Man of the Year:
Last year, I had a very hard time picking someone who I thought would encompass all that I wanted in a man. After much deliberation and soul searching, I picked Green Day, a band who made a huge comeback in 2004 and put out an all-around great album. Now, almost a year later, Green Day is everywhere. They’re on the MTV Music Awards, the American Music Awards, the Billboard Music Awards (with guest star the…crutch, which I still don’t get), and they’re probably going to be on the Grammys in a couple of months. I’m still glad that they’re enjoying their much-earned success, but I knew that their pervasive omnipotence would eventually wear me down.
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The simple way out would have been to pick Jon Stewart, since he has been my runner-up choice for the past five years. But I know Jon Stewart will be around for a long time, and my love for him will never die, so I’ve decided to seize the day.
Thus, my man of the year is…Wentworth Miller.
For the past six months, I have been enamoured by this man and his sexy smoldering eyes. (It’s at this point that I should informally give much thanks to Bee for his patience with my whimsy…he still knows that I think he can totally take Wentworth in a fight.) As the thirty-three year-old star of “Prison Break,” Miller has been thrown into the spotlight, his 6’0” (and a half) frame seemingly materializing out of thin air. TV Guide, numerous forums (who like to make word-plays out of his name – as if “went-crush” and “went-gasm” aren’t icky enough, now they’re being typed by forty year old women), and fan sites have all erected a shrine in his honour. But in all actuality, Miller’s been around for years.
If you’ve ever gleaned Miller on talk show or print interviews, you’ll notice that he seems to tell the same anecdote – he’s been on about 10,000 auditions, but his résumé looks slightly better than DMX’s. And this is true. For when he arrived in L.A., fresh-faced and wide-eyed, he never exactly lit the city on fire. In fact, he mostly worked behind the scenes, temping at various studios and offices to make ends meet. He’s credited with numerous production associate credits, almost as many as actual acting gigs, and did script reading for a while as well. But his perseverance paid off in a big way, and the man formerly nicknamed by friends as “Stinky” is finally lighting up screens on “Prison Break.”
Even before Miller landed in sunny L.A., he was finishing up his English degree at Princeton, and participating in the school’s a capella group, The Tigertones (sounds fierce, no?). "Acting has always been a passion, and I did it all the way up until college,” Miller said in a recent interview. “And then I went to Princeton and allowed myself to get derailed because Princeton is an amazing school. It's also conservative and all my friends were looking forward to Wall Street or law school or med school, and if you said that you were going into the arts, that was something you did in college as an extracurricular activity; it wasn't something that you built a whole career on. Suddenly the idea of not having a steady paycheck seemed crazy." And yet, wacky Miller still pursued his dreams.
Eventually, bit parts started landing in his lap. A guest spot on “ER” in 2000, a stint on a so-so episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” a two-parter on “Popular.” He also appeared on the ill-fated Jennifer Love-Hewitt vehicle, “Time of Your Life,” and reunited with the well-endowed ingénue on the pilot for her current project, “Ghost Whisperer.” His big break came with The Human Stain (2003), where Miller was cast as a young Anthony Hopkins. Miller was understandably honoured and thrilled by the chance to work with the screen legend, but kept his trademark humility and modesty throughout, praising Hopkins at any chance he was given. Underworld (2003) was a bump on the road and highly forgettable, but Miller followed it up by landing the recurring role of eye candy in Mariah Carey’s bizarrely narrative-driven videos, “It’s Like That,” and “We Belong Together.”
Now, I don’t normally agree with Mariah Carey’s fashion choices, selection of entourage, or general life philosophy, but I do agree in this case: choosing Miller as the man who would eventually lead her to leave her fiancé at the altar is perhaps the most coherent idea that Carey’s had in a long time. And Miller is no lightweight when it comes to brooding while simultaneously looking very hot – he does it weekly on “Prison Break.” Since I haven’t seen “It’s Like That” in a long time, the only scene of Miller that I can recall is the one where he is wearing that stupid masquerade mask. But in “We Belong Together,” Miller’s hotness is displayed on a pillar for all to see. As he sits languidly in his suit and running shoes, we can’t help but ogle. Plus, he really sells his attraction to Carey, although in this particular video, her eyebrows have run away from her face.
On “Prison Break,” Miller plays Michael, a genius architect who goes that extra mile to save his brother, Lincoln, from death row. Instead of using his powers of intellect to prove Linc’s innocence, Michael uses these powers to get himself landed in the Fox River Penitentiary, home of the mob bosses, possible D. B. Coopers, and child molestin’ murderin’ psychos. (Guess which ones are involved with Michael’s elaborate breakout plan?) Hilarity, in the form of tertiary characters being killed off left and right, a severed toe, and a hot doctor who won’t give Michael the time of day since she discovered that he is married to a Russian stripper, ensue. At the end of the first season, our plucky Michael, who managed to evade every possible roadblock that the writers threw his way, couldn’t get past an elusive but pivotal pipe that purportedly led to the outside world. What will become of Michael? Will Lincoln (played by a rage-a-holic and equally handsome Dominic Purcell) get the chair? Will shady Agent Kellerman kill Lincoln’s son? Will the Russian stripper save the day? We’ll have to tune in sometime in March 2006 to find out.
Miller’s acting on “Prison Break” isn’t stellar, but he sells the story well. His formal education might have also helped him with his lines, which can sometimes be so long and complicated (especially when he explains the intricate theories of his breakout plan using a combination of architectural and mechanical jargon) that I’m surprised he can still remember to brood and/or look intensely off into the distance while doing so. Although I am slightly jealous over his impending romance with Dr. Sara Tancredi (played by a beautiful, understated but slightly cross-eyed Sarah Wayne Callies), he can sell the leading man component pretty well, especially whilst surrounded by a hundred sweaty inmates. His steady line deliveries add an element of assuredness and confidence in Michael, but it’s when he doesn’t have the lines that Miller punches it up a notch, his face faltering or his eyes conveying despair at just the right moment in the story.
Off-screen, Miller is just as charismatic. On a November taping of “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” Miller sat in his plush chair, overwhelmed by the screaming women in the audience. He was a mix of nervousness and excitement, and blushed as Jay Leno asked about his heartthrob status. Moments like these just want to make you reach into your television and give him a big hug. He consistently comes off in interviews as unassuming and thoughtful, which is refreshing. I’d be surprised to hear him partying it up with Colin Farrell or having one-night affairs with Mariah Carey – he seems too grounded to be captivated by all the empty glitz and glamour that Hollywood is known for. As an added bonus to an already fascinating actor, Miller’s grammar rocks. I mean, unlike Joaquin Phoenix, we can actually understand what he’s saying, and his anecdotes have a point.
Maybe by this time next year, “Prison Break” will be cancelled and Miller will just be a tab in TV.com’s archives. Or maybe “Prison Break” will be the new “24,” and Miller’s star will rise even further. His résumé will double in size, and every director across the world will be asking for him. For once in Hollywood history, someone will finally – finally! – be awarded for his passion and hard work in the craft, not for a stunt wedding or a grainy sex tape or a run-in with Tara Reid. I vote for the latter, because Miller is too talented and too remarkable to just go away. Remember, you heard it here first. ¤ C.Ho.