I’m growing a beard. This fact may not seem important to you, dear reader, but it certainly has caused a stir around my house. My son told me I’m “starting to look like Teen Wolf”, producing mixed feelings of shame and pride (my boy knows the lesser works of Michael J. Fox!). Then my daughter told me she’s excited to brush it when it gets long enough, like I’m My Little Beard Pony or something.
No matter. Growing a beard requires courage, for society often shuns those with facial hair, but I like to focus on the fact some of history’s greatest men have had beards (Jesus, Kenny Loggins). And it’s a fact that in Hollywood, source of many of our great thinkers and philosophers, men who grow beards often experience a creative transformation that propels them from obscurity into the upper echelons of artistic excellence.
Here are five examples of actors whose beards have had a profound impact on their work.
Ben Affleck (Pre-Beard):
Prior to his beard, Ben Affleck was a struggling actor who appeared in B-grade action movies like Armageddon, The Sum of All Fears and Reindeer Games. True, he won an Oscar for writing Good Will Hunting, but that was probably because he went for days without shaving while hunched over his keyboard.
Then Affleck grew a beard.
And just like that, he wins the Golden Globe for Best Picture (Not Musical, Comedy, or Musical Comedy) for Argo. In one of history’s great coincidences, the CIA mastermind he plays in Argo also has a beard.
George Clooney (Pre-Beard):
Prior to his beard, George Clooney was best known for being in the worst Batman movie ever. He was also a recurring character on The Facts of Life and appeared on a television program called E.R.
Then Clooney grew a beard.
Following his beard, Clooney landed roles in heavy dramas like Syriana. He also became a respected director, helming films like Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night and Good Luck. Would this have happened without his beard? Probably not. I mean, look at the guy. Not to be mean, but good thing he’s got that mug covered in both pictures. Sometimes Hollywood can be cruel to men who don’t meet its outrageous standards of beauty.
Hugh Jackman (Pre-Beard)
Before growing facial hair, Hugh Jackman was a fledgling entertainer struggling to make it in Sydney’s cutthroat professional maracas player scene. Then he took a tentative step towards full facial hair-dom by growing out some wicked muttonchops:
Those whiskers landed him the Wolverine role in The X-Men movies, bringing him fame and fortune, but not respect.
Then Jackman went for broke:
It was this iconic beard that would land Jackman the role of a lifetime: playing Abraham Lincoln in Spielberg’s biopic, a role that would win him a Golden Globe. Wait – that was Daniel Day-Lewis. Sorry. The beard threw me. Still, Jackman would’ve a great Lincoln. Especially with those adamantium claws. Watch out, vampires!
Mel Gibson (Pre-beard):
Before his beard, Mel Gibson made the Lethal Weapon movies, the Mad Max movies, Braveheart, Maverick, and a bunch of movies everyone liked.
Then Mel Gibson grew a beard.
Mel Gibson’s post-beard work includes a Jesus torture-porn film, a couple of run-ins with the police and the Jews, and some pretty upsetting voicemail messages.
Hmm. Where’s my razor?