Is Jon Hamm the next George Clooney or the next Tom Selleck?

Mad-Men-Don-DraperImage Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMCIt’s been a rough year for Don Draper, but as the curtains closed on the fourth season of Mad Men last night, the sultan of suave was basking in the glow of his surprise engagement. Surely the good vibes won’t last, as season 5 will tackle that decision’s collateral damage, but Jon Hamm’s own prospects couldn’t be brighter. The handsome actor — who some say was the model for Prince Eric in Disney’s The Little Mermaid — is in great demand. He has a supporting role in a hit-movie (The Town), he’s a comic treat whenever he visits Rockefeller Center — faux (30 Rock) or real (Saturday Night Live) — and he’s on fans’ short list for seemingly every rock-jawed superhero movie. He’s on the verge. So I can’t help but ask the question: Will he become George Clooney or Tom Selleck? Bruce Willis or Ted Danson?

I hope it’s understood that either fate represents ridiculous success for an actor, but it’s also true that some television stars never quite fill the big screen in the same way they did the tube. You could argue that no one was ever as poised for movie stardom as 1981 Tom Selleck, whose hunky Thomas Magnum inspired a women-want-him-men-want-to-be-him vibe similar to our current infatuation with Hamm’s Draper. (Who knows what would’ve happened if CBS hadn’t prevented him from playing Indiana Jones?) And who was more beloved than Danson’s Sam Malone on Cheers? But for some reason, we — the movie-going public — ultimately ruled that we preferred those two on the small screen. Perhaps they played their iconic characters too well, because we never loved them so much as when they were a tanned P.I. and a womanizing bartender.

It would make my job a lot simpler if Clooney and Willis had maneuvered differently in their transition from TV stardom to the Hollywood A-list, but it’s not clear to me they did. By the time Clooney became a certified star on ER, he’d been a utility player on at least five TV series, so his breakthrough can’t be called inevitable. Willis’ path was probably the most improbable, switching gears from a limbo-dancing smart-ass on Moonlighting to a yippie-ki-yay action hero in Die Hard.

Hindsight is 20/20, but I’m not sure how much these four actors actually determined how or where they ended up. We decided. Just as we’ll decide whether Jon Hamm belongs on our TV or at our multiplex. Maybe it has everything to do with the question: Do we love Jon Hamm as much as we love the character Don Draper? Will we be able to accept him for not always being that character? His dynamite appearances on 30 Rock and SNL are flavored by his flawless inner-Draperness, but I was pleased by his performance in The Town, where he played a ruthless good guy. Hamm is certainly in line for leading man movies roles, but I honestly have no clue whether he’ll be at the Oscars in 2018 or be part of CBS’s Friday night lineup. I’m fascinated to see how his career will unfold.

Where do you see Jon Hamm in eight years, PopWatchers? Whose career seems like the most likely model for him?

Comments (42 total) Add your comment
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  • Green Gummi Bear

    I wouldn’t be shocked if he made it to the movies, as Mad Men is not on the #1 show of the biggest of only three networks. He’s well respected on a cable show with a strong but small following.

  • Susan

    I don’t think he will find much success once he comes out of the closet. I agree with the writer of this article, especially when he said that Jon struggles to portray a straight man effectively. His face is also very messy which doesn’t work to great for film. Maybe if he started dating Tina Fey in real life again his profile would be given a boost? Nonetheless, I doubt he will be able to recover from the controversy of last years’ “children locker room” incident.

    • jerkface

      what the EFF you See Kay are you talking about susan? Jon Hamm is not gay he has a long time girlfriend. Kids locker room incident? Wtf? Dated Tina Fey? What? What do you think 30 rock is real? I think you’re just on crack.

    • Perry_Cat

      I heard that his team was going to sue anyone who mentioned the incident in the children locker room, so the lack of coverage means he’s not really going to suffer. Plus I heard Jon was going to wait until the show ended to come up, because then his character would be even less convincing.

      • jerkface

        Your insanity puzzles me

    • Mirrener

      What on earth are you talking about? What article were you reading? And “His face is also very messy”??? Again, what on earth are you talking about?

    • Francis

      I’m also very surprised that he suffered very little backlash after cheating on his wife with not only one, but several women. I’m not sure if he will ever come out but many people have been speculating for a long time that it will be later rather than sooner.

      • JB

        Seriously, do some of you just post just to post? I mean you do know Hamm has never been married and has been with the same woman for years? Cheated on wife? Are you confusing his character and him? Locker room incident? I know gossip and that one has never come up anywhere. You must have your actors confused. Messy face? WHAT?? His face is close to perfect, it’s Cary Grant/Gregory Peck/Jimmy Stewart rolled into one. He’s classically gorgeous.

        I’m assuming your idea of attractive is Justin Bieber.

      • Kesha

        I also heard that he tried to sleep with his secretary. And I cannot believe that his wife took so long to find out when it was so obvious.

      • @Francis

        If he cheated on his wife and is he’s in the closet…WHAT BUSINESS IS IT OF YOURS???? He’s an actor for gawd sakes, NOT YOUR BEST FRIEND!!!!!

    • Question Existing

      The article summed it up perfectly, I think. His sexuality and constant cheating may have hindered him in the past, but once everyone knows the truth his career will go down the drain. Just look at Tom Cruise.

    • @Susan

      Susan, Jon Hamm rejected your unwanted advances and now you’re obviously very bitter. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

    • Elizabeth

      Put the pipe down Susan and step back from the keyboard…

    • Mole

      Guys, chill. Susan and several of the comments on the post are all the same person, trolling for responses. It’s obvious in the writing style.

  • Mr. Holloway

    “Do we love Jon Hamm as much as we love the character Don Draper?”

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I sure do!

    In fact, the biggest reason I love Don Draper (an objectively abhorrent human beings at times) is because Jon Hamm is so damn good in the role. (This was his Emmy year.)

    Green Gummi Bear brings up a great point that “Mad Men” isn’t pulling down numbers like a CBS show, so there’s a large percentage of people out there who won’t a problem seeing him as something other than Don Draper. Beyond that, I’ve read print interviews and seen TV appearances from the guy that shows he’s funny and interesting, so in my mind he’s already succeeded in separating himself from his iconic TV character.

  • JLC

    The worst thing for Mad Men fans is that in order to make the leap, Hamm will likely have to leave the series. To get that “movie star” sheen, an actor usually has to leave his/her “TV star persona behind. Whatever, it needs to happen soon.

    • Mr. Holloway

      But the thing is, I’m actually ok with that.

      I don’t see “Mad Men” as a show that’s on for 10 or 12 years, so Hamm won’t be playing Don for as long as he would be if this were a different type of show. On top of that, I would think that the fact that it’s a cable show (with fewer episodes) gives him more freedom to do movies than someone on a network show who only gets a summer hiatus. (Maybe not enough freedom for him to play Superman like a lot of people want him to, but still…)

    • Elizabeth

      I don’t think he has to leave the show. Its a short season and I think if AMC/Weiner had to, they’d work around his schedule.
      Because he’s been so flexible (drama, comedy) if I HAD to pick a TV-to-Movie guy, it would be Clooney. But there’s no reason he couldn’t be like Alec Baldwin.

      • JLC

        It’s not the schedule. It’s the American public’s preconception that “movie stars” don’t do TV shows (at least not until they reach character actor status). You’ll find few actors that were able to do both simultaneously and successfully. Being a movie star means you’ve graduated; you don’t keep going to high school after that.

  • mydove

    I know I’m going to catch shizzle for this, but, to me, he was the weakest link in The Town. His performance wasn’t memorable and like one critic mentioned, he had the whole Fred Flintstone 5 o’clock shadow going on.

    Also all the other forays other than Mad Men mentioned where he’s excelled are on TV. So grow where you are planted.

    • llevinso

      Actually, quite a few people thought he was miscast in The Town. I didn’t have a problem with him but he was certainly nothing special compared to everyone else in the movie.

    • Mr. Holloway

      Despite all the glowing things I said about him in my original comment…I thought he overacted in “The Town.” (I enjoyed his overacting, but it was still overacting.)

  • Jack

    Wow, he’d be lucky to have the career of any of them. His charisma is lacking and while good looking, he’s not interesting to look at. I’m thinking this guy is more in the Gordon Thomson category.

    • Shannon

      You’re nuts! “lacking in charisma”? “not interesting to look at”? We’re obviously not looking at the same actor. He kills in everything, especially the overacting in 30 Rock and the Town.

  • Lucinda

    “the sultan of suave was basking in the glow of his surprise engagement”


  • Dorkophile

    I feel like you guys haven’t watched the 30 Rocks or SNLs with him. It’s CLEAR he can play another character, and that the man can seriously act. I have no idea about his personal life except that he’s had a girlfriend for 10+ years (which I guess could be strange to some people?) but frankly I don’t care. So many actors have messed up personal lives and 99% of the time, their career doesn’t suffer even though we all ACT like it will. Charlie Sheen anyone? And I don’t think Hamm is close to being lke Sheen… I think the man will be able to balance BOTH successful tv and movie careers but I see no need for him to become a major movie star; one iconic character is more than most actors get in a lifetime. He’s already a success.

  • Ingrid

    I thought he was amazing in The Town. I could never have imagined hating the man who plays Don Draper that much. I think he has already shown range, and I think the best is yet to come.

  • Lyn

    Jon Hamm has been extraordinary in the way you can see “Don Draper’s” doubts, misgivings, hopes and secret fears coming to life on his face. Whether he ends up as a movie guy or a TV guy, I hope he’ll go where the writing makes the most of his particular look and abilities. Thinking of Dennis Haysbert, who was so great on “24” and in a role w/ similar gravitas on “The Unit,” but for some reason has not been given a lot of other good opportunities to work with.

  • Andrew

    Frankly, I think any Clooney comparisons are incredibly premature. Clooney was already a movie star WHILE he was doing ER. Mad Men has now completed four seasons. By the time ER was through four seasons, Clooney had already had lead roles in five major films. Jon Hamm’s most high profile film roles to date have been playing second fiddle to Keanu Reeves and Ben Affleck. Not the same thing.

    • Mole

      Yeah, Clooney really got star cred from One Fine Day and The Peacemaker, and surely his much beloved Batman and Robin…honestly, Clooney’s stardom really is against-all-odds and a testament to the perseverance and talent of the man. I honestly wish the same serendipity on Jon Hamm.

  • Erika

    He may not be the next George Clooney, but I do think he has a chance at silver screen stardom. He’s definitely proven himself as a really good actor. Unlike, Ted Danson and Tom Selleck, he’s not on a gimmicky or comical show. “Mad Men” is a drama similar to “ER”. So I don’t think he’ll have a problem with the audience being able to take him seriously in film. Also, he’s not a bad looking guy. I think the key thing is what JLC mentioned. It’s nearly impossible to be a big-time movie star and a tv star. I can’t think of an actor who has managed to do both at the same time. I think Hollywood is a little bit snobby about that. So if he wants a movie career, he’s going to have to leave “Mad Men” soon. If he stays too long, he’ll be past his prime.

    • Eileen

      Not on a gimmicky show? What have you been watching?

      • Erika

        Well, this season’s finale was disappointing, but in general it’s a good drama. It’s not Magnum P.I.

  • Shannon

    LOL! OK, the whacky comments aside this article poses a very good question – Clooney or Selleck? I definitely see Hamm as a Clooney/Willis success on the big screen. Why b/c of the “Town”. I wouldn’t have thought it before, wasn’t sure how it could go after his sort of whacky appearances on 30 Rock and SNL. They were good but, rather zany. but I see it now. He’s a star a big screen star. He has that IT factor that doesn’t have to be held back by stupid network scheduling and contracts. He’s a cable show actor and he’s strong outside of his Draper character. I see it. he’s a superhero.

  • hel

    Definitely a Selleck.

  • Dawn

    I believe that Jon Hamm has the talent to make it big in tv AND in film. His versatility is amazing.

    Very few actors are equally adept at both drama and comedy (Alec Baldwin and Robert Downey Jr. come to mind, but not many other names do). Hamm has that rare gift of excelling at both. His future is bright.

    • fancypants

      also great at both comedy and drama:
      Hugh Laurie
      Jamie Foxx
      Will Smith
      Tom Hanks
      Robin Williams

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