The opening weekend success of "Hairspray" (not to mention the sterling reviews) may finally, FINALLY, solve a nagging mystery in Hollywood - why James Marsden isn't a bigger star?
Just look at the guy. He's annoyingly good-looking, perfectly coiffed and just about always well-dressed. On top of that, the guy can flat out ACT. His work on Ally McBeal, the X-Men trilogy, The Notebook and especially Superman Returns proves that. In Hairspray, he also shows he can sing & dance like a Broadway star. So I ask again, why isn't he a bigger star?
It has nothing to do with off-set headlines. He's never in Page Six or any other gossip columns because he lives the nice, comfortable life of a married man. It may have EVERYTHING to do with the fact he has perfected the role of the third wheel, the guy who NEVER gets the girl. As Cyclops, he may have technically gotten the girl (Jean Grey/Phoenix) but she obliterated him in the third film and always seemed to pine for Wolverine -- so that doesn't really count. In The Notebook, he loses Rachel McAdams to Ryan Gosling. Now, I enjoyed this movie, I did. Thought it was a great love story. My wife, though, LOVES this movie. Its one of her all-time Top 5 films. But she says the one flaw she has with it is that no woman in her right mind would leave a guy like Marsden for a sourpuss like Gosling's character. But it happens anyway!
Then in Superman Returns, Marsden has to compete with the Man of Steel. Impossible, yet, he somehow manages to make you sympathize with his character, knowing he's being held up to an impossible standard, and hoping he comes out of this incredibly awkward situation OK. THAT'S GOOD ACTING.
In Hairspray, the Stillwater, Oklahoma native turns a nothing part in the Broadway show into a scene-stealing effort that's bursting with charisma and conscience. He could have played it in a self-absorbed, Vince Fontaine-styled performance, but Marsden's natural likeability comes through onscreen and infuses Corny Collins with a personality he really didn't have in the Broadway show. If you caught the cast's appearance on TODAY last Friday, you saw it there as well. (Of course, you didn't hear a word from James during the interview portion because they only wanted to talk to the other stars. Talk about a slight!)
So again - why isn't he a big star? Beats me. Maybe casting directors feel he's the prototypical 'too good to be true' guy, someone the audience can't relate to. Could be, the right parts/scripts haven't come his way, or perhaps they have and he hasn't jumped on them. And sometimes, its just bad timing and bad luck. Who knew Hugh Jackman would be the breakout star of the X movies? Or that Preacher (based on the graphic novels), a project Marsden had been actively trying to get off the ground so he could star in it, would keep getting stalled in the Hwood pipeline? To illustrate my point about luck and timing, Marsden told me Preacher is finally getting made -- as a cable TV series. He won't be a part of it. Too bad. He would have been great in a really interesting role. But once again, things didn't break his way.
Regardless, he's way overdue to break out.
We had him on REEL TALK last week and he was one of the most down-to-earth guys we've had on. Laid back, self-deprecating, and very aware of the industry and his place. He seemed genuinely excited about Hairspray's chances of raising his profile. I hope it does that for him. Enchanted seems like another can't-miss hit later in November, which should also show off his sense of humor (he's playing a buffoon-like Prince Charming, as he put it - check out the trailer here. HE's also got a romantic comedy with Katherine Heigl and Ed Burns called 27 Dresses coming out later this year. If this isn't the year James Marsden becomes a big star, then there's no hope.
Keep this in mind. Outside of Hugh Jackman and maybe Matt Damon, name another under 40 star who can do comedy/action/drama/musicals. Think about it and get back to me when someone comes to mind. And I'm only including Damon because of his 'Will & Grace' episode.
So hopefully Hollywood finally smarts up and realizes their next genre-juggling star has been right under their noses, waiting to show what he can do. Someone give this guy a LEAD ROLE!