I like to think of James Marsden as the male Elizabeth Banks of Hollywood: Attractive, charming, did a stint on 30 Rock, frequently makes terrible movies (see e.g.: The Loft, or for Banks, What to Expect When You’re Expecting ), but had a role in a big enough franchise that everyone kind of knows who they are (X-Men, Hunger Games), but nobody knows them that well.
For instance, I don’t know that much about the life of Elizabeth Banks, except that she is married to a sports blogger or something, which I always find endearing, mostly because it means that being a blogger is not a disqualifying factor for someone like Elizabeth Banks.
Marsden I know even less about, so I did some digging this morning out of curiosity, only to find out that Kirk Cameron — or rather, his sister — played a role in Marsden’s decision to start acting.
Marsden hails from Oklahoma City, and his father is a food scientist. Marsden does not come from an acting background, but — as he relays to Playboy — he made his first trip to Hollywood because of a chance encounter with Candace Cameron.
The first time I met a celebrity I was 16. We were on vacation in Hawaii, staying at the same hotel as Kirk Cameron’s family. He wasn’t there, but his sisters were. Candace was on Full House. They were flirty, and we hung out by the pool the whole trip. They invited me to Los Angeles, and I flew out to see a taping of Growing Pains and Full House.
That was Marsden’s first taste of the life, which he has suggested in interviews led to his pursuit of acting (along with the fact that, as he says, there was nothing else to do in Oklahoma).
That encounter also led to Marsden playing basketball with Leonardo DiCaprio.
[I met] the dialect coach from Growing Pains, who introduced me to Leonardo DiCaprio. Leo was on the show’s final season. A few years later, after I’d moved to LA, I played two-on-two basketball at the Oakwood Apartments, and one day we needed a guy, so I called Leo to play. He said sure. It was just as his career was taking off.
And thanks to a recent episode of The Nerdist, I also now know that the Oakwood Apartments is temporary housing where actors — often future child stars — go and live, mostly during pilot season.
However, between the time Marsden met Candace Cameron and began his acting career, he also did some modeling.
Here’s some samples, via Ellen:
And here’s his early headshot (GOOD GOD):
Marsden also relayed to Playboy another great celebrity encounter — his first — which he later relayed to Jimmy Fallon (at 1:15). It involves Fabio and a horse.
But wait! There’s more from that Playboy interview. Marsden was also Calista Flockhart’s wingman when she began dating Harrison Ford:
I did the last season of Ally McBeal, and it was right when Harrison was starting to date Calista Flockhart. I had become friends with her, and one night she said, “Come to dinner with me and Harrison.” I’m like, “Me, you and him?” It turned out to be a small group of us, thankfully, but I ended up as her wingman. We had dinner someplace in Brentwood and then went back to his house. He put music on and made everybody drinks. He was giggly and goofy around her but pretty aloof with the rest of us. I kept thinking we should leave the two of them alone, but Calista was like, “Don’t leave, don’t leave, don’t leave.” I’m making him sound like a rapist, but he was very hospitable. She was just really nervous. Anyway, we had more drinks, he played more music, and then at some point he gave me a look that said, “Okay, you’ve got to get the fuck out of here.”
But even that story is not the best thing I found out about James Marsden. That detail is this: As a teenager, he played in a country band in Oklahoma.
Here’s a clip (starting at 1:05). The best part, however, may be in seeing how embarrassed Marsden is by the discovery:
HE HAD AN ACCENT!
And you’re welcome.