Oscar nominee (and predicted winner) Mahershala Ali is on the cover of next week’s issue of The Hollywood Reporter, looking about as good as an actor is capable as looking, which is to say he looks like he looks as amazing as he normally does. But beyond the fact that I want to frame this cover and put it on my desk behind a candle that never dies out, it has me thinking about how infrequently Big Hollywood pushes new male film stars on us.
Every year there’s a new batch of up-and-coming female actors we’re told (via glossy magazine covers and high-profile talk show appearances) to keep our eyes on. Some people call them “It Girls,” some people would prefer that we didn’t. In 2015 there was Brie Larson, Dakota Johnson, and Alicia Vikander. Last year we had Margot Robbie (lol), Janelle Monae, and Ruth Negga. But the push for men feels a little rarer. A deep-seated sexism and agism in Hollywood is largely to blame for this (women reach their “last fuckable day” long before men, so they must be replaced more frequently), but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, by and large, male actors just aren’t as intriguing. I mean, how can we begin to care about three A-listers named Chris if we can’t even tell them apart!
I brought the subject up to my coworkers, asking if they could think of other actors (let’s call them “It Boys”) who had received the kind of attention Ali is currently getting, and the only recent ones we could come up with were Chris Pratt (too boring), Miles Teller (too cocky), Tom Hiddleston (too Swifted), Ryan Reynolds (too many chances), and Benedict Cumberbatch (too niche). Idris Elba, though well-liked and almost made the cut (he might even be the next Bond!), has yet to star in a big American movie, which makes it tough to give him that title.
Meanwhile, Ali is in two of 2017's most beloved Oscar contenders (Moonlight and Hidden Figures), has been in the business for decades (audiences love narratives about hard work finally paying off), and is the subject of a wonderful THR piece in which he tells—in about 3,000 words—the story of his life. You should read it, and get to know our latest (42-year-old) “It Boy.” It’s about time we had a good one.
Author’s Note: The original lede to this story was “Is it hot in here, or am I just in the same room as this issue of The Hollywood Reporter?! Boi-oi-oing, am I right, ladies and gents?” It was revised out of respect for Mr. Ali.