On April 20, 2020, Stanley Tucci made a Negroni for his wife. He recorded the occasion for his Instagram page and soon the internet went wild. The actor, director, and cookbook writer went on to make a number of cocktails for Felicity Blunt and each new recipe brought with it a flurry of social media delight. It’s become such a wonderful mini moment of celebrity joy that pop culture apparel brand Super Yaki made a t-shirt to commemorate the occasion (alas, the apron versions are already sold out.)
The cocktail classes were another example of the growing popularity of an actor who has been a stage and screen staple for decades now. Before you were a fan of Stanley Tucci, you definitely saw him in at least five or six different things and clocked him as ‘that guy.’ For a long time, he was That Guy, another reliable character actor who could be counted on to liven up a scene, even though he was seldom likely to be the lead. That’s changed, however, and Stanley Tucci is now a bona fide internet boyfriend. Yes, at the age of 60, Tucci now sits comfortably among the ranks of social media favorites like Keanu Reeves, Timothee Chalamet, and Oscar Isaac, to name but three. That trio of names seems like a crowd of hunks, cuties, and smoldering boys who we would expect to have on our bedroom walls. Tucci, less so, but he is no less deserving. Then again, for those who paid attention, Tucci’s trajectory to internet boyfriend status was more predictable than anticipated.
It’s easy to forget but Tucci was in some way always defined by his hotness. The dude is and always has been, objectively speaking, a good-looking fellow. When he starred on stage in Frankie and Johnny at the Clair de Lune, he was naked for a huge chunk of it and endlessly written about for his sexiness. This is the guy who was advertising Levi’s in 1985 as a jobbing 25-year-old actor, for f*ck’s sake, and you can’t for a minute deny the flagrant sex appeal of him with massive forearms in a tank top as he flashes those F*ck Me eyes at the camera. That modeling agency may have known all about his sex appeal but casting agents seemed less aware. As a working actor jumping from gig to gig, Tucci was a malleable presence, although he still fought against typecasting as an Italian American man in an industry where that led to a lot of auditions for petty crooks and gangster roles.
He later used his Italian-ness to great effect through his work on and off the screen. He made his directorial debut with Big Night, a comedy-drama about immigrant brothers running a restaurant that’s chock full of some of the greatest food porn committed to celluloid. That also kickstarted one of his most alluring Internet Boyfriend qualities: his relationship with eating. If Stanley Tucci is in a film or TV series and there’s food on the table, you can bet it’s going to be a delectable feast. He’s the perfectly selfless and encouraging husband of Julia Child in Nora Ephron’s Julie and Julia, for example. Tucci also has two cookbooks on shelves as well as a memoir centered on his life and its intersections with food and a CNN series on his travels across Italy. Cooking, eating, and the sheer lust for food is now as much a part of Tucci’s persona as his acting.
Food and sex are frequently intertwined, but the former remains a subject of shame and scorn for many. To enjoy food openly is seen to be a gluttonous act, and in an industry that fetishizes often scary levels of thinness, it seems almost fantastical to see an actor gleefully chow down a pasta dish. Tucci’s Internet Boyfriend persona thrives on this simplicity: a good-looking guy who will feed you big dinners without concerns over calories or gluten intake. In a wonderful piece on the sadly defunct website The Toast, Daniel Lavery wrote that ‘if Stanley Tucci were your boyfriend, he would make pots of red sauce on the weekends, and make you taste all of them.’ Indeed.
Internet Boyfriends are typically defined by their seemingly effortless charm. Not every hot male celebrity gets to be an Internet Boyfriend. It takes more work than that, and if sex appeal was the only qualification, I’m not sure the admittedly handsome Tucci would make it. These guys are lower key in some manner or at least perceived to be. They may be buff, but they don’t seem hyper-focused on the gym or caloric intakes. They’re confident but not smarmily self-obsessed. There’s more going on beneath the surface, whether it’s the unexpected chaos of Robert Pattinson or the approachable coolness of Timothee Chalamet. Mostly, these men are conduits for something else, a kind of safeness that many of us take solace in as so many celebrities stick their feet in their mouths or reveal themselves to be the absolute worse. Stanley Tucci is the older, suaver version of this: the seasoned gentleman who’s gotten his bullsh*t out of the way and has now settled into himself and lives a seemingly lovely life with his gorgeous wife and kids. Dare I say it? Should I? Yes, he’s probably the top Internet Daddy for a reason.
There’s also a simpler force at the heart of Tucci’s new status: sheer visibility. Tucci is everywhere. Somehow, he’s in every movie and you’re always delightfully surprised when he turns up. In the past decades alone, he’s starred in or provided voice work for 33 films, as well as an array of TV shows, and he still found time to direct his own movie. These aren’t tiny indie titles either. I’m talking major franchises like Marvel, The Hunger Games, and (ugh) Transformers. There’s a comforting reliability about his presence in even the worst films. He’s never phoning it in, even when Michael Bay’s at the helm. As Esther Zuckerman writes in her book A Field Guide to Internet Boyfriends, ‘whenever Tucci shows up, you know you’re in for a little bit of flash and often a whole lot of warmth. In his best roles, he emits a comforting aura that makes you just want to curl up with him and a big bowl of spaghetti.’
So, this weekend, why don’t you treat yourself to a big bowl of Nico’s pasta with prosciutto, onions, peas, and pancetta (seriously, this looks so tasty), pour yourself a Negroni, and celebrate the delights of Stanley Tucci? It’s what he’d want you to do.
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