By Stacy Jenel Smith
The time is ripe for some new goody two shoes stars!Seriously. While scores of young talents knock themselves out trying to be more shocking and edgy than their peers -- to out-sullen Sean Penn, to out-titillate Britney Spears
, to arrive at awards shows wearing two Band-aids and a thong - the road less traveled now is the high road.
- are you paying attention, Hollywood agents and managers? - it is time to cash in quick with squeaky-clean performers, before everyone else tries this ploy.
Think about it. Niceness has worked well for Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey. The daughter of a Baptist minister stood out from the crowd of pop princesses right away by proclaiming she would remain a virgin until marriage. (Of course, Britney Spears was saying that, too, but that's another story.) Jessica wed equally clean-cut Nick, now the celebrity promoter for Big Brothers and a Big Brother himself, and together they've gone on to the higher reaches of success with their MTV reality show, their variety special, their upcoming TV and film gigs.
Jim Caviezel has for years had this wholesomeness thing going, where Hollywood - aggravated as it may be -- knows it has to work around his refusal to do nude love scenes and such. Did that pay off for the "Passion of the Christ" actor? Can you say $610 million worldwide gross?
Look at Kirk Cameron, whose parents actually named him after Captain Kirk of the original "Star Trek," and in whom you will find some of the same valor and other hero-type traits. This actor has cornered the market on Armageddon, starring in the immensely popular "Left Behind" movies - are you watching, Hollywood? - plus, he still has his mainstream following, what with the "Growing Pains II: Home Equity" TV movie rolling, reminding the world that he was, and is, heartthrob Mike Seaver. He and wife Chelsea Noble have four adopted children in addition to their two biological offspring. And if that isn't enough to convince you he has this nice thing nailed, they also have a camp that sponsors trips for terminally ill children and their families.
It's all too risky to call any girl "America's Sweetheart" these days, because once you do, they tend to turn on you -- by doing things like having a very public affair with a macho actor while being married to someone else (Meg Ryan) or gyrating with a snake on the MTV Awards (Britney Spears).
Nevertheless, right now, Hilary Duff is arguably an "America's Sweetheart," and she's making movie after movie -- and has scored as a recording star, too.
Raven - formerly "Cosby" teeny tiny cutie pie Raven Symone - is about to star in a feature called "All American Girl," in which the 18-year-old actress will play a teen who just happens to save the President of the United States from a freak accident and becomes a national hero. If that isn't an "America's Sweetheart" kind of role, we've never heard of one. So Raven is also an "America's Sweetheart," at the moment, anyway. Though her character on her "That's So Raven" Disney Channel series can be mighty naughty, doing things like sneaking behind her parents' backs to go to an R-rated movie, she is never malicious or salacious.
Raven, who graduated at 17 after being home-schooled, tells us the nice image thing is "no pressure. I'm just going to be myself." She adds with a laugh, "My parents are not going to tolerate me being anything bad."
Now that's wholesome.
Jonathan Jackson, 22, proclaimed his commitment to sexual abstinence before marriage a few years ago - and, being a certifiable heartthrob with three Daytime Emmys for his role as Lucky on "General Hospital," won the undying gratitude of parents throughout the land. Jackson wed actress Lisa Vultaggio in 2002, and they welcomed son Caleb last year. He's played more daring roles in recent years - including a heroin addict in ABC TV-movie "Trapped in a Purple Haze" -- but retains a clean cut image himself. Next, he'll be seen in the film adaptation of Stephen King's "Riding the Bullet" chiller, directed by horrormeister Mick Garris. Not bad.
"Roswell's" Jason Behr, a practicing Mennonite, also publicly endorsed pre-marital chastity. He also made it clear that he won't take parts in projects he finds morally repugnant, although, "I'm an actor, so if I play a guy who's gonna swear and shoot someone, then, I'm gonna swear and shoot someone."
Being clean-cut hasn't hurt the hunky Behr -- who has the dark psychological drama "Shooting Livien" in the can, and who has been in Tokyo for more than three months recently, as leading man to Sarah Michelle Gellar in "The Grudge," which Sony will distribute, a big thriller about a curse that has transformed into a lethal virus.
Being a goody two shoes has decided advantages beyond a less-crowded field of competitors. Haley Joel Osment, 16, has yet to hurt either his nice kid image or his rep as a gifted actor. If he were Edward Furlong, he'd have been arrested several times by now.