This has been quite a week already for Hugh Jackman and it is only Wednesday. On Monday, he got good reviews from his hometown papers when the long-awaited epic "Australia" world premiered in Sydney. And today, People magazine named him the "Sexiest Man Alive." However, while those critical hurrahs help Hugh in his first serious Oscar campaign, being hailed as a himbo won't win him many votes.
Indeed, older male academy members have a long-standing tradition of slapping the stud of the moment when it comes time to hand out hardware. (Read all about my Slap the Stud Oscar Theory.) Jackman certainly checks all the boxes when it comes to qualifying as a stud: rugged good looks, those abs, a dreamy accent, a lovely blonde wife. And he won't be winning over any of those old-timers by playing the romantic cowboy who rides to Nicole Kidman's rescue in "Australia."
While Kidman benefitted from the Babe Factor when she won best actress six years ago for "The Hours," her ex-hubby Tom Cruise has seen his Oscar hopes dashed three times. Old-timers who have been put out to pasture still love the young fillies, but they resent these handsome bucks. Their message to Hollywood heartthrobs: "You already have it all — fame, fortune and females aplenty. So, sorry, pal, no Oscar for you just yet."
The solution? Just like the pretty women who de-glamourize themselves (Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en Rose"; Charlize Theron, "Monster") to win an Oscar, so too can the handsome hunks who pack on a few pounds, a la two-time Sexiest Man Alive (1997, 2006) George Clooney in 2005's "Syriana." Last year, Javier Bardem was the hunk du jour whose unflattering Buster Brown bowl cut in "No Country for Old Men" probably helped him win the supporting actor award. And this year, two-time Sexiest Man Alive (1995, 2000) Brad Pitt hides his good looks under layers of latex in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."
Last year, with Clooney reverting to his usual movie-star-handsome-self in "Michael Clayton," the Slap the Stud Syndrome put Daniel Day-Lewis ("There Will Be Blood") back in the winner's circle, just as it had in 1989 when his performance in "My Left Foot" edged out first-time nominee Cruise up for "Born on the Fourth of July." Cruise had to make do with winning the 1990 Sexiest Man Alive title. Last year's other pretty-boy nominee — Johnny Depp ("Sweeney Todd") — was the 2003 Sexiest Man Alive.
These perennial nominees can take comfort in the fact that other studs have won a best-actor Oscar later in life when they become more like the geezers. Al Pacino was 52 when nomination No. 7 for "Scent of a Woman" in 1992 turned out to be the lucky one. And still-handsome Paul Newman was 62 when he also won with best actor nod No. 7 for the 1986 film "The Color of Money." This year, 78-year-young Clint Eastwood can hope third time is the charm if he contends in the lead actor category for "Gran Torino."
Of course while there are the exceptions that prove the rule — both Marlon Brando and Clark Gable won at the height of their careers — many more leading men have been slapped through the years, never winning Oscars for acting: Warren Beatty, Charles Boyer, Montgomery Clift, James Dean, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kirk Douglas, Albert Finney, Peter Fonda, Harrison Ford, Cary Grant, Rock Hudson, Jude Law, Marcello Mastroianni, Steve McQueen, Robert Mitchum, Nick Nolte, Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, Will Smith, and John Travolta.