One of my greatest loves, besides full-frontal male nudity in films, is a beard. Normally I would get up on my soap box and spout out tributes to the greatness of male facial hair, how it can instantly make a baby-faced boy look tough and intimidating. Or take a scrappy young man and make him appear soulful or whimsical. Facial hair can even play as much importance in telling the difference between a hipster or a homeless person (a game that is one of my favorite past times). And while I like to think more people share my love of male facial muffs, I’ve come to realize many audiences see facial hair as a costume or accessory meant to show a level of untrustworthy or roguish manliness that a clean-shaven character lacks. This is unfortunate as any level of facial hair can really mean more than just good versus evil on screen.
I have spent many years disappointing my parents with my choice in men and their accompanying facial hair, starting from the celebrities I chose to crush on (90s teen boy bands aside) to the men I brought home for Sunday night dinners. I have long been cursed with a love of beards I cannot deny myself. And as I have spent years writing about and stroking them (research!) it is about time Hollywood takes note of the diversity in beards and how they aren’t just for the bad guys anymore.
For anyone who is not a pogonophile, let’s start light with the hair choice made most famous by Burt Reynolds and Tom Selleck: the moustache. Being a child of the 90s, my father rocked one of these until he got too exhausted with maintaining it and just grew out a full beard. But if the last few years are anything to go by, the moustache is making a comeback in a big way on screen. Of course period films will feature more moustaches than not, as the actors want to touch the full sense of the character’s soul. Last April’s Kill the Irishman featured a moustached Ray Stevenson as Irish gangster Danny Greene. He played a character full of charm and sexuality, and 90 percent of that charisma radiated from that place between his nose and top lip. It might not have been the greatest film, but it did leave many ladies feeling an intense attraction to the Irishman.
Before the spring is over two more moustached heroes will make their debut on screen, both of whom appear to be less than likely Lotharios but who will certainly charm the pants off any one in the audience. Those lucky enough to attend this month’s Sundance International Film Festival will be treated with Rubber writer/director Quentin Dupieux’s newest feature Wrong starring the usually fabulous Jack Plotnick as Dolph a man who is on the hunt for his lost dog. If the trailer is to be believed this dog-gone-missing journey seems more Bellflower surreal than Wendy and Lucy heartbreaking, but what’s more compelling than the puppy story is the caterpillar residing under Dolph’s nose. It is less than intimating, and actually makes the 40-something actor look in his early thirties. The film promises to be an exploration of disappearing sanity, but what I can’t wait to see is how many men will start rocking a similar moustache.
Now you might say this next entry is not as highly anticipated as I might make it out to be, and you’re probably correct. But this isn’t an article on the film’s potential adorableness but rather the adorable creature sporting a bushy mo’. Danny DeVito stars as The Lorax in the newest CGI adaption of the Dr. Seuss classic, The Lorax. This time around 3D technology has advanced so much that audiences will have the chance to all but feel the small moustached peanut’s whiskers brush our cheeks. What made How to Train Your Dragon so memorable was the overwhelming 3D facial hair, and in a way Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax looks like it might just be as visually stunning as Vikings with dragons.
One of the most anticipated films released this spring is the adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ young adult novel The Hunger Games. A film about children being taken from their homes and entered into a post-apocalyptic fight to the death sounds terribly depressing and utterly heartbreaking by the time we get to see all three films. But one grain of solace we get comes in the form of the costumes donned by the characters. One in particular was incredibly striking, that of Wes Betley’s Seneca Crane whose embellished beard points to a sense of opulence his character needs. Yes, he is not a good guy but Seneca’s beard, with its dark black color and curly waves near his ear, attracts all eyes to him and leaves many feeling an immediate need to trace the outer linings of his cheeks.
After December’s disastrous New Years Eve, Zac Efron has a lot to live up to, despite being the only charming thing in that entire mess of a romantic comedy. And as he is a teen heart throb who wants to be taken seriously it was about time he followed in Channing Tatum’s emoting footsteps and tried his hand at a Nicholas Sparks emotionally manipulative adaptation. April’s The Lucky One stars Efron as a recently returned soldier named Logan who is in love with a girl in a picture. He sets out to find this lovely lady, along the way growing out a sadness five-o’clock shadow beard surely meant to leave any lady in his wake swooning. What’s a real tragedy here is that Foley artists haven’t quite mastered the delicious sound of scruff on bare skin for each of the times Logan has his cheek brushed. I think it’s time to start a letter writing campaign to the guilds.
Full beard, Care of Liam Neeson
Finally after assessing my anticipated moustaches, creative follicle designs, and baby-man scruff available over the next six months, we arrive at what I really want. Let’s call all of the above foreplay and in the words of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, give me the dessert. Beards and all their bushy lush glory is where all the fun is at, and 2012 promises to not disappoint. Starting with the always beardy Liam Neeson, whose facial hair prowess is found in three films out between January 27th and June. First he stars, alongside some rabid looking wolves, in The Grey where he plays Ottway an oil-driller trying desperately to stay alive so his wife can once again rub his face in bed. Along the way he is attacked by wolves, frozen to the bone, and often picks out a mixture of snow and blood from the tips of his silver fox mountain man beard. Ottway’s beard functions both as a chin sweater and an accessory to make the tough guy look even more formidable—to wolves.
Next Neeson brings his beard back to the abomination that is Phantom Menace. George Lucas celebrates the 10th anniversary of the movie that never should have been and the only consolation we get is the chance to once again see Qui-Gon Jinn’s epic Jedi beard. Not even Ewan McGregor’s goatee in Attack of the Clones can compare to wisdom obviously prevalent in Neeson’s face coat.
Meanwhile, Neeson returns as Zeus in the never-asked-for sequel to 2010’s Clash of the Titans, Wrath of the Titans. Now if you thought the two previous beards were worthy of attention, you might want to power your way through the Wrath trailer one more time. Go ahead, I’ll wait here.
Now, that is one impressive beard, which I’m sure Neeson did not grow on his own (sorry to burst that bubble), but regardless if he did or he didn’t the length and size of it only increases the power a character like Zeus both exudes and demands. He is a daunting, yet wise figure, and the decision to hide Neeson behind a beard wig only sends that message home harder. Honestly, even if I didn’t adore Neeson’s facial hair I would be excited to see this film since almost every man in the film features some sort of war beard. And there really isn’t anything wrong with that.
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