James Marsden is having one of the most unusual years for a leading man in some time. We asked the star of this Fall’s Straw Dogs remake about making the transition from acting opposite a CGI rabbit to a gang of bloodthirsty rednecks
Here’s a hypothesis: No leading man in the long history of cinema has ever starred in two more outrageously opposite movies in a single year than James Marsden. First movie of 2011: Hop, a zany Easter flick for kids in which he stars alongside a tiny CGI bunny. The second: Straw Dogs, a remake of Sam Peckinpah’s ultraviolent home-invasion rape-and-kill-fest, in which Marsden burns off James Woods’s face with a pot of scalding hot water. “I made Straw Dogs first,” he says, “and now I think you know why I did Hop. I needed to do some goofy pratfalls and talk to a rabbit for a few months.”
In the 1971 Straw Dogs, Dustin Hoffman played David, a nebbishy mathematician who goes Seal Team Six on a pack of local lowlifes after they rape his wife. Marsden’s rakishly handsome David? A “Hollywood screenwriter.” This isn’t the only break with the original, and Marsden, 37, is already bracing for the critique that sanding away Peckinpah’s more provocative sexual politics leaves nothing more than an exploitative southern-gothic bloodbath.