James Marsden, last seen as the hunky team leader in X-Men, has done a complete flip-flop for his next role, that of a cranium-challenged high-school jock in the satirical cheerleader comedy Sugar & Spice.
"I thought it was a clever script, and I like that here's a guy who doesn't know what's going on," notes the 27-year-old actor. "It was time in my career to do something silly."
If Sugar & Spice (opening Friday) sends up girl power, true love, and teen pregnancy in a plot that sees a cheer squad scheming to rob a bank, it's meant as silly fun, not an X-Men-style adventure.
Sugar & Spice was actually filmed before X-Men. As the high-school quarterback, Marsden's character impregnates his cheerleader-homecoming-queen love (Marley Shelton) and finds himself working the late shift at Blockbuster to support his new family.
Marsden's own days in high school, he confesses, weren't nearly so cool. "I wasn't popular — and I know everyone says that," he laughs. "I started to gain popularity in my senior year."
That was in Oklahoma, "where the cool people were [for example] the quarterback … and I weighed 3 pounds in school," Marsden admits. "In senior year, I guess I reinvented myself. I'd always worried about what people thought — junior high was the worst for that. I was a chubby kid, and then I sprouted and got gangly and I developed a more relaxed attitude towards fitting in. When you don't care anymore, that's when it happens."
Life Imitates Art After playing the scenario as a new dad in Sugar & Spice, Marsden now knows about being a prospective dad in reality: His wife, actress Lisa Linde-Marsden (who stars on the soap opera Days of Our Lives), is due to give birth to their first child any time now.
"[Playing a father in Sugar is] too ironic," he says, adding, "We know it's a boy and we always liked the name Jack — and ironically, that's the name of the character I play in Sugar & Spice. We think it's going to be Jack Holden."
Named for The Bridge on the River Kwai and Network star William Holden? "William Holden or Holden Caulfield," he answers.
Marsden met Lisa seven years ago. "She's from Nashville [Tenn.] and I'm from Oklahoma," he explains. "I've lived in L.A. eight years now, and the first three years, I didn't date anyone; I was scared by the liberal women of California."
The couple initially met through Marsden's Sugar & Spice love interest, Shelton. Marsden met Shelton when they filmed a TV movie about David Koresh, Ambush in Waco, Texas.
"I played a 32-year-old agent, and I was 19. It was a mistake," he jokes. "[My character] perished in the flames. But I met Lisa through a friend that she was dating at the time — who was Marley's ex-boyfriend."
Was it love at first sight? "It wasn't," he admits. "We were friends for a couple of years before we dated [because I was friends with her boyfriend]. I don't trust love at first sight."
He didn't trust marriage much either: The couple only got married last summer. "The baby was part of it and it was in our future, we just didn't know. Being married is fantastic!"
Marsden's already got one toy for his son: his X-Men action figure. "It's in my baby's room," he explains.