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Anatomy of a Leading Man: Ryan Reynolds

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Jun 16, 2011 | 9:27am EDT

Ryan ReynoldsAs we near the release of this week’s big summer movie, Green Lantern, we can’t help but focus on the man at the center of it all: Ryan Reynolds. We’ve seen him woo Sandra Bullock in the so-so romcom, The Proposal; we’ve seen him in action in supporting roles in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Smoking Aces; and of course we saw him lose his shit for two hours in Buried. But following Green Lantern’s release, Mr. Reynolds has a bevy of films slated for the rest of 2011 and for 2012, and the offers seem to be flowing. So what does this all mean? It means the former star of Two Girls, A Guy, and a Pizza Place has officially hit the big leagues and achieved leading man status.

Now, every successful A-list leading man succeeds thanks to long line of hunks that came before him and Reynolds is no different. So, what better way to celebrate Reynolds’ promotion than to chart the men that allowed him to get there? These are the reasons the Green Lantern star is now the total package: heartthrob, hero, and most importantly, a highly in-demand actor.

Alright, before we get started, it’s obvious that a great physique, stunning smile, and general Adonis-ness are essential elements to any leading man, so let’s just take those as a given. These things are little more specific.

Robert Downey Jr.Effortless, Sarcastic Wisdom

Credit: Robert Downey Jr.

Now this is something not every leading man has, but it certainly helps. When Downey Jr. comes on camera you know that not only are things going to be a little more attractive from that point on, but you know that cocky, sarcastic air of his is going to make things just a bit more interesting. There’s a reason giving him the reins to Iron Man’s super suit was a genius idea; there’s a difference between a babe in a super suit and a smart, funny, charming babe with a helluva head on his shoulders in a super suit. Reynolds isn’t quite to the level of a Downey Jr. (or at times a George Clooney), but he’s got the element and it rears its little head here and there.

George ClooneyBetter as an Eternal Bachelor

Credit: George Clooney

Alright, now, we’re not sure how long this will last, and we certainly weren’t rooting for a breakup, but Reynolds’ split with ex-wife Scarlett Johansson gives his ladyfans a little something to hope for. Clooney’s got this down to a science. It’s widely known that he’s said he’s not getting married. Sure, he stays in long-term relationships for years at a time with ridiculously gorgeous women, but he’s not planning on putting a ring on it, which maintains the notion I like to call the illusion of availability. As a single man, Reynolds has that extra push of appeal, because somewhere in women’s demented minds (and hey, dudes do it too – just ask one what he thinks about Natalie Portman having a baby) that if a star is single, they are somehow more attainable. In you dreams, ladies. (But that’s kind of the point, right?)

Brad PittSo Suave Even a Unibomber Beard Can’t Hide It

Credit: Brad Pitt

This one is a toughie. I can’t be sure why, but since the dawn of his fame, Brad Pitt has possessed the ability to wear even the most disgusting of beards and still make the female population of the world want to jump his bones. I’d try to explain it, but I think this one reaches outside of the scientific world – maybe even outside of space and time. Now, Reynolds certainly hasn’t grown a full-on castaway beard like Pitt, but he has dabbled in the facial hair genre. Some folks were born to have beards, they’re better with them – Reynolds isn’t one of those people. However, even when he does venture into beardedness, that mysterious Pitt-esque ability to overcome it manages to fix everything.

Will SmithAn All Play, No Work Attitude

Credit: Will Smith

This one’s a no-brainer. Leading men are just better when they can get a little goofy, when they can be the life of the party, when they can crack jokes nonstop. Of course, no one’s as good at that as Will Smith (maybe more so back in the day that in the present, but still). Reynolds has this bit down, he’s got no shame and he seems to love nothing more than to get a laugh out of everyone. Of course, the ladies will probably just laugh at everything he says anyway because he’s so damn cute.

Leonardo DiCaprioThe Intense I’m-contemplating-something-you-just-can’t-understand-my-dear Smolder

Credit: Leonard DiCaprio

You know what I’m talking about. Leo’s been pulling this since Titanic, though it certainly reached its height in Inception – not to mention whenever he’s waxing poetic about saving the earth. (Wait, what were we talking about again? He’s so dreamy.) Anyway, Reynolds hasn’t quite got the smolder down, he’s still a little too far back in the Jack Dawson era, but he’ll get there. I see great potential in this one.

Johnny DeppA Persistent Air of Mystery, and Maybe a Little Too Much Hair Product

Credit: Johnny Depp

The other key part of being a big-time Hollywood hunk is lending yourself a little air of mystery. You never want the public to know exactly what your deal is. Are you dating your former costar just weeks after you broke up with one of the sexiest women on the planet? Maybe. Maybe not. Why is your hair so shiny? Can it move or did you Pauly D it into that touseled shape? You’ll never know. At least with Reynolds, we won't find ourselves wondering if he reeks of Patchouli at any given moment.

Matthew McConaugheyFrequent or Semi-Ubiquitous Shirtlessness

Credit: Matthew McConaughey

Let’s see. People magazine names you the Sexiest Man Alive for 2010 after you’ve made the list in both 2008 and 2009. That’s pretty much an order for gratuitous shirtlessness at any possible moment, right? Answer: right. No one can be as good at forgetting to wear clothes on a daily basis as McConaughey, but hey, we appreciate the effort.

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