People magazine will deliver its Sexiest Man Alive reveal on Wednesday, and just for fun, I’m wondering if we can predict who it might be. The trick with People is that it’s almost always going to be someone pretty vanilla, and yes, by that I do also mean white — People infamously has only chosen two SMAs of color, The Rock in 2016 and Denzel in 1996 — but I also mean “predictable and pretty boring.” The choice needs to land pretty close to the mean of its large but older-skewing demographic — so, Noah Centineo will be in it, but not ON it — and is almost always someone with something to sell. So, for example, it likely wouldn’t be Brad Pitt this year, for example, because the only thing he’s doing right now is fighting for custody of his kids and the Sexiest Man Alive likely needs more triumph and less of the words “bitter dispute” in his story. Michael B. Jordan has Creed II coming out in November, and Chadwick Boseman is… Chadwick Boseman, so they’d both be great choices, but will People go there?
My pick: Bradley Cooper. He’s the right age. He’s known by older and younger readers alike. The knock on him is that he was the Sexiest Man Alive in 2011, but People is not afraid to repeat — Johnny Depp went only six years between his — and the contrast between The Hangover (his project last time) and A Star Is Born, which he directed and yada yada yada auteur, is stark. Bradley has the built-in angle of starring in the movie, crying in the movie, directing his first movie and having people go gaga for it — and speaking of going gaga, they will also give him credit for transforming Lady Gaga into A Serious Person, as if she had little to do with it. And I think he wants that Oscar so badly he can taste it, so this would be a good investment (oh yes, I totally believe these are for sale). They’ll get a quote from him about fatherhood and possibly something gushy about Irina Shayk that he hasn’t given to anyone else, and he’s otherwise appropriately bland. In short, I think he’s willing to play exactly this much of the game, and he will look clean-cut and boringly handsome, to contrast with the grit of his appearance in the movie.
My alternate options: Again these are assuming People will continue its lily-white tastes. First there’s Robert Redford, whose final movie is coming out in time for Oscar season and I bet he’ll get a nostalgia nod for it even if it’s terrible, and Ethan Hawke. He’s more of a reach, but he falls into the Famous Young Actor Is Now Kind of a Hot Dad category, and also has an acclaimed against-type performance in First Reformed that makes for a good story peg (and also, yeah, I bet the movie’s team would love to get him some nomination press too). Another otherwise bland choice would be Armie Hammer, on the strength of how interesting he was in Call Be My Your Name, but that movie might be too niche for what People imagines its wider audience to be.
I feel good about the Cooper speculation, though, even with him being a rare repeat. But when the issue comes out on Wednesday and it’s, like, Viggo Mortensen, or whatever, I will be very sad as the limb I have crawled out on cracks and falls to the ground. Who else might it be? Ryan Reynolds isn’t topical enough, right? Do we think People might actually go diverse with this one, and wouldn’t that be fantastic? You COULD maybe see Idris Elba finally sneak in there, unless they want to hang on and give it to him after Cats comes out (a thing I still cannot believe is happening). Rami Malek, on the other hand, has Bohemian Rhapsody and is the best-reviewed part of it by far, but he might be too new and buzzy for the stout old stalwart that is People (besides which, as Jess noted last year, “sex on legs” seems like it’s not the positioning he has ever sought). Sterling K. Brown could pop up, because he’s on a huge hit TV show. Will Smith is playing the genie in a new Aladdin set for next summer, I think, and he’s very genial and press-friendly, and also as random and weird a choice as Blake Shelton last year, so… maybe? The slideshow features ALL the SMAs through history, so consider that research, and then come at me with your thoughts.