Superhero Blockbusters: Actors Ahead of the Curve

  • Daniel Smith-Rowsey
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Screen Industries and Performance book series (PSSIP)


Smith-Rowsey argues that full casts of protean, verisimilar actors now dominate blockbusters, and that this can be seen through the two rather different superhero films The Dark Knight (2008) and Iron Man (2008). The author’s argument builds upon the timeline established in Chaps.  2 and  3, whereby so-called “character acting” in lead performances in blockbusters became steadily more desirable than “star acting,” situating The Dark Knight and Iron Man as culminations and accelerations of the same trend. Smith-Rowsey claims that these two films established model templates not only for superhero films but blockbusters more generally, centralizing “right for the part” actors over stars. This chapter pays particular attention to skillful performances by Heath Ledger, Michael Caine, Christian Bale, Robert Downey Jr., and Jeff Bridges, making case studies of the highly regarded “interrogation scene” in The Dark Knight and of Downey’s “audition tapes” for Iron Man.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Smith-Rowsey
    • 1
  1. 1.Saint Mary’s College of CaliforniaMoragaUSA

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