The recent casting of British actor Henry Cavill as Superman sparked anew a discussion that surrounded Welshman Christian Bale inheriting Batman’s cowl and the U.K.-bred Andrew Garfield taking on Spider-Man—namely, what happened to American superheroes being played by good old Americans? Vulture posed the question to a variety of talent agents, and as it turns out, the problem may be that, well, American men simply aren’t men anymore. In the words of John Papsidera, casting director for both The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, “You look at the list of American leading men, and in their 20s and 30s, they're very boylike. Take Jesse Eisenberg: I put him in Zombieland, but he's not going to play Superman.” (Though if he did, we imagine he'd still be "super" and everything, but not make such a big fuss about it.)
Papsidera then adds, “I believe there's been a certain feminization of the American male,” blaming it on how “predominant the ’60s and the women’s movement” were in America as opposed to, say, Australia. “As a result, there are a lot of 'mama's boys,'” he says. “Kids are raised like veal. We're afraid to let them play soccer. That kind of nurturing softens what we're used to seeing on the screen. American men aren't men on the screen." Thanks, Mom!
However, Papsidera also acknowledges that one of the real problems is that the few American men who are men on screen is that they’ve already committed to something else, as in the case of rumored Superman contenders like Jon Hamm or Joe Manganiello, and are thus too distractingly identified with those roles and often too expensive to add to a project that’s already racked up millions in licensing fees. According to another talent agent, that scarcity of American manly men actors may have something to do with high school bullies: “Kids who want to do theater, or study acting, well, they're immediately labeled 'wimps' or worse, 'fags.' Whereas, in the U.K., that's absolutely not the case: It's not considered weird to act and play soccer over there, or to sing and play rugby.”
Another unnamed talent agent chimes in that those rugby-playing triple-threats from abroad “work a lot harder for everything”—far more than lazy American actors who are raised to believe that fame is the birthright of the good-looking. So until America changes its attitudes about drama as the sole province of sissies, and begins pushing the Eisenbergs out of our acting gene pool to bring in the next generation of Steve McQueens, the UK and Australia will be the only ones saving our collective ass.
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