How is IMDB matching people to "distinguishing" roles?
October 3, 2009 6:26 PM   Subscribe

How does IMDB decide how to distinguish one actor/director search result from another?

Last night, after watching Million Dollar Baby, I decided to see what else Clint Eastwood has done recently. I pop over to IMDB, do a search for "clint eastwood", and this pops up. Clint Eastwood (Actor, Million Dollar Baby (2004)). What is the process that they use to determine that the best way to specify THE Clint Eastwood is by identifying him as an actor in Million Dollar Baby? It's an excellent film, obviously, but why did they choose that film over, say, Dirty Harry? Or why bill him as Actor, and not Director (for which he won an Oscar)? Hillary Swank is also linked to Million Dollar Baby, but Morgan Freeman is linked to Shawshank Redemption. Extra confusion: Mark Harmon, recently of NCIS is linked with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (he played "Magazine Reporter at Mint 400"), while Michael Weatherly (also of NCIS) is matched with Loving, where he played a recurring character. I'm not seeing any continuity based on movie/series, role, or date.

So is there a logic behind IMDB's choices? What am I missing here?
posted by specialagentwebb to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Which film is chosen probably has to do with user clickthroughs after a search, or common searches as connected to that actor--which is why Morgan Freeman is still highlighted as an actor in Shawshank. Hopefully some CS people will pop by.

I was wondering if the Top 250 list had something to do with it, but Unforgiven (1992) is way higher than Million Dollar Baby. (Shawshank, of course, is still #1, as it has been for as long as I can remember).
posted by Decimask at 7:09 PM on October 3, 2009

I always assumed it to be the title with the highest box office gross in that actor's filmography, and I had seen very little to contradict this. A search for Al Pacino suggests The Godfather, Russell Crowe is the guy from Gladiator. Except that now that I look at Eastwood at, I see that Gran Torino has now outgrossed Million Dollar Baby. Perhaps IMDB's search function is not updated that frequently?

(On the other hand, I like that Jeff Bridges is connected with The Big Lebowski, when Iron Man has made twenty dollars for every dollar that TBL brought in.)
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:56 PM on October 3, 2009

Response by poster: I always assumed it to be the title with the highest box office gross in that actor's filmography, and I had seen very little to contradict this.

Looking at boxofficemojo's top 10 Most Popular People, though, half of them defy this theory.
Angelina Jolie's top-grossing was Kung Fu Panda (although that was a bit role; the next closest was Mr. and Mrs. Smith). She's billed with Changeling.
Brad Pitt: Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Billed with Se7en.
Matt Damon: Bourne Ultimatum. Billed with The Departed.
Woody Harrelson: Indecent Proposal. Billed with No Country for Old Men.
Tom Cruise's: War of the Worlds, and he's billed with Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures. WTF?
posted by specialagentwebb at 8:33 PM on October 3, 2009

It's possible that they use the movie that the actor's page is clicked from the most often, but I have no way of testing that theory.
posted by JauntyFedora at 8:51 PM on October 3, 2009

Best answer: On IMDB Pro (the paid version geared toward movie industry insiders) there is the following additional field on the Clint Eastwood page:
Known for: Million Dollar Baby / Unforgiven / Gran Torino
Those aren't his top 3 films when sorting by any of the criteria on the IMDB page (MovieMeter, Budget, US Box Office, etc.) but it could be a weighted average of various factors and/or something tweaked manually by IMDB staff.

[on preview: I like JauntyFedora's theory too.]
posted by mbrubeck at 11:12 PM on October 3, 2009

Response by poster: Update: I feel like a fool now. It was buried in IMDB's FAQ:

The "Best Known For" title is automatically chosen among his/her credits through a complex weighting system.

Every credit in their filmography is assigned a "weight" based on a series of factors. These may include:
  • The job performed on the title (a credit as director will have more weight than a credit as production assistant).
  • The frequency of credits for a particular job in the context of the person's filmography (writing credits may have more weight for someone who is more frequently credited as a writer than as a producer)
  • The type of title (a credit for a theatrical feature has a different weight than a credit for a short film or a TV series)
  • The popularity of the title (this takes into consideration the number of hits/page views, the average user rating, any awards won by the title and several other indicators)
  • The relative importance of the credit among similar ones for the same title (for example an acting credit for someone who received top billing will weigh more than an acting credit for a cameo appearance; a single writing credit on a film will weigh more than a credit shared with several other writers, etc.)

  • So. There ya go.
    posted by specialagentwebb at 6:59 AM on October 9, 2009

    Response by poster: And the above info is from right here.
    posted by specialagentwebb at 6:59 AM on October 9, 2009

    Nice followup - you should mark yourself as best answer!
    posted by mbrubeck at 10:48 AM on October 9, 2009

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