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Monday, June 29, 2009

Farewell to the rugged look!

As you know, I'm all for blogging about hot-looking actors in period costume. Any excuse! So an article in the Observer newspaper at the weekend was a bit of a gift. Under the headline of "Farewell to the rugged look as new male beauties sweep all before them" it suggested that the leading men of film and TV are becoming interchangeable. Gone are the days of actors with such individual looks and charisma as Marlon Brando and Al Pacino and in there place are bland clones. Among the new breed of actors cited were Zac Efron, Edward Pattinson and Jonathan Rhys Myers, whose appealing baby eyes apparently sealed the role of Henry VIII in The Tudors (odd when you think about it, since of all the things that Henry was renowned for, his baby face wasn't one of them). Experts claim that these boy-men are chosen for their cherub cheeks and gentle jaws, and that women prefer them because they associate these softer looks with fidelity and warmth.

So what is going on? What happened to the strong, masculine hero? Surely male sex appeal has traditionally been associated with men who are handsome rather than pretty, rugged rather than soft? Even if they were smooth (I'm thinking Leslie Howard as Sir Percy Blakeney in The Scarlet Pimpernel) they had a core of steel beneath. I'm not sure I would have felt quite the same about Richard Sharpe if he had been played by Chace Crawford. And what about all those cowboys in the wild west? It's wild for a reason and they have to be man enough to deal with that.

The newspaper article suggests that this change towards beta rather than alpha man has been progressing for about fifteen years and that it started with actors like Leonardo di Caprio and Jonny Lee Miller, gathered pace with Orlando Bloom and is now reaching its peak. Certainly I've found something lacking in the historical films that featured these actors. I found Orlando Bloom more convincing as an elf than a crusader and although I loved the film Plunkett and Macleane, I wanted Macleane to be ruthless as well as charming. It takes a certain je ne sais quoi to fill a crusader's armour or a highwayman's boots. On the other hand, I'm not sure that I actually buy the idea that Jonathan Rhys Meyers is a baby-faced Henry VIII. He certainly portrays the part with a convincing violence, lust and cruelty.

There isn't that much original historical drama on TV in the UK these days (more's the pity) and I'm wondering if this is also the case in the US, Australia and elsewhere. However a glance at the most recent BBC offering, Robin Hood, suggests that there is definitely some truth in this theory about boys-instead-of-men. In Robin Hood it is left to the fabulous Richard Armitage to represent the oppressed alpha man whilst Robin and some of his merry men are the equivalent of Sherwood Forest's boy band. New boy Archer might just buck the trend. I like the style of Robin Hood. It's funny, irreverent, has some good plot twists and makes no attempts to be historically accurate, rather like The Tudors. As long as I suspend my disbelief at the door I can enjoy it but I'd still like a hero with a bit more substance (I don't mean physically!)
What do you think? Do you think these boys can be convincing historical heroes and who would you cast in a historical drama? I'm offering a copy of my latest book, The Scandals of an Innocent, to the most creative suggestion!


SarahKay said...

I would cast Leonardo DiCaprio as the smooth, suave gentleman against Hugh Jackman, rough and ready rogue. Phwaor!

Eva S said...

I like the Robin Hood style too but this Jonas Armstrong is just a boy! I want my heroes to be a little older, like Hugh Jackman, or Viggo Mortensen.

Tess said...

I'm with you, preferring the more rugged look. My written heroes have Gamma like personalities (as in they're not full Alphas), but when it comes to what I want to WATCH, yeah, give me Richard Armitage over Jonas Armstrong (we're still watching Series 2 on DVD and yes, I know he leaves - just like Michael Praed, another pretty boy, did in the 80s BBC production) any day! I just LOVE his Gisbourne - such a tortured hero. You KNOW deep down inside he really IS a good guy, he's just too caught up wanting power right now to do the right thing. A perfect foil for the Sheriff (just loved that scene in Series One when someone said "I shot the sheriff" and the sheriff himself said. "No, you shot the deputy!" - dated reference, but hilarious) Marian should definitely rethink things - but we know she won't.

Sorry for the LOONG comment.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Sink me, I loved The Scarlet Pimpernel! lolol!

As far as actors I prefer individual looks--they don't have to be gorgeous but I don't like cookie cutter pretty boys either.

I don't know if you've watched Burn Notice, but I like Jeffrey Donovan. He's not really a pretty boy, his face is all angles, but he catches your attention. I like Michael Weatherly from NCIS--I think either could play in a historical Drama--they have the range. I also think that Karl Urban and Chris Pine could play in a historical. Chris is young.

Of course I love Sean Bean, Viggo Mortensen (when he shaves) and they've already proven themselves.

Enjoyed your book trailers BTW.

Jan Jones said...

I'm with the late Anne Weale who said she preferred a hero to be slightly dangerous rather than slightly chubby.

I too loved Orlando as a chiselled elf - but for me it would be Viggo cast as Darcy, Wentworth, Sharpe... everyone, really.

Beth Elliott said...

Sean Bean is my idea of a rugged hero. He has the character and legs that look good in breeches. David Wenham also has the attributes. Orlando Bloom is lovely but lacks the force of an alpha male. And now for a cooling draught...

JerryS said...

I found Orlando Bloom most appealing as an elf in the Trilogy! He was weak in "Troy" and "Pirates of the Carribian". I much prefer an older, stronger hero!

Hugh Jackman was compelling, sexy and drool-worthy in "Austrialia". I'd cast him in an Historical Romance as a rake that is conquered by an attractive, bluestocking heiress that has sworn off marriage as a trap to gain control of her lands and fortune. Hugh must use his numerous talents (including his exceptional singing voice and buff body) to win her love. Hugh demonstrated that he looks good riding a horse in "Austrialia" too, another important talent for a Historical hero! Several years ago Hugh played a lord propelled forward to modern day where he courted Meg Ryan. He sure looked yummy in his historical garb! Meg traveled back in time to be reunited with him. Yes, Hugh Jackman is my final answer!!!!

Nicola Cornick said...

Well, I'm loving your nominations! I think Hugh Jackman is just out ahead at the moment. Jerry, I was completely carried away by your suggestion of Hugh as a Regency rake. I remember the film Kate and Leopold and he was very delicious in that. The great thing is that he could be smooth but also rough and ready as Sarah suggests!

Yes, poor Jonas is getting the thumbs down in comparison with Richard Armitage! I agree with you Eva - I want my heroes older too! Tess, I think the sheriff gets all the good lines in Robin Hood and he could carry them off too. Priceless. I won't give away the end of series 3 but there were a few surprises.

Sia, thank you for suggesting a few younger actors who could carry off a historical drama. Have been checking them out - for research purposes only, of course - and I'd definitely watch Chris Pine in a historical. It would not be a hardship.

Nicola Cornick said...

LOL, Jan, I didn't know Anne Weale had said that. She hit the nail on the head there!

Beth - thank you for reminding me about David Wenham! Yes! Sorry, excess of !!!

margaret blake said...

Is it an age thing? Not casting about for any ages here, but I know some of you are turned 25!
I totally agree, Orlando Bloom, lovely elf but macho man, no way.
Bring on Hugh Jackman, Sean Bean,
Richard Armitage, but there still is a charm about them. I mean wouldn't real apha males be more like Sylvester Stalone...ugh!
Ooh and Viggo Mortensen too...lovely jubbly.

But my grandaughter - age 15 - is in love with all the boys mentioned, so there you go, I repeat my question, is it an age thing?

Tess said...

LOL - I realize I FORGOT to actually cast anyone!

My first choice pretty much ALWAYS is James Purefoy. He's proven over and over he can play pretty much any kind of historical hero and is rugged without being overly pumped up. I just love watching him act - fave scene with him is in A Knight's Tale, when he steps forth to save Will from the stocks. He was fantastic in Rome as Marc Antony!

Linda said...

My suggestion is off the wall. Josh Grogan as Sir Lancelot. His boyish looks and charms would make a wonderful Knight of the Round Table!
Linda Cacaci

Cathy P said...

I guess it's an age thing with me. I am not really into younger actors. I prefer the individual looks in actors. I do like Hugh Jackman, though, and can picture him as a naughty but sexy rogue. I also liked the actor who was cast as the prince in EverAfter with Drew Barrymore.

I have to say that I prefer the old actors such as Erroll Flynn, John Wayne, James Stewart, Cary Grant, Stuart Whitman, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Roger Moore, etc. I can picture them in historicals as rogues and/or as smooth and suave sophisticated charmers.

Cathy P said...

I guess it's an age thing with me. I'm not really into younger actors. I do like Hugh Jackman and the actor who played the prince in EverAfter with Drew Barrymore.

I can picture old actors in historicals as either rogues or suave and sophisticated men when they were young. I have always loved watching Erroll Flynn, James Stewart, John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Cary Grant, Stuart Whitman, Spencer Tracy, and Roger Moore.

Alison Stuart said...

Oh, I so agree with you, Nicola! Give me 'rugged' over 'pretty' any day! Sean Bean, Richard Armitage (Oh be still my fluttering heart), Viggo, Hugh J, Harrison Ford ...Brad Pitt, Leonardo and their ilk never did it for me!
In fact of any of the Spooks men (Matthew McFadyen - LOVED him as Darcy or Rupert Penrys-Jones - fantastic in the 39 steps)... Bring back the REAL man, I say!
PS I particularly liked your description of the Robin Hood gang as a "boy band" - I find them a real turn off the program!

Nicola Cornick said...

It could well be an age thing, Margaret - different heroes suit different generations. Luckily there do seem to be some actors whose appeal is cross-generational.

So pleased to see a vote for James Purefoy, Tess! I've been a massive fan of his ever since I saw him playing the role of a rake in a restoration comedy. I almost melted into a puddle in my seat. I swear I was not the only woman in the audience who wanted to be seduced by him on the chaise longue!

Nicola Cornick said...

Went to look up Josh Grogan and I can see what you're getting at, Linda! A definite for Lancelot! Which reminds me to put in a vote for Clive Owen...

Nicola Cornick said...

That was Dougray Scott in Ever After wasn't it, Cathy? Yes, I agree he's luscious!

Alison, the Spooks men are VERY cool and even cooler when Richard Armitage joined in!

Over on Facebook Susanna nominated Philip Winchester and I have to say I can see where she's coming from on that one.

As there have been so many fabulous suggestions I have put all the nominations in a hat and asked Monty, my dog, to choose the winner. Results posted soon!

Anwen said...

I absolutely must vote for Russell Crowe and Clive Owen. These two are at the top of my rugged hero casting. Is it that they are both dark and brooding?

Nicola Cornick said...

Good choices, Anwen!