Every now and then, a movie comes out that transforms a male actor into someone to be desired, adored and often watched for decades to come. We're experiencing such a phenomenon now with Robert Pattinson, who has essentially starred in one wide-release movie and had "Twilight" transform him from "Who's that?" to "Hottest Man Alive" overnight.
But where does RPattz go from here? Will he launch a decades-long career? Work with directors like Spielberg and Scorsese? Or will he become another Hollywood cautionary tale? Below are a handful of beefcake breakouts transformed by one major role, whose careers could perhaps give guidance to the Sparkly One.
Arguably the greatest male cinematic sex symbol of all time, actors like Pattinson and James Franco continue to owe a huge debt to the lived-fast, died-young legend. When 1955's "Rebel Without a Cause" hit theaters, it made Dean an overnight sensation that was like RPattz's "Twilight" success times 10. Decades later, Hollywood continues to wonder what sort of career Dean would have built had he lived past age 24; the ultimate cautionary tale for young Hollywood sensations, Dean will always be a reminder of the dark side of sudden fame.
For years, he had been a pretty face making commercials and bad movies — then, the little-known actor took off his shirt in "Thelma & Louise," displayed a six-pack for the ages, and became Brad Pitt. Unfortunately, Pitt wasted a good number of years as the best-known star in the world whose movies never seemed to make money ("The Devil's Own," "Seven Years in Tibet"), but over the last few years ("Mr. and Mrs. Smith," "Inglourious Basterds") his star status has finally translated to big box-office bucks and more than a few classic films.
There was a time when everyone thought he was the wrong choice as Bond, but now it's hard to imagine anyone else in the role. Heralding the return of the manly man, Craig is undoubtedly a star — and "Casino Royale" is the film that made his roll of the dice pay off. But with "The Golden Compass" and "The Invasion" also on his recent résumé, RPattz needs to choose his non-franchise scripts more wisely.
Although he'd made appearances on a few TV shows and had a stint on "Guiding Light," 27-year-old Diggs was blessed with a great showcase role as strapping young Jamaican lothario Winston Shakespeare in "How Stella Got Her Groove Back." While audiences watched Angela Bassett fall for him, so did Hollywood — and two decades of movies and TV have followed, leading up to a current recurring role on "Private Practice." RPattz might see Diggs as a cautionary tale, however, because his career path has yielded far more clunkers ("House on Haunted Hill," "Malibu's Most Wanted") than classics ("Go").
The ultimate example of what a smart sex symbol can become, this Hollywood legend became a household name in 1969 when director George Roy Hill talked the studio into taking a chance on him with "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." Determined not to become just another pretty face, Redford became a man on a mission — over the next four decades he'd star in instant classics like "The Sting," direct Oscar juggernauts like "Ordinary People," and launch the Sundance Film Festival, among other notable achievements. All these years later, he's probably the best-looking 73-year-old walking the planet — and among the most influential.
Back in the mid-'90s, it seemed like a daring decision to cast a nobody as the star of a high-profile John Grisham legal thriller. But once "A Time to Kill" hit theaters, women all over the world fell for the muscular, charismatic, impossibly sweaty star of the film. As the years have gone by, McConaughey's mystery has been replaced with memorable tales of his eccentric personality — but there are few leading men as desired by women and filmmakers alike.
It's hard to imagine now, but there was a time when li'l Leo DiCaprio was known primarily as the Cousin Oliver of "Growing Pains." Then along came Kate Winslet, James Cameron and a romantic drama called "Titanic" that would become the highest-grossing film of all time. Like Redford before him, DiCaprio has done a wonderful job using his sex-symbol desirability to work with top directors and get great films made ("The Departed") and, aside from the occasional "Body of Lies" speed bump, shows no signs of slowing down. His work for causes he believes in ("The 11th Hour") also shows how sexiness can effectively be translated into something much more meaningful.
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