Until recently, a thirtysomething happily married colleague of mine kept a picture of Taylor Kitsch on her bulletin board at work. How cute is that? I don’t think she’s going to rush off to see him star in John Carter this weekend, or anything, but there was clearly something about this particular heartthrob that made her swoon the first time she saw him on NBC’s Friday Night Lights. So she cut his hunky headshot out of a magazine and hung it where she could glance at it all day. Fair enough. If we could place dreamy pin-ups in our junior high school lockers, why not replicate that idolatry at the workplace? I say bravo, lady. Bravo.
This got me thinking about the stars whose breakthrough big screen performances turn(ed) us into teenagers again. You know… the ones who knocked our socks off, took our breath away, and/or made us wish we were them when we saw them in a particular role at the multiplex. Let’s start with the gentlemen; we’ll get to the ladies next Friday.
Without a doubt, my first pick is Jude Law as Dickie Greenleaf in The Talented Mr. Ripley. Has there been a more handsome, sun-kissed, debonaire bon vivant in recent memory? I suppose with a name like Dickie Greenleaf he had to become a total stud or he would have been teased mercilessly. Law’s portrayal of the character made me wish I had a trust fund so I could move to Italy and play the saxophone while romancing Gwyneth Paltrow’s Marge Sherwood. His untimely demise by Matt Damon/Tom Ripley’s oar didn’t even dampen my desire to live his life, or at least look like him once the blood was wiped away.
And speaking of Gwyneth, how about her Emma co-star, Jeremy Northam as the dashing Mr, Knightley? Clearly I wish I was British, because my list of “why can’t I look and sound like that?” performers seems to stretch across the pond. Sure, he played the bad guy opposite Sandra Bullock in The Net the year prior, but Jeremy Northam really caught my eye as the voice of reason amidst Emma’s frivolous matchmaking. It was one of those “who is this guy?” moments that I’ll never forget. If you’ve hopped on the Downton Abbey bandwagon like the rest of us, you owe it to yourself to go back and watch writer/director Douglas McGrath’s interpretation of Jane Austen’s portrait of British society 100 years prior to the Crawley’s entered our collective consciousness. The movie is delightful; Northam especially so.
Now let’s bring it back to North America with the Canadian born Christopher Plummer. All the awards show attention showered on him for his outstanding work in work in last year’s Beginners reminded us all how handsome he still is at 82. But when he was in his mid-30s and played Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, he was the epitome of on-screen magnetism. To watch this gruff, military-trained father of seven melt under the charms of Julie Andrews’ Maria is to experience true cinematic magic. And his performance of “Edelweiss” can reduce grown men to tears.
Finally, in the obvi department, how about Brad Pitt as Paul Maclean in A River Runs Through It? I remember thinking at the time: how did director Robert Redford find a younger version of himself for his movie? He first got our attention as J.D. in one very memorable scene in Thelma & Louise, but Brad became a bona fide movie star in A River Runs Through It. With Craig Sheffer as his brother Norman and Tom Skerritt as their father, the film is chock full of dapper dudes who made us all want to learn fly fishing. And let’s just say that making me want to fish is no easy task.
Sure, I could go on and on with other examples: Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride, George Clooney in Out of Sight, Mel Gibson in The Year of Living Dangerously, Armie Hammer in The Social Network… but I’ll leave that task to you. I’ve got to start coming up with my list of leading ladies for next week.
Jude Law in The Talented Mr. Ripley
Jeremy Northam in Emma
Brad Pitt in A River Run’s Through It
Christopher Plummer in The Sound of Music