Sissy-boy Male Leads?
Today my wife and I were watching The Magnificent Seven the 1960 movie starting Yul Brenner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Eli Wallace, and a actors of lesser renown today, though of the names listed how "renown" they are today is directly related to how old the person is that you're talking to.
My wife raised an interesting point as we watched the documentary that came with the DVD. Apparently Anthony Quinn was supposed to play the lead role in the movie, but Yul Brenner was cast (the reasons for this are convoluted, and the feelings attached to it are well-represented in the fact that Quinn subsequently sued the direct and Brenner for $600K for being bumped from the part - he lost), and as Quinn's picture was shown she asked how many of today's leading men look like Quinn, or any of the men in The Magnificent Seven? We brainstormed this for a bit and came up with Russel Crowe, Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, Sly Stone (though it's something of a question as how much of a leading man he'd be taken to be these days), Ahhhhhnold (here we're stuck with trying to figure out how much he can seriously be considered an actor vice a body/personality, which many would say is also a consideration for how well he's doing as governor of California), Denzel Washington, to some degree Antonio Banderas, and ... we sort of hit a wall at this point. As it turns out we could only come up with 6 possible actors to fill out, in what we saw as the appropriate demeanor and attitude, 7 roles in a classic western. Now that's not to say that there aren't many more actors than that who could meet the bill of particulars here, but they weren't coming to mind.
It seems that today's actors are more "pretty boys" than the testosterone laden creatures that seemed to dominate the screen way back when. We tried to think through some of today's "name" actors, coming up with Brad Pitt, Jude Law, Orlando Bloom, Colin Farrell, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Keannu Reeves, Adrien Brody (doesn't ring a bell? Late of The Pianist and King Kong), and Hugh Grant, and however much we tried we really couldn't see them filling the shoes of any of the actors in The Magnificent Seven - well, maybe Tom Cruise could be the Horst Bucchholz role in the movie (Bucchholz, playing a Mexican wannabe gunslinger who hooks up with what would have otherwise been the Magnificent 6, was a German - an odd twist of casting that seemed to work.) What each of these male leads seemed to have in common is that they're, for lack of a better way of putting it, "pretty".
When you look at Yul Brenner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Spencer Tracey, John Garfield, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart, Anthony Quinn, Robert Mitchum, James Cagney, and the list goes on, these guys weren't pretty. They may have been handsome, and in the classic sense not all of them were, but what they all seemed to share was that they exuded some level of testosterone, a certain scent of maleness that, for the life of me, I can't detect to any degree with the likes of Jude Law or Keannu Reeves. Far too many male leads today just aren't especially "male" it seems to me. I'm not sure what this says, or even if I'm especially right, but my definite sense (and my wife's, though she thinks Johnny Depp definitely has "maleness" about him) is that many of today's male leads aren't selected for their jobs based on their being able to convey any obviously apparent maleness about them.
Well, anyway, just a thought to share. Much better that you check out The Magnificent Seven yourself, it truly is timeless, and while you're at it check out the movie it's based on, Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai , a movie that's great and classic entirely for reasons of its own.