A Tribute to Actors Cast In the 'Supportive Girlfriend' Role

Is it possible to review Julie & Julia without referring to Chris Messina as Amy Adams's "supportive husband"? Not so much, as countless critics have found out. Our own guest critic called Messina's part the "girlfriend role," and it's one that crops up from time to time: the patient, hunky love interest who stands by his woman but gets little else to do. (In other words, the role that would always be played by a woman in any movie but a chick flick.) In honor of Julie & Julia's release, let's salute some of cinema's best man-girlfriends.

Chris Messina

Messina might be the encouraging beau of the moment, but he honed his "girlfriend role" chops back in 2005 when he was cast to replace Kal Penn as Claire's final love interest in Six Feet Under. After all the spazzes she'd dated, Messina's Ted was the sort of sensitive, stolid type Claire could rely on -- a guy she could emotionally torture, yet he'd still make her pancakes in the morning. Sure, he was a Republican, but the dude needed some distinguishing characteristics.

Adrian Grenier

Though Adrian Grenier's character on Entourage is a huge movie star, in the real world, Grenier's C.V. is middling enough that his most notable big-screen role has been Anne Hathaway's long-suffering-but-still-hunky boyfriend in The Devil Wears Prada. "Don't worry, honey, I'll wait up for you if you're working late," his puppy-dog eyes seemed to say. "It's the only way I'll get any screen time."

Justin Long

Remember what we said earlier about critics' inability to describe Messina without using the phrase "supportive husband"? Change that to "supportive boyfriend," and you'd have hundreds of critics appraising Justin Long's role in Drag Me to Hell.

James Franco

"I didn't come up with it, but people say to me, 'Oh, you're playing the housewife role,'" James Franco said while promoting his role as Harvey Milk's lover in Milk. "Meaning, I think, a lot of actresses get offered a certain role where the protagonist is the male that has all the action, and the female is the supporting character without a lot of substance. I'm sure as an actress, if those are the kinds of roles you're constantly offered, that can be annoying. But it's the first housewife role I've ever been offered."

Aaron Eckhart

In many ways, Aaron Eckhart is the perfect actor to play the girlfriend role: He's certainly handsome and has a modicum of fame, but he's not quite famous enough of a name to topline big studio projects on his own. Thus, when he's not getting to star in smaller films, he's often found playing the warm, square-jawed love interest opposite women like Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich and Catherine Zeta-Jones in No Reservations.

Ewan McGregor

McGregor essayed his first girlfriend role in as the pigeon-racing love interest in Little Voice, but he's been on a historical roll lately, playing docile paramour to Beatrix Potter in Miss Potter and Amelia Earheart in the upcoming Amelia. Does anyone want to make a biopic on Betsy Ross? Ewan's available!


  • Victor Ward says:

    I didn't realize that was Chris Messina. Good times. I will say, in Six Feet Under, his butt was very supportive, too.

  • orangecatlover says:

    Aaron Eckhart gets the trophy. In addition to being more masculine than the other candidates by a country mile, he was a convincing archetype-- big gentle biker dude. He managed the near-impossible feat of ditching the heroine without making us chicks hate him.
    P.S. I'm not his mom.

  • alison says:

    I thought Amelia Earheart's love interest in the upcoming 'Amelia' was Richard Gere?

  • Strepsi says:

    Jake Weber FTW. In Medium he does the ultimate supportive husband every. frickin. week. In boxers! Plus, in Dawn Of The Dead he blowed himself up real good for the love of Sarah Polley.