Paul Rudd is the world’s sexiest not-very-Irish man

People Magazine named him ‘Sexiest Man Alive’. An Irish connection was swiftly unearthed

You can count on Irish Central, the New York-based booster of all things from the home country, to find a way of wrapping a flag around the news.

"Paul Rudd, who spent many childhood summers vacationing in Ireland, has been named as this year's Sexiest Man Alive by People Magazine," the paper's Twitter account blared. Irish Central went on to note that the actor had built an Irish pub in his basement.

You’ll never beat the Irish! Time to drive up and down O’Connell Street while parping horns and waving banners with Rudd’s breathtakingly gorgeous face upon them.

How did Alan Partridge once describe us? 'Bucktoothed simpletons with eyebrows on their cheeks.' That's all over now

How did Alan Partridge once describe us? "Bucktoothed simpletons with eyebrows on their cheeks." That's all over now. A chap who was dubbed "honorary Irishman" at the 2011 Oscar Wilde: Honouring the Irish in Film gala is now officially handsomer than relative gargoyles such as Chris Evans, Henry Cavill and Robert Pattinson.

With all respect to Rudd – both of whose parents were born in suburban London – he can make only fragile claims to be the first Irish winner of the title. George Clooney, a rare two-time honouree, is on stronger ground. Mel Gibson, the first ever winner, in 1985, can also point to Irish heritage.

But Pierce Brosnan, pride of Meath, remains the only man born on the sod to be officially designated the era's prime Adonis. He ascended to the ermine in 2001, towards the end of his time as James Bond.

Never mind that. The choice of Paul Rudd feels like an attempt to comfort the world in troubled times. There is nothing threatening about his handsomeness. Raised in New Jersey, most often a light comedian, he has, for 30 years or so, been soothing audiences with performances in such films as Clueless, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

He is a member of the Avengers, but he is not angry like the Hulk, deified like Thor or conflicted like Captain America. Rudd was the unthreateningly diminutive Ant-Man in two standalone films that played more like light comedies than blistering action epics.

Unlike previous winners of the People Magazine award such as Gibson, Johnny Depp or Nick Nolte, he has veered away from controversy and, despite advancing years, remained the United States' favourite caring nephew. Few recent profiles of the man have got through an opening paragraph without expressing bewilderment at his age.

Now 52, he looks scarcely old enough to remember the millennial celebrations. He is, indeed, the third-oldest holder of People's pulchritude gong – after Sean Connery, then 59, and Harrison Ford, who was 56.

Unlike more than a few prominent movies stars, he does not insist on hanging decadently with women many years his junior. Julie Yaeger Rudd, his wife of 18 years, is (it would be rude to be more specific) of his generation, and they live far from glitz in a small town about 150km north of New York City.

“She was stupefied,” he said of his wife’s response to the news. “But you know she was very sweet about it. After some giggling and shock she said, ‘Oh, they got it right.’ And that was very sweet. She was probably not telling the truth, but what’s she going to say?”

Nice humble fellow. Fond of self-deprecation. Rudd falls into that category of star who, while greatly admired for his looks, doesn’t exactly count as a sex symbol. He would surely be less comfortable stripped to the waist than would the 2005 winner, Matthew McConaughey.

Unlike Clooney or Brosnan, he is not cut out to simmer in a dinner jacket. Walls do not quiver on the foundations as they do when Denzel Washington (1996) or Chris Hemsworth (2014) saunters breathtakingly into the room. Unlike Blake Shelton … Actually, I am still not sure who Blake Shelton is or how the hell – arriving between the far more plausible Dwayne Johnson, in 2016, and inevitable Idris Elba, in 2018 – he took the prize in 2017. He wears a hat. So I assume he's a country-and-western singer.

For all his many achievements, Rudd has never quite escaped his guest role as Mike Hannigan in Friends. (Steve Zahn once told me that, despite nearly three decades in movies, he is still first recognised for his brief turn as a Canadian ice dancer in that show.) He was the nice fellow who eventually brought stability to Phoebe’s life.

The world felt comfortable handing the amiable hippy over to Mike as the series edged towards its knot-tying finale. Why would they not? He had that nice smile. He crinkled when complimented. And he was called Hannigan. You’ll never beat the Irish! Parp, parp! Vroom, vroom!

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