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Opinion: Why some actors are just too handsome for certain roles

Posted by Rob Alderson,

This week Rob Alderson looks at actors who were too good-looking for the roles they played and asks Hollywood to give viewers a bit more credit. As ever you can join the discussion below.

What do Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi all have in common other than playing Dr Who in the iconic BBC television series? Well according to Steven Moffatt, the man behind the show, none of them are handsome.

In an interview with Radio Times this week, he courted controversy among the programme’s die-hard fans when he said: “When you choose a doctor you want somebody who is utterly compelling, attractive in a very odd way. None of the doctors are conventionally attractive, but they’re all arresting. Handsome men don’t quite suit."

This got us thinking about the relationship between actors’ looks and the roles they play, and particularly when these two don’t align. There are a wealth of examples of people who were too good-looking to play certain parts. The most egregious example of this was surely Leonardo diCaprio in Danny Boyle’s adaptation of Alex Garland’s novel The Beach. Garland’s main character Richard is a man who struggles with his looks and fails to get the girls; sun-kissed Leo has no such hang-ups.

This seemed to go mainly unnoticed with The Beach but there was an outcry over the casting of another much-loved book. David Nicholl’s One Day was one of those novels you saw everywhere for about a year, but when Anne Hathaway was chosen to play Emma Morley many felt it undermined many of the character’s most fundamental characteristics. In fact Nicholls adaptations have previous in this regard; surely James McAvoy was far too sexy to play Brian Jackson in Starter For Ten?

If it’s arguable that some of these examples are subjective then what of Jane Eyre, a character literally described as “plain” in the book but played in the 2011 film by Mia Wasikowska?

Occasionally a great-looking lead is styled in such a way as to match up with the role they are playing – one of our Twitter followers pointed to Javier Bardem’s haircut in No Country For Old Men as a good example of a handsome man looking very different on screen – but this happens less often than you’d hope.

Maybe as a society we are so superficial we can’t stomach looking at someone who’s not flawless for an hour or two, but I think it’s more about the directors, producers and casting directors who make these decisions. They should give us a bit more credit.

Who have I missed off here? Who was far too hot for certain roles, or conversely which actors who might not be considered conventionally good-looking have a screen presence that soars?

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Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

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