Adjusting to the new James Spader

Disclaimer: this post was written in August of 2011. Despite the fact that I profess my enduring love for James Spader here, the attention it’s getting with Mr. Spader in the spotlight is garnering it more attention, and several people out there are missing the fact that a) it’s very tongue-in-cheek and NOT srs bsns and b) focusing only on the negative hair/appearance comments, which were specifically made when he was on The Office…years ago. Please keep your sense of humor handy as you read on. Thanks so much.

As we know, I am a diehard Pretty in Pink fan.

It wasn’t just about John Hughes behind the camera, or Molly Ringwald, or Andrew McCarthy. We simply couldn’t have rooted for Andie and Blane without the “best friend” who is quite the d-bag. We loved to hate the man we know as Steff: rich, entitled, playboy, snotty, pre-determined alcoholic, and utterly bored with life at the tender age of 18.

And there was no one more perfect to portray Steff than James Spader, all hooded eyes, cynical smile — and that hair! While “the bad guy” movie roles have elevated somewhat in films nowadays, Steff’s persona still exists, in film and in reality. He wasn’t just a one-dimensional character that was frozen in time. No. This guy could be plucked out from that age and dropped anywhere – just tweak the hair a little and take away the white, shoulder-padded sport jackets.

Now, I don’t harbor a crush for Mr. Spader presently, but seeing as he will be re-emerging in The Office very soon, it’s hard for me to look at him in the promos right now and not ask, “Dude, what happened?”

It’s been twenty-five years since he almost stole the thunder away from Blane. (The party scene where he’s totally trashed is actually pretty funny.) Granted, twenty-five years is a long time and people’s looks shift from one decade to another. Madonna definitely doesn’t look the same now as she did in the early ’80s, Botox notwithstanding. But she is in her early 50s and looks fabulous – no one will deny that. Jim, if I may call him that, seems to have taken a different approach towards middle-agedom.

To best illustrate my point, let’s look at some photos. Is it self-indulgent? Absolutely.

This is how he looked in Pretty in Pink, with his Farrah Fawcett locks and the gall to wear his open shirt like that to HIGH SCHOOL. But still. He’s the perfectly dressed, smoldering scumbag.

So far, so good.

Here are a couple more as he progresses through his other films, including Wolf, where he did look a little creepy but still looked like James Spader. His looks afford him the types of characters where you don’t know whether you would want to try to be friends with him or just run away screaming.

And now we get to where he’s aging a bit but still looks distinguishable (and kinda like Rainn Wilson):

Let’s get to present day. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE that he is going to be working with the cast of The Office. I miss Michael Scott on the show but hopefully Jimbo here can bring some darkly intense humor to the show that was missing before. He can do it, I know it.

But what is going on with this whole look?

Again, slightly different:

Not cool. Where are the cheekbones? Where’s the smoldering?! Quite frankly, where did the sex appeal go? This is nothing like when Renee Zellweger put on twenty or thirty pounds for Bridget Jones’s Diary and looked fabulous and healthy but very much when she put the same weight back on for Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and looked splotchy, bloated, and a little constipated.

Is this new look for his upcoming role? Is he taking time away from eating a macrobiotic diet? (If so, that’s understandable. Carry on.) What’s going on with the hair? Am I the only one who thinks he needs a makeover show? Or have I succumbed to the pressures of society/media and think that a person shouldn’t look 51 when s/he’s 51? What happened to “50 is the new 40?” So many questions, so few answers.

I’m just saying, that’s all.


UPDATE: This post has gotten a tremendous amount of hits in the last year since I published it in 2011. I think it’s because James Spader is a popular actor, as we know, but he’s also moved on to other projects. In the fall season of 2013, he’s on a new show called The Blacklist. It looks like he plays a (sexy) sinister character and I, for one, will be watching. Methinks this is the comeback!

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: I’m totally not in shock that The Blacklist took off immediately. I’ve been a huge fan since the premiere. James Spader’s character is everything I love about what James Spader can bring to it: rakish, charming, debonaire,  mysterious…and he still has a sexy laugh. Even though his hair is gone, this character embodies what I (and many others, I suspect) adore about him and don’t find him wanting in this role. It’s a complete 180 from the one he played in The Office, where I was confused and ultimately disappointed. Welcome back, Jim!

Image: courtesy of USA Today

Image: courtesy of USA Today


  1. Wow, those photos really bring it home! I agree. I’m sure he’s still got it in him; he just needs to let us see it again!

    • I think you win for fastest comment ever on a new post! I’m relieved I’m not the only one. It’s a fine line to write about something as superficial as this without coming across as an a-hole.

  2. You can barely even recognize him! It’s like he has the world’s worst plastic surgeon or something.

  3. I was never a Steff fan. Blaine all the way! Bonus points for Blaine: Andrew McCarthy still looks great.

  4. I saw James in person in NYC at the stage door of his play RACE…he looked great! His hair IS receding fairly rapidly now and I give him a lot of credit that he doesn’t try to hide the fact, although if needed for a role I am sure he is not adverse. I have the feeling he was wearing some type of hair piece in the latter seasons of Boston Legal. He was a bit thinner last June and his hair was shorter; both of these things helped him to look better and younger. November of 2009 he was a lot thinner and really looked fine! Really what it comes down to is his weight AND the character he is portraying.

    • Thanks for that update! I’m hopeful that in five more years, he’s not going to look as bad as Mickey Rourke (highly unlikely, but still).

      • To be fair, Mickey Rourke had several boxing injuries, and a plastic surgeon who boxed his reconstructive surgery. Jimmy just ate too many twinkies.

  5. Mouth wide open, eyes aghast! Feel like I’m looking at those Fashion Police photos in US Mag. Poor Spader. All I can say is thank god I’m not a Hollywood celebrity. Yet. 😉

  6. If he is truly going au natural then I say it´s all good…if he actually paid to end up looking like this then uhh he needs to get a refund

  7. Oh man. This almost ruined Pretty in Pink for me. I can’t shake the image of New & De-proved James Spader 😦

    • De-proved hahahaha that’s great. I don’t want to come down too harshly on him but I feel like if I were a celebrity who made millions, I’d be okay with having a chef, trainer, and personal stylist to help me look my best as I age.

      • Yes, this exactly! I think he is aging naturally, but he has the means to look the best he can, but doesn’t seem too interested.

      • Plus, I just watched “Supernova” released in 2000. He was so gorgeous. Sigh.

  8. I LOVE Pretty In Pink!! And as much of a d-bag as he was, I did find “Steff” sexy in some strange way. Partially because he was an 18 year old boy totally rocking a girl’s name. But Andrew McCarthy takes the cake in that movie. ❤ Ugh, his horrible aging reminds me of Brad Pitt, in a way. Maybe (like Brad) if he fixed up the hair and such, he might be able to salvage some of the former hotness.

  9. I think there’s always hope! I think Brad is aging okay, though I have heard he has terrible skin. I love that this thread is like the celebrity gossip column for the day haha.

  10. Spader’s skin last year looked as soft and clear as a baby’s bottom. Hardly a wrinkle anywhere to be seen except around the eyes; he has had bags under his eyes since he was in his twenties…always did, always will. This is probably due to the fact that he suffers from terrible insomnia. When I saw him in November 2009 he looked like E. Edward Grey only a little older and with less hair…it’s all about the weight and length of hair.

  11. WE LUV US SOME JAMES SPADER chez nous! We’ll take him in whatever form he comes…lumpy, crunchy, smooth, shiny…he’s a wonderful actor and does “smarmy” like no other!

  12. I think he’s still hot. But then again, I’m not 20 or 30. No matter what happens to his exterior, that man can’t help but be hot.

  13. He definitely has personality – there is no denying that. He has a nice voice 😉

  14. How many years has it been since Boston Legal?!

    • I don’t know. My mom loved that show, though. Looks like he took some time off, in the same way that Christina Aguilera was super thin and fit for Burlesque but got REALLY curvy right after.

  15. Boston Legal ended December 8, 2008…I loved that show; the date sticks with me just like the date of a loved ones passing.

  16. I love James Spader. He’s the best. I had a huge crush on him in the 80’s. He’s done some wacky roles but it shows how good of an actor he is.

    • Absolutely. I don’t think he’s the run-of-the-mill actor and I do like some of the roles he’s picked, including the upcoming one on The Office.

      Thanks for stopping by the blog, Lisa!

  17. You are 100% correct! Is he on prednisone, other drugs and booze, or,as I see it, He just doesn’t give a Sh*t??? Things that make u go hmmmmmmm…..

  18. Actually, James does on occasion seem to have some leg or hip issues when you see him walking, especially up and down steps. He was fine when he was on Broadway, but the last two seasons of Boston Legal and now recently on The Ellen Show he was having issues. He bloated in the face very rapidly between season 3 and 4 of BL. At the time several of my friends commented that they suspected he was on Prednisone and I thought the possibility was likely. At the time it looked like the left leg was the problem…now it appears to be the right one.

    • Obviously I do not wish him ill in health. I’ve been surprised at how many people have wondered (as I did) what was going on with him because people keep finding the post!

  19. Not trying to be different, but I think it is wonderful that he ages naturally and does not try to keep up with the rest of fake hollywood with botox and facelifts and all that rubbish. The man is no longer a child. Obviously his looks is not everything to him and I have always found him very sexy because of his obvious intelligence and sharp wit. Those qualities do not change with age. He may no longer look thirty, but he is still a quite attractive 53. He may do himself a favour by loosing some weight but I am al the way behind Julie above. He is still hot.

  20. Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me what the man looks like. He just oozes confidence and sex appeal. He will always be Steff, Alan Shore, and Edward Grey to me.
    Love that man. 🙂

    • I rewatched the movie Wolf not too long ago and was reminded of my blog post (and why I liked him in the first place). Go, Spader!

  21. is he sniffing his arm pit in that pic?

  22. I loooove that this commentary is still rolling! So here is his new look on “Blacklist,” where he sports the same reliable smarmy creepy seductive tone!

  23. I think that armpit sniffing pose is from “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” which I saw on a date. Don’t ever see that movie on a date, especially not on a first date (it will be your last, with that person, as it was mine). Also–I’m sure that “The Office” look was deliberately frumpy. I’m not a major Spader fan, but I have to say, I think you’re being a little rough on him about “letting himself go”–Madonna is a surgified, exercise-obsessed crack-pipe. This dude is just aging and has the right to look however he looks, don’t you think? I mean, if we were a bunch of guys having this discussion and the roles were reversed, any one of us could cry foul, with cause.

    • This was one of those self-aware posts where I knew I was being more superficial but I went with it, anyway. It’s rather tongue-in-cheek. I think he’s moved away from his Office look from a few years ago, and he’s definitely still good looking for his age, no matter what!

      I have seen Sex, Lies & Videotape, but I can’t remember exactly what happens.

  24. Oh, I see! Sorry I misread it :-). Funny to think about in any case. SLV is about a guy who cannot *ahem* with a woman, only if he sees her *aheming* herself on videotape. He has a whole collection of videotapes of women *aheming.” There is some kind of complications due to relatives in town (he comes back after being away? can’t remember). All in all, not worth seeing twice. I am so not a big fan, although I can see his appeal!

  25. Hi All I say go James and kudos for letting us see someone age naturally!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! he will always be his hotness to me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  27. he looks alot better in blacklist than he even did in boston. Must have had some work done. Thanks Doc, for giving us James back. : )

  28. Pred, maybe? For the moon face…..but don’t underestimate the power of a framed face with a good hairline.
    Don’t believe me? Photoshop his old hairline. Who has the time for that right?
    High hairlines make the face look rounder.
    Fools, cl

  29. Sorry for the segmented post.
    As I was saying
    Fools, clowns, creeps and villains….most of the gigs balding men can only find.
    Hope he’s not on Pred. I Want him healthy.
    He does play a great creepy villain and possible father or the main female character on his new gig.

  30. This was a very funny post and yes we are all wondering what happened to James Spader’s looks- you have to admit that he has changed dramatically and not in a good way. Many actors age beautifully and sadly he is not. It has nothing to do with his talent or amazing ability to charm, seduce or play the villain well as he has done many times. We are simply noticing ( because how can you not) that he has become someone else physically and with all his success I agree he could have the best trainers, make-over people and stylists etc. so what’s the deal?

    • Yes! He has money for the best health advice, food, dieticians, personal trainers and he just doesn’t give a flying “f”. Sad because he is not so old that he couldnt be looking GREAT. makesme really sad.

  31. sherrybg1 says:

    get serious ,getting older is a privilege he looks great,at least he don’t look like a dope head like all the rest of the actors .

  32. Watching Blacklist right now, episode 17 and was having a little debate in my mind over whether or not Red was hot or just super charming, and then it just hit me all of a sudden that this guy used to be undeniably hot. Supernova! So I googled it and realised that this is an international mystery. I want to know what happened. You can be old and hot. Look at Tony Goldwyn. Pitt. Depp. Christopher Meloni. Clooney. Pierce Brisbane! Mads Mikkelsen x1000!

    I want an investigation! Why do no talk show people ask him WTF happened?

    Disclaimer – I still love him and contrary to popular opinion I thought he was perfect in the Office. He used to be a geisha… Lol

  33. I know he has openly admitted to having OCD? It might be the effect of any meds he might be taking. I agree that he does look very different.

    • For real? If it’s severe enough, they sometimes put you on an anti psychotic. Risperidone, I know first hand made me put on forty pounds over 2 years. Slows your metabolism down in a scary way.

      Another downside to ocd that all the people who use it as a fun pet quirk don’t have to deal with. But I’m just grumpy.

      I feel bad now… I’ll love him even more to make up for it…

  34. Wow! Zoe, you’re right – your blog entry for Spader has maintained a life of its own. Is there a Guinness Record for something like this? 😄 (BTW, after watching Jimmy Fallon interview him on The Tonight Show 2/26/15, I idly googled “Spader Weight Loss” and found you – easy peasy!)

    I was impressed by how lean Spader’s gotten since I saw him in “Lincoln.” The man looks great to me! Then again, I go for the well-dressed articulate guys w/cute butts & hair so short it feels like brushed velvet when you run your hands over it…..whoa! Lost track of my thoughts there.

    In any case, I read through everyone’s good-natured thoughts & think I can clear something up. If you can find it online, there’s an interview he did back around ’09 with Ellen Degeneres right after Boston Legal wrapped. (He was on her show a lot because they were neighbors at some point – so look for the one where he’s wearing a dark jacket/shirt. The interview ends with Ellen assigning someone to walk outside the studio w/a sandwich board advertising that James Spader is available for work, haha!) Ellen outright asks him about his weight gain & if he’s using his treadmill. His response is both truthful & hilarious. He pantomimes one of his (mostly) sedentary days on the Boston Legal set – essentially, going from one seated position to another. If you add his down-time hobbies to that scenario (cooking, reading, chatting), then it all adds up to a bit of extra padding.

    Many months later, he showed up on Ellen’s show again (this time he’d brought a special guest with him – the fellow who sharpens his culinary knives really wanted to meet Ellen, so Spader brought him along). He looked a bit fluffier than his last visit, so Ellen asked him how his fitness plan was coming along. Spader dead-panned that he was dieting between meals. Seems he was going through the same roller-coaster ride with his body that the rest of us experience over the years. However, he was planning to move back to NYC where he could walk everywhere at any time of the day & get back on track. (Someone mentioned that he had bad knees, but last fall he told a British interviewer that he’d busted his knee while on a family outing & tried to never let something like that keep him down – “…you just work through it & try your best to make others forget the injury.”)

    Years have passed since that last Ellen interview. New home, new movie, new series, and after seeing him with Fallon the other night, I’d say he’s back on track. 😎

    • Thank you for the background–I hadn’t seen those interviews, but that does shed some light on things! The stats for this particular post are kind of amazing. I didn’t think people would still find my opinion on James Spader relevant for quite so long. Thanks again for stopping to read and comment–cheers!

  35. Donnie_Quixotic says:

    Supernova was released in 2000, and displays a 40 year old Spader in super fit shape, rivalling even his own good looks when he was in his 20s.
    Only a few years later the pudginess appeared and his hair loss became more and more noticeable. It’s surprising he didn’t go for a celebrity affordable hair transplant which would have kept the years at bay. But the pudginess and puffiness does seem excessive and unnatural, and possibly the result of those pain killing drugs others have speculated on. Otherwise it’s the result of a super unnatural diet and an unnatural lack of physical exercise (which lends credence to the comment of a possible injury hampering his movement). So, people saying its natural ageing, I’d disagree with. Given the degree of change in his appearance, it appears injury and pharmacologically-induced. The hair loss may have been natural but that too can be exacerbated by some steroid treatments… Regardless of all that, he’s still got that intangible magnetism and charisma.

    • Amanita says:

      I’m late to this thread but I just found you as I was trying to learn if James Spader had been in an accident after I watched him walk in the opening segment of the first episode of Blacklist. I thought he was playing the role of a man who who has been shot and burned and survived multiple assassination attempts. However if he was in an accident, then we should all be glad that he’s back on his feet, even if he does actually need steroids.
      Also of note about Blacklist, I love the way they have older and non- traditionally beautiful woman in roles like Mr. Kaplan. These factors all make this show much richer and deeper and more a work of art, rather than the usual shallow Hollywood tripe.

  36. Mordecai blatt says:

    In the 2000 movie Spader had a muscular build in the sci-fi flick about a rescue medical space ship. Could it be he was using anabolic roids and that is why he lost his hair. Cause before that Spader was skinny and had lots of hair

  37. Deborah Tawil says:

    Love,love,love James Spader! Im addicted to the Blacklist and his character. He very hot the way he throws money around and always comes out on top. In season 5 i di think he has gain weight and would like to see him slim down again.

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