For The Funny Of It
Michael Rosenbaum recently showed up in a cameo role in the sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy. You may not have recognized him since his face was covered in CGI effects. Rosenbaum is best known for playing Lex Luthor on the long running TV show, Smallville. While that show was still on the air, the actor made a small bid for movie roles as in the comedy Sorority Boys. The May 2002 issue of Movieline magazine included a profile of Rosenbaum and fellow handsome comedic actor, David Sheridan.
“Funny is money” is one of Hollywood’s oldest axioms. But, when it comes to leading men, funny usually cancels out sexy, right? Jim Carrey, Tom Hanks, Mike Myers and Martin Lawrence are inarguably funny, but would they be described as devilishly attractive? Not in the ripped, chiseled, smoldering way most audiences find sexy, anyway. But a new breed of actors, spearheaded by offbeat sexy jokesters like Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller, could finally be canceling out the dichotomy.
Take Michael Rosenbaum (right), who cut his teeth in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Urban Legend and Sweet November, and the TV shows “Zoe, Duncan, Jack & Jane” and “The Tom Show.” Since the 29-year-old Rosenbaum shaved his head to play villainous Lex Luthor on the WB’s hit “Smallville,” reviewers have caught on in a big way to his scene-stealing charisma, self-confidence and, well, mojo. “I’ve spent so many years hearing nothing about my work that I’d come to expect nothing,” he says. “But then another part of me says, ‘Yeah, it’s about fucking time.'” Clearly, Rosenbaum has spent many years figuring out who his inspirations are: “If I could have a little splash of Jim Carrey, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, some Chris Farley thrown in and a little Dudley Moore, that’s the comic actor I’d like to grow into being.”
Mention the sex factor critics have noted and Rosenbaum goes into stand-up comic mode. “To ever think of myself as a sex symbol cracks me up,” he says. “If I wasn’t an actor on a hit show, I think I’d still get laid. Girls are attracted to guys who are themselves, who don’t feel they have to sit in the corner of a cool bar drinking and smoking. I’m the guy who, with his friends, says, ‘Let’s get trashed and see The Lord of the Rings for the 17th time.'”
But Rosenbaum does realize his new stardom makes him more attractive. “I wouldn’t say I’m having more sex now, but I could if I chose to push it,” he admits, laughing. “Now’s the time I have to watch my ass, though. Get with the wrong girl, with someone crazy, and I could screw things up.”
His charisma and sex appeal have been put to good use in the comedy Sorority Boys, directed by Wally Wolodarsky of “The Simpsons.” Rosenbaum; Harland Williams and Barry Watson play frat boys who pose as homely sorority sisters to solve their money troubles. “It’s obviously not A Beautiful Mind” he chuckles. “It’s a twisted, raunchy comedy that’s like ‘The Three Stooges’ in drag. It’s a fun no-brainer and, being a sick freak, I got into being in drag even though my fake breasts hurt and itched.”
When asked if he might become interested in a career in more serious acting down the road, Rosenbaum shoots back: “Let all the pretty boys do drama. It’s harder by far to do comedy.”
But all the pretty boys aren’t doing just drama anymore. In fact, the very pretty Dave Sheridan may be even more of an anomaly than Rosenbaum. The 33-year-old actor-writer came up through Chicago’s fabled Second City group and his self-created MTV reality show “Buzzkill,” and is already getting big-money offers after screen-grabbing turns in Bubble Boy, Corky Romano and, especially, Scary Movie, in which he did a dead-on parody of David Arquette’s character in the Scream flicks. He’s ready to show off more of his comedic chops in his first big starring role–Frank McClusky C.I.–which he cowrote. The comedy’s a send-up of TV cop show cheesefests like “Knight Rider” and “Magnum, P.I.” Despite the project’s anarchic intentions, he worries whether the finished movie may turn out to be what he calls “a feathered fish.” He explains: “In one scene, I’m playing cards with a dog and Dolly Parton, so my character is very sweet and likable in a Jack Lemmon-y way, and the next moment, I’m jerking off watching porn while doing surveillance. So, some of it is very Disney family-oriented and some of it is edgy, wacky stuff. The original idea had things like a chase scene on the Venice Beach boardwalk that parodied the shooting style of William Friedkin’s The French Connection. In the end, the studio executives made a lot of suggestions and all they had money for was a camera on a stick. Scene for scene, lots of the movie is really funny, but who knows whether anyone’s going to ‘get’ me.”
Getting Sheridan is worth the effort. Not that he’s an easy read. Under the cover-boy looks lurk piercing smarts and a fuck-all spirit. Check him out as a mullet-sporting, bare-chested convenience store nut job in Ghost World, a persona he perfected in his stage show Dave Sheridan’s America, and you come closer to what he can do when let loose. It’s just as easy to speculate how hilarious he might have been as a vain supermodel in, say, Zoolander. “Studio executives say, ‘You’re a good-looking guy, why do you want to play that down?'” he says. “It’s a little like someone saying, ‘Hey, Mike Myers, why put on that shaggy wig and bad teeth to do Austin Powers?’ I want to play characters. Guys I love in .movies are people like Peter Sellers, John Belushi and the young Jack Nicholson.”
Happily, Sheridan will have plenty of chances to help audiences “get him” in the next year. Among the movies he may star in is a Miramax film centered entirely around the character he played in Ghost World. “I’m definitely going to try to stretch in cool movies,” he says. And what about his looks and sex appeal? Says the guy who was convincing as the fiancé of Marley Shelton in Bubble Boy, “I can make my genetic gifts funny, too. Hey, maybe I can do a male spin on what Sandra Bullock did in Miss Congeniality.”