Why Do I So Badly Want to Befriend Stanley Tucci?

A brief assessment of one small, balding man’s curiously congenial characters.

Jay Brooks

Floating around Hollywood are numerous horror stories of actors being tormented for their characters’ doings. For example, in the UK, fans of the soap opera Eastenders have even gone as far as sending death threats to actor Alex Ferns for his villainous role. Although these characters – and therefore their actions – aren’t real, leaving the actors themselves innocent of their role’s culpability, trouble from fans still arises. 

On the other side of this, if you hadn’t already realized, the internet is pretty fond of Hollywood actor, producer, and two-time cookbook author, Stanley Tucci. After all, there aren’t many who could send Twitter into a full-blown meltdown through a simple cocktail tutorial on IGTV. Sure, Tucci’s sultry tone of voice, the alcohol, and the lockdown in general all probably contributed to the response, but still, there’s something undeniably cordial about him. Whilst some Hollywood actors can be viscerally hated for their roles, after many years and a multitude of characters, I have never walked away from a film with a negative view of Stanley Tucci. 

I decided to explore a few of my recent Tucci watches to assess just how he might maintain this absolutely amicable persona, as well as to try to answer my burning question — why do I so badly want to befriend him?

Easy A (2010)

EASYA
Screen Gems

A key member of the teen movie genre, it’s easy to see why Tucci is so likable in Easy A, but I’m going to go out on a limb here — Dill Penderghast is one of the coolest parents in all of cinema. As father to Olive (Emma Stone), he’s not only funny and supportive, but he plays a role that everyone understands. A father figure is a staple character in both life and cinema – a person we’ve all had our own experiences with. His quick jump from “I was gay once… for a while” to “You alright buddy?” is exemplary of who his character is. At a moment’s notice, he switches from joking around to entering a more serious, ‘if you need me, I’m here’ mode. 

Even if you were to ignore his family standing, his winsome energy is also a matter of simple math. Olive is our lead; she’s the underdog in her story. Tucci cheers her up and provides support – simply put, he helps her. This is why his character works — being likable on-screen, and portraying a positive father figure, has him set to be in pretty good standing for the public’s personal opinion of him.

The Hunger Games (2012)

HUNGERGAMES
Lionsgate

The Hunger Games entailed a smaller role for Tucci, but for those of us who were teenagers during the strange period where all the major studios put out an excessive number of dystopian films, it was one of his most iconic. 

His portrayal of Caesar Flickerman, the purple-haired television host with a smile as white as the Oscars and a command over his audience that would put Jimmy Kimmel to shame, was fantastic. 

Although, this is a more unusual role for the modern Tucci brand — he isn’t necessarily the ‘good guy.’ Flickerman works for the Capitol (if you’re not familiar with the film, think, Big Brother in 1984) and acts as the facilitator for the Tributes’ televised introduction. He could easily pull the rug out from under these kids; but instead, he complements their personality. Through his humour and gentle candor they can show their best side and appeal to sponsors who can keep them alive. He’s with the bad guys, but acts like he doesn’t know it: that’s how he wins us over.

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

DEVILPRADA
20th Century Fox

Moving on from one dangerous deathmatch to another: trying to get a graduate job in journalism.

We see our lead, Andy (Anne Hathaway), approach Nigel (Stanley Tucci) for a career-saving makeover. In response, he gives the tough love, support, and designer style needed for Andy to get her act together. He’s so successful, that by the end of the movie where (spoiler alert!) he’s betrayed by Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), I’m ready to head over to Paris to kick some ass. 

The emotional connection that we gain with Nigel, despite his relatively limited screentime, is a credit to Tucci’s performance. His incredible wit in combination with a compassionate edge has created a warm, well-rounded character — someone who, in the midst of the mad fashion world, feels friendly and welcoming. 

Anyone with all these characteristics is bound to be liked. Maybe this likability isn’t a Miranda Priestly-level scheme, but it’s a sure-fire plot to make those walking away from watching The Devil Wears Prada dream of Stanley Tucci gifting them a pair of brand new Chanel boots.

A Private War (2018)

PRIVATEWAR
Aviron Pictures

An incredibly harrowing and honest film that crept under the radar in the international box office, A Private War is a biographical tale about the life of a war journalist, Marie Colvin (Rosamund Pike), and contains another sterling performance by Tucci. His role as Colvin’s romantic partner injects a spirited energy into her character that we otherwise don’t get to see. Maybe it’s seeing his bald head wrapped up in a towel turban after a shower, or maybe it’s this playful energy that helps Tucci bring a bit of light into an incredibly dark film.

As we see the incredible story of Colvin play out on screen, her early interactions with Tucci’s character become reassuring, adding a sense of normalcy to her life. You hope for her wellbeing and if he is the one to help her, so be it. This comes across very well for him.

I’m sure there are people who would disagree with my view of Tucci from these films, but I’m hard-pressed to find someone without even a vaguely positive attitude towards the guy. In a long career, he’s chosen his roles wisely. I’m not one to frequent the gossip pages, so I know very little about his personal life. What I do know is, that like many others, I love the cinema and getting invested in movies. I think this investment explains why Tucci is so popular; if you’re fun and likable on screen, people give you the benefit of the doubt in real life — you feel like a real friend. 

Perhaps one day, outside of the cinematic world of Runway magazine or the Capitol, I will actually get to befriend Stanley Tucci and make that impressive Negroni cocktail with him. Only then will I finally get to answer my own question: Was it worth the hype? 

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