If you're looking for actor James Marsden, don't go to MySpace. "I don't even know what MySpace is, what it's for," he tells me. "Then one day my brother calls me and says, 'Dude, there's someone on MySpace saying that he's you.'" There are actually four people on MySpace claiming to be him, but I don't point that out. "I want to dispel that rumor right now-it's not me," says the 33-year-old, laughing.
Just because he's not down with arguably the biggest Internet craze of the 21st century doesn't mean he's not cool-just ask any prepubescent boy. While you might best recognize Marsden as Lon, Rachel McAdams's consummate good-guy fiancé in tearjerker nonpareil The Notebook, 12-year-old kids everywhere know him as the ocular-laser-wielding superhero Cyclops in the X-Men trilogy.
Boy, are they going to be disappointed with what Marsden's in next: This month he has traded in the Ray-Ban uni-shades for a sequined poker jacket and bow tie in the big-screen adaptation of the Broadway musical Hairspray. "They're gone now," Marsden half-jokes about his X-Men fans. But the flick he calls "light, energetic, and colorful" is likely to attract a wide fan base of its own. "Everyone's just chewing the scenery, mugging outrageously," he says. "It was 'go big or go home.' It's one of those movies that if you don't like it, you don't have a pulse."
As dance-show host Corny Collins, Marsden not only gets to show off his singing talent (cool trivia: he's the Sinatra-esque crooner in the background of Sarah Jessica Parker's Lovely perfume commercials), but also his dancing...er...skills? "I can pick it up OK," he says. "I can find the white-man's beat. I just can't find those other beats."
He also got to work with an all-star cast, including the man of many slick dance moves himself, John Travolta-only in this movie, Travolta wears a fat suit and plays a woman. "When I was in high school, all the girls wanted to be with him, and I wanted to be him," says Marsden. "I finally get to work with him, and he's a woman, which is cool-but now I don't really want to be him so much."
What he would like, just one time, is the chance to play the guy that gets the girl. In each of his last three popcorn-movie roles (The Notebook, Superman Returns, and X-Men: The Last Stand), Marsden has been the odd man out in love triangles. "I didn't plan it this way. It just sort of happened that I became the guy you stick in if you need some competition for your leading man," he laughs. "Really, it's become pathological. Finally, I had a conversation with my agents and managers, where I said I don't care how bad it is, how good it is, who's in it, who's directing-I have to do something where I get the girl." Consider it done: He'll successfully woo Katherine Heigl in 27 Dresses, which he's currently shooting in Providence, RI.
So what, I have to ask, would he be if he weren't an actor? "A stoner," Marsden says, without missing a beat. "No, no, no. I've never smoked pot a day in my life." He clears his throat. "I'd probably be a struggling musician. I'd do the whole Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, Damien Rice thing."
Lucky for Marsden, who lives in the "not cool valley of Los Angeles" with his wife of seven years, actress Lisa Linde, and their two kids, acting has worked out-perhaps due to his career philosophy. "I always try different things," he says. "It's creatively more fulfilling for me to do that, and it sort of keeps people on their toes."
His other philosophy? "I enjoy being an actor, but I enjoy being a dad more," says the man who, when he's not working, takes his son to the car show at Bob's Big Boy every Friday night. He sighs. "I'm getting cornier and cornier." In a good way.