Kings of Cool
A week or two ago we asked you to vote for the coolest actors of all time. If you missed it, the line up would make Ocean's 11 look like the B-Team: Pacino, McQueen, Newman, Dean, Del Toro, Rourke, Jackson, Pitt, Nicholson and Daniel Craig.
Before we get to the winner, maybe we should just savour that list for a moment: ten men who somehow link up The Magnificent Seven, Rebel Without a Cause, The Godfather, Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, Cool Hand Luke, The Usual Suspects, Chinatown, Sin City and, uh, The Mother. That's enough testosterone right there to fuel the Indianapolis 500.
What makes Steve McQueen cool? You might as well ask what makes Salma Hayek hot: it's incarnate... it's in the body language, the attitude, the emotional gauge... It's in the way he knows himself and doesn't have to prove it... and of course it's in the sum of all those quiet and capable parts he's impersonated, the cowboys, the cops, the outlaws, the soldiers and the drivers.
Cool as he may be, McQueen isn't our man. Nor is Pacino (maybe the greatest actor in this group), perhaps because his heroes have a nasty habit of unravelling when the going gets tough. Benicio Del Toro? The epitome of cool in Traffic, but too shifty an actor to really nail his own impression on the audience. Mickey Rourke? The Motorcycle Boy made the mistake of living his own legend. There's nothing cool about Wild Orchid.
Thirty years ago we could all have agreed Jack Nicholson was the coolest star in Hollywood. Today he's just the dirty old man who tried to chat up Keira Knightly at the Oscars. Paul Newman? Newman made eating hard boiled eggs look cool.... could shoot pool like a champion... directs better than anyone else on this list and still makes a mean salad dressing... but no matter his accomplishments, he was always a poor man's Jimmy Dean and he always will be (and look what happened to Dean!).
I think you could make a case for Brad Pitt (how much cooler would Down in the Valley have been with Tyler Durden in the Ed Norton role?). He's got blockbuster looks but stayed hip in his choices, making himself available to adventurous directors like David Fincher, Terry Gilliam, Ridley Scott and Steven Soderbergh. In the end though, there is something too earnest about Brad to be definitively cool. He's busy earning brownie points when the true king of cool doesn't need to even lift a finger.
See, our winner makes movies by the bucket-load (the imdb lists nearly a hundred of them). Good, bad and indifferent, it's all the same to him. His favourite past time is golf. He's approaching 60, but didn't become a star until 1994. He managed to make Do the Right Thing, GoodFellas, Sea of Love and True Romance and still stay under the radar. He's a vegetarian who doesn't drink (any more) or do drugs (any more). He used to play the French horn. He swears up a storm, says his most important ally on a movie set is his hairdresser, and he chose his latest project on the strength of its title alone... Snakes on a Plane. In return, he's made it the must-see movie of the summer.
Ladies and gents, your King of Cool:
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