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Unconventional Wisdom

Performers who have overcome their looks to become stars. Check out the latest Ask the Critic question and post your own

Adrien Brody, The Pianist | A BROODING BRODY... Is our pick
A BROODING BRODY... Is our pick

Performers who have overcome their looks to become stars

What not-so-traditionally handsome performer has overcome his or her looks to become a charming leading man or woman? —Debra Thorton
You mean like Fred Astaire? Humphrey Bogart? Bette Davis? Katharine Hepburn? Dustin Hoffman? Cher before she was vacuum-sealed for eternal freshness? I love everything about this question except the word overcome, which suggests that deviation from a culturally popular notion of physical beauty is a liability rather than a strength. Trends change in preferred boob and eyebrow shape, and even notions of ideal manliness and femininity are mutable, but charisma is, as La Streisand knows, forevvah. (One day, Lord willing, the fad of preternaturally plump duck lips will pass.) Anyhow, to my eye, nontraditional looks only enhance the allure of a leading man or woman. And for Exhibits A and B among current stars, I propose Adrien Brody and Renée Zellweger.

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Originally posted Dec 02, 2005 Published in issue #853 Dec 09, 2005 Order article reprints