A while back, Vulture took a look at the voluminous beards of the music world, and it was such an enriching experience, our thoughts quickly turned to the beardos of the silver screen. Could Dumbledore’s beard surpass Gandalf’s? When it comes to bushy mustaches, do Borat, Daniel Plainview, and Groucho Marx rate highly? To find out the answers to these burning questions, we turned to Jack Passion, Myk O’Connor, and Miletus Callahan of IFC’s new facial-hair reality competition, Whisker Wars, who fortunately agreed to put aside their inherent bias in favor of Tom Selleck (“That’s the original mustache, and anything else is just a pale comparison,” noted Passion) in order to help us figure out which screen mustaches and beards should come out on top. Who’s “flossing clean,” and whose mustache screams “rape van”? Click through to find out!
Which of these old wizards would do better in a competition? Callahan had a soulful take on the matter: “Personally, I’m going to have to go with Gandalf because his internal beard is better. He exudes internal beard to me.” Passion, though, felt like Dumbledore was a contender on style points alone. “You know, sometimes you have an off day in a competition, and I think this is an off day for Gandalf, because his beard looks a little ratty-tattered,” he noticed. “Whereas Dumbledore is flossing clean.”
What exactly is this weird, single chin strand called, and how would it be evaluated on Whisker Wars? “Anything that grows on the chin is considered a goatee,” Passion told us, though when O’Connor reminded him, “Except for the soul patch,” Passion was immediately repulsed by the thought: “The soul patch, jeez Louise. We’re talking the bottom end of the spectrum here. We’re talking creepy rape-van shit.” So it’s fair to say that Samuel L. Jackson wouldn’t score highly with him? “I would sit that judging out,” said Passion. “He would do really well at the Gathering of the Juggalos, though.”
“Harrison Ford looks great here,” said O’Connor. “As far as personal style, this is one of his best looks.” Still, we wondered whether Ford’s two-tone beard might prove a liability when competing, and if so, would he be allowed to dye it? “That’s actually a big argument in the competitions,” admitted Passion. “We have a category that says, ‘Full, natural beard,’ but dyeing is allowed, which doesn’t make sense to me. But when I was in Alaska, guys were rocking multicolor beards, and what’s cool about it is that they had different categories for it. What Harrison Ford has here could be considered a ‘polecat.’ If somebody had a dark beard, that could be a ‘black bear,’ and something really white could be considered a ‘silver fox.’” He paused and chuckled. “That has a lot of interesting bear/cub connotations.”
Sacha Baron Cohen vs. Daniel Day-Lewis: Who’s got the better ‘stache? “Daniel Day-Lewis, I weep when I see his work,” said Passion, who noted, “They’re both incredibly brilliant Method actors whose characters are so rich that it almost necessitates facial hair, in this case, the mustache.” Callahan agreed. “Borat is good, but it’s kind of like that ‘Hey, I got a goofy mustache!’ thing. It makes you feel weird. I wouldn’t want to be around him, but I would definitely want to have a beer with Daniel Day-Lewis.”
Speaking of drinks: The Dude has a tendency to get his beard soaked in the White Russians he drinks. What advice would the men of Whisker Wars recommend? “I carry around a bandana,” said Callahan. “I have a full mustache that goes over my lips as well as a beard, so if I’m drinking beer out of a pint glass, it’s going to go everywhere, but if I drink out of a bottle, it’s not. You have to make those choices.”
The men were not a fan of this comedian’s look. “I feel like it’s the disguise you buy at the store, with the glasses, the big nose and the mustache,” said O’Connor. Added Callahan, “No disrespect to Groucho Marx, but the damn thing’s painted on. I love Groucho Marx, but if men are going to go around putting big black sharpie markers on their face … man, I gotta disagree with it.”
Admittedly, Fox’s post-island look is from a TV show, not a movie, but we just had to learn what the judges thought of Jack’s ratty old beard. The surprise? They loved it. “It’s full and big,” said O’Connor. “Good coverage on the face.” Passion also gave him the thumbs-up, noting, “He looks like somebody who’s going to kick in the door and say, ‘LUMBERJACK!’” But isn’t it a little bit grody and all over the place? “It’s just not groomed,” said Callahan. “You know when you wake up in the morning and you’ve got bedhead? This is bedbeard.”
What’s the technical term for those little accouterments that Depp adds to Jack Sparrow’s goatee? “I call it debris,” sniffed O’Connor. “Compared to some of the other facial hair we’ve been discussing today, it’s not blowing my skirt up. I guess for a pirate, it works. If you’re out on the sea, you’re not going to care what you look like, obviously.”
Our judges were even less enamored of this gonzo Stiller look, which they struggled to even put a name to. “Gay seventies porn?” offered Callahan. “Or maybe a ‘walrus’? Let’s say a ‘walrus.’”
Are these barely there mustaches too wispy to even rate? “Ethan Hawke’s got that funky-chic look going on,” said Passion. “Michael Cera has definitely got the pedophile mustache. Once again going back to rape vans, this is the kind of person I would expect to go down my street in one of those really nasty ice-cream trucks with handmade stickers.” Still, Callahan appreciated that Cera’s Youth in Revolt alter ego would try to grow something at all: “This is the projected image of Michael Cera in the movie, and when he thinks of himself as a man worthy of this woman’s love and a man who’s confident, he thinks of himself wearing facial hair. I think that’s a very interesting point.”
“The outfit enhances that mustache,” says O’Connor. “I have a few friends who have mustaches like that, and when they go to competitions or even just go out, they like to dress up in period clothing.” Is a mustache inherently period-looking? “We took a hundred-year break from widespread facial hair, so it’s gonna look old-timey, it’s gonna look like a period thing,” argues Passion. “But give it time.”
The movie was putrid, but surely the curly mustache and flowing beard combo that Myers sported could be a contender, right? The judges weren’t all that impressed, and suspected malfeasance. “He’s competitive with Gandalf and Dumbledore,” Passion allowed, “but clearly with a man of that age, his beard isn’t going to be that color. It looks like a fake beard.” DQ!
Though the judges gave McGregor points for trying, they all preferred Alec Guinness’s Obi-Wan beard. “You can’t go wrong with Alec,” Callagan said appreciatively. “That beard was badass.” Still, Passion put McGregor’s blond bushiness in perspective. “I think all men should grow beards, and this is the beard you’d find on an orthodontist, or a beginning CPA. It’s a business beard,” he said. “He’s not making any waves, but I’m glad to see it.”