By Stacy Jenel Smith
Sophisticated, debonair, confident, cool under pressure, handsome. Sigh. Those are some of the attributes of movie hero for the ages, 007, James Bond. They're also some of the attributes that comprise the image of Bond's alter ego, Pierce Brosnan
. At age 52, there's no question that Pierce is aging sexy - something a number of Hollywood's prime-of-life actors are showing they can do quite well.
With our life expectancy lengthening, and with 40 being the new 30 and so on, these guys have it even better than their predecessors of 25 years ago - and leading men have ALWAYS had it better than leading ladies when it comes to career longevity.
Let's face it, there's something about those mature men who seem to know just what to do and do it with poise.
Which of Tinsel Town's actors age 45 and up make the Aging Sexiest list?
Obviously, two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington is at the top of his game at age 50. The strikingly handsome 6-foot-1/2 Denzel recently worked his live theater chops on Broadway in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, and this summer is making a Spike Lee drama about a bank heist that goes very wrong, "Inside Man," and a time-travel thriller, "D?j? vu." Wed for 22 years to wife Pauletta Washington and the father of four, Washington proves that you can be a family man and still be tres sexy.
Jimmy Smits has said he doesn't see himself as sexy. That makes one person who doesn't. Ever since he came into the public eye as lawyer Victor Sifuentes in "L.A. Law," Smits has made hearts race across the land. He was born July 9, 1955 in Brooklyn, New York, stands 6-foot-3 and holds an MFA from Cornell University. The long-time love of actress Wanda De Jesus adds gravitas to his oeuvre with his latest two roles, as Senator Bail Organa in "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith," and as Presidential Candidate Matthew Santos on "The West Wing."
Also gracing a "Star Wars" epic -- as insightful Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn in "Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" - is Ballymena, Northern Ireland's own sexiest leading man, Liam Neeson. Having written the book on sex, as researcher Alfred Kinsey in "Kinsey," the 53-year-old, 6-foot-4 husband of Natasha Richardson (since 1994) is coming off two more mentor-to-young-hunk roles - to Orlando Bloom in "Kingdom of Heaven" and to Christian Bale in "Batman Begins" - and has an agenda ahead that includes playing Abraham Lincoln for Steven Spielberg.
And if we're talking sexy older men of "Star Wars," well, you can't leave out Samuel L. Jackson, 56, and obviously Harrison Ford leads the way.
Ford certainly seems younger than his age, which is a vigorous and vital, rescue helicopter-piloting, Calista Flockhart-romancing 63. The movie icon who gave us both Han Solo and Indiana Jones recently wrapped the big screen thriller "Firewall," in which he plays the head of computer security for a global financial institution - who is forced into robbing his own company to pay off the ransom on his kidnapped family.
Former stutterer Jackson, a.k.a. King of Cool, stands 6-foot-3 and has been married to LaTanya Richardson, with whom he has a daughter, since 1980. This year, he became the highest-grossing actor in movie history, his films surpassing the total combined grosses of previous record holder?Harrison Ford's. Now, that's sexy!
Sarah Jessica Parker was torn between two loves as "Sex and the City" neared its end. One of them, legendary dancer cum actor Mikhail Baryshnikov, was just named one of the sexiest imports over 50 by AARP (he's 57) -- and there's no disagreement here. The other, bachelor Chris Noth, 50, also warrants placement on the Most Desirable Older Leading Men list. Chris - an alumnus of the Yale School of Drama who owns a New York bar called The Cutting Room -- is, after all "The Perfect Man" in this summer's Hilary Duff-Heather Locklear cinema confection. He'll soon be back in production playing Det. Mike Logan in "Law & Order: Criminal Intent."
Baryshnikov is busy readying for the fall opening of his long-in-the-works Baryshnikov Arts Center in Manhattan, which he hopes will serve as a laboratory for young artists to develop work in dance, film, theater and design with the help of established artists. He is married to Lisa Rinehart, by whom he has three children, and he has a daughter by his one-time love Jessica Lange.
"CSI's" William Peterson, 52, is an example of a leading man who didn't come into full stride until he hit middle age.
Fifty-three-year-old Mark Harmon of "NCIS," on the other hand, was People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" back in 1986, when the football star-turned-actor was a mere lad of 34. Mel Gibson, now 49, was the magazine's very first "Sexiest Man Alive" in 1985, "when he was in shape," as E! Online put it (ouch). Richard Gere got the title in '99, at age 49. In 1989, at almost 60 years of age, Sean Connery was voted People's Sexiest Man Alive, the eldest ever to earn the title. Sir Sean - the real James Bond to many -- turns 75 Aug. 25 and is out of the prime-of-life group, but heaven knows he'd be among the top on a sexiest seniors list.
You can argue for your Dennis Quaid, 51, Bruce Willis, 50, Jeff Bridges, 55 and other 45-year-old-plus leading men -- but don't think we missed George Clooney. Having been born May 6, 1961, the suave Mr. C has to wait until next year.