Hollywood's New Sensitive Man

By Scott Brown and Nancy Miller
Updated July 25, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

As Mr. Maguire has aptly proved, the nice guy is back — and he’s a little depressed. But in a sexy, thousand-mile-stare kinda way, not a can’t-muster-the-strength-to-brush-the-Funyun-crumbs-off-my-chest kinda way. Lately, Hollywood seems to be overflowing with sensitive, droopy-eyed, aw-shucks leading men. Below, we run down the town’s top touchy-feelies.

JAKE GYLLENHAAL AGE 22 BROOD AWAKENING He was the disturbed — yet adorable! — Donnie Darko (2001), but it was his turn as a lovesick boy toy to both Jennifer Aniston (in 2002’s The Good Girl) and Catherine Keener (in 2001’s Lovely and Amazing) that gave the thick-browed, thin-skinned star his pout-spoken reputation. Need we mention he’s currently dating Maguire’s alleged ex Kirsten Dunst? MOPE FOR THE FUTURE He’s in talks to star opposite the equally saucer-eyed Winona Ryder in Robert Altman’s The Widow Claire.

JOAQUIN PHOENIX AGE 28 BROOD AWAKENING To Die For (1995), where he brooded himself into a murderous conspiracy on behalf of his beloved Nicole Kidman. From there, it was just a hop, skip, and jump to his tortured priest in Quills and his tortured — if evil — emperor in Gladiator. MOPE FOR THE FUTURE The Woods, an M. Night Shyamalan thriller that will no doubt let him shine. (On second thought, ”shine” is too peppy…)

LUKE WILSON AGE 31 BROOD AWAKENING Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket: He couldn’t have made his reluctant, lovelorn criminal Anthony more low-key without actually stopping his heart. Wilson went on to play the languorous yang to the perky yins of Cameron Diaz (Charlie’s Angels), Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blonde), and Kate Hudson (Alex & Emma). MOPE FOR THE FUTURE Around the World in 80 Days. Though you can’t really imagine this guy hurrying.

HALEY JOEL OSMENT AGE 15 BROOD AWAKENING As the quivery-lipped clairvoyant who saw dead people in 1999’s The Sixth Sense. In 2000’s Pay It Forward, he bettered the world; in 2001’s A.I., he was a robot — with feelings! MOPE FOR THE FUTURE He’ll endure a smattering of acne and two curmudgeonly costars (Michael Caine and Robert Duvall) in the New Line comedy Secondhand Lions. He’s gaining on you, Tobey! — Scott Brown and Nancy Miller