Funny and handsome, Will Arnett is willing to cop to procuring the odd pedicure. Also to embracing his makeup use at work, and teaching his and wife Amy Poehler’s two sons about the importance of a little style.
Aside from our usual boy-craziness, there’s a reason the Ministry cares about this actor’s aesthetic philosophies: Arnett, along with Jason Bateman and former NBC honcho Ben Silverman, has produced a new documentary about male identity and body image.
“Mansome," directed by Morgan Spurlock (watch the trailer below), probes modern masculinity through the lens of contemporary male grooming habits. The Ministry spoke to Arnett on the phone about it:
Matt Donnelly: So, “Mansome” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, and looking over the party photos, there’s a really great image of Ben Silverman and his dad. It hit me that a man’s father is his first wave of exposure on how to take care of yourself.
Will Arnett: Your dad is the gateway. Like, the first person you see shaving. My dad was a pretty minimalist person. He’d shave, comb his hair and be out the door. I’ve had a couple of pedicures before, but just because my wife asked me to take care of a gnarly toe situation.
MD: You have two sons. What are you teaching them about appearance?
WA: I’d like to pass the same thing my dad passed to me: Try to be presentable, keep it simple, but try to have a little style.
MD: Does your wife insist on any other grooming points?
WA: Just the pedicure. I’m lucky that I’m more hairless than a Chihuahua. She’s pretty low-maintenance herself, she stays out of my grill about that stuff. ... I also have a team of people, when I go to work, whose job it is to make sure I don’t look terrible.
MD: When Ty Burrell won his Emmy Award for “Modern Family” last year, he joked on stage about how his late father would obsess over him using makeup at work.
WA: It’s funny that Ty said that, because I’ve said it for years. When I come home from work and I want to hug my kids, it’s, “Daddy has to wash off his makeup." As if I’ve been trolling the red-light district looking for johns.
MD: Speaking of makeup, the film touches on the huge business of products in the men’s market, and the guys that buy them. Isn’t it about time for an updated term for “metrosexual”?
WA: Metrosexual reminds me way too much of 1995. It’s the kind of word you hear from a distant family member. Maybe the new word should be “mansome.” Mansome lets men take the term back, if anything.
MD: What conclusions did you come to, producing the film? Are we all just vain, selfish beasts?
WA: It cuts at the very heart of who we are as human beings. It stems from how we feel about ourselves. I went to an all-boys boarding school for a number of years. One of the great things about it was, when I woke up every day, I wasn’t worried about impressing girls. It was a removed level of agitation at that age. But on a certain level, if you don’t care what you look like, you might not be well.
MD: So you’ve said you keep it simple. But as a married man, there’s no way you don’t occasionally swipe one of your wife’s products, even if out of laziness.
WA: Hmmm. Well, she wears hard-core lady antiperspirant. I’d smell like a bird. If anything, it would be the shampoo and conditioner because it’s in the shower.
MD: One last thing, the film gets deep into beards and mustaches. Mr. Spurlock even grows one and says, “I’m embracing my inner porn star.” Why is the mustache so directly linked to sex? Even for poor, wholesome Tom Selleck?
WA: It’s a funny thing: My takeaway is that more people are watching porn than they let on -- and porn from the ‘70s.
“Mansome” features appearances from Arnett, Bateman, Judd Apatow and Zach Galifianakis. It opens in New York and Los Angeles on May 18.
Follow Matt Donnelly on Twitter @mattdonnelly.