Orson Welles was a handsome twentysomething. Marlon Brando was a sex symbol. Time wasn’t kind to either. It has been to many of our own era’s former hot young things, who’ve avoided binge eating, heavy smoking and other vices to keep looking young and fit even as they creep up terrifyingly in age. Here are some who’ve kept looking youthful, or haven’t, but nevertheless serve as a reminder that in Hollywood men are allowed to age, but not women.
First blush: A Robert Redford lookalike, one of his first prominent jobs was acting for Redford in his “A River Runs Through It.” That was off the heels of his “Thelma and Louise” breakthrough, in which a 28 year old Pitt let Geena Davis massage his six pack. That was over two decades ago. To prove his mettle, he occasionally uglied himself up, as in “Twelve Monkeys.”
Today: A special effects team didn’t have to work too hard to make him look twentyish late in “Benjamin Button.” Even with some wrinkles and wear and tear, he — like Johnny Depp — doesn’t look half a century old.
First blush: The nephew of Rosemary Clooney (and son of AMC charmer Nick Clooney), George was a mulleted himbo on “Facts of Life” and a scene stealer on “Roseanne.” It wasn’t until “E.R.,” at 33, that he became a sex god. By his forties, with “Ocean’s Eleven,” he had fully embraced the Cary Grant persona: Elegantly charming in one film, goofy in the other.
Today: Cary Grant retired in his early 60s, as he didn’t think the world wished to watch him grow old. Clooney doesn’t seem like he’ll do the same thing. Besides, unlike Grant (insanely enough), he has an acting Oscar.
First blush: He was that nice kid who made nice raps that your parents would like. Indeed, he’s the least threatening person to ever record a song about how parents suck.
Today: He’s a dad himself. He’s by no means old, nor looks it, but he does have a teenage kid, and is prone to inscrutable interview quotes about patterns.
First blush: The Aussie didn’t completely break through into America until “Gladiator” at 36, which is one way to remind you that “Gladiator” is now in puberty. But more adventurous viewers were all about him since he was 26, when he delivered a rollicking performance in 1991’s “Proof.” He was even a studly Neo-Nazi skinhead in 1992’s “Romper Stomper.”
Today: Along with Kevin Costner, he’s one of Superman’s two dads. He’s oozed the kind of weary gravitas you get from older, seasoned actors since the start. But now he’s really starting to look the part, especially once he started putting on a bit of weight.
First blush: At one point, Costner was the biggest star in the world. He got people into multiple films that cracked the three-hour mark, including one fever dream that made up facts to buttress the conspiracy that everybody but Oliver Stone killed Kennedy.
Today: He’s Superman’s other dad. More important, he’s aged into the kind of performer he always wanted to be. A terrific rom-com lead, he unfortunately wasted his relative youth thinking himself a man of deadly seriousness. He wasn’t, but now that he’s pushing 60, he is by default.
First blush: For over a decade, Hollywood tried to make the elder Baldwin a slim movie stud. He even got it on in “The Getaway” with then-wife Kim Basinger, producing scenes too hot for theatrical exhibition.
Today: Like Russell Crowe, he got even better once he put on some weight. Starting with “The Cooler,” he became a doughy, relaxed scene-/movie-stealer, his youthful intensity traded for a hilarious, gravel-voiced whisper. In an episode of “30 Rock,” Jack Donaghey hands Liz Lemon a photo from his youth. She freaks. He asks for it back. Even older, fatter Alec is into younger, slimmer Alec.
First blush: Starting with his first starring role, in the ZAZ comedy “Top Secret!,” Kilmer has been pretty rugged. He was a spot-on Jim Morrison, for chrissakes, and even played Batman, The Saint and many other A-list roles.
Today: When he popped up in a supporting role in “Deja Vu” in 2006, audiences across America gasped at the sight of a fat Kilmer. (He’d been lean only months earlier in “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.”) He hasn’t gotten to the bulk of his “Island of Dr. Moreau” costar Brando, but unlike Crowe and Baldwin, a little weight didn’t do him favors.
First blush: An actor as attractive as he was talented, he was cited in the En Vogue/Salt-n-Pepa song “Whatta Man” as having the ideal face (though a Schwarzenneger body would have made the package perfect, apparently).
Today: That was twenty years ago. Today, we’re just shocked he’s nearly 60 years old. Like Pitt, he’s got a case of Dick Clarkism.
First blush: The son of Hollywood royalty, Douglas was the young co-star of “The Streets of San Francisco,” but didn’t really come into his own until middle age. It wasn’t until his forties that he became the sex-crazed lead of “Fatal Attraction” and “Basic Instinct.” He even married a woman 25 years his junior.
Today: Even more shocking than him being nearly 70 is that his dad, Kirk, is still going, at 96. But yes, Michael Douglas is AARP age, and recently did a killer Liberace opposite Matt Damon, who himself is a boyish 42 (playing 18, mind you).
First blush: He was born to play James Bond. Unfortunately when he was at his peak, the role was being played by a 55 year old, and he had to settle for “Remington Steele.” When he belatedly got to the series, he was 42 and the franchise was about to reach a nadir, only to reawken when execs found the next guy.
Today: Like most ex-Bonds, he has not much left to prove, and has settled into a comfortable 60-something who honestly looks like he’s late 40s at worst.
First blush: Even before “Star Wars,” he was a scruffy-looking go-getter, who stole bits of “American Graffiti” and shook down Gene Hackman with a smug smile in “The Conversation.”
Today: He’s a first-rate grouch, and as he heads into his 70s he’s only going to get grouchier. He was hilariously pissy in “Morning Glory” and “42,” and at some point soon he’ll play an old man yelling at kids on his lawn with Clint Eastwood, who right now is 83. But he doesn’t look old.
First blush: Mickey Rourke used to be hot.
Today: Mickey Rouke is no longer hot. Kids, don’t become a boxer if you’re handsome. He’s still a great actor, albeit one whose comeback after “The Wrestler” should have reaped more and better. In fact, his career was a bit studier right before he “came back”; the 2000s are filled with amazing supporting Rourke turns, which appear to have dried up.