 'Nothing affected me the way Dean affected in Eden. It blew my mind. I was like "That's what I want to do." This was before everyone had a thing called a smartphone, and before the advent of the "celebutard" - just being famous for famous' sake.' He's no 'celebutard', granted, but quite why Nicholas Cage is such a celebrated individual is beyond me. He's certainly no James Dean.
Similar sentiments were attributed to Cameron Diaz recently, when she launched a scathing attack on celebrities 'who do nothing for their money' - this from the woman overpaid tens of millions of dollars for effectively a few days of work lending her voice to the Shrek franchise (for her talent, of course - not the attention her name would bring the film). 'There are a lot of people who have fame and they have done nothing for that celebrity status other than be willing to do a lot of things that I don't think should be celebrated,' she said. 'I think that that is a deterioration of our society.'
And what does the continued commercial success of Cameron's astoundingly bad filmography say about our society? From the crassly distasteful Bad Teacher to the intelligence-insulting Gambit? And I hear she simulated sex with a Ferrari in last year's The Counsellor? How has this woman maintained her position as one of Hollywood's highest-paid actresses for so many years, especially when she plays the same character day-in, day-out?
It's not that I disagree with Nicholas and Cameron: the gargantuan force of celebrity culture needs critiquing - but not by A-listers, its greatest aggravators. Nic endorses BAIC Motor Senova while Cameron's a brand ambassador for TAG Heuer, thus, they accept money to sell us stuff we don't need with their fame. The belief that earning power and achievement differentiates such individuals from reality stars punting crap perfume is arrogant and in many cases, a class issue.
A-listers aren't just famous for their hard work and talent - they're famous for winning the genetic lottery, they're famous for being in the right place at the right time, they're famous for the privileged starts they had, that allowed them to explore and hone what talent they had and make the necessary connections to get ahead in life. Arguably, some of them are in part famous for who they knew, or who they're related to - let's not forget Nicolas Cage was previously Nicolas Coppola (his uncle is Apocalypse Now director Francis Ford Coppola), but changed his name.
For all the smoke and mirrors they too employ to secure their futures, I still find the Amy Childs and Kerry Katonas of the world more down to earth and authentic than most of the A-listers I've encountered in my time. At the London premiere of The Hangover Part III last year, I watched as a bored (and ironically teetotal) Bradley Cooper stared blankly, with a hint of malice, into the eyes of journalists who dared ask him about his relationship with model Suki Waterhouse on the red carpet: months later, he was gently nuzzling her in front of an audience of billions at the Oscars.
Meanwhile, murmurs that the Twitter record-breaking 'selfie' Bradley took at the ceremony, uploaded by show host Ellen DeGeneres, was in fact a sophisticated marketing stunt do not surprise me. The cult of celebrity is here to stay, and if you're looking for someone to blame for that, try its top beneficiaries - from Cooper, Cage, Diaz and the people in that widely celebrated photo, to Shia 'I'm not famous anymore' LeBeouf. If they want to alleviate the problem, they know what they can do.