Happy Awards Season etc. Watching nice, good-looking people get rewarded for their work is nice, but what we secretly want to know is who made their dress, why are some people better at backcombing that others and how they all compare year on year. You know, like interest rates. But this year, 2014, we noticed a new trend. It was the men - the Jareds, Matthews and Brads - who were turning our collective heads.
Here Grazia hears from A FAMOUS MALE ACTOR who you've SEEN ON THE TELLY and who's been ON MANY RED CARPETS about what the pressure is like for the men...
'Seeing yourself on screen makes you want to change yourself. Whether you think you’re too fat or too thin, you’re going to see something you don’t like. The pressure on women is much worse. But for men, it can be just as hard. And now that we’re in red carpet season, it’s more pressing than ever.
As a successful actor - I do big, Hollywood films, you’ll now my face - I’ve seen myself on screen many times both in films and TV dramas and I’ve often felt uneasy about the way I look. After all, a Hollywood casting director once told me: “You’re the kind of guy a nerdy girl from Nebraska would think she had a chance with. Don’t get me wrong: you’re no Brad Pitt.”
While actresses are expected to be very thin, actors are encouraged to go to the gym and bulk up, to look like Tom Hardy or Channing Tatum. I’m naturally slim – probably too thin. I never really tried to bulk up until I did a big film in my twenties with two very successful young actors who were both quite into the gym. One of them in particular had gone from lanky to big. I suddenly thought I’m shooting myself in the foot here: I would broaden my casting out very much if I could just be a bit bigger. I would be reading for a lot more parts. So I took on this very expensive trainer. I couldn’t really afford it, so I just went for a consultation and he told me what to do. I did it for a while and then just gave up.
Still, I’ve always been crippled with anxiety about my appearance. My hair was receding and even my mum was telling me to get a weave, but I didn’t know that most male A-listers are completely bald and wear wigs in their films. I wasn’t getting the leading-man roles, so I came to terms with being a successful character actor. Now, in my thirties, I’m starring in a TV series you probably watch.
You just don’t feel as much pressure at home in the UK. In Hollywood, actors go to much greater lengths to change their bodies, especially when they’re overweight, like Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen and Jason Segel – they’ve all lost huge amounts of weight since making it on the US comedy scene. I remember when Jason Segel revealed that studio bosses ordered him to lose 30lbs for his role in The Five Year Engagement, because they didn’t think he was a convincing match for his co-star, Emily Blunt. It was ridiculous – his whole appeal is that he’s a big, friendly giant. On the other hand, I think Jonah Hill has broadened his range by losing weight – he can play different kinds of parts now.
Most young actors are extremely body conscious: they go to the gym every day, constantly talk about fitness and are picky eaters. I wonder if that was the case twenty years ago – I doubt Jack Nicholson ever went to the gym. Lots of Hollywood actors are identikit, these days. I can’t even tell them apart. Having said that, there’s still a place for unique-looking leading men, such as Paul Dano or Ben Whishaw.
I’ve worked with one of the biggest young male stars in Hollywood: one was doing so much exercise and drinking so many protein shakes that his body looked distorted and his skin got really bad. Another close friend of mine, a well-known British actor, was told to bulk up for a Hollywood role – he was eating insane amounts of food and exercising all the time. I admire Daniel Craig for getting fit to play James Bond because it’s right for the role, but if you’re just doing it to fit in with the culture, it’s a bit odd. Like when Giovanni Ribisi showed up in the film Ted, with this ripped physique, despite the fact that he was playing a nerd – it was bizarre.
In this business, there’s always some guy in a suit who can tell you what to do. In LA, the lawyers, executives and agents are the ones who go to the gym every morning. Our body culture is dictated by these weird people in a very strange part of the world. There’s this unspoken idea in LA that if you eat unhealthily, you’re morally unhealthy. Hollywood is the aristocracy of America, so to be part of that, you have to conform.
I’m now in my thirties and my body’s just not as responsive. I’m really feeling that I should be going for runs every morning, but I’m doing a job with really long hours – there just isn’t enough time. My vanity is definitely taking a beating. If you’re filming in England it’s impossible to eat well. We don’t have this cornucopia of choice that you have on set in America. Here, it’s a fry up every morning and when lunch comes you’re absolutely famished because you’ve been working since 6am, so you pig out and then eat a banoffee pie.
I’d like to stay slim and do more exercise, but beyond that, I’ve got better things to do. I suppose most of the projects I really want to be involved in don’t require me to be shirtless. But as a skinny guy, I find it depressing that all the big guys are on the ascendant. It’s really affected my success in this business.
As told to Luiza Sauma