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Friday, March 03, 2006

Hairy Heroes 

So the other day I saw a trailer for George Clooney's new film, Syriana, in which Mr C plays a former CIA agent trapped in some missile hunting, oil spewing political thriller and it got me to thinking.....beards. Now I'm a big beard fan, I mean, I don't exclusively favour BIG beards (small Frenchy beards are fine by me), but beards generally get two thumbs up and in Syriana Clooney sports some fine chin growth. What was triggered in my mind, however, is how few hairy heroes there have been in film history. Now don't get ahead of yourselves. By hairy I really mean beardy. As we know the be-stubbled hero is rather commonplace (see Bruce Willis in Die Hard, Harrison Ford as Indy and Clint Eastwood in pretty much everything he's EVER DONE). Interestingly enough even the moustache, historically a principle characteristic of all seductively stroking evildoers has more than occasionally found it's way onto the faces of the hero (see Bert Reynolds as the bandit, Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley and erm..Charles Bronson in Death Wish etc.)

The beard, of course, gives greater facial coverage and by doing so may inadvertently damage its heroic potential. After all, if a character is prone to conceal half his face with hair, what other secrets might he be hiding? Alternatively, there is an argument that the beard may prove too distracting in the obligatory love scene, but this seems ridiculous. Would a leading lady rather kiss a stubbly so and so or a bearded warrior....rah?!

In documenting a list of bearded wonders one must first acknowledge the beard clause. This states that certain heroes, from certain eras, with certain beards are immediately discounted. Take the Lord of the Rings trilogy or the entire Western genre. Since practically everyone in those films, whether hero or villain sports a beard or facial hair of some description they are immediately banned from entering. Moreover, we can't accept any heroes who have had to grow a beard simply because they had no means of preventing it (see Tom Hanks in Castaway etc.). A heroic beard has to be a purposely-built beard. One more bloody Father Christmas.

So here it is, a first attempt at chronicling my top five bearded heroes.

5. Officer Frank Serpico (Al Pacino): starts with no beard, goes under cover, grows beard, takes no bribes, gets shot in the beard.
4. Col. James Braddock (Chuck Norris) in Missing in Action: the bearded avenger. Purveyor of hairy kung fu.
3. Dr. Henry Jones (Sean Connery) in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: It's the beard that hides the accent. Hmmm. See also, John Mason in The Rock.
2. Michael Vronsky (Robert De Niro) in The Dear Hunter. Bearded russian roulette.
1. Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) in The Life Aquatic: Waterproof grey beard - the ultimate hero mit hair.

Honourable mentions go to - Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) in The Fugitive who starts with a beard, but shamefully has to shave it off in order to become more heroic and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guiness/Ewan McGregor) in Star Wars. He should really be in the list but stood too close to the wookie.


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