Talent being at the top of the list. From my Times review of a weighty new account of the rise and fall of the genius that was Robin Williams:
The warning signs were there that moment in the 1970s when Robin Williams, then a star of the Los Angeles stand-up circuit, was signed by the leading talent agency that also handled Woody Allen. Everyone knew that being on its books was a ticket to the big league, but Williams’s wife-to-be, Valerie, felt uneasy when she met the men in suits. “They took me out to lunch, and I’ll never forget this. They said, ‘You are going to be very, very rich. You are not going to have to do anything any more. You can lunch and shop.’ I’ll never forget that. Lunch and shop.”
Money versus creativity: it is the age-old battle. Allen kept the accountants at bay by being his own writer and director. Not having those gifts, Williams was more vulnerable to the whims of the Hollywood machine. So it was that he spent a large chunk of his career doing lucrative work that did little for his reputation. When you reach the final sections of Dave Itzkoff’s conscientious if overlong biography (500-odd pages is 200 too many) you are wading through one forgettable movie after another. How depressing that an actor who had shown us how well he could handle a “straight” role in Awakenings should have been reduced to a supporting role in the Night at the Museum franchise.