Not Rat or Brat Pack, they are The Thunk Hunks
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It would be hard to imagine Frank Sinatra or Jack Nicholson or even Warren Beatty—easily the most politically active of his generation of actors—following up an Oscar win by making a beeline to the TED talks.
But that is where Ben Affleck could be found, just four days after emotionally accepting his little gold man. Joking that attending the TED conference was like arriving at "the Academy Awards for smart people", he made a plea for the conflict-ravaged Congo. "I've met people mending the fabric of their lives," he said. "Brick by brick, stitch by stitch."
With his best picture win for Argo at the Oscars, moviedom's leading man of the moment is most definitely Affleck. More than just pulling off a rarely achieved career U-turn—it's a long way from Gigli (2003)—at 40 he has also come to embody a new paradigm for masculinity.
These are his current attributes: maker of important films, happily married (to Jennifer Garner), father of three, Eastern Congo philanthropist. Add rumoured Senate candidate.
Apparently the way to be cool now—the way to be James Dean in 2013—has nothing to do with his-and-hers Rolls-Royces.
A-list celebrities have exhibited a serious side for years, of course. Angelina Jolie landed in Darfur more than a decade ago. But Affleck's evolution has made him the face of this cluster of actor-director-producers.
People like Matt Damon, George Clooney, Jolie, Leonardo DiCaprio, Don Cheadle and Brad Pitt are making politically savvy movies (Promised Land, J Edgar), doing serious charity work (World Wildlife Fund, Water.org) and keeping the night-crawling to a minimum.
The guys also appear capable of growing a beard overnight. But that's gravy.
Adjunct members include Mark Wahlberg, who has a white-hot career—Ted 2, the next Transformers—and an extremely staid private life with wife and four kids. You don't see Channing Tatum passed out in the driveway; People magazine's reigning "sexiest man alive" is married, produces his own movies and does quiet work for animal and environmental charities.