Outliers by Malcom Gladwell

October 2, 2012
By Anonymous

10,000 Hours
Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, The Tipping Point, and Blink, made an in-depth study of what makes people successful. In researching business tycoons and singers from Bill Gates to The Beatles, Gladwell came to one conclusion: the 10,000 hour rule. This rule states that it takes no less than 10,000 hours for a person to become a master at something, whether it is computer science, singing, sports, or any other skill-required endeavor. According to the 10,000 hour rule, no one—not Michael Phelps, not Mozart, not Bobby Fischer—can achieve true greatness and expertise in their craft with less than ten thousand hours of practice. Despite Gladwell’s excellent research and proofs, he left one area of talent untouched: movie making. Does the 10,000 hour rule stand true or crumble in an industry that is supposed to run on raw talent that is unaffected by practice?
To see if the rule remains accurate, look at two of Hollywood’s most popular current stars: Christian Bale and Taylor Lautner. Both are highly successful actors, both are muscular and good looking, both are supremely wealthy, and both starred in huge money-making movie series, Batman and Twilight. If they seem to be on the same level, why is Bale considered a good actor and Lautner a pretty boy? There are only two substantial differences between them. Bale is fifteen years Lautner’s senior and the latter was launched into a huge series with little experience while Bale had almost fifteen years to prepare for his sensational role as Batman. Since plenty of young actors are seen as talented (Josh Hutcherson, Dakota Fanning, and Jennifer Lawrence) the age difference is of little consequence. Their preparation time is the only significant dissimilarity left.
When he was eight years old, Christian Bale was cast in Stephen Spielberg’s World War II drama Empire of the Sun. For a little while the spotlight was on him as a promising young performer. Afterwards, he moved on to other films and the paparazzi moved on to greener pastures. For eighteen years Bale played less prevalent roles in movies like Little Women, Treasure Island, and The Newsies before he landed another leading role in a highly recognized movie. Then, when he was about 26, Bale starred in the psycho thriller American Psycho and played the maniacal Patrick Bateman, giving him even more experience with difficult characters. This movie served as a launching pad for his being cast in the phenomenal Batman series. By the time he portrayed his signature character Bale had no less than 20 years of experience to draw from while playing the demanding roll of Bruce Wayne/Batman.
Lautner got started in his career a little later than Bale. When he was eight or ten years old, Lautner hired an agent and began looking out for TV or movie rolls. He was in a couple of commercials, a few TV shows, and one small budget kid movie. Even at that early stage, Bale’s experiences acting under Stephen Spielberg dwarf Lautner’s young agenda. Then his big hit came. Twilight premiered in theaters and took teenage girls by storm. Jacob Black posters, T-shirts, and “Team Jacob” paraphernalia crowded Wal-Marts and 14 year-old girls’ bedrooms alike. Taylor Lautner had found his sweet spot, but he was unprepared to make the career decisions that followed. Unfortunately, his next move was to star in Abduction. Abduction is, sadly, a Jason Bourne rip-off. It hardly grazed the box-office and what it did make was at the expense of sixteen-year-old girls’ small allowances. Lautner’s limited acting and business experience tied him to what he knew – hunky, slightly moody guys with nice teeth. He will probably not get another “big break” half the size of Twilight because those rolls are few and far between, especially for someone who has only played a handful of static characters in his whole career.
In the making of dozens movies Christian Bale logged in more than his coursework required long before Batman, or even American Psycho. Taylor Lautner’s pre-Twilight schedule falls short of that list by about 20 movies. By the time people glanced twice at his name on the front of a movie cover Bale had experience with multiple different characters ranging from Jack in Treasure Island to Demetrious in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He was fully prepared to carry the weight of Batman and portray any other formidable character movie casters threw his way. All Lautner has to run on are his looks and his talent, which clearly are not enough. The 10,000 hour rule remains strong.

The author's comments:
I was not quite sure how to label this piece, so I just chose "book review." It does not fall strictly within the bounds of that genre, but it was the closest I could find.

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