In response to Kumail Nanjiani’s muscular transformation that went viral earlier this week, Joe Alwyn and Guy Pearce, stars of FX’s dark adaptation of A Christmas Carol, have opened up about the pressures actors face to look “slightly heroic” when playing a leading man onscreen.
During an interview that aired Wednesday on AM to DM, BuzzFeed News’ morning show, the pair were asked about the male body image pushed by Hollywood action and superhero films.
"There’s always expectations that your leading characters onscreen are going to look slightly heroic, fitter than everybody else, more beautiful than everybody else,” said Pearce.
“It’s a tenuous kind of subject, I suppose, because in many ways, it’s not really representing real life,” Pearce said.
“Obviously, for [Nanjiani], that’s how he looks now, but ask him in five years’ time when he doesn’t have a studio paying for his gym workouts! With his beer belly!”
Alwyn said he hadn’t felt any pressure in Hollywood to change his appearance.
But gesturing to his body, Alwyn joked, “What’s wrong with this?”
Earlier this week, Nanjiani posted a shirtless selfie showing off his new physique, as well as a refreshingly honest caption detailing what it took for him to get there.
He explained that he’s had a year, five personal trainers, a nutritionist preparing his meals, and one of the wealthiest studios in the world paying for him to transform his body to prepare for his role in the upcoming Disney/Marvel superhero movie The Eternals.
“I would not have been able to do this if I didn’t have a full year with the best trainers and nutritionists paid for by the biggest studio in the world,” he wrote. “I’m glad I look like this, but I also understand why I never did before. It would have been impossible without these resources and time.”
Pearce and Alwyn are starring in a dark, broody adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel A Christmas Carol, which premieres Thursday on FX. Pearce plays the main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, while Alwyn plays his employee Bob Cratchit.
People have, however, made the very astute observation that Pearce is a slightly younger, hotter version of the crotchety old Scrooge they’re used to seeing.
“This Scrooge is younger, is more a functioning businessman, he is of the world,” Pearce explained to BuzzFeed News. “He is a present character in the world and takes on a life. He’s not somebody who’s so wisened up and sort of scurrying away from everything and sort of living in the shadows.”
Pearce also opened up about his role in the iconic 1994 drag queen movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
Speaking fondly of the movie, Pearce said he realised the imrecalled drag queens turning up at premieres for the film around the world.
"It just really felt like people were ready for it and wanted this," he said. "We started to feel like, Well, maybe we're part of something sort of great, something that's a conversation that at least needs to start happening."
"You do look back now at the 20 odd years since we've made it, and it struck at the right time," he said.
While the movie, released 25 years ago, has consistently been praised for its positive portrayal of LGBTQ characters, the main characters, who are drag queens, are all played by straight male actors.
Commenting on if three straight male actors could in be in a film like that today, Pearce said, “I think they can but I think they’d cop some criticism.”
Alwyn was most recently seen in Harriet, a biographical drama based on the life of famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman. He's also known for Boy Erased, The Favorite, Mary Queen of Scots — and for being the boyfriend to Taylor Swift.
Looking ahead at the next couple of weeks and the holiday season, Alwyn didn't comment on Swift, but he did say he would be spending Christmas Day with his family in London.
Weighing in on the Christmas dinner vs. Christmas lunch debate, Alwyn said, "I think we start with the expectation of lunch, the cooking leads it into dinner. It never happens on time."