Adam Driver, Pete Davidson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Gonzo the Muppet – Hollywood is filled with leading men whose good looks and charisma are paired with a certain striking strangeness. It’s what the French might call that ‘je ne sais quois’, or what we might call ‘Odd Hot’.
Irish actor Éanna Hardwicke is one rising star who’s quois has been saising a lot lately. The recent IFTA nominee has been raising his profile impressively over the last few years, appearing on stage in acclaimed productions like Asking For It, popping up on television in Normal People and finding an increasing presence on film.
In Lorcan Finnegan’s Vivarium, Hardwicke’s tall frame and uncanny presence were a perfect fit for an unending nightmare world. It takes a certain skill to play a rapidly aged manchild, and Hardwicke did it with unsettling ease. In Lakelands, he portrays a sensitive, unsure, anxious GAA player, combining modern awareness and empathies with classic Irish stoicism, while in short film Lamb, his screen presence is commanding, creepy, cruel. He’s an actor with impressive range, and his particular profile undoubtedly aids him as he shifts from one type to another.
Which is to say, respectfully, that while Mr. Hardwicke is certainly hot, he’s also, you know, a bit odd looking. Not in a bad way like! Just, he’s got something about him, you get us? Beauty lies in discovery, distinction, human urges curve towards the pursuit of compelling questions, and the siren call of “would you?” prompted by the unconventionally attractive, the jolie lad, has been a part of cinema since the days of Lon Chaney.
Hardwicke is in presence and appearance, striking and that is good standout quality for an actor to have, particularly one with the talents to follow in the high-profile successes of contemporaries like Jessie Buckley, Saoirse Ronan, Paul Mescal or Barry Keoghan. Hollywood loves a ‘type’, a collection of characteristics that can be put together as part of a performance, and the successes of those latter two actors, who are now linked with, and often then cast in, every movie under the sun, are evidence of that. Sure aren’t they both going to be appearing in the upcoming Gladiator sequel together?
There are, broadly and generally, types of character that comes to mind that Mescal and Keoghan have had enough high-profile hits respectively to fit into, and while they’re both good looking fellas, they exist on alternate ends of a spectrum. Paul Mescal has the look of a fella you’d take home to meet your parents. Barry Keoghan has the look of a fella you’d take home to eat your parents. Where then to place Hardwicke between them?
And what, we hear you say, of other contenders, the Domhnall Gleesons, the Andrew Scotts? We also hear you say “Luke are you okay” but we’re ignoring that. We would argue they’re not quite the same thing. Cillian Murphy, for example, is undoubtedly distinctive, but not entirely in an ‘odd’ way. Cillian has more of an ethereal beauty, piercing, elfen – sleek but dangerous, like a swan.
Some suggested thespians seem like they fit the criteria, when in fact they’re over in the opposite end of things, not Odd Hot, but Hot Odd. It is an oddness that reveals itself over time, as opposed to the immediate hit of the unfamiliar. The commanding but wavering voice of Andrew Scott, the urge to trap Domhnall Gleeson underneath a glass and pull his legs off like a spider, this is staring into hotness and finding oddity staring back. Do you see what we mean? You’re making a face like you don’t see what we mean. But don’t fret, we have diagrams.
You’re making a face like you’re still fretting.
Below we have mapped out a variety of examples on a four quadrant spectrum. The mad eedgit energy that Jamie Dornan brings to roles like Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar and the utterly bewildering Wild Mountain Thyme sees him straddling Hot Odd despite his conventional sexiness, while Colin Farrell, aging impressively and emotionally accessible, provides the peak of Hot Hot. We’ve included many of the current greats, and also Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is there too. This carefully calculated, accurate Science clearly demonstrates that, as it stands, Éanna Hardwicke is in a category almost all his own.
We’re excited to see Hardwicke’s star continue to rise (clearly), and the blend of outstanding leading man roles and creatively challenging character actor parts that will come his way. Starring on screen should never be all about looks, but to the extent that it is, the Cork-born performer has an impressive advantage.
You may find the above diagram inaccurate. You may question where is Liam Neeson in Darkman, or how the inconceivable bland attractiveness of Stuart Townsend fits on this compass. These are valid questions, and we welcome open-ended, respectful debate. To believe that beauty can be so definitively perceived, why isn’t that the oddest thing of all?