This August, the mercenary flick The Expendables hits theaters, featuring the boldface names of a previous blockbuster era — Stallone, Lundgren, Willis, Schwarzenegger — in what feels like one last fling before they’re all consigned to a life of denture paste and afternoon bingo. The title, intentionally or not, winks at a larger issue in Hollywood: With the sure-thing leading men of yore either having aged out of their signature roles or gotten bored with them, who can fill their marquee shoes? We’ve compiled a list of fresh meat we think Hollywood is peddling as the replacements for some old favorites. See if you agree.
Credits: Terminator Salvation, Avatar, Clash of the Titans
Hollywood Thinks He’s the New: Russell Crowe
Why He Is: Both Aussies (though Crowe is a New Zealand transplant) made a splash in a swords-and-sandals-type pic, and they have similarly rugged, sturdy good looks. Worthington’s next film will be The Fields, directed by the daughter of Michael Mann, who directed Crowe to his first Oscar nomination for The Insider.
Why He Isn’t: Crowe’s a much better actor, even if none of his movies changed the face of cinema, blah blah Avatar blah.
Chance of Success: 4 out of 10. After appearing in a Terminator film, the biggest-grossing movie of the year, and last weekend’s box-office winner, shouldn’t Worthington be more recognizable by now? Whenever we try to picture him, we see Rick(y) Schroeder. Bad sign.
Credits: Grey’s Anatomy (TV), Watchmen, The Losers (upcoming)
Hollywood Thinks He’s the New: Robert Downey Jr.
Why He Is: Both have highly anticipated comic-book flicks under their belts, and share the same crinkly charm (seriously, does Tony Stark have a long-lost brother?). RDJ made a valiant attempt in 1993’s Hearts and Souls to have us believe in ghosts, and Morgan famously played a ghost for what felt like forever on Grey’s.
Why He Isn’t: Watchmen was an ensemble; Iron Man was not. RDJ has proven time and again that he can carry a movie in one hand (after all, he got away with blackface in Tropic Thunder); all Morgan has proven is that he can fake a reasonable Irish accent for about fifteen minutes (P.S. I Love You).
Chance of Success: 5 out of 10. Morgan’s got charisma, but it’s a bit late to be breaking out now, and his taste in scripts needs some serious refinement. P.S. I Love You was never going to be any good, dude.
Credits: Star Trek, Untitled Jack Ryan Project (upcoming)
Hollywood Thinks He’s the New: Harrison Ford
Why He Is: Pine’s Captain James T. Kirk was pretty, but kind of an ass — the same cocky charm Ford deployed to great effect as Han Solo. Also: He’s literally been cast in a role formerly occupied by Ford. How much more proof do you need?
Why He Isn’t: As long as Harrison Ford is willing to limp through Indiana Jones sequels, can he even be replaced?
Chance of Success: 8 out of 10. The march of time dictates that Ford will retire eventually, and Pine is both cute and extremely likable. Is he talented? No idea, but if he finds a part where he gets to carry a whip, it might not matter.
Credits: Disturbia, Indiana Jones 4, Transformers, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (upcoming)
Hollywood Thinks He’s the New: Michael Douglas
Why He Is: They’re equally smarmy, and LaBeouf’s been cast as Douglas’s acolyte in the Wall Street sequel, so there’s got to be something there, right?
Why He Isn’t: Where Douglas’s smarm was used to rakish effect in Romancing the Stone, LaBoeuf’s self-satisfaction in his jungle romp — Indiana Jones 4: Aliens Whaaaat? — felt unearned. Also: Douglas has better hair, even now.
Chance of Success: 7 out of 10. Like Douglas, LaBoeuf can actually act; also like Douglas, he takes practically any part he’s offered, so as long as he avoids a Disclosure, he may eventually hit on his own Fatal Attraction or Wonder Boys.
Credits: This Twilight thing you might have heard about, Stretch Armstrong (upcoming)
Hollywood Thinks He’s the New: Orlando Bloom
Why He Is: Do you hear that screaming from the tweens gathered outside Taylor’s hotel room? Five years ago, those girls were screaming for Orlando Bloom, thanks to his dreamy, teeny-bopper-friendly turns in the Pirates of the Caribbean and Lord of the Rings movies. Also, both Lautner and Bloom have been forced to wear long and only marginally flattering wigs.
Why He Isn’t: Let’s just say that Twilight doesn’t have the literary or filmic cred of Lord of the Rings.
Chance of Success: 7 out of 10. It’s almost too early to know, but then again, who could have predicted that Orlando Bloom would get bored of being Orlando Bloom and disappear? Lautner’s got staying power with hormonal teens, thanks to great abs and nice-guy charm, so we think he’s safe for a while.
Credits: 300, The Ugly Truth, The Bounty Hunter
Hollywood Thinks He’s the New: Mel Gibson
Why He Is: He’s a rugged, amiable, tan everyman who’s done a blend of action and creepy romantic comedies; both have worn kilts; “Gerard” is one of Mel’s middle names.
Why He Isn’t: He sometimes comes off like the kind of handsy boozer you’d flee from in a bar, whose pores leak pure Glenfiddich. (On the other hand, this is becoming increasingly true for Mel as well.)
Chance of Success: 7 out of 10. Gerard got a late start and his rom-com reinvention isn’t working; however, he’s smartly returning to his half-naked roots in Coriolanus, about a vengeful Roman hero, because he’s learning the world likes him better when he’s yelling in loincloths.
Credits: Step Up, She’s the Man, G.I. Joe
Hollywood Thinks He’s the New: Bruce Willis
Why He Is: The kid’s got guns, he isn’t afraid to wear undershirts and squint, and he’s got a slew of thrillers coming up about things like cops, black-ops soldiers, and assassination targets. Plus he and Bruce share an ability to talk without fully opening their mouths.
Why He Isn’t: Step Up plus Dear John equals less Moonlighting than Dirty Dancing. And Channing doesn’t seem to have much of a sense of humor, as evidenced by the DVD commentary on She’s the Man (don’t judge — that movie is secretly funny).
Chance of Success: 2 out of 10. Willis at least twinkles through his moments of woodenness; Tatum just kind of rages or sulks through them.
Credits: Undeclared (TV), Tropic Thunder, Knocked Up, She’s Out of My League
Hollywood Thinks He’s the New: John Cusack
Why He Is: Baruchel and Cusack are both well-cast as dark-haired, sarcastic, slightly geeky antiheroes who nonetheless get the girl. He also nearly stole Tropic Thunder from Ben Stiller, so you know his comic timing is aces.
Why He Isn’t: She’s Out of My League is no Better Off Dead, much less Say Anything.
Chance of Success: 6 out of 10. This number would be higher if Jay’s upcoming projects didn’t include a feature film with Seth Rogen called Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse, which sounds way too self-indulgent for this point in his career. Focus, kid! (That goes for you, too, Rogen.)
Credits: (500) Days of Summer, 10 Things I Hate About You, Brick, 3rd Rock From the Sun
Hollywood Thinks He’s the New: Tom Hanks
Why He Is: Like Hanks, Gordon-Levitt started in TV, is an incredibly likable and rubber-faced actor who can cross at will between comedy and drama — we could see him handling both Big and Philadelphia — and he has hosted Saturday Night Live without embarrassing himself.
Why He’s Not: Gordon-Levitt sometimes comes off as too eager to please, and he’s still waiting for the hit that makes him a household name. Maybe he should change it to something easier. How about Dom Banks?
Chance of Success: 6 out of 10. JGL’s taste in scripts might be too quirky to make him mainstream, and he might like it that way. And he might be right.
Credits: The Twilight Saga, the picture on your neighbor-lady’s hope chest
Hollywood Thinks He’s the New: Christian Bale
Why He Is: If any young actor seems Method enough to lose 60 pounds for a role, it’s Pattinson. He and Bale exude similar auras of knowing their slavish fans made them what they are, yet wanting to undercut pretty-boy conventions.
Why He Isn’t: Bale is a really damn good actor; Pattinson mostly acts with his flaring nostrils. Clips of him “emoting” in Remember Me are painful to watch; we can only imagine the horror if he ever tried to find his Newsies.
Chance for success: 10 out of 10. Sucky or not, Team Edward will not be denied.
Credits: The Hangover, He’s Just Not That Into You, The A-Team (upcoming)
Hollywood Thinks He’s the New: Matthew McConaughey
Why He Is: They’re both legitimately funny, when they’re not skating on their looks (Matthew). In fact, had He’s Just Not That Into You or The A-Team been made five years ago, McConaughey totally would have been in both of them, rather than hanging out on the beach doing shirtless push-ups. And they were both in Failure to Launch, so maybe McConaughey actually did pass Bradley the torch of being Hollywood’s go-to good-looking tan guy who plays the charming dude you don’t totally trust.
Why He Isn’t: McConaughey has a more mellow vibe than Cooper does; you never feel like he’s working too hard onscreen, while Cooper can get a little manic. Also, while Cooper is definitely super attractive, McConaughey at his best was probably a splash hotter.
Chance of Success: 9 out of 10. Lately, it seems like Cooper’s got the best agent in Hollywood. He’s dating Renee Zellweger. His name is easy to spell. He’s got this movie star thing wrapped up for at least a couple of years. At least until his own Airstream trailer is ready.
Credits: Two Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place (TV), X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Proposal, Green Lantern (2011)
Hollywood Thinks He’s the New: Matt Damon
Why He Is: Matt Damon isn’t done yet, but the world could always use another guy who is both charmingly self-deprecating and fitted with action-movie biceps. And Entertainment Weekly has worn down our collective resistance by continuing to insist Reynolds is the funniest, coolest actor alive.
Why He Isn’t: It’s been a looooong road to get to this almost-there point, so maybe America doesn’t respond to Reynolds’s half-smug, half-wry line readings as well as Hollywood thinks it does. Also, is it just us, or does the marriage to Scarlett Johansson (whom he’s never with) feel like a big hoax?
Chance for Success: 8 out of 10. Between the Green Lantern and the X-Men prequel based on his Deadpool character, a huge hit is all but assured, eventually. Because dudes who like action movies don’t care if he’s ever actually met Scarlett Johansson.
Credits: High School Musical et al., Hairspray, 17 Again
Hollywood Thinks He’s the New: John Travolta
Why He Is: In addition to the obvious parallels of getting their start in musicals, they share improbably striking hair and the kind of charisma that makes you pay attention even when the movie they’re in is sub-par.
Why He Isn’t: Travolta had gritty Saturday Night Fever to balance out Grease, and in later years he was at his best when playing a semi-psychopath. It’s hard — but really, really amusing — to picture Efron in Face/Off or Pulp Fiction.
Chance of Success: 7 out of 10. Efron backed out of the Footloose reboot to avoid being typecast, and Travolta dodged the same bullet, so it seems like the kid might have a good blueprint for what to do.
, The Back-Up Plan
Hollywood Thinks He’s the New:
Why He Is:
He’s got a certain charm with a dangerous edge, the likes of which we saw in Doug Ross. And CBS is convinced he can be a TV star if they can just find the right series (post-Moonlight
, it was Three Rivers
, and now they’re trying a new Hawaii 5-0
); the network’s entertainment president Nina Tassler used their names in the same breath
while discussing actors who made the most of their TV chances.
Why He Isn’t:
Two of those shows got canceled, the third isn’t a go yet, and his big splash opposite J.Lo looks a damn sight lamer than Out of Sight
Chance for Success:
5 out of 10. O’Loughlin has a loyal fan base, but anyone who spent time developing a surefire acting method for smelling the past (R.I.P., Moonlight
) might take himself a smidge too seriously to be the new Clooney.
Credits: The Pursuit of Happyness, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Karate Kid (upcoming)
Hollywood Thinks He’s the New: Will Smith
Why He Is: He’s cute, and he’s got chops. Plus, Will Smith wouldn’t trust the job of becoming the New Will Smith to anyone outside his own gene pool.
Why He Isn’t: Will Smith might be lightning in a bottle, and Jaden’s a bit young for Independence Day II: Independence Evening.
Chance of Success: 8 out of 10. Sadly, Hollywood doesn’t seem to have its panties in a wad over nearly enough up-and-coming African-American actors. At least Smith comes from a powerful papa, and what Will Smith wants, Will Smith gets.
Credits: Fantastic 4 franchise, The First Avenger: Captain America (upcoming)
Hollywood Thinks He’s the New: Paul Walker
Why He Is: Evans fills an archetype: He’s as bland and white-bread as Walker was in The Fast and the Furious, yet just cute enough to keep getting hired.
Why He Isn’t: Walker at least had the decency to do his time in guilty-pleasure teen movies like She’s All That and Varsity Blues, thus providing us with a whole buffet of Sunday afternoon cable delights. Evans only made a brief appearance in the execrable Nanny Diaries, and it was so unmemorable we forgot it happened until right now.
Chance of Success: 10 out of 10. Think about it: Captain America is Evans’s third comic-book-based role, yet if we’re not literally looking right at him, we don’t remember he exists. He’s the Hollywood equivalent of trying to make “fetch” happen. Therefore, we suspect he already is Paul Walker. Congrats, kid! Save that Captain America check.