With the release of the Clash of the Titans redux this weekend, Sam Worthington finds himself in a rather unique position. While it may not happen by Sunday evening, the actor is on the precipice of joining a select few in the modern era to be a part of three nine-digit grossers in a 12-month period. Starting with Terminator Salvation last May grossing $125 million and Avatar as the all-time box office champ with $740 million and counting, Clash of the Titans, with its inflated prices for the converted 3-D experience, likely does not have that big a mountain to climb to complete the trifecta.
What serves as the criteria for such a feat though? Do you have to exclusively headline three consecutive films within a calendar year? Clearly that would be the most impressive. Does one consider Christian Bale to be the topliner of Terminator over Worthington, or does it really matter? Let's say if you are part of the primary cast you qualify. How about voiceover work then? That's an easy way to make the list, lucking out on the scheduling of a project you might be a couple of years removed from. But if we're going to count the Na'vi Worthington, then why not?
Robert Downey Jr. would actually make the list with 2008's Iron Man ($318 million) and Tropic Thunder ($110 million), if only we were to count his cameo in The Incredible Hulk by Clash director Louis Leterrier. Not really fair. The same holds true of Queen Latifah who had Chicago in Dec. 2002 ($170 million) and Bringing Down The House in Mar. 2003 ($132 million) and then a cameo in Scary Movie 3 in Oct. 2003. If you didn't know they were in the movie, its not quite as special. There's hope for Latifah though. If this May's Just Wright can be a surprise hit, it will join Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs from last July ($196 million) and this February's Valentine's Day ($109 million). So good luck against Robin Hood.
Coming up just shy to make this list is Cameron Diaz who started a run in Nov. 2000 with Charlie's Angels ($125 million), lended her voice to Shrek in May 2001 ($267 million) and then came up a month short with the December 2001 release of Vanilla Sky ($100 million). Aided by his appearances in two major franchises, Shia LaBeouf also accomplished this in 13 months, starting with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($317 million) in May 2008, Eagle Eye in September that year ($101 million) and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in, so close, June 2009 ($402 million). From May 2004 to June 2005, Brad Pitt had Troy ($133 million), Ocean's Twelve ($125 million) and Mr. & Mrs. Smith ($186 million). With just a 20-day overlap from one year into the next, Nicolas Cage came close with The Rock (June 7, 1996 - $134 million), Con Air (June 6, 1997 - $101 million) and Face/Off (June 27, 1997 - $112 million). And only if Shakespeare In Love ($100 million) had opened a week earlier could Ben Affleck have boasted about his inclusion after Good Will Hunting on Dec. 5, 1997 ($138 million) and Armageddon in July 1998 ($201 million). Despite being the bomb in Phantoms, the Jan. '98 release only grossed $5.6 million.
Naturally it helps to have your wagon hitched to a franchise when in pursuit of this year-long escapade. Keanu Reeves pulled it off all in 2003 with two Matrix sequels ($281 & $139 million, respectively) and then Something's Gotta Give ($124 million). Ian McKellen and Orlando Bloom had The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean and X-Men on their resumes. McKellen did it from Dec. 18, 2002 to Dec. 17, 2003 with the final two LOTR chapters and X-Men United. Bloom actually pulled it off twice with The Two Towers (Dec. 18, 2002 - $341 million) preceded by Fellowship (Dec. 19, 2001 - $314 million) and Black Hawk Down (Dec. 28, 2001 - $108 million) and followed by the first Pirates (July 9, 2003 - $305 million) and The Return of the King (Dec. 17, 2003 - $377 million). Or how about the run by Seth Rogen from 2007-08:
May 18, 2007 - Shrek the Third - $322 million
June 1, 2007 - Knocked Up - $148 million
August 17, 2007 - Superbad - $121 million
March 14, 2008 - Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! - $154 million
June 6, 2008 - Kung Fu Panda - $215 million
July 25, 2008 - Step Brothers - $100 million
OK, so Rogen's run includes three voiceovers, a supporting role and a cameo. You can be the judge over what is the most impressive yearly streak, but even some of our biggest movie stars have needed the wedge-in of an animated feature to bridge the gap.
Tom Hanks - You've Got Mail (Dec. 18, 1998 - $115 million), Toy Story 2 (Nov. 19, 1999 - $245 million), The Green Mile (Dec. 10. 1999 - $136 million)
Mel Gibson - Chicken Run (Jun. 23, 2000 - $106 million), The Patriot (Jun. 28, 2000 - $113 million), What Women Want (Dec. 15, 2000 - $182 million)
Steve Carell - Evan Almighty (Jun. 22, 2007 - $100 million), Horton Hears a Who! (Mar. 14, 2008 - $154 million), Get Smart (Jun. 20, 2008 - $130 million)
Ben Stiller - Tropic Thunder (Aug. 13, 2008 - $110 million), Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (Nov. 7, 2008 - $180 million), Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (May 22, 2009 - $177 million)
Two guys did manage to do it without the benefit of just a microphone, but sequels were still involved. Matt Damon started a run in Oct. '06 with The Departed ($132 million), had Ocean's Thirteen ($117 million) in June '07 and in August had The Bourne Ultimatum ($227 million). In-between he also starred in The Good Shepherd which made just under $60 million, but we never said this was exclusively a consecutive type of deal. The name that most would be able to recall if you asked this question on the street would be Jim Carrey from when he burst onto the scene in 1994 with three big hits - Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask ($119 million) and Dumb & Dumber ($127 million). Ace Ventura only grossed $72 million, but if you substitute Batman Forever the following June ($184 million), the equation works. As it does if you started with Dumb & Dumber and concluded with the pet detective's second adventure, When Nature Calls in November '05 ($108 million).
The only one devoid of the power of a sequel, the added benefit of animation or the sneaky semantics of a supporting or cameo role to see all the stars align to their favor was not a guy at all. For anyone doubting the peak of her power, look no further from May 1999 to March 2000 to see Julia Roberts headline Notting Hill ($116 million), Runaway Bride ($152 million) and Erin Brockovich ($125 million). Impressive indeed - even if someone out there is labeling Garry Marshall's film as a pseudo follow-up to Pretty Woman.
Sell it all you want, but few actors can sustain a career without a little bit of luck somewhere along the way. You may have noticed that names such as Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp and Harrison Ford appeared nowhere on this list. That is neither a reflection of their talent nor their box office clout. This is just having some fun with numbers and time. We shall see how both favor Worthington's fortune once he moves away from sequels, remakes and a director's follow-up to the highest grossing film of all time.