T Nation

Where Have All the Hollywood Hunks Gone?


Picked this up from the Wall St Journal, via Art DeVany's site. A pretty cool read - even Testosterone gets a mention. TC, you might consider giving this T-vixen a job!!

A Lady's Lament
Where have all the Hollywood hunks gone?

Friday, March 3, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

This year I plan to conduct my own Academy Awards. And in my newly created category of "Best Red-Blooded Male," I regret to say that I can offer up only one nominee: King Kong.

Where have all the tough guys gone?

Really, it's enough to make you cry--that is, if all our leading men weren't already doing it for me. From its earliest days Hollywood has had a glorious tradition of punch-throwing, gun-toting, testosterone-oozing leading men, and the world has loved every one of them. James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen, Sly Stallone, Mel Gibson, these were men.

Some were strong and silent, some artisans of broken noses and busted rib cages, some villains, some heroes. But there was no doubt that they had a reason to walk with bowed legs.
And today? These marvelous males have given way to a new generation of Hollywood consumptives, metrosexuals if you will, the most solid thing about whom are their perky cheekbones. Jude Law, Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Leo DiCaprio, Adrien Brody, Ashton (Ashton!) Kutcher. I make it a general rule to withhold my regard from any man I could bench-press on a feeble day, much less those who've never had need of a razor. If producers are wondering why box-office sales keep falling, they might consider that America wants something more from its men than pouty lips and foot-long eyelashes.

Early cinema specialized in the supermasculine sort, providers and achievers and gangsters who were always in control. They were cool ("Here's looking at you, kid"), daring ("Made it, Ma! Top of the world!") and cocky ("Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn"). Some were tough through their moral rectitude; think Jimmy Stewart. Others, like Cary Grant, made up for a lack of outright macho with wit, class and unbelievable suits.

The 1950s brought about yet a new type of tough guy, heroes who specialized in fighting wars, protecting the innocent and getting the job done. They weren't "hunks" in today's sense of that word, but they didn't need to be. They had such presence that they didn't even need to speak. James Coburn had precisely 11 lines in "The Magnificent Seven," including such masterpieces as "You lost" and "Three." But if ever a Western has produced a tougher, more deadly gun-slinger and knife-hucker than "Britt," I'd like to know. By the 1960s and '70s, these tough guys had also discovered the value of props. Clint had his .44 Magnum. Steve had his Mustang GT 390. Sean had his martini.

Starting about 1980, tough guys changed again. This was the beefcake era, and the guys were maniacs. Arnold Schwarzenegger terminated everything in sight. As near as I can figure, Mel Gibson, via "Braveheart" and "The Patriot," single-handedly killed off the entire English population. Sylvester Stallone sealed his career with characters named "Rocky," "Rambo" and "Cobra," for goodness' sake. None of this was highbrow film, but there was something wonderful about the brute strength. Even women came to appreciate the, ahem, upside to testosterone-flicks. I know girls who will admit that they own "Top Gun" for the sole purpose of watching the volleyball scene over and over.

Sadly, reruns are about all we babe-loving women have these days. The new Hollywood man isn't noble or daring or silent or even beefy. He emotes. He is fragile and flawed. He is a 40-year-old virgin. He is a hobbit. Take a look at the guys who are up for Oscar nominations, and let's go immediately to the elephant in the room. Three--count 'em, three--are there for playing men who bat for the other team. Yes, yes, I loved both "Brokeback Mountain" and "Capote," but that's not the point.

Some of the older toughies are still knocking around, but it's getting to be a bit of a geriatric ward. Stallone will be 60 this summer. Even Denzel Washington is past 50. Eastwood is clocking in at 76 and has (wisely) taken to playing senior citizens. My hat goes off to Bruce Willis, who continues to churn out reliable hard-man flicks, even if the tank tops are now gone.

As for the younger generation, I find myself grateful to Matt Damon, who had the courage to make two old-fashioned spy thrillers (as Jason Bourne), the first of which revitalized the concept of a car chase.

Oh, and Vin Diesel rocks.

Where is the next generation of tough guys? They're out there. They just happen to go by the names Michelle Yeoh and Angelina Jolie. These are our new bad boys: cool, clever and deadly with a six-foot samurai sword. Still, call me a traditionalist; I like my heroes with facial hair, a deep voice and bulging biceps. Which is why, when it comes to this year's nominees for truly manly men, I'm sticking with the ape.

Ms. Strassel is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.


Good article but she left off The Rock, who despite losing 50 pounds from his WWE days, still checks in at about 225-235 and is huge compared to pretty much everyone in Hollywood. The "Rundown" was a good action movie; "Walking Tall" was okay and "Doom" I haven't seen yet but I've heard everything from it was great to it was horrible.


Yeh the Rock's cool - but its probably the fact that he has yet to make a half decent movie thats holding him back. Although I haven't seen The Rundown yet.
I thought Walking Tall was barely OK, Doom was ordinary.


I thought Doom was a complete peice of shit. The only up is when they bring out the BFG!


Great Article...thanks..

I remember reading that 40% of the audience for rambo 2 were females...pretty interesting.......


Batman's manly.

And Batman Begins should win best picture.


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I think I`ll go watch American Beauty and hope Hollywood goes through the same agenda-resetting transformation that the guy did. Without the tragic ending and 14-year old dating craze, of course.


The Rundown is his ONLY decent work. I really like that movie. It is the only reason I won't bash him as an actor and will just credit his lack of ability to choose good roles as to why he hasn't blown up like Arnold.


Great article. Chalk up one for men...real men.
And might I also add, IT'S ABOUT TIME! It looks like maybe (please oh please just maybe) the pendulum is about to swing the other way. With all the sensitive-man, get-to-know-your-feminine-side crap that's been on every show from Oprah to modern Westerns (Brokeback for crying out loud???) in the last 20 years, society is finally, FINALLY discovering the world needs real men.
So go lift a huge weight; go climb a tall mountain; take a stand for something you really believe in. Stare a real challenge right in the face and learn what it is to conquer. Let your testosterone come to a boil, learn to control it, funnel it and kick sand in the face of anyone who wants you to be mediocre because they're too comfortable there already.
The world needs real men!!!


We have yet to get The Rundown in Australia - but I will have to see it based on this (and other) feedback!


Amen to this poster, and to the article author. Here's hoping the pendulum is swinging back. As a side note, anyone with a Gretsch guitar as an avatar is cool by me.


The run down was great. I think that Seann William Scott did a good job of comic relief. He's one of those dudes with great facial experssions and impeccable comedic timing. I would say he definitely carried half the movie, as did the rock.


The first scene in the movie is what hooks you.


Agreed. Best part of the movie.

He looked good in Be Cool, but he just didn't have a great role.


Shes right, but he also lost me the moment she called depp a metro.

Its not all black and white. Alphas and betas. Sure connery and wayne etc are all great. But you need the other types too. What defines it for me is that there is so much more that they offer then what they appear.

Jude law, and other pretty boys are just that. They have nothing to offer to any character but the physical image. Take that away from them and they have NOTHING. They are metro pretty boys.

Take all the alpha's she mentioned aswell as the likes of depp, jack nicholson and they all offer more then the image. They may not be macho, but they presence and ability in spades. In its own way, thats kinda alpha.

Want proof? look at it the other way, there are boat loads of 80's action movies with what looks and acts like alpha guys but who are so boring and colourless that they are all forgoten. Nobodies.

Substance above image folks.


I hear what your saying, but read the 2nd paragraph again;

Where have all the tough guys gone?

The actors she mentions, to me, had both image and substance. The failed action crew you referred to from the 80's (Dolph Lundgren, Carl Weathers etc etc) had image but no substance. In contrast, Depp et al have substance but no image! They certainly dont strike me as tough guys.

I imagine if you were to ask most males from this site who their definition of a mans mans is - I doubt it would be Johhny Depp or Jack Nicholson - as much as they might like them as actors.


Carl Weathers wasn't a bad actor at all. He just got typecast quickly. He did Action Jackson which was one of the first roles with a black man as an "action hero" with the muscle mass to match the part. Had it been done better, perhaps it would have opened more doors. During a period of film where "muscleman" were mostly white and most scripts were written for those parts as far as action heros, I am not surprised we only saw him in Predator after his time on the Rocky movies. I actually looked up to the guy as an actor and always thought I would see him in more stuff.


Harrison Ford/Schwarzenegger clone (Ford's head & ability, of course) + Bruce Willis = Golden Age


Will some send this woman a copy of Dan John's "From the Ground Up." I'm to cheap to buy another. That video should restore her faith in the continued existence of men, even if it is outside of Hollywood. But he is in the movie biz.