I am not, by nature, a particularly envious man. Nor am I covetous. Most days I think I have a decent grasp and appreciation of what my strengths are, as well as an understanding of—and willingness to work on—my weaknesses. And, as a white, able-bodied, cisgendered, heterosexual male born in Europe in the late 20th century, I am certainly very aware of my hyper-privileged position in the grand sweep of human history. It really doesn’t get much luckier than being born then, there, like that.
That’s most days.
The other days I just really fucking wish I was Stanley Tucci.
I have been trying to step out of myself to really think and to break this down: Why, of all people, would I wish to be Stanley Tucci? Amidst all the countless images of idealised Instagram male perfection that are beamed ceaselessly to our brains—the Momoas and the Johnsons—why is it that alone among them it is The Tucc—the un-forced, easygoing Tucc—that prevails?
Our perceptions of actors are naturally moulded by the often carefully managed public image they project, as well as the roles that they take and the characters they portray. Now, Stanley Tucci has been acting for quite some time. His career stretches all the way back to the late eighties, and he has over one hundred credits to his name, but I think I’ve figured out that my Tucci—whatever you want to call it? Fixation? Aspiration?—can be ascribed mainly to just two roles.
I gave away the first right up there in the header. Easy A, the Will Gluck-directed, Emma Stone-starring teen comedy—is rightfully much loved on this site. It’s funny, sweet, slightly subversive, and generally well put together. But, as anyone who’s seen it will surely attest, the movie’s real killer assets are the parents of Stone’s protagonist. Played by the perfection-on-legs that is Patricia Clarkson and the I’m-writing-about-him-right-now that is Stanley Tucci, they almost represent some sort of platonic ideal of parenthood. They are loving but not overbearing; funny, supportive, empathetic; and just the right amount and flavour of corny and annoying. Here’s how they react when they found out that their daughter—whose intelligence and judgement they trust implicitly—got sent to the principal’s office:
And here’s a line—‘Who told you?!’—delivered by Tucci, that scored what was probably one of the biggest laughs from me of any movie I’ve seen in years:
Those roles are well written, sure, but they walk a fine line. Were they to be played by anyone else, by actors of any lesser caliber, they may well come off as artificial and cloying. As it is, Clarkson and Tucci fucking nail it. If I ever become a father, I hope I can be one a fraction as good as Stanley Tucci is in Easy A.
Little known fact and tangential aside: You can take any famous quote about happiness, sub in Stanley Tucci somewhere into it, and it’ll end up making just as much, if not more, sense—
“If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be Stanley Tucci.”
“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Stanley Tucci never decreases by being shared.”
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature…. Life is either a daring adventure with Stanley Tucci, or nothing.”
Stanley Tucci, born to Joan (née Tropiano), a secretary and writer, and Stanley Tucci, Sr., is an American actor of Italian descent. He’s also a writer, producer, and director. He keeps himself busy, having also published a cook book fer chrissakes. He is also the man who, back when they were classmates at college, first called Irving Rhames, ‘Ving’. Over the years of living in the public eye he has always come across as being a man of good humor, equanimity, and as someone who appreciates the value of good, honest, hard work. His persona has never seemed to have any hint of the marketing tool about it. The fact that he’s appeared in a healthy amount of dross does nothing to diminish people’s affections for him. In an industry where we, frankly quite inexplicably, often hold a person’s movie roles as indicators of character, Tucci never seems to be tarnished by his association with poor material. It may be rank hypocrisy of course, but whether it’s because even in awful movies he manages to deliver delightful performances, or just because we plain like him so damn much, Stanley Tucci seems to be coated in Teflon.
The other role of his that makes me wish I was Stanley Tucci is, on the surface of things, the flip side to the suburban dad from Easy A: Detective Morton from the first season (2015) of the much-underrated show, Fortitude.
DCI Morton is Teflon Tucci distilled into one role. In an era of big screen actors making the jump to the small screen it was Tucci’s first television role, and he was absolute perfection. Arriving at the isolated and remote Arctic town of Fortitude to investigate a murder, DCI Morton plays the role of audience surrogate alongside his duties as detective. Paying homage to any number of unflappable fictional detectives who have poked their noses into a closed community, lifting up rocks to see what scuttles out, Morton is, fundamentally, a hardass. He has a job to do, and he won’t put up with any obfuscating locals making shit difficult for him. The pieces shift around him and different parts of the puzzle become visible to him, and us, in often jarring and confusing ways. But where others might have played Morton simple and straight, Tucci infused the archetype with a wonderful warmth. He was disturbed by what he saw and the roads his investigations took him down, but he never wavered in his faith in, or lost his sense of, humanity. Empathy was his guiding hand, even as a cold and methodical professionalism was his game. It’s in this that the ostensible differences to his Easy A character actually reveal many similarities. That cheeky, knowing glint behind the eyes. The sense of a calm stillness at the heart of a raging storm. Quick to smile and laugh, but never anybody’s fool. You get the sense that these are the qualities that don’t just define the characters that Tucci plays, but the man himself too.
Plus he looks cool as fuck.
Damn do I sometimes wish that I could be Stanley Tucci.