Man of the Year 2012
Written by Rick Duran, Senior Editor
2012 was a tough year for many of the comedic stars on this list. In a year where franchise films dominated the box office, it was difficult for most comedies to breakthrough. Surprisingly enough, following the 2011 R-Rated Comedy onslaught, there were few big-screen laughers that connected with audiences. The fact that the year’s biggest comedic success, Ted, didn’t come from an A-List comedian, but rather Mark Wahlberg and a CGI-animated bear, shows a trendline of big names and familiar territory not being enough if the idea isn’t fresh.
Last year’s winner, Jason Bateman, was not seen onscreen, as his year was spent using his new-found leading man status filming a variety of projects. He completed Identity Thief opposite Melissa McCarthy, slated for release in February. Bateman also spent the year filming the 4th season of Arrested Development, slated for release on Netflix in Spring 2013. Additional filming will continue in early 2013, as Netflix recently announced that the episode count could increase to 13 possible episodes. Bateman also ended his year making his directorial debut shooting and starring in the spelling bee comedy Bad Words.
2011’s runner-up Owen Wilson also had a quiet year, as he filmed one of 2013’s highest profile comedies, The Internship, reuniting with his Frat Pack brother Vince Vaughn. Wilson also filmed the indie comedy-drama You Are Here, opposite Zach Galifianakis and Amy Poehler.
Owen’s brother Luke Wilson spent much of his year filming Season 2 of HBO’s Enlightened which premieres in January. He also appeared opposite Samuel L. Jackson and Leslie Bibb in the straight-to-video thriller Meeting Evil. Luke is currently filming a supporting role in The Skeleton Twins opposite Kristen Wiig and Luke Wilson, playing Wiig’s husband. This year Luke also got to reunite with his Old School castmembers Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn, in addition to director Todd Phillips, as the film was inducted into Spike TV’s Guy Movie Hall of Fame.
Where do we begin?
Jason Segel, following a string of successful film roles, had his first strike-out as a leading man in the Judd Apatow-produced Five Year Engagement. Reuniting Segel with frequent collaborator Nick Stoller directing, the film failed to connect with audiences or critics, as they did with Forgetting Sarah Marshall four years ago. The Five Year Engagement stalled with $28 million at the box office domestically. He also appeared the indie Jeff Who Lives at Home opposite Ed Helms. In February, Segel’s big musical number from The Muppets, “Man or Muppet”, won the Best Original Song Oscar for writer Bret McKenzie. Segel announced that he will not, however, take part in the upcoming Muppets sequel, citing that his inital goal was to simply relaunch the franchise on its own merits. In December, Segel (after long-negotiations) signed a deal for one final season of How I Met Your Mother, despite wanting to leave after this current season to focus on his film career. Segel was seen in Apatow’s This is 40 reprising his Knocked Up character for a few memorable scenes. Despite being an extended cameo, Segel played a major part in the film’s marketing. With no major film roles in 2013, Segel will cameo in Seth Rogen’s This is the End (though his fate is spoiled in the film’s trailer.)
Seth Rogen also had a difficult year at the box office, as his big-screen pairing with Barbara Streisand The Guilt Trip suffered in the crowded holiday season market. A departure from Rogen’s usual stoner persona, the film was another low performer on his box office track record. Rogen also appeared in the low-grossing indie Take This Waltz. However, his passion project This is the End (formerly known as The End of the World and Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse) finally filmed, with Rogen and writing partner Evan Goldberg co-directing the horror-comedy. The self-parodying film boasts one of the biggest casts of 2013, including Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson. Rogen and Goldberg also rewrote the script for The Watch, which starred Hill, Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn.
Steve Carell had his first full year away from The Office with middling results. In June, he headlined the indie Seeking a Friend at the End of the World. The small scale comedy proved to be a tough sell in the crowded summer market, placing as Carell’s lowest grossing headlining feature with just $6 million, though some reviews highlighted his chemistry with co-star Keira Knightley. Carell returned for a supporting role in August’s Hope Springs, playing a marriage counselor to Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. However, Carell’s character was underwritten, bringing very little to the final product that had only modest box office success. Fans were ecstatic to see Carell appear in character for the Anchorman 2 trailer, with Carell given the teaser’s key laughs. Steve Carell spent his year filming The Amazing Burt Wonderstone opposite Jim Carrey and Steve Buscemi, and the drama Foxcatcher with Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo.
Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn reunited for the first time in eight years for The Watch, the year’s highest profile Frat Pack pairing. Alongside costar Jonah Hill and newcomer Richard Ayoade, the stars played to type (Stiller the quiet one, Vaughn the loud one, Hill the weird one) in a film destined for big numbers. Vaughn in particular was given the chance to let loose, giving his funniest and most R-rated performance since Wedding Crashers. However, following the Trayvon Martin tragedy, the film’s posters and trailer (under the original title Neighborhood Watch) were pulled from theaters in March. A redband trailer premiered a month later, under new title The Watch, showcasing the film’s R-Rated humor. However, the film debuted on July 27th, a week after the Aurora Colorado shooting massacre, opening with just $12.7 million, almost half of what box office tracking polls had predicted a week earlier.
Whether tragic headlines deterred audience interest (the film was not well-received by critics), The Watch’s final box office numbers stalled domestically at $35 million ($67.9 million worldwide) against a $69 million budget (before advertising costs.) The film marked two box office disappointments in a row for both Stiller (following Tower Heist) and Vaughn (following The Dilemma.) Both stars have promising 2013 slates, with Stiller directing and starring in the long-awaiting Secret Life of Walter Mitty opposite Kristen Wiig. Meanwhile, Vince Vaughn reteams with Owen Wilson for June’s The Internship and is currently filming October’s sperm donor comedy The Delivery Man.
John C. Reilly started the year off obscurely, with cameos in Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie and Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator. Upon news that Anchorman 2 was happening, plans for Step Brothers 2 (and its subsequent rap album) fell apart. But Reilly’s year had a complete turn-around, voicing the title character in Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph.
Playing a 1980’s video game villain, facing the perils of the modern gaming world, Reilly brought heart to the oafish character, balancing his dramatic talents with his trademark clumsy humor. Reilly was given the freedom to improvise and record lines in the same room as costars Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch, a very rare freedom for the usually tight-scripted animation rules. The animated blockbuster was a hit with both audiences and critics, earning $176 million domestically ($276 million worldwide), and is considered to be a key contender for this year’s Best Animated Film Oscar. While promoting the film in Australia, Reilly indicated that plans are already underway for a sequel.
Judd Apatow had a very busy year, beginning with the release of two films he produced, Paul Rudd’s Wanderlust and Jason Segel’s Five Year-Engagement. Both films underperformed at the box office, far from standard set by their stars and the usually reliable Apatow Productions banner. However, Apatow found great success with the debut of HBO’s dark comedy Girls from actor-writer-director Lena Dunham. The critically-acclaimed series garnered Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for Best Comedy Series (shared by Apatow, credited as producer), and was quickly renewed for a second season premiering in January. Apatow let details slip that the series was also given the rare early third season renewal, prior to the second season’s debut, with HBO releasing a vague non-denial statement.
The crowning achievement of Judd Apatow’s year was the release of This is 40, the spin-off to Knocked Up focusing on the Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann characters. The film gave Apatow a chance to give his family their largest screen performances to date, in addition to finally lens Rudd in a leading role. This is 40 was met with mixed reviews, some critics chiding the growing trend of upper-class life portrayal in Apatow’s films, and the film was greeted with moderate-but-steady numbers in the crowded holiday box office. While the film won’t meet Knocked Up’s $148 million box office, it surpassed Funny People’s disappointing $51.8 million by its third week in release, and should finish comfortably in the $70 million range. Apatow’s 2013 schedule currently consists of his producing responsibilities on Girls, and collaborating on the Spring shoot for Anchorman 2.
Jack Black’s 2012 won’t be measured by box office success, but remembered for several career milestones. His independent dark comedy Bernie, from School of Rock director Richard Linklater, was released in June and grossed a small-but-profitable $9 million. Black gave his most restrained performance in years, portraying convicted killer Bernie Tiede, a mortician accused of murdering an abusive widow. Black’s performance garnered his best reviews in almost a decade, eventually earning him nominations at the Golden Globes, Independent Spirit and Broadcast Film Critics Awards. He was also campaigned for a (longshot) Oscar nomination, though is not expected to be one of the final contenders.
Black also released the first Tenacious D album in six years, Rize of the Fenix. The album directly addressed and parodied its predecessor’s failure, and debuted at #3 on Billboard’s Top 100 Album chart in May. It currently stands at 112,000 copies sold, while it is a long way off from their first two albums’ sales, it ranks as the top selling comedy album of 2012. The band released several music videos, including “The Roadie” starring Eastbound & Down star Danny McBride, and embarked on a worldwide tour. In December, the album was nominated for Best Comedy Album at the Grammys. The band wrapped up the year by releasing a peculiar 2-song EP titled Simply Jazz, including an 11-minute title track. Jack Black also had the distinct honor of inducting Led Zeppelin at the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington DC.
Rudd has the distinction of starring in two projects under the watchful eye of Judd Apatow. His year began with the release of Wanderlust, co-starring Jennifer Aniston. The film, Rudd’s 4th collaboration with writer-director David Wain, was a box office dud grossing only $16 million. The hippie-commune sex romp was also met with negative reviews, though some outlets (including us) found the usual Wain-Rudd humor quite enjoyable. Rudd has a well-reviewed guest arc on Parks and Recreation, playing Amy Poehler’s rival in the election for city council. The two’s chemistry played so well, that they later spent the year filming the romantic comedy spoof They Came Together for director David Wain.
Paul Rudd finished the year co-headlining Judd Apatow’s This is 40, reprising his role from Knocked Up alongside Leslie Mann. The film continued Apatow’s meshing of dramatic material with his trademark raunchy humor, allowing Rudd to use his charm to balance the weight of the film’s lighter and heavier moments. This latest collaboration in Rudd’s decade-spanning work with Apatow, found reasonable success at the box office ($54 million in its third week so far), and should finish its run with numbers in the $70 million range similar to Rudd’s hits Role Models and I Love You, Man. This is 40 earned Rudd a Best Actor in a Comedy nomination at the Broadcast Film Critics Awards. Paul Rudd continues being one of the busiest actors in Hollywood, spending his year filming four movies including the previously mentioned They Came Together, Admission with Tina Fey (opening in March), Almost Christmas with Paul Giamatti, and director David Gordon Green’s Prince Avalanche (debuts in January at the Sundance Film Festival.) Rudd will return as Brian Fantana in Anchorman 2, scheduled to film in February 2013.
Ferrell’s year wasn’t necessarily a breakthrough, but unlike most stars on this list, he appeared as one of the most exciting. He began the year releasing the bizarre Spanish-language comedy Casa de mi Padre. The independently-released film, produced by Ferrell’s Gary Sanchez Productions, earned a small $5.8 million. A parody of Mexican telenovelas, Ferrell spent the entire movie speaking (poorly-enunciated) Spanish. The idea was one of the year’s most creative projects, however many reviews said the film carried out like a 90-minute stretched out SNL sketch.
Right after the release of Casa de mi Padre, with Ferrell having completed its publicity, he made headlines around the world with the announcement that Paramount Pictures officially greenlit Anchorman 2. Making the announcement on Conan, in character as Ron Burgundy, the annoucement clip went viral even before the actual episode aired later that night. Wasting no time on building buzz, Ferrell and director Adam McKay quickly assembled Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner to shoot a teaser trailer with all four actors in character, debuting in front of May’s The Dictator. A second version of the teaser appeared on Ferrell’s FunnyorDie.com a week later. The sequel, now being touted as Anchorman: The Legend Continues, is slated for a February 2013 shoot, with Paramount scheduling for release on December 20th, 2013.
Ferrell’s big film project was his co-headlining election spoof The Campaign, opposite Zach Galifianakis, starring the two as competing Senate candidates. While political satires usually suffer at the box office, The Campaign was a decent sized hit, doing $86.9 million domestically and totaling $103 million worldwide, one of the year’s few comedy hits. Directed by Jay Roach, veteran of both comedy (Meet the Parents, Austin Powers, Dinner for Schmucks) and political drama (Recount, Game Change), it did receive mostly positive reviews and had a surprisingly powerful message about outside campaign financing’s influence on candidates. The film was not a stretch for either actor, with Ferrell playing Ricky Bobby in a wig and suit. One of the biggest appeals on the film was the non-stop joint appearances from both stars. Ferrell and Galifianakis embarked on a nationwide two-week long “Whistle Stop Tour” in July, holding mini-premieres across the country. The duo also made hilarious joint appearances at ComiCon and The Daily Show (with the pair battling Jon Stewart, with help from Jon Hamm.) Ferrell has a number of big-name buddy comedies in development after Anchorman 2, including Swear to God with Steve Carell, Get Hard with Kevin Hart and Three Mississippi with Adam Sandler, though none are certain to film as of yet. Ferrell continues producing work and his supporting role as Ashley Schaffer on Eastbound & Down (renewed for a fourth season), and filmed a cameo for June 2013’s The Internship starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn.
With little debate, one star clearly had the biggest year, so this year’s winner is no surprise.
The 2012 Frat Pack Man of the Year is…
The year began with our winner receiving the title which will be attached to the rest of his career: Academy Award Nominee Jonah Hill. In January, he received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for 2011’s Moneyball. While he didn’t win, the nomination, paired with headlines over his 40 lb weight loss gave him glowing press coverage. Hill made numerous statements about focusing on his health and picking dramatic acting work were both part of a desire to grow up, both professionally and personally. Moneyball star (and fellow Oscar nominee) Brad Pitt immediately lined up to produce True Story, a drama that will star Hill and James Franco. Following the Oscars, Hill hosted Saturday Night Live, including an opening sketch mocking his new-found awards success, featuring a cameo from Tom Hanks.
A month after the Oscars, Hill opened his long-in-development passion project 21 Jump Street. Co-starring Channing Tatum, arguably the year’s biggest star, the film opened to a massive $36 million opening weekend, eventually grossing $136 million domestically and totaling $201.5 million worldwide. TV adaptations to the big screen almost rarely succeed (see Johnny Depp’s big budget flop Dark Shadows, or Will Ferrell’s attempts at Bewitched and Land of the Lost), but Hill, who produced and co-wrote the film, crafted a fresh update on the beloved 80’s series. Scripting the film as “a modern day revival” of the undercover program, existing in the same universe as the television series (thanks to an end of film cameo by Depp), 21 Jump Street found a way out of having Hill and Tatum play the roles of the original cast.
After jump-starting his career with the 2007 high school classic Superbad, Hill conceived a fresh role-reversal where he and Tatum take on the wrong undercover identities. With Hill masquerading as a popular star student, and Tatum undercover as a nerd, the two flexed comedic muscle with a fresh take on both high school comedy and buddy-cop action films. The result was one of the best reviewed comedies of the year, and Sony Pictures immediately started early talks for a sequel.
Jonah Hill’s year continued with the summer tentpole comedy, The Watch. Opposite comedy superstars Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn, directed by SNL Digital Short veteran Akiva Shaffer, and a script co-written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, The Watch was the ultimate A-List comedy package. However, following bad press due to several gun violence related tragedies, poor reviews and a crowded summer market, the film proved there are no sure-fire hits in comedy. However, lost in headlines over its poor box office take of $34 million was the fact Hill turned in one of his funniest performances to date. Imagine his Forgetting Sarah Marshall stalker/waiter, surpressing years of rage, Hill had a very new comedic energy while his big-name costars played to their familiar strengths. Playing a rejected police-recruit with a vigilante mindset, Hill had some of the biggest laughs in the film.
Hill wrapped up his year with a small cameo in Quentin Tarantino’s blockbuster Django Unchained. A one-scene appearance playing a Ku Klux Klansman, Hill provides one of the film’s funniest moments. Originally slated to play a much larger role, Hill had initially turned down the film due to commitments on The Watch. However, after penning a letter to Tarantino citing his body of work as his reason for getting into acting, the prolific director altered his shooting schedule to make the cameo possible. The film opened to huge box office, topping $106 million in its first two weeks of release, on track to become Tarantino’s biggest hit. Even though his scene was brief, Hill made time to participate in some of the film’s publicity tour.
Jonah’s two films slated for release in 2013 reflect the career achievements he hit in 2012. He will appear in Seth Rogen’s directorial debut, This is the End, the all-star horror comedy alongside their real-life pals James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson. Its teaser trailer shows the film’s self-referential humor, with McBride mocking Hill’s Oscar-nominated expectations. He spent the fall filming The Wolf of Wall Street for legendary director Martin Scorsese. Co-starring opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, Hill describes the film as “a white collar Goodfellas” about “80’s douchebag, cokehead Wall Street scumbags.” Sporting thick hornrim glasses and fake buckteeth on set, Hill’s appearance for the film echos his description. In September 2013, he and Channing Tatum will film the sequel to 21 Jump Street, taking place on a college campus. Among his other projects in development is Aloha, a potential re-teaming with Ben Stiller and Good Time Gang, an action comedy opposite Mark Wahlberg.
Hill’s career status finds him now as the only star on this list in demand by the biggest names in comedy (Stiller, Vaughn, Rogen), A-List leading men (Pitt, DiCaprio, Tatum, Wahlberg) and influential directors (Scorsese, Tarantino). The last days of 2012 found paparazzi photographers catching Jonah in a scene looking right out of his 2010 film Get Him to the Greek. Hill was spotted on a yacht in Sydney, Australia, partying with Leonardo DiCaprio and a crowd of bikini-clad beauties. Jonah Hill is no longer that angry kid with the jew-fro from Knocked Up and Superbad; he’s one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. And after two straight years of being one of our finalists, he is our unanimous pick for the 2012 Frat Pack Tribute Man of the Year.