Minnie Driver is uniquely qualified to distinguish men from boys.
After all, she's acted alongside some of Hollywood's biggest leading men for nearly two decades now. She's the mother of a 5-year-old boy, Henry. And she's starring in NBC's new comedy "About a Boy," based on the Nick Hornby novel (and the 2002 Hugh Grant film) about an immature bachelor's friendship with a precocious boy.
Driver plays Fiona, the hippy-dippy single mom of young Marcus ("1600 Penn's" Benjamin Stockham), whom Driver describes as "a 75-year-old man trapped in the body of a 10-year-old." Marcus befriends the ladies' man next door, Will ("New Girl's" David Walton), in sort of a quid pro quo: Marcus pretends to be Will's son so Will can score with single moms, while Will lets Marcus break his mom's strict vegan diet with a plate of barbecued spare ribs.
Will fills the male-role-model void in Marcus's life, but Fiona and Will clash from the start, and Driver says not to expect a romance anytime soon: "They're not going to get paired up. They might, and then it will probably all f--k up magically, you know? But yeah, there's far more interesting stuff to mine than whether they have sex." She does add, though, "They've definitely got to get together one drunk night, and then it just be awkward and awful."
Since Driver is such an expert on manhood, we thought we'd have her look back on her two decades in film and TV, and answer a very simple question about each of her leading men: "Boy or Man?" And Driver was game to size up her A-list co-stars. Let's kick things off with…
Chris O'Donnell, "Circle of Friends" (1995)
"Here's the thing: A lot of them were boys when I worked with them, and then subsequently became men. So that needs to be qualified. You know, [Chris is] Boy: Subsequent Man."
That was your breakout film role. What do you remember about it?
"It was so long ago. It was fun. I was employed! I was so happy to have a job! I was so excited. But I like working. There's only one job that was miserable. Honestly, in 20 years, there was only one job that was really f--king hard and awful. Everything else, I just love it."
Can you say what that awful movie was?
"Yeah, it was this movie called 'Hard Rain,' and it was hard for everybody. It wasn't any of the people involved; it was just the situation, being cold and wet for that amount of time. Freezing cold and wet. It just made for a miserable experience."
John Cusack, "Grosse Pointe Blank" (1997)
"Boy. Amazing boy. One of the most amazing boys, yeah."
Matt Damon, "Good Will Hunting" (1997)
"Man. I would say… no, he was a boy. It's so funny, because he's been so much more man than boy. I feel like that was the only one where he was a boy. Even the one with Jude Law ['The Talented Mr. Ripley'], 'Saving Private Ryan'… I still feel like he became a man really quickly. But he was a boy in 'Good Will Hunting.' A clever boy."
Tony Goldwyn, "Tarzan" (1999)
"Man! Tony Goldwyn, c'mon! Tony Goldwyn is the ultimate man in real life, anyway. Man man man man man. And he directed me in [the 2010 film] 'Conviction.' He's an amazing man."
Colin Firth, "Hope Springs" (2003)
"Man. Man man man. Always man man man. I've known Colin for 23 years. We've worked together a lot. Yes, he's a man."
Eddie Izzard, "The Riches" (FX, 2007-08)
"My God, man. Man man man. All the way. One of the most interesting men I've ever come across. But truly a man, not a boy."
David Walton, "About a Boy" (NBC, 2014)
"Here's the thing: David Walton is a man, but he plays boys brilliantly. You might think he's a boy, but he's not. He's actually a man disguised as a boy. In order to play a boy when you're in your mid-30s, you have to have the sensibility of a boy."
Get a sneak peek at NBC's "About a Boy" right here:
"About a Boy" premieres Feb. 22 after the Olympics on NBC.