NEW YORK – They say all publicity is good publicity, but some stars seem to be putting this adage to the test.
Ben Affleck (search) recently said his overhyped, overexposed romance with Jennifer Lopez (search) has “absolutely been bad for my career,” according to The Sun. And J-Lo herself has been keeping a low profile since “Gigli,” the disastrous movie she made with her apparently cold-footed fiance.
However, citing the success of stars like Britney Spears, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston at playing the PR game, experts say the spotlight is still a good thing – as long as it consists of a series of well-timed entrances and exits.
“It’s a real science. There are people who make a very good living advising stars how to do this, but a lot of them just can’t resist the limelight,” said New York Post movie critic Lou Lumenick (search). “They don’t have the willpower to resist the cameras and the red carpet -- they’re drawn to it like moths to a flame. And Ben and Jen are the worst abusers."
Lumenick added that in a world seemingly dictated by spin doctors, artistic product still counts.
“Affleck was not just overexposed – he’s in a situation where’s he’s become a public laughingstock. ‘Gigli’ was almost unanimously regarded as the worst movie of the year. ‘Daredevil’ was a terrible movie in which he appeared totally ridiculous in a red leather suit. And 'Paycheck' is his current problem. People have been laughing at the trailers, and word of mouth is it's absolutely lethal."
“Paycheck,” a John Woo science-fiction thriller in which Affleck plays a computer engineer, debuts Dec. 25.
But behind Affleck's on-again, off-again relationship and flopped feature films lies a talented actor, said Lumenick.
“His problem is that a lot of times he’s dong [literal] paycheck jobs, walking through three or four movies a year coasting on his charm. The American public is bored with his charm. On rare occasions when he’s actually committed, like in ‘Changing Lanes,’ he’s quite good. I’ve seen quite a bit of 'Jersey Girl' and he’s terrific in it."
But J-Lo also appears in "Jersey Girl" -- and it seems like the public is just waiting for another "Bennifer" vehicle to crash.
However, a star can recover from a bout of too much publicity -- by disappearing.
“Britney Spears (search) is someone who is extremely well-managed -- the people who are handling her career have done an incredibly good job of putting her out there and pulling her back,” said Bill Stankey of Westport Entertainment, a celebrity consulting firm.
Spears recently came out with a No. 1 album after taking a "vacation" from the music biz, during which time many predicted she was pop history.
Brad and Jennifer are also good spotlight Svengalis, said Us Weekly news director Marc Malkin.
“Our readers love them, but you don’t see that much about them. They have a private life, even if they have to stay in their gazillion-dollar home.”
Julia Roberts (search) is another entertainer who has staged several successful comebacks.
“She was way overexposed, but has kept a low profile over the past couple of years," said Lumenick of the star, who recently resurfaced in "Mona Lisa Smile."
And in the short-term, a media blitz can even prove effective. For example, Paris Hilton (search), who was literally overexposed by the release of her homemade sex movies, is getting enormous ratings for her reality show “The Simple Life,” even after onlookers speculated that the tapes would ruin her.
“Paris Hilton – I don’t think it has hurt her – it’s kind of created a bubble of interest in middle America, who otherwise probably wouldn’t care," said Stankey.
But this public fascination could quickly turn sour.
“I think a certain amount of mystery really helps. If you’re putting yourself out there for free every day, who’s really going to want to pay to see you? For example, it may be too much for people to have two Nicole Kidman (search) films in two months – she’s on every other magazine cover.”
New York City resident Heather Malin, 29, said she stops paying attention to a celebrity when the details of his or her life become recycled fodder on the E! channel.
“There’s nothing else interesting to find out,” she said of Bennifer. "And I’m absolutely sick of hearing about Paris Hilton. She’s really offensive on 'The Simple Life' -- she has no respect for the working people around her.”
That said, even the most overexposed stars often laugh their way to the bank, Malkin added.
“Someone like Paris, people love to hate her. They don’t like to admit that they love her, but more people watched her than President Bush the other night. And when Ben and Jen are on the cover, people buy the magazine."