Subject: Matthew Raymond Dillon, 46-year old American actor and occasional director
Date of Assessment: August 27, 2010
Positive Buzzwords: Underrated, adaptable, resilient
Negative Buzzwords: Stagnant, B-lister, old dog
The Case: In the 1980s, teen heartthrob Matt Dillon lingered on the (hopeful) lips of teen girls, who passionately plastered their bedroom walls with his hunky photo spreads from BOP and Tiger Beat magazines, everwhere. It was at this time that Dillon regularly portrayed hunky hoodlums and banging bullies in film like Over the Edge and My Bodyguard. It was also a decade during which Dillon rose to stardom as an S.E. Hinton darling who hailed from the wrong side of the tracks (quite literally, relative to Tulsa terminology) in Tex, The Outsiders, and Rumble Fish. While these movies led to a career breakthrough, they were all very similar stories with very similar characters as well. Although Dillon managed the occasional change of pace with the dramedy Little Darlings (famously taking the cherry of Kristy McNichols’ character), most of his performances to date were one-note reprisals of his usual adolescent, charismatic, quasi-gangbanger character, which obviously wasn’t a career pattern that he could carry into adulthood.
In the 1990s, Dillon began to stretch himself as an actor and escaped the confines of his previous teen-idol appeal. Quite notably, he convincingly carved out a heartbreaking drug addict in Drugstore Cowboy (for which he won critical acclaim and was recognized with an Independent Spirit Award). From there, Dillon became a standout eccentric of sorts with several memorable roles, including a thick-skulled Seattle grunge rocker in Singles and a slimy, cartoonish private investigator in There’s Something About Mary. He also participated in darker films with diverse characters, such as the high-school guidance counselor gone bad in Wild Things and the hapless, doomed husband in To Die For. Further development arrived with standout performances as a homeless schizophrenic in The Saint of Fort Washington and a former high school jock reliving his glory days in Beautiful Girls. Unfortunately, the next decade was another story altogether.
Dillon began the aughts with a misguided bang in One NIght at McCool’s, which bombed both critically and commercially but has since found a bit of a cult audience. His next project, which was seven years in the making, found Dillon making a rather unimpressive directorial debut with City of Ghosts, an unevenly paced demonstration of his inability to focus on the larger cinematic picture. Afterwards, it seemed his acting career would take an upswing following an Oscar nomination for his crooked cop in Crash (which I shan’t discuss further due to this site’s informal moratorium), but Dillon has failed to mimic the post-Academy trend of his similarly nominated peers. Instead, he’s gone on to turkeys like You, Me and Dupree and Disney crap like Herbie Fully Loaded and the much less commercially successful Old Dogs. Most recently, Dillon has taken roles as the white guy amongst black guys in Armored and this weekend’s Takers. While the latter two entries have drawn praise for his performances, Dillion could really use a bit of a refresher to return to his old movie mojo.
In conclusion, Dillon has long-since proven himself capable of self-resurrection, and he’s in dire need of another such positive surge. While the nebulous Gunsmoke project remains on the horizon, it’s unclear how successful it shall be or whether it even has a viable target audience. Perhaps losing the somewhat douchey reputation wouldn’t hurt, but — hey — if that planned fourth installment in the Evil Dead franchise ever becomes a reboot instead, Dillon would make an excellent Ash Williams. Hail to the king, baby!
Prognosis: Unfortunately, Matt Dillon’s former box-office prowess may never return. If anything, he should follow his previous method of career revitalization and box office appeal, and another stint of Broadway work (as he did in the mid 80s) would refresh his abilities as a performer along with, once again, bringing him to the attention of prominent directors. And in an entirely off-topic suggestion, Dillon should never ever again lend his scissors to Marilyn Manson because nothing good could ever come of that.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.