Hollywood’s Most Unexpected Leading Men
by Molly Mann
The archetype of the Hollywood leading man is tall, handsome, slender, and full of charisma and smooth one-liners. But these days, most male romantic leads in films cast far less conventional silhouettes. In the past decade, the following ten offbeat actors have earned roles as rom-com stars, thwarting audience expectations and giving a fresh look to otherwise formulaic films.
With his short stature, large ears and nose, and penchant for awkwardness, Steve Carell is hardly the on-screen heartthrob you’d expect. But there’s something so endearing about his open face, hilarious comedic timing, and twinkly eyes. He wooed crowds in _Little Miss Sunshine_, _The 40-Year-Old Virgin_, and _Get Smart_ and is now starring as the romantic lead in the new film _Crazy, Stupid, Love_. His romantic-comedy resume won’t stop this summer. Carell has several other projects lined up for 2012, including ones that involve his working alongside acting greats such as Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep, allowing him to make a huge departure from the _The Office_’s Michael Scott.
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As one of Judd Apatow’s busiest stars, Seth Rogen has appeared in a bevy of films and television shows since his first role in the 1999 NBC series _Freaks and Geeks_. He scored a lead role in 2007 as an accidental love interest in _Knocked Up_, opposite Katherine Heigl. Rogen has since lost a considerable amount of weight and cleaned himself up a bit, but back then he was scruffy and chubby, with a love for plaid shirts and nerdy glasses. Still, he was funny and adorable and a total hit with moviegoers.
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Of the Wilson brothers, Luke seems to have nabbed most of the attractive DNA, and yet Owen—with his moplike bleached hairdo and bulbous nose—has snatched up more lead roles than his sexy sibling. In his latest release, Woody Allen’s _Midnight in Paris_, Wilson’s sincere, enthusiastic, and endlessly engaging performance is the key to the movie’s appeal.
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Though he did score one of the hottest celeb chicks, Katy Perry, as his wife, Russell Brand is not your conventional male beauty. He’s got gangly limbs and looks like he hasn’t shaved or washed his hair for days, but there’s something about him. His dark, sharp-as-a-tack wit and the intimate gleam in his eye can put even “Sherri Shepherd’s celibate knickers in a twist”:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fx5jKGlv9Ek. He’s such a brilliant star in films like _Forgetting Sarah Marshall_, _Get Him to the Greek_, and _Arthur_, we wonder if more romantic roles could be in his future.
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Costarring with Brand in _Get Him to the Greek_, Jonah Hill (of _Superbad_ fame) is another unlikely male lead. Prior to his recent dramatic weight loss, Hill was a hefty hero who was still irresistibly charming. The film’s subnarrative romance between Hill’s character, Aaron, and Aaron’s girlfriend, Daphne, gave heart to the piece and showed the range of Hill’s acting abilities. He’ll continue his star trajectory in the movie remake of _21 Jump Street_, to be released in March 2012.
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With his big nose and droopy jowls, Adam Sandler isn’t your typical Hollywood hunk. Yet he’s played the romantic lead in over fifteen major films. Most recently, he starred opposite Jennifer Aniston in the rom-com _Just Go With It_. It seems Sandler’s down-to-earth personality and childlike sense of humor more than make up for his lack of striking good looks.
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Steve Buscemi’s looks are almost out-of-this-world odd, yet his intelligence and stellar acting abilities make him totally irresistible to watch. His filmography is pages long, but he scored his big romantic lead in 2001 with _Ghost World_. Buscemi played Seymour, the love interest of Thora Birch’s character, Enid. Buscemi lent so much heart and depth to the role of the lonely record collector that his bug eyes and craggy face took on their own version of breathtaking beauty.
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Michael Cera is twenty-three, but he looks about fourteen, and his big brown puppy-dog eyes make every woman recall her first junior-high love. While he doesn’t have the rugged looks and suave maturity of, say, George Clooney or Brad Pitt, Cera brings his own appeal to the silver screen. In films like _Superbad_, _Juno_, and _Scott Pilgrim vs. the World_, Cera’s earnest and tender demeanor makes you want to jump into the film and hug him.
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Jim Carrey established his reputation as an off-the-wall, hyperactive comic in films like _The Mask_, _Ace Ventura: Pet Detective_, and _The Cable Guy_. But in 2004, Carrey took on a completely new kind of role in Michel Gondry’s _Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind_. Carrey and Kate Winslet played an estranged couple who have had each other erased from their memories. While the film certainly had its humorous moments, the humor was dark and understated, not the slapstick Carrey is used to performing. But he played the role perfectly and got at the very tender and vulnerable heart of his character.
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James doesn’t fit the pants of a conventional Hollywood heartthrob, but his good-natured humor has granted him plenty of on-screen love luck. From his hit sitcom _King of Queens_ to 2005’s _Hitch_ to the recent _Zookeeper_, James frequently plays opposite gorgeous women. There’s something endearing and realistic about his portrayals of the average working-class man with a big heart.
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