He’s “the internet’s boyfriend” and the subject of countless memes and comment pieces, but actor and author Stanley Tucci hasn’t managed to sway queen of the bonkbuster Jilly Cooper.
The author, 86, is known for her forthright views on masculinity, and once claimed that the #MeToo movement had “diminished” men, insisting that women are attracted to a “dominant” male.
Now, she’s doubling down on her stance and using Tucci, who won the hearts of thousands with videos showing him preparing cocktails or Italian-inspired dishes, as an example of what she deems “modern masculinity”.
“There’s nothing you really want to sleep with,” she complained in an interview with The Sunday Times. “They’re not really as attractive as they used to be. I like strong, powerful men.”
The problem with modern men, Cooper claimed, was “they’re always washing up”.
“Not that there’s anything wrong with washing up, it’s lovely, washing up, but you know what I mean? They have to try to be more caring, not masculine. It stops them being so attractive.”
Cooper said she was baffled by the response that US star Tucci, known for his roles in blockbuster films such as The Devil Wears Prada and The Hunger Games, received when he attended Wimbledon this summer with his wife and Cooper’s literary agent, Felicity Blunt.
“Everybody says, ‘Out the way, I want a selfie with Stanley.’ They adore him. What is that?” Cooper questioned. “This is a little bald man who is a sex symbol. Don’t you think that’s a mirror of our age? He’s sort of anti-glamour. Stanley’s adorable but he’s not Rock Hudson.”
In November last year, Tucci’s sister-in-law and Devil Wears Prada co-star Emily Blunt told late-night host Stephen Colbert that he enjoys his new-found status as a “sex symbol”.
“I think he’s shocked,” she said. It’s amazing it just took a sort of irreverent video on Instagram that my sister told him to post, and then he became a sex symbol.”
Cooper, a favourite author of UK prime minister Rishi Sunak, is renowned for her raunchy literary output.
However, in a recent interview with Good Housekeeping, she admitted that she struggles to come up with original ideas for her most steamy scenes.
“I’m 86 now and have forgotten how to do it!”, she said. “It’s quite difficult to write sex scenes – you can’t go on finding ways to do it differently.”
Cooper’s forthcoming novel Tackle! takes place in the world of professional football, marking a departure from her usual settings of show jumping contests and polo matches.
The book follows aristocrat Rupert Campbell-Black, who becomes chairman of a football club, while other characters include“the club’s ravishing and adorable secretary Tember West”, a “sassy press officer” and “glamorous Wags”, all of whose sexual advances the protagonist must navigate.
Cooper told The Sunday Times that she is also excited about the forthcoming Disney+ adaptation of her classic novel, Rivals, starring Aidan Turner, David Tennant and Danny Dyer.
The series will be “just heavenly”, she promised, and much better than the “dreadful, dreadful” 1993 TV movie of Riders, in which her swaggering anti-hero Rupert Campbell-Black was depicted as a “total wimp” by Marcus Gilbert.