For so long, Henry Cavill bore the mantle of Hollywood’s ultimate nearly man. Having narrowly missed out on landing the roles of James Bond, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, Empire magazine dubbed him the “Unluckiest Man in Hollywood.” Cavill finally got the leading man monkey off his bank when he donned the famous cape and tights in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (2013). It would be naïve to think, however, that Cavill was in a club of just one. With that in mind, who are some of Hollywood’s other nearly men?
Josh Hartnett’s career follows the law of diminishing returns. He sprung to notoriety appearing at the head of an A-list cast in Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down (2001). That same year he starred in Michael Bay’s ultimate rotten tomato Pearl Harbor. That sort of association would set anyone back, but Hartnett seemed well placed to rise above it. Like Henry Cavill, he was offered the role of the Man in Tights in Brett Ratner’s ultimately doomed reboot, but turned it down due to a concern about becoming typecast. Since then, he’s had lead roles in Lucky Number Slevin (2006) and 30 Days of Night (2007) and had a fleeting appearance in Sin City (2005) as ‘The Man.’ All is not lost for Josh, however, as he’s due to appear alongside Eva Green in the TV series Penny Dreadful, helmed by Sam Mendes.
Up till now, Taylor Kitsch has had the sort of career that most jobbing actors would give their right arm for. The Canadian actor scored his big break following a successful sting in the TV series Friday Night Lights. His first big movie role came in the much maligned X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), in which he played card carrying Gambit. When the news broke that Kitsch was set to star in two of 2012’s biggest releases, John Carter and Battleship, it seemed like the former model had prematurely hit the big time. Unfortunately for Kitsch, both films were resounding commercial and critical failures and not even redeeming performances in Oliver Stone’s Savages (2012) and this year’s Lone Survivor has been enough to salvage his reputation.
One look at Sam Worthington might convince you of his leading man credentials. Indeed, unlike many thousands of actors, there has not been a shortage of opportunities for Worthington to prove himself. Until 2009, the English born actor had enjoyed an unremarkable career. Then along came Jimmy Cameron and his Smurfs-in-space project. After he was cast as Jake Sulley in Avatar, Hollywood assumed that Cameron must be on to something and promptly cast him in a string of big budget blockbusters. Before Avatar was released, Worthington appeared in the ill-fated Terminator: Salvation (2009), before portraying a demi-God in the woeful Clash of the Titans (2010). Subsequent appearances in Wrath of the Titans (2012) and Man on a Ledge (2013) have done little to convince audiences of this nearly man’s leading man credentials. Watch this space for Avatar 2, 3 and also 4.
Hang on, didn’t Adrian Brody win an Oscar? Yep, that’s right; Best Actor in 2003 for The Pianist. When he walked on-stage to accept his award and kiss Halle Berry, a star was born. Or so many thought. A quick glance at Brody’s IMDb page will tell you that he has hardly been idle, yet he seems to have drifted to the periphery of audiences’ consciousness. In the years following The Pianist, he appeared in Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2005), alongside Rachel Weisz and Mark Ruffalo in The Brothers Bloom (2008) and as Salvador Dali in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (2011). You can hardly say that he’s been unlucky. However, whether it’s a conscious decision or not, Adrien Brody has become somewhat of a forgotten man.
We end this trip through the boulevard of missed opportunities with the man who initially beat Cavill to the role of Superman. Brandon Routh had led an inauspicious career until 2004 when Warner Bros. announced that he had been chosen by director Bryan Singer to portray the titular character in 2006’s Superman Returns. Though the film received a positive critical reception, a poor showing at the box office led to the reboot being dropped. Aside from a memorable appearance in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), Routh’s star has waned since the highpoint of 2006. However, roles in TV shows such as Chosen and Enlisted, as well as a voice-over credit in Call of Duty: Ghosts have kindled hopes that Routh may once again attract the attention of Hollywood’s elite.