For one of GQ’s three October cover stories, we took a road trip from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara in a very handsome car (the Porsche 718 Boxster) to stay at a very handsome hotel (the San Ysidro Ranch) with a very handsome actor (James Marsden, the star of HBO’s new dystopian robot theme park drama Westworld). The purpose was twofold: to figure out why someone who should so clearly be a huge movie star isn’t just yet, and to have that dashing man show us how to wear a suit
How famous is James Marsden? He’s a movie star, sure, at least in the literal sense that he is a person who regularly stars in movies. He has all the required movie-star components: charm, talent, a face so obviously beautiful that he played a mutant who wears goggles to avoid blinding other X-Men with his piercing blue eyes. At this very moment, he looks like a movie star against the red interior of the Porsche he’s driving on the 101 Freeway. So far, though, Marsden’s gifts have not brought him full-blown movie stardom, but rather a long and lucrative career playing characters who look like movie stars but lose the girl or their lives to the movie’s actual star. Over his 22-year run—a surprisingly broad résumé of franchises (X-Men, Superman Returns), family blockbusters (Hop, Enchanted), love stories (27 Dresses, The Notebook), films about cooperative loft spaces used for murdering mistresses (The Loft), and genial self-mockery (30 Rock, Anchorman 2)—he has experienced this fate so often that he offers the insight that “if I’m in the movie and there’s another dude, we know how the movie ends.” James Marsden describes the act of Marsdening thus: “losing the girl to some other guy who’s got a little more charisma than him.”
Does this bum Marsden out? Shit no! “I should be working at the Dairy Queen,” he says, then mocks his Okie guilelessness with an “aw shucks” fist swing and a “Golly gee, I’m milquetoast!” But he’s right: How many people who grew up thrashing old cars in Oklahoma City are now behind the wheel of a Boxster 718 S, driving to the super-nice San Ysidro Ranch hotel in Santa Barbara?